“To a Diasporian, the Homeland is a Cemetery”, says winner of the 2022 Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D. Thesis Award

“To a Diasporian, the homeland is a cemetery, because he wants a decent place to be buried”

– Dr. Henrietta Omo Eshalomi

Those were the words of the winner of the Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D. Thesis Award 2022, Dr. Henrietta Omo Eshalomi, at the formal presentation of the Award by the Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), on Tuesday, December 6, 2022.

The Ph.D. graduate of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan won first place with her thesis on Diapora and Transnational Studies titled, “Delta State Diaspora and the Implications of Ethnic Ambivalence for Homeland Development”.

Her work explained the reasons for Delta State diasporians’ strained relationship with their homeland, and little interest in the culture and identity of their original homeland. The thesis revealed that those at home expected Delta Diaporians to become agents of homeland development, following the various forms of remittances that should come from them, but this was not the case.

In a private discussion with the University of Lagos’ Communication Unit, Dr. Eshalomi disclosed how she came about her research topic and why she chose to find out why the diasporians of Delta state, unlike other diasporians, were disconnected from their homeland.

Her words, “I chose this path because literature on diaspora is dominated with homeland developmental issues. I didn’t want to go that path like others as I didn’t want my thesis to be counted but to count. I can only be exceptional if I carve a niche for myself and say what others are not saying, and only a different route can magnify that uniqueness.”

While hoping for a lecturing appointment which will avail her the opportunity of sharing knowledge with senior and junior colleagues as well as build networks for future academic collaborations, Dr. Eshalomi is currently focused on securing a postdoctoral fellowship. She intends to take the gospel of migration beyond the borders of the classroom by volunteering for civil society organizations, participating in academic research projects, and writing policy documents for the government.

At the event, she thanked Barr. Kingsley Otuaro who encouraged her and generously sponsored her Ph.D. pursuit. She also appreciated her supervisor, Dr. Senayon S. Olaoluwa.

Dr. Henrietta emerged winner after a rigorous and comprehensive assessments by 3 Assessors from different parts of the world – Prof. Eddy Erhagbe (Professor of History and International Studies at the University of Benin); Prof. Tom Michael Mboya, a (Professor of African Literature at Moi University, Kenya) and Prof. Akinyoade A. Akinyinka, (Professor of African Studies at the Leiden University, Netherlands).

While speaking at the event, the Director, Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), Professor Muyiwa Falaiye disclosed that the assessors noted with pleasure that the entries for the Rahamon Bello Ph.D. Thesis Award 2022 were generally solid, and were glad to be granted the opportunity to be a part of the birthing process of this year’s award.

Prof. Falaiye delivering the welcome address

Prof. Falaiye spoke about the Institute and reeled out some of its accomplishments since its inception. He mentioned that the Institute supports early career development, a major focus for the institutionalization of the Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D. Thesis Award. He also mentioned that the Institute has supported several Ph.D. students on graduate conferences, awarded fully-funded scholarships to 6 Ph.D. students- 5 od which have completed their studies, starting Postdoctoral Fellowships, etcetera.  

Prof. Ogunsola delivering her opening remarks

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, FAS, in her remarks was glad that the Award was institutionalized in honour of Professor Rahamon Adisa Bello, a man who exemplifies excellence. She noted that IADS is the best institute for research in the University and recommended that other research institutes use IADS as a template. She applauded the progress made thus far at the Institute and the model it has developed for other institutes and research centres in the University.

Dr. John Olatunde Mariase Uwa of the Department of English, University of Lagos, emerged first runner-up with his thesis on English Literature, titled “Transformation and Transmediation of Nigerian Popular Drama: The Agency of Nigerian Stand-up Comedy” under the supervision of Professors Patrick Oloko and Hope Eghagha. A lecturer at the Department of Art and Industrial Design, Lagos State University of Science and Technology, Dr. Kehinde Adepegba, came third with his thesis on African Arts Studies titled “Continuity and Change in the Egungun Costumes in Abeokuta, Nigeria” under the supervision of Dr. B. A. Ademuleya at Obafemi Awolowo University.

The Rahamon Bello Best PhD Thesis in African & Diaspora Studies Award, a prize of 1000 dollars, a plaque and certificate of award was endowed by Professor Rahamon A. Bello, the 11th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, at IADS in 2020. The Award seeks to encourage and appreciate young intellectuals whose Ph.D. theses address African and diaspora issues, the reconfiguration of African Studies, as well as promote cutting-edge intellectual and multidisciplinary research works in African Studies.

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