Nigerian Field Society Ile-Ife
Motivation and How It Started
The Ile-Ife Branch of the Nigerian Field Society was inaugurated on Wednesday 26th January 1972 at the Ile-Ife campus of the then University of Ife, now the Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U. ). During the early years of the then young University of Ife, when it was still temporarily based at Ibadan (Ibadan Campus ), the Ibadan Branch of the Society drew its membership largely from the two Universities i.e. the University of Ibadan and the University of Ife ( Unife).
There is evidence that there used to be joint meetings of the Ibadan and Unife members of the society even when the University of Ife moved down to Ile-Ife, over the period 1967 through 1971. Over time, there was a cut in the association. The idea of the society somehow became born-again towards the later part of 1971 at Ile-Ife. In a letter dated 13th January 1972, Mr. L.W. Chahill (Biological Sciences ) contacted Mrs. J.E. Goddard (one time Ibadan Branch Secretary ) enquiring about forming a new branch. ‘’A number of us here are about to attempt to form a branch in Ile-Ife. We would like to know as much as possible about doing such a thing. Any advice/dump, etc. would be greatly appreciated. ’’The response to Mr. Chahill’s letter came a week later from Mrs. Margaret Amosun (who had taken over the secretaryship of Ibadan Branch from Mrs. Goddard ). According to the response, ‘’the committee of the Ibadan branch of the society had discussed your suggestion of starting a branch at Ife and would like to offer any help it can give.’’ Events seemed to have moved very swiftly thereafter; an inaugural meeting of the Ife Branch was held 8.00-9.00 pm at Auditorium 1, Humanity Block of the University on Wednesday, 26th January, 1972 with a total of 27 founding members.
Schools students from Ile-Ife and Members of the NFS Ife Branch after the quiz competition, marking the 40th anniversary of the NFS, Ile-Ife.
NFS members at the 20212 ABM in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Ife Branch of the Society
On the average, 90% of the branch’s members is drawn from within the university ( Unife/OAU) cutting across virtually all the faculties. The main catchment being the Faculty of Science, accounting for over one haif ( about 56±5.8% ) of the overall membership. The Faculties of Agriculture, Health Sciences, and Environmental Design and Management (EDM) followed but quite far behind. On the other hand, the Faculties of Education, Law and Administration each account for less than 1% of the composition. About 1.3% of our membership is drawn from within Ile-Ife, but outside the University while 2% came from outside Ife. Members in the last category were drawn from Akure (FUTA), Ila-Orangun (College of Education), Iwo ( Bowen University), and Ondo ( Adeyemi College of Education ). Many of them were at one time or the other based at Ile-Ife or the University either as students or staff.
The history of the branch can be divided roughly into three phases with regard to both membership and activities. The period 1972 – 1975 (Phase I) can rightly be referred to as the glorious early years while years 1976– 1988 was a period of slum/dormancy ( Phase II ). On the other hand the period from 1989 up to date is that of revitalization, stability and growth. It is worthy of note that the dormant period ( Phase II ) coincided with the exit of most of the expatriate- founding members, especially that of the founding chairman, Prof. L.B. Halstead and Secretary Mr. L.W. Chahill, who were more or less the moving spirits behind the branch.
A critical look at our membership composition would reveal some time variation in the number and percentage contribution of the composite catchment units. This is perhaps most obvious with membership from outside Ile-Ife which has shown a gradual but steady increase over the years. On the other hand, membership from some units within the university notably the Faculties of Pharmacy and Technology have shown consistent decline. The impressive increase in membership from EDM, especially the Department of Fine could be attributed to the inspiration and untiring effort of Prof. J.R.O. Ojo, (former Branch chairman and a Trustee member of the Society).
From the outset, the activities of the branch have centered mainly on talks and field trips, for which the society is well known. In the early years, both activities were regular during the academic session. Talks were given almost invariably every fortnight (on Wednesdays) while tours were on Sundays. The following were some of the most frequently visited places in those days; Idanre Hills (Ondo State), Kainji Dam and Lake, (Niger State), Shagunu Research Station of the then Kainji Lake Research Institute (Niger State), Osogbo Shrines and Osun Grove (Osun State), Erin Ijesa falls (Osun state),and Ikogosi Warm Spring (Ekiti State). Others were Ife shrines, groves and museums (Ile-Ife) as well as Inselbergs, dams and reservoirs at OAU.
The branch hosted the Resident Committee Meeting of the society twice: 29th April, 1978 (the 6th meeting ) and 26th April, 1980 (the 10th meeting). It also had the honour of hosting the Annual Business Meeting (ABM) of the society seven record times : 1989, 1994, 2002, 2007, 2012 ,2018 and 2023(for 2022). The branch is well-known for its policy of hosting ABM of the society to coincide with its own milestone founding anniversaries especially from 2002 (at the 30th anniversary). Somehow, hosting of the Society’s ABM has always been a boost to our membership. On the average, it has a doubling effect on our membership over the preceding year. With history repeating itself ,this was the case in 1989, 1994, 2002, 2007, and also in 2012 at our 40th anniversary when our membership was up to about 150 .It is also note worthy that it is only at the Ife ABMs that the society has given awards of excellent service to deserving members (2002, 2012, 2018 so far). In line with an important mission of our society and the laudable policy of the present OAU administration in encouraging environmental awareness and preservation of our local environment, the branch in 2002 organized a symposium on toward the wholesomeness of OAU campus and Ile Ife town. In the same vein it also organized an inter-school quiz on ecology/environment for eight selected secondary schools within and around Ile-Ife in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2023.
NFS Ife members at the Dental Museum in Ile-Ife, March, 2016