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UI scholar wins $1000 for best thesis




The Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), African Cluster Centre, University of Lagos, has declared Henrietta Omo Eshalomi, of the University of Ibadan, winner of its 2022 Rahamon Bello best PhD Thesis Award.

Director of the institute, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, made the announcement at a virtual/physical interactive session with newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos.

Falaiye, a professor of African Socio-Political Philosophy and an expert in African and Diaspora Studies, noted that it was the first time a female would be winning the award since inception two years ago.

He said that the development was getting more interesting and exciting.

According to him, the title of the award-winning thesis is Delta State Diaspora and the Ramifications of Ethnic Ambivalence for Homeland Development.

He noted that the award attracted a cash prize of 1000 dollars.

According to him, the winning thesis examined ethnic ambivalence among Delta State diaspora and the ways in which this ambivalence has hindered development in the homeland.

He said that the thesis addressed issues that had great relevance for African and African diaspora developmental challenges.

“Let me start by saying that every year, we gather experts from all over the world to assess the thesis.

“This year, we engaged three — one in Netherlands, the other in Kenya and the third in Nigeria. These theses are sent to them separately without interference from any quarters.

“This year, we received 17 PhD submissions in total, from universities across the continent. Of this number, 12 were from eight Nigerian universities, two from South Africa and three others from European universities. This is against the overall total of 24, that was received in 2021.

“The implication of this was that three of the dissertations were not awards by African universities, a fundamental requirement for any work to be considered for the award.

“Having gone through the submissions independently therefore, the assessors made their reports and arrived unanimously at choosing Eshalomi’s as the best.

“The assessors noted that the entries for the Rahamon Bello Award for this year were generally solid especially as they pick out research methodology as an area of strength in the theses,” he said.

He noted that John Uwa, of the University of Lagos, clinched the first runner-up position for his submission titled: Transformation and Transmedialities of Nigerian Popular Drama; The Agency of Nigerian Stand-up Comedy.

The don said the second runner-up position went to Kehinde Adepegba, of the Obafemi Awolowo University, with the title: Continuity and Change in the Egungun Costumes in Abeokuta.

Giving an insight about the award, Falaiye stated that it was designed firstly, to honour Prof. Rahamon Bello, who was the 11th Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, when the institute was commissioned.

He added that it was to recognise the pivotal role he played for an African study centre, when his area of specialisation was Engineering.

“So, the contradiction here seemed obvious to many people, but for him, it was the strength, believing that the humanity and social services have the capacity to develop Nigeria.

“And coming from an engineer, it was something nouveau and anytime we remember his word, in the establishment of this institute, we always look back and are happy with what we have done.

“Initially, the intention was to honour him by naming the award after him, and because of his attitude toward humanity and his friendship with several other people, they came together to endow the award.

“It was not Prof. Bello who put the money down, but his friends came together and gave us certain amount, to continue with this award for a very long time.

“The second part is to encourage scholarship in African studies, and we noticed that a lot of young scholars were gravitating away from African studies to other disciplines. A lot of the scholars too, are not recognising that the direction to move is the interdisciplinary multidisciplinary studies,” he said.

He added that awards, such as this, would encourage PhD scholars to work in the way of African studies and engage in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies, adding that the result was always worth celebrating.

The don however regretted the drop in the number of submissions for the award for this year from Nigerian universities.

He noted that the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) could have had its toll on the development.

“For this year’s theses, in terms of quality, going by what their predecessors have done, we had better quality, and in terms of number, we had fewer submissions.

“We can blame whatever as being the cause of the drop in the number of submissions this year, but I will not be surprised if the ASUU strike which lasted for about eight months, played a role.

“We also had a broader number of universities applying this year. It was a broad spectrum of Nigerian universities. This year too, we had fewer thesis from other universities in Africa.

“This perhaps, also nullify the argument that the ASUU strike could be partly responsible for the drop in submissions for this year’s award, because there were no strikes in these African universities.

“However, I think the Rahamon Bello Best thesis in African studies award is making great progress. It is the flagship for awards in African studies all over the continent, as people have continued to make enquiries about it, and I think this is the road we will want to pass.

“In 2023, we will expect even more quality PhD thesis submissions, with a lot of them coming from more universities in Africa,” he stated.

The don explained that the award was only open to all PhD graduates from universities in Africa and whose PhD thesis were submitted two years before the date of the award.

He added that it was not open ended.

“For you to qualify to apply, you must have completed your PhD within two years to the date of the award.

“It is meant for those in Arts, humanities and Social Sciences. It is not open to those in physical sciences, engineering and others, except of course, it pitches on the problems facing Africa, and that can be demonstrated.

“So, I encourage everyone to apply. The cash prize is just 1000 dollars, but the whole essence is not just about the money, it is about the prestige that goes along with the money.

“It is fast becoming a very prestigious award that we keep getting enquiries from persons even outside the continent. Even this year, we had applications from the UK and others, but because that was not the design of the the award, we did not consider them,” Falaiye said.

He said the award winner would be handed her prize on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

It was reported that the IADS of the University of Lagos inaugurated in 2017, provides a platform for all academics in Nigeria, Africa and the diaspora, to discuss and proffer solutions to the challenges confronting the people.

It aims to bring all scholars and persons interested in African and diaspora Studies together, with several grants to its credit.

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Chinyere Nwachukwu

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