Don Ohadike: Your Pen Will Never Dry!

Salah M. Hassan
Salah M. Hassan, Director, Africana Studies, Cornell University.

May Your Pen Never Dry ...Ashe
May You be True to Your Mother ...Ashe
May You be True to Your Father ...Ashe

These words were my first introduction to Don Ohadike when I joined Africana in the early 1990s. They were part of the ritual of libation of new books. It was a rite of passage that Don first introduced and it has since become an Africana tradition. It was a ritual over which Don always presided. Whenever one of us published a book or an important article one had to contact Don who would instruct you to go and purchase the best liquor and indeed the most expensive one, which would then be used in the ritual to please the ancestors and their spirit, and ensure the blessing of the product at hand. Don would then make sure all colleagues were invited to participate in the libation. We all made sure to attend, and when we published we all made sure that Don officiated over the libation. He indeed had a great sense of humor evidenced by the incantations and prayers he was so good in inventing!

May the ancestors protect you from those so-called book reviewers
May the reviewers be kind to you ...Ashe
May you move on and get tenure ŠAshe
May you move on and become a full professor ...Ashe

Don had many lives! He was a teacher, a scholar, a father, a great brother, a true friend, and much more. He was a musician, a member of a high life band, and an itinerant born again preacher and back again to a secular life. And yes, he was also a wrestler, a champion who wrestled on behalf of a remote village in the Gambia during his days in exile at the time of the Biafran civil war. He has indeed lived many lives. But he also loved life, and lived every moment of it with passion and joy. Among these many lives, the production of knowledge remained his dominant passion.

May Your Pen Never Dry ...Ashe
May You be True to Your Mother ...Ashe
May You be True to Your Father ...Ashe

At a moment of "writer's block," I once asked Don, how did he keep writing and producing. He answered, "my secret is very simple: If you sit down on a chair [of course he did not say it quite like that ...if you know what I mean!] every morning and write a page, in a year you would have produced a 365-page manuscript!" These are the words that will live with me forever, the words that will always remind me of Don.

May Your Pen Never Dry ...Ashe
May You be True to Your Mother ...Ashe
May You be True to Your Father ...Ashe

Over the years I realized through those book libations that research, writing and publishing should not be separate from the pride and the pleasures they produce. This is all a way of saying that: Don made sure that we remember that our intellectual lives are a pleasure and a passion. More so we must live our intellectual lives with utmost integrity and remember to be true to our mothers and fathers, to our humanity and purpose in life.

May we be true to our mothers.
May we be true to our fathers.

Therefore it is Don the scholar that I would like to focus on. It is Don's contribution to African and African diaspora studies that I would like to highlight. And most importantly, I want to do this for his daughters, Sandra and Ophelia, and his sons James and Azuka, who must all be proud of him.

May You be True to Your Father ŠAshe
May You be True to Your Mother ŠAshe

This is for them to know how much we in Africana studies, and in the field at large, appreciate Don's scholarly contributions.

Don was among the best and most productive scholars of his generation in the field of African history and more specifically West African history. Don represented the uncommon combination of an active scholar, a committed teacher and a good citizen of the university and the profession. Above all he was a very fine human being. This combination enabled him to pursue new paths of exploration and analysis in the research and teaching of African and African Diaspora history. He was impressive in the range of his work and the depth of his knowledge of African history. His scholarly work covered several areas including slavery in Africa; anti-slavery and anti-colonial resistance movements in Africa and the African Diaspora; disease, epidemiology and food security in Africa; and Nigerian history.

The centerpiece of Don's scholarship is his single-authored works, which include three books: His first book, The Ekumeku Movement: Western Igbo Resistance to the British Conquest of Nigeria, 1883-1914, is a rigorous analysis of resistance to slavery and colonial domination. One of the most influential works on African Resistance to European Imperialism, the book has been praised by historians of West Africa as "a finely crafted case study of the dynamic of an important indigenous resistance movement, and indeed a model of micro historical analysis." Don's second major book Anioma: A Social History of the Western Igbo People (Ohio University Press, 1994), deals with the evolution of Anioma history and the diffusion and settlement of Anioma people in the Western Igbo culture area. It is the first book-length work to explore how a dynamic group was able to navigate change at a most dramatic period in their history. Don's most recent book, Pan-African Culture of Resistance: A History of Liberation Movements in Africa and the Diaspora ( 2002), traces and highlights the connection between culture and resistance in Africa and its Diaspora. It provides students with an understandable historical text that summarizes a rather complex history.
Don's published articles, and more specifically those focused on slave emancipation among the Igbo people, testify to his originality and intellectual rigor. But most importantly, they pushed the frontiers of our knowledge of slavery and the emancipation process.
As a serious scholar who was continuously in pursuit of serious knowledge production, Don was until a few days ago working on an edited book intended as a general history of the Igbo people, their culture and arts. Ohadike had recently completed another book-length manuscript on resistance movements in Africa and the African Diaspora, tentatively called The Sacred Drums of Liberation: Religions and Music of Resistance in Africa and the Diaspora. He was working on the manuscript just a few days before his passing.
May Your Pen Never Dry ŠAshe
No death of a human being is timely, but Don's one could not have been more untimely. It has come at a moment when his scholarship, experience and wisdom are most needed. The Africana Center has just completed a major renovation and expansion, which Don led with the utmost dedication and hard work. Don passed away at a time when the Africana Studies Center is advancing its agenda as an academic unit and a research center. In less than a week, Africana will undergo an external review of its academic program, based on a major self-study to which Don contributed a great deal. In Don's passing, the Africana Center and Cornell University and the Ithaca community have indeed lost, not only a productive scholar, and a respected mentor-teacher, but also a very generous colleague and a faithful friend.
Don, I am sure you are watching and listening as usual, and perhaps laughing at us!
Don, let me assure you: Your Pen will never run dry ŠAshe
We will make sure first that the two manuscripts you left us see the light of the day. They will be published and we will libate them.
Don, Your Pen will never dry! As you have always taught us, we will continue your tradition of hard work, and will make sure to be true to our mothers and fathers, to mother Africa and its people wherever they are, and to humanity at large, which you have whole heartedly embraced.
Don, you have been True to your Mother Š Ashe
Don, you have been True to Your Father ŠAshe
Don, you have been True to Your Family, to your Daughters and to your Sons Š Ashe
Don, your pen will never run dryŠ. For we shall follow in your footstep and make sure we keep your words

May our pen never run dry ... Ashe
May our pen never run dry ... Ashe