Greatest UITES: Happy 88th birthday to Prof E.J. Alagoa

Professor Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, Nigerian historian, was born on April 14, 1933. He hails from Nembe, a town inhabited by one of the Ijaw sub-groups in the Niger Delta region in present day Bayelsa State.

Educated at Saint Luke’s School, Nembe, 1943-1948, he attended Government College, Umuahia 1948-1954, and later moved to the University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan) where he obtained his first degree in history in 1959.

Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa also attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America (USA), 1962-1965, from where he bagged his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1965.

He also holds certificates in African History and in archives administration.

Alagoa also held several administrative positions, some of which include Archivist, National Archives of Nigeria, Ibadan, 1959-1960; Archivist-in-Charge, National Archives, Enugu, 1960-1961; Acting Senior Archivist-in-Charge, National Archives Kaduna, 1961-1962 from where he went to America for further studies.

He is married with two children.
After his academic sojourn in the USA, 1962-65, Alagoa returned to Nigeria to take up an appointment with the University of Lagos, Lagos in 1965 as Lecturer in African History.

As a research fellow in Oral Traditional History, Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Ibadan, 1966-67, Alagoa also acted as a part-time Lecturer in Nigerian History in the same university. He was later appointed research professor of the Department of History, University of Lagos, Lagos in 1973 and in 1977 Director, Centre for Cultural Studies of the university.

While in Lagos, Professor E.J. Alagoa had another opportunity to serve as member of the Planning Committee of All African Universities (AAU) as well as convener of the Local Planning Committee for the same association’s workshop in the teaching of various disciplines in African Universities.

The workshop took place in the University of Lagos in 1977 under the auspices of Professor J.F.A Ajayi, the then Vice Chancellor of the university. The workshop, which was attended by a cream of African historians, deliberated on the teaching of African History in African universities.

As member of the Local Planning Committee and Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies of the university, Alagoa further had the fortune of being nominated to lecture in the workshop on “Oral Tradition”, a subject area Alagoa has ceaselessly worked to improve and enhance (Alagoa, 1977: 66-79).

As a scholar, Professor Alagoa has contributed immensely to academics and the academia. He specializes in Oral Traditional History. Because of his immense interest in the past of his people especially, he also organized archaeological surveys of specific areas in the Niger Delta – places which Oral Traditions had indicated as previous settlement areas of the Ijaw people.

The result of these surveys, Alagoa published as A History of the Niger Delta: an Historical Interpretation of Ijo Oral History, (1972).

Other previous publications by him include: The Akassa Raid, (1960); The Small Brave City-State: A History of Nembe-Brass in the Niger Delta, (1964); Jaja of Opobo: The Slave Boy who became King, (1970); A Chronicle of Grand Bonny (1972); King Boy of Brass, (1975) and Eminent Nigerians of Rivers State, (1981), among others.

In all, Alagoa has over twenty-five books to his credit.

Alagoa also contributed a large number of articles to learned journals within and outside the country. These include Odu, Tarikh, Ikenga, Oduma, Journal of African History, Journal of Historical Society of Nigeria, African Notes, Cahiers, Kiabara of which he is also the co-editor, the Research Review published in Ghana, Journal of American Folklore, American Journal, Daedalus, among others.

Alagoa, like his predecessors Dike, Biobaku, Ajayi, Ayandele, Anene, etc who had once written what could appropriately be termed regional or local histories, the Niger Delta region constitutes the subject matter of much of Alagoa’s historical endeavours.

A bibliographical examination of his works would undoubtedly reveal the depth of his interest and unwavering intellectual devotion to the region. Much of his academic endeavours have focused on recovering, through oral traditional method, a substantial part of the early history of the Ijo. This fact is evident from the titles of his works.

His objective has been to document the history of the people of the Niger Delta in particular and Rivers/Bayelsa States in general. It is no exaggeration to state that to a large extent, Alagoa has succeeded, almost singlehandedly, to forge a historiography of the Niger Delta people. In doing so he has contributed profoundly to the ennoblement of Oral Traditional History in Nigeria and in a large measure African historiography

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