My mum never believed I could become a professor –Sophie Oluwole


Prof. Sophie Oluwole, 81, is the first Nigerian to bag a PhD in Philosophy. She was a senior lecturer at the University of Lagos and the Chief Executive Officer of Centre for African Culture and Development. In this interview with JESUSEGUN ALAGBE, she talks about her childhood, career and other issues

Some people would tell you that right from childhood, they had dreamt of becoming a so-so person in the future. Did you ever think you would end up becoming a philosopher?

In the universities in Nigeria in those days, Philosophy was not a discipline and when I was a child, even while I was in secondary school, the word ‘philosophy’ could never have occurred to me. The University of Lagos was one of the first universities in Nigeria to start Philosophy. It was even the first. Today, Philosophy is not even taught in secondary school. So, how could I be in primary school and think of becoming something I had never heard before? Ask children in secondary schools, they don’t know the meaning of philosophy. In my time, in the 1940s, you only wanted your children to go to school. It’s not your ambition; it’s your parents’ ambition, and there were only two things they always wanted you to become — a teacher or a pastor. But a woman could not be a pastor, so what a girl could be was a teacher or the wife of a pastor. Apart from those two professions, another person they could want you to become was a nurse. When I was in the modern school at Ile-Ife, Osun State, I wanted to be a nurse. At the end of the first year in the school, we were to go to the hospital to take care of the sick. There was a hospital there, I can’t remember its name but it was established by the Catholic Church. It’s still there; it’s a missionary hospital. So, we went to the hospital and took fruits to give to the sick and we were distributing to them. However, when I saw the really sick people, those who had almost become skeletal, I was so afraid, I was sympathetic. I thought going to the hospital was just to give out drugs and fruits, I didn’t know it was more than that. That day, I knew I was not going to be a nurse again. My next ambition was to be a teacher. Eventually, I became one after going for teachers’ training.

How did you then come about Phi