The Department of Sociology started as a sub unit in the Department of Economics and Social Studies in the late 1950s. In 1960, a sub-department of Sociology was created within the Department of Economics and Peter Lloyd headed the sub-department, until 1964 when a distinct chair of Sociology was created, and this was headed by Ulf Himmelstrand.
Peter Lloyd had become famous as a social anthropologist with a number of published works on the impact of the colonial encounter on indigenous cultures. Ulf Himmelstrand, who headed the department from 1964 to 1967, had by the time of his arrival at Ibadan cut a reputation for himself as an excellent young scholar, with research experience in Sri Lanka and Sweden. Himmelstrand arrived in Ibadan to meet two other teaching staff: Francis Olu Okediji and Albert Imohiosen. They were to be joined later by Ruth Murray, a British Social anthropologist who had earlier taught at the University of Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Paul Hare, an American Social Psychologist spent a year as a Visiting Professor in 1965.
The process of development of the Department of Sociology – from being a sub-department of the Department of Economics to its emergence as a distinct department – impacted on the nature of the early teaching and studying of sociology at Ibadan. In 1962/63 Ekundayo Oladehinde Akeredolu-Ale and Samson Bamidele Oke became the first two students to opt for a distinct degree programme in Sociology. Both graduated as the first holders of a distinct bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 1965. This was different from the B.Sc (Economics) with options in Sociology with which earlier students like Peter Palmer Ekeh and Stephen Oshioma Imoagene obtained in 1964.
For most students, the separation into distinct courses took place in the second year of study. There were fourteen men and women in the first set of students to major in Sociology; a class that included Miss Similolu Adunni Anisulowo (now Prof. Simi Afonja), Adesuwa Callista Emovon and Martin Igboekulie Igoburike, and so on. Eight of the fourteen in the class of 1964 went on to pursue an academic career.
In the 1964/65 session Peter Ekeh and Stephen Imoagene became the first set of graduate students in Sociology. Peter Ekeh left for the US the following year while in 1966 Stephen Imoagene became the first holder of the M.Sc. degree in Sociology that the Department produced. Both had earlier read Sociology/Social anthropology under Peter Lloyd, but entered the graduate programme as students of Ulf Himmelstrand in Ibadan. A strong tradition of the pursuit of excellence and scholarship continued. The class that graduated in 1968 included Olayiwola Erinosho, Olufemi Odekunle, Akinade Olumuyiwa Sanda, Oluyemi Kayode (later Kayode-Adedeji), and Martins Olutola Kuye. As in the pioneer class of 1964, a significant proportion of the class went on to take their doctoral degree and pursue a career in academics. Stephen Imoagene and Ekundayo Akeredolu-Ale were the first of several students of Sociology at Ibadan to take up appointment as teachers in the Department of Sociology.
In 1967, Ulf Himmelstrand left Ibadan for Sweden while Albert Imohiosen left for the United States: both events were not unconnected with the civil war. With the exit of Himmelstrand, the Department had its first Nigerian head of Department, and later Professor of Sociology, Francis Olu Okediji. He remained the Head and Chair of Sociology until his death in 1976, in Nairobi. The period 1967 to 1976 was a period of rapid expansion and consolidation.
While the teaching and studying of sociology expanded, the process of developing a critical mass of indigenous sociologists involved three distinct strategies. First, the training of graduates of the department in Europe and North America, in the hope that they would return to Ibadan. In the
graduating class of 1968, Layi Erinosho went on to Canada to train as a Medical Sociologist, Muyiwa Sanda and Yemi Kayode-Adedeji to the United States. Yemi Kayode-Adedeji returned to Ibadan to establish the sub-discipline of Criminology. Femi Odekunle returned to the Ahmadu Bello University after training as a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania. In the graduating class of 1970 was Olu Akinkoye became the first student to graduate with a First Class degree in sociology at Ibadan. He went on to do postgraduate work at Pennsylvania, and obtained doctoral degree in demography. Many of those who trained in the United State at this period benefited from the programme on staff development of the University that was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Oshioma Imoagene had a postgraduate collaborative stint in Australia, while Peter Ekeh went for a full doctoral in the United States. Oshioma Imoagene became the first Ph.D of the department, and the first Professor of Sociology at Ibadan who received his undergraduate training at Ibadan. Peter Ekeh became the Department’s greatest gift to the world of political studies.
