Identity, Change and the Making of the Mission Agent
Chapter 8 Racing against Time
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away. They f ly forgotten, as a dream, dies at the opening day. — Isaac Watts Samuel Johnson’s magisterial output in his declining years, The History of the Yorubas, has courted the attention of academics from the early years of Nigeria’s political independence as much as it has immortalized his person. It is an irony of history that the self-ef facing pastor of Ọyọ should, thanks to this publication, be one of the most celebrated Yoruba churchmen among fellow Sierra Leone returnee agents of the mission. Not even the intrepid Africanist, James Johnson, who was more inf luential in Lagos for his nationalist struggle at the turn of the twentieth century, commanded the interest Johnson has evoked in local and international academic circles in the last half a century since Ade Ajayi drew attention to him.1 If this development runs against the temperament of the man, it is still confounding that Samuel, in the words of Robert July, should be the ‘author for the broad panorama of Yoruba history in its social and cultural complexity, its strenuous politics and lusty war-making’.2 It is more so when this outcome of his ef fort is weighed against his own confession that he was not motivated to write the history for the reason of an inordinate desire to appear in print. It is still a paradox that the work came to its final 1 J. F. A. Ajayi, ‘Samuel Johnson – Historian of the Yoruba’, Nigeria...
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