Kenneth Onwuka Dike was a Nigerian educator, Igbo Nigerian historian, and the first Nigerian Vice-Chancellor of the Institution of Ibadan, the country’s primary university, from 17 December 1917 until 26 October 1983. During the Nigerian civil war, he relocated to Harvard University. He was a founding member of the Ibadan School, which dominated Nigerian history writing until the 1970s. He is credited for “having a vital role in the creation of a generation of African historians capable of understanding their own history without being influenced by Eurocentric ideas,” according to the award.

Kenneth Onwuka Dike was born in the Nigerian city of Awka and had his education in West Africa, England, and Scotland. He earned his BSc from Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College, as well as his MA and PhD from the University of Aberdeen and King’s College London, respectively. Throughout the 1960s, he was a pioneering member of the University of Ibadan’s history department in calling for African leadership in scholarly works on Africa.

As the chair of the organizing committee for the First International Congress of Africanists in Ghana in 1963, he advocated for more rigorous non-colonial African research, as well as the publication of research in a variety of languages, both indigenous and foreign, to introduce native speakers to history and to allow people to see African history through a common lens.

During a visit to the University of Ibadan in February 1962, Kenneth Dike (left) poses with Northern Nigerian leader Ahmadu Bello (right).

He was the founding director of the International School in Ibadan. In 1965, he was elected president of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Dike was the first modern academic proponent of Africanist history, according to Ebere Nwaubani. His work ushered in a new era in African history. Dike was the first African to graduate from a Western historical professional program, getting a PhD from the University of London. At the University College of Ibadan, he became the first African professor of history and the head of a history department. He helped found the Nigerian Historical Society and established the Nigerian National Archives.

Dike with his family in the 60s

His work Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830-1885 was about the nineteenth-century economics and politics of the Niger Delta. He focused on African domestic concerns, notably delta communities’ defense attempts in the face of imperialist intervention. Dike was a founding member of the Ibadan School of African History and a supporter of oral historians in Africa. Dike was also the first president of ASUTECH (Anambra State University of Technology, now Nnamdi Azikiwe University).

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