The second dimension of the development strategy involved the recruitment of Sociologist, anthropologists, and Social psychologists that were not students of the department but trained abroad. Onigu Otite and Omafume Onoge pioneered this aspect of post-1967 stream. Otite received his doctoral from London University, while Onoge received his from Harvard University, having been supervised by Talcott Parsons. Both joined the department in 1969. Between 1970 and 1972, Williams Ogionwo, John Sofola and Onaolapo Soleye joined the department. This group of new faculty became a great source of innovation in teaching and provided the department with a more international orientation.
By 1976, doing Sociology at Ibadan had consolidated around Demography and Population Studies, and Social Anthropology. As the Department moved into the late 1970s, its research contribution became more diversified. A new generation of Sociologists either returning to the Department as faculty or those recruited to the Department expanded the scope of Sociology. New sub-disciplines of Medical Sociology and Medical Anthropology, Industrial Sociology, Criminology, Marxist Sociology were added to the learning and research repertoire of the department by the new crop of lecturers. There were Layi Erinosho and Adewale Oke in Medical Sociology/Anthropology, Olu Akinkoye in Demography, Yemi Kayode in Criminology. Justin Labinjoh, who joined the Department in March 1977 with a master’s from LSE, expanded the programme on Political Sociology and Sociology of Development. New courses breaking out of conventional Sociology were also developed. Some of the more popular courses were the Sociology of Literature and the Social Movement courses developed and taught by Omafume Onoge. Onigu Otite introduced courses in African Social Thought as part of the wider effort to insert indigenous African thought into the doing and learning of Sociology at Ibadan.
The postgraduate programme of the department also widened in the 1970s; with an increase in the number of Ph.Ds trained by the Department. Across the Nigerian university system are many of those who were trained within this period.
The Department of Sociology at Ibadan runs both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes with more emphasis on the latter due to U.I.’s vision of evolving into mainly a postgraduate degree awarding institution. In addition to the department’s conventional postgraduate programmes in M.Sc, M.Phil, M.Phil/Ph.D and Ph.D, t also houses professional programmes such as Master of Industrial & Personnel Relations (MIPR) initially introduced in 1981 as Master of Industrial and Labour Relations (MILR), Masters of Project Development & Implementation (MPDI) and Master of Research and Public Policy (MRPP).
As a fully accredited department, it offers courses in many areas of sociology ranging from Sociological Theory, Research Methods, Anthropology, Medical Sociology, Demography, Criminology and Social Problems, Development, Industrial Sociology, Political Sociology, and Sociology of the Family to Social stratification.
The department parades high quality of academic staff, spread across these various sub-disciplines of sociology. The high quality of staff which the department is known for is due largely to the opportunities provided by the University of Ibadan through various linkage programmes, research facilities and its conducive academic climate. The Department has a modern and functional computer laboratory with internet facilities for students and members of staff.
We have had about 57 years of the doing and teaching of Sociology within a distinct department. For about five decades, Sociology has been taught and provided the defining paradigms for research in Ibadan. These have been periods of humble beginnings that blossom in the 1970s and witnessed a winding down in the 1990s. The challenge of renewal as a centre of excellence is one that the department is presently grappling with. It is one that could do with considerable more resources in teaching and learning environment; in the academic support facilities available to students and staff. A loosening of the current rigid and over- centralized control over curriculum will allow teachers and students greater flexibility in responding to changing context of learning and research. While we await the delivery on the issue of university autonomy, our 2000 Vision Document (Ibadan Sociology: Renewal and Transformation for a new Millennium) is part of our effort to take a more proactive approach to the imperative of transformation and renewal, and the repositioning of the department as an African centre of excellence in teaching and research. It is a challenge we take very seriously.