The Dominican University Ibadan, Nigeria is the first university the Order of Preachers on the African continent. Popularly called the Dominican Order, the Order of Preachers was founded by Spanish priest Dominic de Guzman in 1216 with the approval of Pope Innocent III. In her more than 800 years of existence, the Order has been actively involved in university education around the world. The Dominican University in Ibadan was established on the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Order.
Illustrious Dominicans, such as the scientist and philosopher Albert the Great, and his student, the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, were towering intellectuals in pioneering universities of Europe in Paris, Bologna, Oxford and Cologne.
In 1951, with a mandate from the Holy See during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, three members of the Order of Preachers, Fathers Edward Lawton, Michael Dempsey and Arthur Kinsella arrived in Lagos, Nigeria from Chicago, Illinois, the United States of America for the foundation of the Order in Nigeria. Their mission was to establish and administer a Catholic Prefecture in Sokoto, northern Nigeria, the Prefecture that is today’s Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, covering today’s Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Katsina States of Nigeria. Upon their arrival in Lagos, and prior to their going to Sokoto, Archbishop Leo Taylor of Lagos asked them to take charge of St Patrick’s Church (later renamed St Dominic’s) in Yaba, Lagos. While in Lagos, Dominicans already ran a Thomistic Institute introducing young Nigerians to the thought of Thomas Aquinas. That served as a good preparation what would later become an engagement with Nigerian intellectuals.
In 1968, Dominicans chose Ibadan as place of formation of Nigerian and Ghanaian candidates for the Order. Ibadan, an ancient city of hills and red roofs, offered a double advantage to a religious order with an intellectual mission: it is home to Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan, and it is home to the Seminary of Ss Peter and Paul in Bodija, one of Nigeria’s oldest Catholic seminaries.
That choice continued a tradition that goes back to the early beginnings of the Order. Communities of early Dominicans in Europe were located within vicinities of universities. For a religious order actively involved in university education, it was a practical thing to do.
Ibadan afforded Dominicans opportunities to teach in the university and at the seminary. The Seminary of Ss Peter and Paul once had a Dominican, Father Nadeau as Rector, and served as a place for training candidates for the priesthood from different dioceses in West and Central Africa. Dominican Father Joseph Kenny was Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Ibadan, and at the Seminary of Ss Peter and Paul. Many other Dominican friars—Edward Riley, Colum Daley, Jude Mbukanma, Chris Angelo Otuibe, Iheanyi Enwerem, Clement Dioka, Anthony Akinwale, Frederick Mvumbi Ntedika, to mention but these taught both at the Dominican Institute and at the Seminary.
The Dominican Institute was the embryo out of which the Dominican University was born. In April 1976, with the active encouragement of Father Vincent de Couesnongle, Master of the Order of Preachers at the time, African Dominican friars met in Ibadan. With that meeting, an umbrella body of Dominicans in Africa was established. Known as the Inter-African Order of Preachers (IAOP), it decided to establish the Dominican Institute in Ibadan as centre of philosophical studies for Dominicans in Africa. Its pioneer Director was Professor Joseph Kenny.
In 1993, the Dominican Institute became an affiliate school of the University of Ibadan for the award of a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. Its pioneer President as an affiliate school was Father Iheanyi Enwerem, a political scientist. Since the Institute was envisioned to be the seed of a future university, its doors were thrown open to all, not just to Dominican students. The Institute also ran a Bachelor of Theology degree as an affiliate of the University of St Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome, and a Master of Arts degree in Theology as an affiliate of Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, United States of America. Some of its graduates now teach in universities within and outside Nigeria.
In 2006, seven years after Nigeria’s return to democratic rule ending a second bout of military rule, the Dominican Order in Nigeria applied for a university licence to transform the Dominican Institute into the Dominican University.
On November 2, 2016, the federal government of Nigeria approved a provisional licence for the Dominican University. The licence was granted on November 22, 2016. That date marked the birth of the first university of the Order of Preachers on the African continent.
For more than two decades, the Dominican Institute has been running a Bachelor of Arts philosophy degree programme, fully accredited by the National Universities Commission, and a Bachelor of Theology degree programme accredited by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. Its impressive track record, excellent facilities, enormous human resources, and the more than 800 years of Dominican involvement in tertiary education mean the Dominican University can boast of having emerged from a position of strength.
On August 22, 2017, the Board of Trustees of the Dominican University, upon the recommendation of the Governing Council, appointed Professor Anthony Akinwale pioneer Vice Chancellor of the University. A professor of Systematic Theology and Thomistic Studies, he had served three terms as President of the Dominican Institute and had served as Chair of the Planning and Implementation Committee of the then proposed Dominican University while application for the university licence was being processed.
The Dominican University opened her doors to her pioneer students with an inaugural Mass on October 2, 2017.
In a letter dated June 10, 2020 and addressed to the Vice Chancellor, the National Universities Commission informed the University that, having successfully passed through its probational stage, she now has a full statutory licence.