Wándé Abímbọ́lá, (born June 26, 1932 in Oyo, Nigeria) is a Nigerian academician, a professor of Yoruba language and literature and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), and has also served as the Majority Leader of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was installed as Àwísẹ Awo Àgbàyé in 1981 by the Ooni of Ife on the recommendation of a conclave of Babalawos of Yorubaland in West Africa.
Born in 1932 in the historic city of Oyo, Nigeria, the Awise comes from a family of traditional title-bearers. His late father, Abimbola Iroko, a renowned hunter and warrior whose brave exploits are still being celebrated by Ijala oral artists, was the Asipade (Leader of the Ogun Community) of Oyo until his death in 1971. His mother, a high priestess of Sango, is still both mentally and physically well at the age of 110.
His Caucasian wife is known as Ajisebo ( one who is versed in offering sacrifices ). Ajisebo is an Iyanifa (Ifa priestess) and she chants the Ifa Corpus in standard Yoruba. His son with Ajisebo, a bright two-year-old, is named Iroko(as in Iroko tree).
Abimbola received his first degree in History from University College, Ibadan, in 1963 when that college was a college of The University of London. He received his Master’s Degree in Linguistics from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in 1966, and his Ph.D. in Yoruba Literature from the University of Lagos in 1971. Abimbola was the first PhD graduate of the University of Lagos. He became a Full Professor in 1976.
The Awise's academic background is very much rooted in oral traditions. He was an apprentice in Ifa chanting and oral artistry before he began formal schooling. The Awise Awo Agbaye has taught in three Nigerian universities, namely the University of Ibadan from 1963-5, University of Lagos from 1966–72, and the University of Ife from 1972-91. He has also taught at several U.S. universities, including Indiana University, Amherst College, Harvard University, Boston University, Colgate University, and most recently, the University of Louisville. Professor Abimbola has written many books on Ifa and Yoruba culture.
- 1982–1990 Vice-Chancellor, University of Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
- 1977-1979 Dean, Faculty of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
- 1975-1977; 1979–80; 1981-82 Head, Department of African Languages and Literatures, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. (Wande Abimbola was the founder of this department.)
- 2004—2005 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Department of Liberal Studies, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.
- 1999 Professor of Humanities in the Department of English, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY.
- 1998—2003 Professor in the Department of Religion, Boston University, Boston, MA.
- 1997 Professor of the Humanities in Africana and Latin American Studies, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY.
- 1996—1997 Fellow, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute & Department of African American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge.
- 1990—1991 Scholar-in-Residence and Visiting Professor of Black Studies, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.
- 1980—1981 Visiting Henry R. Luce Professor of Comparative Religious Ethics, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.
- 1976—1990 Professor of African Languages and Literatures, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
- 1973 Associate Professor of Folklore, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
- 1971 Visiting Assistant Professor of Folklore, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
- 1966—1972 Lecturer, School of African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria.
- 1963—1965 Junior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Political, cultural and public service appointments
- 2005—to date Director, UNESCO Proclamation of Intangible Cultural Heritage award to Nigeria, Subject Matter: Ifa.
- 2003–2005 Adviser to the Nigerian President on Traditional Matters and Cultural Affairs, Office of the Presidency,
Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria.
- 1995—1998 Member, Council for the World’s Religions.
- 1992—1993 Senate Majority Leader, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria.
- 1992 Special Adviser to the Governor of Oyo State, Nigeria.
- 1990—to date Installed as Asiwaju Awo of Remo, Nigeria.
- 1988—1989 Member, Executive Committee, Association of Commonwealth Universities.
- 1986—to date Installed as Elemoso of Ketu, Benin Republic.
- 1981—to date President, International Congress of Orisa Tradition and Culture.
- 1981—to date Installed as Awise Awo Ni Agbaye ( literally World Spokesperson for Ifa and Yoruba Religion).
- 1981—1989 Chairman, Governing Board, Oyo State College of Arts and Science, Ile-Ife.
- 1979—1982 Chairman, Oyo State Tourist Committee.
- 1978—1984 Chairman, Board of Directors, University of Ife Guest Houses Limited.
- 1976—1978 Chairman, Oyo State Broadcasting Corporation.
- 1974—1984 Chairman, Board of Governors, Oliver Baptist High School, Oyo.
- 1974–1976 Chairman, Oyo Zonal Health Board and Member of the State Health Council.
- 1971—to date Consecrated as Babalawo (Ifa Priest).
Other professional experience
- 1972—1979 Editor, Yoruba, Journal of the Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria.
- 1970—1972 Editor, Lagos Notes and Records, Bulletin of the Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria.