Remembering Heroes, Heroines In History Of Great Sociological Thought: Onigu Otite On My Mind

Emeritus professor Onigu Otite.

The Oasis Reporters

March 15, 2019

In spite of the great challenges of our times, Nigerians should occasionally read history, just as Sunny Awhefeada writing in the Guardian on August 17, 2018 on “Mukoro Mowoe: Seventy years after. He wrote, “History remains a fascinating phenomenon. Read (it) as a reconnaissance of the past, it lights the path to the future and humanises humanity.
When Onigu Otite, professor of sociology framed the title of his inaugural lecture delivered at the University of Ibadan on 5 May 1983 as “The Presence of the Past,” he was foregrounding the paradox of history.”

Today, The Oasis Reporters remembers and celebrates a great son of the Niger Delta, a father, grandfather, quintessential teacher, a professor of Sociology.

Professor Onigu Otite who was born on January 21, 1939 at Okpara Inland in Urhobo land, Delta State remains a leading icon in the firmament of Delta State. He was one of the first set of students to attend the University of Nigeria, Nsukka before proceeding to the
University of London, United Kingdom.

Born into a very large family, he attended the village’s Catholic school. He later furthered his studies at the St Thomas Teacher Training College in Ibusa, Delta State from 1950 to 1954. He went on to teach in this school and by 1956 he was made Headmaster of the St Francis Catholic School, Sapele in Delta State. In 1958, he was appointed Assistant Executive Officer, at the Ministry of Health and a year later he was made the Private Secretary (Defense) to the Prime Minister’s Office in Lagos.

After leaving University of Nigeria, Nsukka that he entered in 1960, he was employed as the Administrative Officer, at the Ministry of Lands and Housing, Western Region, and later at the Ministry of Works and the Public Service Commission.

The youth of Nigeria who are thoroughly wired to the Internet and social media need to know these elders whenever they come across anything that has to do with them.

As one of those that shaped thoughts in social discourse, it is important to know them well. He was amongst the pioneering anthropologists and sociologists that laid great academic foundations in post independent Nigeria.

Onigu Otite was first Public Relations Officer of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Student’s Union.

In 1965, he was admitted into the University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)). By 1969, he had earned his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology, with a thesis titled “The Political Organization of the Urhobo of the Midwestern State of Nigeria.” He then returned to Nigeria where he lectured at the University of Ibadan and became professor in 1978.

The thesis, “The Political Organization of the Urhobo of the Midwestern State of Nigeria (1969)”. Midwest State is the present Edo state and Delta State by Onigu Otite placed him amongst the leading researchers and publishers on first, his Urhobo people, Delta State, the Niger Delta and the nation at large.

The Nigerian professor emeritus of sociology, Onigu Otite also wrote several books including The Urhobo People, On the Path of Progress, Ethnic Pluralism and Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria, and Introduction to Sociology which he co-authored with Professor Ogionwo. He belongs to the class of highly respected Urhobo scholars that include popular Urhobo personalities such as Omafume Friday Onoge, Peter Palmer Ekeh, Bruce Onobrakpeya, David T. Okpako, Andrew Onokerhoraye, Simon Umukoro, G.G. Darah and Isidore Okpewho. The Urhobo Studies Association USA Chapter regard him as one of the earliest Urhobo scholars to focus attention on the culture and history of the Urhobo People of the Niger Delta.

At the University of Ibadan, he was Head of Department of Sociology (1980 to 1986), and Senate Representative on the Staff School Board of Governors (1977 to 1978).

Otite has been visiting Research Professor at the University of Bergen, Norway (1986–1987), Visiting Professor of Sociology University of Pennsylvania, (1987), Senior Social Development Research Fellow at the African Centre for Applied Research and Training in Social Development, Tripoli, Libya (1990 – 1991).

He was a Member of the Editorial Board of Political Anthropology (Netherlands); Member Nigerian Political Science Association; Member Nigeria Economic Society; Member Organizing Committee, West African Regional Association of Sociologists and Anthropologists; Member International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; Associate Editor African Journal on Behavioural Sciences; and a Member of the Pan African Anthropological Association.

