How Sophie Oluwole died




Lasun Alagbe


Renowned scholar and philosopher, Prof. Sophie Oluwole, is dead.

The woman who put African values at the centre of her scholarship and campaigns died at the age of 83, in her Ibafo, Ogun State home.

A neighbour who spoke to our correspondent said, “I was with her till Saturday evening, chatting with her and enjoying her arguments that were always sound. At a point, she dozed off and I decided to leave without disturbing her rest. But midnight Saturday, they called me on the phone to say Mama has died.”

Among other theories she propagated, she said existence worked in binary formations while also arguing that witchcraft was more or less a natural phenomenon.

Oluwole, who worked in various institutions home and abroad, consistently criticised the white man for regarding African values as inferior.

She also did not pardon  many Africans too for submitting to the stereotype.

She noted in an interview in ‘The Telegraph, “Well, during my study of philosophy, the only philosophy I was taught was Western Philosophy. That’s not all; I was always taught that Africans have no ideas, they cannot think, they are stupid, they have no philosophy, they have nothing, and each time they said that I was agitated to find out whether that is true. If you say Africans have no ideas, I was interested in finding out; is there anything in Africa.? That was how I started looking to see if I can find African ideas. I know that there are so many theories, proverbs and so on, but I discovered that the Yoruba people had something which they call Ifa system. Although it is generally regarded as a divination system; a communication between man and God, some lecturers like Prof. Wande Abimbola had written some ideas on Ifa. I first read his books the 16th Major Books and Chapters of Ifa, but they were literature. If this is literature, then I should read it may be I will get new ideas from there. That was why I started searching Yoruba for recorded ideas in Ifa system.


“Philosophies are ideas of people about reality, God, politics. Does it mean that only the West have Philosophy? Every Language in the world; Chinese people have their own philosophy, Japanese, why not Africans? You see, I was told in my class that it is only the Westerners that have Philosophy and I was forced to find out if that is true. Philosophy expressions are human beings’ about different aspects of life. The thinking of people; what they think about man, woman, politics, religion and these thoughts of human beings are they not expressed in particular languages. The ideas of the British people are they not in English, the ideas of the French are they not in French; same with the Germans. So if Africans have ideas which we can call philosophy, will it not be in our language. You see the problem with my dear Africa. The only example, I have is in Yoruba Language. So let me correct you, Philosophy exists in all cultures of the world and not only Western. As the thinking of the British, German, French and Chinese people is their Philosophy, so is the thinking of the Yoruba people in their language, Philosophy; because for you to express philosophy, you must use a language. So if you are talking of African Philosophy, how many languages do you have in Africa? In Nigeria alone, we have 256 languages; I chose the one I know because it is the only language I know. I want to look at the thinking of the Yoruba people to see whether there is Philosophy in it. I want to confirm whether they have or they don’t have philosophy, and unless I look into Yoruba language and Oral tradition, there is no way to know whether they have African Philosophy or not. For you to say there is no African Philosophy, you must know all African languages to know there is no Philosophy and that is stupid as nobody does. Let me repeat that to say there is no African philosophy, you must know all African languages, you must have studied them and you don’t see philosophy there. There is nobody who has done that. I used Yoruba as an example to show philosophy exists in all languages and you must speak one language to know whether there is philosophy there or not.”

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