One day, Nigerian History will join English language and Mathematics as compulsory subjects in our schools. The need for this sure inclusion is staring Nigeria in the face; while inaugurating the recent disarticulation of history from Social Studies in the school curriculum, the Honourable Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu had observed that the Nigerian nation is earnestly yearning for directions most of which history holds the compass. According to the minister, the federal government is now aware of the overarching importance of history as the fulcrum of human knowledge and is now more determined to deploy the tools of history to interprete and synthesize our past, link it to the present and plan for the future. In my earlier campaign on BRING BACK OUR HISTORY, I attempted to remind Nigerians of the popular adage that those who abandon their history are bound to repeat their dark pasts. We need to teach our children who we are, what we believe in and the common heritage we hold dear before they set this house on fire. Our children have been deceived by the social media to believe that our unity was conceived in error. The deliberate neglect of our national history has only bequeathed to these children a dizzying victim mentality which manifests in the current distrust, agitations for new identities and nihilistic disruptions of whatever they perceived to represent the system they inherited. That foreign influence is tearing Nigeria to shreds is an understatement; the ensuing vagabond psychology now pushes our youths to carry bombs, they now believe sodomy is cool.
When the Prof C.B.N Ogbogbo – led Historical Society of Nigeria vigorously demanded for the re-inclussion of history in the school curriculum Most Nigerians were surprised that the notorious omission of history in the first place was a government policy. Indeed Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka recently queried “I learnt not so long ago that history has been taken off the curriculum in this country. Can you imagine that? History?” “What is wrong with history? Or maybe I should ask, what is wrong with some people’s head?”. Like the renowned Prof, Nigerians are not applauding the Buhari administration for its reintroduction but are now calling for it to made offered as a compulsory subject in our schools the most current being the legislative initiative by Senator Ali Wakili and Hon. Ayodeji Oladimeji to extract a bill in the National Assembly to make the study of history compulsory in Nigerian schools.
The argument that History is the fulcrum of all faculties of human knowledge is no longer in contest. Nigeria cannot continue to pretend it can manuevre the woods without it. Nigeria must start to deploy the lessons of history to resolve our problems. The current disposition of the federal government on history should be taken beyond the classrooms; Government itself needs history to guide its policies.
For instance, the current Recession bedevilling Nigeria is a common phenomenon in economic history. The rise and fall theme that flows through almost every history reveals that recession had been, and can still be reversed if the lessons of history are carefully deployed. The histories of Europe during the inter-war years, USA before the new deal and at different periods, Japan, China before their current status etc, all teaches that recession is surmountable if humans challenge themselves to think out of the box and reason above other primates. The best thing that has ever happened to Nigeria was not the oil boom of the 70s, but the twin occurrences of the unfavourable oil prices of 2015 and the current recession. These two issues has forced us to think and to ask questions about our future. The fears and concerns of the government and the governed are palpable. Everybody is asking why, and this good for our survival as a people. Before these two realities Nigerians were behaving like the Romans; looting and making merry while their country burned. But unlike Rome, Nigeria will not fall. At least we`ve started thinking, we`ve started telling ourselves the truth. There is now a national consciousness that we should stop playing pranks with our resources else we will lose all.
This is how recovery begins, this appears to be the turning point of Nigerian history. But those in government must be equipped with the solutions already provided by histories of past recessions, especially of how they were overcome.
To come out of this recession Nigeria must embrace the benefits and hope offered by history; not only to learn of what those countries did to overcome recession and became super powers but to cultivate the character required for meaningful transformation. The recovery methods and tactics are embedded in history books and it is free knowledge. Ideas alone are not enough. Nigeria needs the discipline to domesticate those strategies to come out of the woods.
Nigeria had experienced recessions before; our history is replete with stories of how our progenitors recalibrated the economies of their kingdoms and chiefdoms especially after the abolition of slave trade. At the beginning of the 20th century, the territory that later become Nigeria was rattled by British invasion and occupation which left the economy in disarray. The colonial authority knew they must take certain steps to enhance recovery and make profit. The real reasons for the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria can be found in the report Luggard submitted to the British parliament. The colonial authority had not only to merge Nigeria but stabilize the territory and reengineer its economy. Beyond the north-south identity narratives that always dominate the amalgamation discourse among Nigerians; I would recommend that our policy makers take out time to study the details of the 1914 report; of how a wobbly economy was repositioned to sustain the colonial enterprise. Awolowo`s economic brinkmanship kept Nigeria afloat during and after the civil war until the oil boom set off the 70s. Like I’ve always said, there are no mysteries in life, there`s hardly any new knowledge. Almost everything there`s to know is embedded in history.
The recent volt-face by the federal government to reintroduce history in the Nigerian school curriculum is not only timeous but inspiring. The philosophy of the new curriculum is to emphasize issues that engender bonding of the Nigerian people and enhance patriotism. While the curriculum will focus mainly on Nigerian history, special attention will be given to local histories especially at the primary school level. It is not only school children who need to study history; indeed, our adults need historical knowledge even more. At the recent national history roundtable in Ondo I had argued that the subject should not only be made compulsory but that government functionaries at all levels should be made to appreciate and understand the essence of history. Their good grasp of history will afford them the needed foresight to manoeuvre the rigours of governance. It will also enable them to understand their environment, the people and the happenings around them. President Buhari should consider it imperative to appoint a presidential historian for Nigeria as is obtainable in the USA and other democracies. For now it is only Bayelsa state that has a government historian who archives, documents, advice and articulates the correct history of that state. Our president should be concerned about how history perceives his legacies as a military and civilian leader of Nigeria. The creation of the office of a Presidential Historian or Special Adviser on National History will engender the needed consciousness and patriotism among the officials and the governed. It is no longer fashionable to have people serve in a government of a country whose history they know nothing about or can’t defend. It is sad to know that most government functionaries don’t understand recession other than that the price of rice has gone up!!. Most officials can’t even recite the national pledge nor understand the implications of having more laundered cash stashed in bags at Dei-dei junction and zone 4 currency markets other than in banks.
The main problem with Nigeria is that Nigerians don’t care about their country but worships whatever they perceive from abroad. They only whine when they are inconvenienced but sleep off in wait for miracle from an external force or benefactor. It is sad that most of the people engaging in the recent American election dialogue didn’t care a hoot who won the Nigerian elections. Most can’t produce a voter’s card and has never voted in Nigeria. They watched home movies and frolic in big hotels on election days in Nigeria. The question is; would the outcome of the American elections reverse our recession?, will it reduce the prices of petrol, rice, tomatoes, etc?. Will the Trump presidency also make Nigeria great again?….did David Cameron or Brexit helped Nigeria to fight recession?.. The answers to these questions are regrettably no. Let’s discuss Buhari and not Trump, lets discuss Nigerian history more.
What Mallam Adamu Adamu has done to our national history and heritage is indeed huge. Historians have already agreed that it is he who returned our national history to the classrooms and it is hoped that the final destination of making it a compulsory subject will also be accomplished during his stewardship. There`s now a growing consensus among historians that the real push for national consciousness and rebirth will be achieved through his recent action. Nigerian historians are grateful to the Buhari administration for this gift. Beyond the classrooms, there`s nothing odd about making our national history a mandatory orientation course for NYSC or any government-funded seminar/workshop organised for our public servants. If this happens, those who were denied history by the former obnoxious policy will get their deliverance and Nigeria will be better for it.
Surely, as we savour this historic policy redress, Adamu Adamu will be remembered for this feat as long as history lives.
*Dr Philip Afaha is a Senior Lecturer and the Abuja Liaison Officer of the Historical Society of Nigeria
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