Otite was one of the earliest Nigerian lecturers to acknowledge the significance of the past in understanding the present and thus creating a brighter future. He highlighted the major problems with the Nigerian tertiary education system; citing problems like mismanagement of public funds, under funding of the universities, negligence of the importance of the educational system and poor policy implementation. He went on to inform us that all these factors have collectively left the educational system in Nigeria lacking in university autonomy and poor staff working condition.

He also researched into traditional chieftaincy title in Nigeria where he described it as long and prohibitive to attain. He eventually became a Chief of the Agbon Kingdom Uno of Agbon Kingdom. Otite has done several research on Niger Delta migration, with special focus on the Urhobo Ethnic Group. He has co-authored several books along this line most notable among them are Autonomy and Dependence: The Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe in Modern Nigeria, On The Path of Progress, A Study of Rural Immigrants and Development in Nigeria.[9] He has also focused his research on ethnic conflicts and resolutions with particular interests in the Niger Delta ethnic groups where there are frequent communal clashes leading to disruption of crude oil production and loss of both life and property.

Otite alongside Professor Onoge where key members on the University of Ibadan who pioneered the Social Science Department as early as 1967. Otite introduced courses in Sociology at Ibadan University on African Social Thought.

He is one of the notable academicians that facilitated the founding and formation of the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Agbarha-Otor, in Delta State.

He was listed in Africa’s Who’s Who published by Africa Journal Ltd For Africa Books Ltd. 1981 on page 937. He was also listed in Who’s Who in Nigeria, A Daily Times Publication 1983 on page 468 as well as Who’s who in the Commonwealth, Second Edition, 1984. He is also included in Who’s Who in Nigeria published by Newswatch Nigeria 1990 on pages 673 and 674 and Africa Who’s Who.

Otite has written and co-authored more than 12 books :

Otite, Onigu. Autonomy and Dependence: The Urhobo Kingdom of Okpe in Modern Nigeria. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 1973. ISBN 9780810104372
Otite, Onigu. Themes in African Social and Political Thought. Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1978.
Otite, Onigu, and William Ogionwo. An Introduction to Sociological Studies. Ibadan, Nigeria: Heinemann Educational, 1979. ISBN 9789781295089
Otite, Onigu. The Urhobo People. Ibadan: Heinemann Education Books (Nig.) Ltd, 1982 ISBN 9789781297878
Otite, Onigu. Ethnic pluralism and ethnicity in Nigeria : with comparative materials Ibadan, Nigeria : Shaneson, 1990. ISBN 978-0978240028
Otite, Onigu. Readings in Nigerian rural society and rural economy Ibadan : Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria), 1990.
Otite, Onigu. Sociology: Theory and Applied. Lagos: Malthouse Press, 1994. ISBN 9789782601278
Otite, Onigu. Nigeria, towards salvaging a ravaged society. Ibadan : University of Ibadan, 1996.
Otite, Onigu, and Isaac O. Albert. Community Conflicts in Nigeria: Management, Resolution and Transformation. Abuja: Spectrum Books, 1999. ISBN 9789780291051
Otite, Onigu. Ethnic Pluralism, Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria, Second Edition (2000) ISBN 3110898179
Otite, Onigu. Community Conflicts in Nigeria, Management, Resolution and Transformation, 2001.
Otite, Onigu. On The Path of Progress, A Study of Rural Immigrants and Development in Nigeria (The Urhobo of Okitipupa, Ondo State), 2002
Otite, Onigu, Managing Nigeria’s ethnic pluralism in a democratic environment Calabar, Nigeria : CATS Publishers, 2002.
Otite, Onigu, The Ijaw factor in Urhobo migratory history. Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria : Onyoma Research Publications, 2011.

He has published over 25 articles as book chapters and over 15 articles published in learned journals. He has also produced and directed a documentary and film titled An Anthropological Colour Film on Symbolism, Rituals and Ceremonies relating to the Coronation of the Orodje, King and the political life in Okpe Kingdom in Delta State, Nigeria in 1973. He has also been referenced in more than 50 books and journals worldwide as well as several online websites notably.

He is married to Dr (Mrs) Regina Evwaraye Otite and together they have seven children Dr (Mrs) Fidelia Akusu, Kenneth Otite, Prof. (Mrs) Edore Onigu-Otite Adewuya, Barrister Afure Otite Iloka, Dr Jovi Otite, Dr Odaro Augustine-Ohwo and Ovede Onigu-Otite

Source: Wikipedia
The Guardian
In-house writing.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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