Professor Julius Ihonvbere was until recently, Special Adviser to the Nigerian President on Programme and Policy Monitoring. A political scientist, he obtained his BA in History and Political Science from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria. He subsequently obtained his MA International Affairs from The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. In 1984 he earned a PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto, Canada.
Julius started his professional career at his alma mater, the University of Ife as an assistant lecturer in International Relations. He went on to additional appointments at a number of Nigerian Universities inclusive of the University of Port Harcourt, which saw him move to lecturing in Political Science. Following this, Julius joined another of his alma maters, the University of Toronto as visiting Professor in Political Science. In 1993, he moved to the United States of America, where he was Associate Professor at in Political Science, Houston-Tillotson College, Austin, Texas. His final lectureship position was at The University of Texas at Austin, where he was Professor of Government. He then joined Ford Foundation as Program Officer in Governance and Civil Society.
Julius’ realm of expertise spans Africa with research experience in Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This comprehensive characteristic to his expertise extends to his coverage of disciplines, which include the African economic crisis, politics of oil, Nigeria’s foreign policy, environmental degradation, ethnic and religious violence and democracy. However a particular focus on democracy in his work, from the 1990s onwards, is notable. This coincided with the deterioration of the political state of affairs in his home country, Nigeria, the 1994 annulment of the presidential elections as won by MKO Abiola, and the much publicised execution of the human rights activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. Julius’ influence has likewise extended across academic and non-academic ambits. His style of scholarship has been referred to as progressive in its avoidance of ahistorical ideals as its benchmark and thus linking theory to practice, therein shunning scholarship as an end in itself. Prof. Ihonvbere is also an award-winning academic and human rights activist, the recipient of the First Mario Zamora Memorial Award from the Association of Third World Studies. Additionally, he is a prolific author. His works include the following: Labor, Capital and the State in Nigeria’s Oil Industry (1998); The Rise and Fall of Nigeria’s Second Republic (with Toyin Falola) (1985); Economic Crisis, Civil Society and Democratization: The Case of Zambia (Africa World Press 1996); and Nigeria: The Politics of Adjustment and Democracy (Transaction 1994).
Julius’ ability to translate theory to practice is further exhibited in his political activism. He was a profound participant of the Nigerian Diaspora pro-democracy movement as Vice President of the United Democratic Front for Nigeria as well as his involvement with Radio Democracy International, later Radio Kudirat. With Ford Foundation, he enabled the empowerment of many, notably in Africa, by availing funds to a substantial number of projects with a mandate to addressing the issues of centrality in the region. In so doing, Julius contributed to enhancing the reputation of the Foundation with regards to its commitment to Africa. His role as Special Advisor to the President on Programme and Policy Monitoring, was particularly poignant as this participation coincided with the first ever time that a democratic government has served consecutive terms in Nigeria.