Contemporary Sociology in Nigeria
By Akinsola A. Akiwowo
In Nigeria, it is widely agreed that the social realities of African existence offer challenges to conventional sociological conceptual schemes, theories and methods. But there is as yet no agreement on a new approach, or a set of alternate approaches, to the sociological enterprise in Nigeria. 1
In Nigeria as elsewhere in the world, sociology consists in the systematic study of society, its structure and function, and its dynamic expressions. However, like the other university-based disciplines, sociology is an "imported'' field of knowledge in Nigeria. This fact, more than any other, affects the manner of its acceptance, its present status, and possibly its future development. Because of its external origin most people, including some university and government administrators, have looked askance at anyone who claimed to be a sociologist. And since most of these sociologists were trained in institutions of higher learning in the United States, the suspicion was compounded especially as American-trained sociologists tended to regard sociology and anthropology as distinct academic disciplines, while British sociology was seen as a variant of a substitute for social anthropology.
Today, sociology as a scientific discipline is fully recognized in the Nigerian academic world and among government circles. In the former, there are now five statutory chairs of sociology. Of these, only one is held substantively by a Nigerian at the University of Ibadan. Another chair is held by another Nigerian at the University of Ife, in an acting capacity. The other three chairs at the Lagos, Nsukka, and Zaria universities are held either substantively or in an acting capacity by non-Nigerians. Two of the three incumbents are Americans, while the third is a Belgian of a longstanding reputable status as an Africanist. He is married to a Brazilian who in her own right as an Africanist is a social anthropologist.