Philip Aigbona Igbafe (born December 15, 1936) is a Nigerian historian, professor and former public administrator noted for his work on the history of the Edo people of the precolonial Kingdom of Benin. Igbafe belongs to the Ibadan History School and his major works examine the motives[1] for colonialism and highlights the political, social and economic consequences of British rule for the African kingdom.


Philip Igbafe
Born (1936-12-15) December 15, 1936 (age 83)
Board member ofUniversity of Benin Teaching Hospital (1980-1983)
Academic background
EducationUniversity College Ibadan
Academic work
Main interestsHistory of Edo people of the precolonial Kingdom of Benin


Philip Aigbona Igbafe was born on December 15, 1936 in Uzairue, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State in mid-western Nigeria. He started his education at St. Peter's Catholic Central School, Uzairue from 1943 to 1949, secondary education at St. Thomas's Teachers Training College in Ibusa from 1950 to 1954 when he qualified as a Teacher Grade 2. He then started his teaching career, first as a tutor in Catholic School, Abraka from January 1955 to July 1955, moving on to teach at St. Thomas's College, Ibusa from July 1955 to March 1958. He also taught briefly at the Western Boys High School, Benin City in 1958 before gaining admission and a federal government scholarship to study history at the University College, Ibadan.

Igbafe graduated from the University College, Ibadan in 1961 with BA in history and worked briefly in the federal civil service before returning for graduate studies at the University of Ibadan where he came under the influence of the famous Ibadan School of History dominated by scholars like J.D. Omer-Cooper, J.C. Anene, J.F. Ade Ajayi and K.O. Dike and noted for its championing of a new approach to the study of African history that sought to do away with the Euro-centric approach which saw African history only in terms of European activities in the continent as opposed to unveiling the ancient civilizations and politics of its people. Among his contemporaries were Obaro Ikime and Adiele Afigbo and together they went on to pioneer the ‘made in Nigeria PhD’ that were founded on research on Nigerian history with his work focusing on the political, economic and cultural development of the ancient kingdom of Benin and its economic and diplomatic relations with European powers.

Igbafe obtained his PhD in 1968 and became a foremost authority on major aspects of Nigerian history especially the history of the Benin and Edo people, researching, writing and publishing several works that not only laid the groundwork for current and future scholars in the field but continues to be the unrivaled source in Africa's historiography. Igbafe was honored in 2011 with Nigeria's Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) award.


Professor Igbafe was appointed an assistant lecturer at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in July 1964 where he taught in the department of history and rose through the academic ladder, becoming lecturer in October 1967 and senior lecturer in October 1971. He was also a member of the university's governing council (elected by Congregation) from November 1970 to November 1972, a senior fellow or deputy hall master at the university's Fajuyi Hall from 1968 to 1969 and hall master, Temporary Hostels (later named Obafemi Awolowo Hall) from 1969 to 1975.

In November 1975, he was invited into government in the then Bendel State of Nigeria under military governor George Agbazika Innih to serve as the Commissioner for Works and Transport, moving onto the role of Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture in June 1976. On completion of public service in April 1978, he returned to the university and was appointed Professor of History at the University of Benin.

At the University of Benin, he was a member of the governing council twice from 1980 to 1984 and from 1988 to 1992, twice the head of department of history in 1978-1982 and 1986-1989, twice the dean of arts in 1982-1986 and 2000-2001. He was also a member of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital Management Board (representing the Vice-Chancellor) from 1980 to 1983 and chairman, University of Benin Press in 1984-1985.

Professor Igbafe continued to research, write, teach and supervise undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates at the university of Benin until December 2006 when he retired at the age 70. Not done with imparting knowledge and doing research he accepted to continue teaching and research work when he was invited to join Benson Idahosa University as a professor of international studies and diplomacy in October 2007.[2]

Away from academics, Professor Philip Igbafe made contributions to public service at national level. He was elected a delegate to the Nigerian National Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995 where he was a member of the publications committee while also chairing the committee on power sharing. His other public roles include serving as chairman of the board of directors of the Bendel Broadcasting Service (Edo Broadcasting Service) from July 1978 to October 1979 and as chairman of the board of directors of the state owned Ethiope Publishing Corporation from 1991 to 1992.

Work as a HistorianEdit

Philip Igbafe is a foremost authority on major aspects of Nigerian history especially the history of the Benin and Edo people,[3] researching, writing and publishing several works that not only laid the groundwork for current and future scholars in the field but continues to be the unrivaled source in Africa's historiography. Over a period of 40 years he supervised hundreds of undergraduate, post graduate and doctoral research and thesis projects, wrote several books, contributed chapters to books on Nigeria history in addition to articles in several scholarly and peer-reviewed journals published both in Nigeria and around the world.

Igbafe's major contribution to Nigerian history covers the economic impact of British rule in Benin, the biography of Agho Obaseki of Benin, the socio-economic foundations of the Kingdom of Benin, Nigerian colonial experience and the history of the Etsako people of Edo state of Nigeria. His most outstanding and seminal works include ‘Benin under British administration, 1897-1938 : the impact of colonial rule on an African kingdom’,  and ‘The nemesis of power: Agho Obaseki and Benin politics, 1897-1956’.


  • Obaseki of Benin (African Historical Biographies Series) Heinemann Educational Books, London 1972.[4]
  • Benin Under British Administration, 1897-1938; The Impact of Colonial Rule on An African Kingdom. 432 pp. Longman, London, 1979.[5]
  • The Nemesis of Power: Agho Obaseki and Benin Politics 1897-1956. Macmillan Nigeria, 1991. Revised 2016 (Mindex Publishing Company, Benin City), 2016.
  • Profiles: Citations on some Eminent Personalities. Mindex Publishing Company, Benin City, 2016.
  • Troubled Times: Politics, Power and Conflicts in Benin 1991-1993. ISBN 978-071-070-1, Mindex Publishing Company, Benin City, 2017.


  1. ^ "Ile-Ife Triumphs In The British Museum, London: Who Said Nigerians Were Incapable Of Looking After Their Cultural Artefacts?". Modern Ghana. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Benson Idahosa University, Staff Details". BIU. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Re-entanglements". Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  4. ^ Review of Obaseki of Benin:
    • Fines, John (May 1973), Teaching History, 3 (9): 63–64, JSTOR 43252266CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  5. ^ Reviews of Benin under British Administration: