Bayo Oluwasanmi: Professor Jacob Festus Ade Ajayi, A Champion Among Men

No tribute of respect to the memory of one of African’s greatest historians could have been more appropriate than to express gratitude to Professor J.F. Ade Ajayi for reconstructing African history through his teachings, writings, and research.

An internationally recognized African historian, Ajayi was one of the most influential historians of Africa through his numerous publications, academic, and administrative positions and awards.

He published four major works on Africa: Nigerian History (1962), A Thousand Years of West African History (1964), Yoruba Warfare in the Nineteenth Century which he co-authored with R.S. Smith (1964), and Christian Missions in Nigeria: The Making of a New Elite (1965).

He was professor of history at the University of Ibadan from 1963-1989. He served as dean of Faculty of Arts and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. From 1972 to 1978 he also served as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Lagos. From 1984-1988, he was Pro-Chancellor at the State University, Ado-Ekiti.

Ajayi was a cultivated and refined representative of his discipline. His admirable works and beautiful products of his peculiar genius remain to be the pride of academic scholarship to the present and future generations. With his death, we feel that the chapter of historical advancement of African history had just closed and left us in frost and gloom.

His gifts are strewn around us in the number of historians that passed through him, his harvests are in our garners. He demonstrated noble examples of steady rectitude, magnanimous self-denial, and cheerful self-sacrifice. He was an avuncular, devoted scholar who was much beloved.

He was a role model both in terms of personal and professional development. He was a progressive – a flaming liberal in the best sense of the connotation – passionately dedicated to what is just and honorable.

Ajayi was a man of achievement and accomplishment. He stood as external symbol for other historians. He stood as a brilliant torch of light in a proud procession of human enlightenment. The actions of great men stare us in the face as exemplary. As a great man, Ajayi embodied the classical principles of right action and virtue. He was a man who set example for all of us.

Ajayi stand forever admired and revered as paradigm, as model of fairness, justice, honesty, duty, service, and morality. A timeless spirit, Ajayi reached out his hands and certainly touched our soul. He was a champion among men. In him we find moral sanctity, a moral excellence, a moral integrity perhaps unmatched in his own generation.

His spirit of excellence and unmatched moral standard will live through us and guide us – a brilliant and forever shining star!



Bayo Oluwasanmi can be reached via [email protected]


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