Bring Back our History

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Philip Afaha
It was Frank Olize, ace TV broadcaster and pioneer anchor of NTA Newsline who customarily starts his series with a simple question; “do you know where your children are”? If that question is asked today few Nigerian parents would manage to score a pass mark. Our children’s minds have been poisoned because we have abandoned our history. Our brotherhood is under severe threat, from within.

That Nigerian history is not taught in our schools despite two presidential directives is no longer news. What is news is that Nigerians are now demanding for its immediate re-inclusion in our school curriculum due to its overriding strategic relevance to national development and cohesion. It is common knowledge that every country worth its name has their histories compulsorily taught as a critical component of their curriculum.

Such policies are often without prejudice to a student`s course of study or citizenship status in those schools. It is a known fact that embedded in the histories of every country are norms and nationalistic values that are imparted from generation to generation it is the knowledge of history that shapes national character and patriotism. It is a sad commentary that Nigeria is the only country where its history is not taught in her colleges, and because of that most of her youths cannot effectively discuss or defend her existence.

Since 1982 when the Federal government erroneously replaced the study of history with social studies and civics in school curriculum, the Nigerian school system lost its capacity to transmit her national history and culture to about 65% of her current population. It cannot be denied that we are now training future leaders with no sense of their history. This development has disastrous consequences for our political economic and socio-cultural spheres of life. The impact of that callous policy is palpable as our youths are more at home with foreign histories and ways of life. Apparently, there appears to be a yawning disconnect between our children and the very values and culture they are supposed to inherit.

They are beginning to be ashamed of their identity and cultures. It is trite to blame our youth disconnect on the impact of globalism, but Nigeria is not the only country grappling with global dynamics. Let’s not ignore the threat that the coinage, Naija, is not only supplanting the name Nigeria as our national nomenclature, it has become an euphemism for venting anti-Nigerian sentiments among the youths. They are now questioning our corporate existence more than we have ever seen before and the amalgamation of 1914 is now perceived as forced marriage which they now feel obliged to undo. It cannot be denied that the violent agitations for self determinations across the country is a sad reflection of this disconnect.

Our government cannot continue to ignore this national slide especially at a time when everything should be conjured to restore the national spirit which has been greatly battered by national complacency. It is worrisome that at a time when other countries of the world are exploiting their historical resources to enhance their comparative advantage, Nigeria had long abandoned its own in blind pursuit of quick fixes. Nigeria`s historical infrastructures such as museums and archives are the most ignored in national budget and planning when other countries have even gone a step further by not only digitizing their history but having presidential historians or advisers on their national histories.

About thirty years ago it was inconceivable for any Nigerian to contemplate suicide and committing mass murder or any of these bestialities meted on the country in the name of any creed or indoctrination. Our souls bleed when we watch helplessly as our millennials fuelled by disjointed histories of their country talk down on our hard won unity and historical realities. There is no gainsaying the already known fact that irredentist sentiments are at their peak in recent days. As a teacher I can say on good authority that our youths are so disenchanted about their national identity and we need to do something fast. They have come to accept what the social media and home movies wrongly project as their heritage. Let’s start to communicate our true story by teaching our children our national history. Let’s tell them that movies don’t tell our true story, they are mostly meant to entertain for profit.

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 only cure is the current distrust, agitations for new identities and nihilistic disruptions of whatever they perceived to represent the system they inherited. Posterity will also ignore what we are achieving today if we sit back and dismiss the exploits of Ahmadu Bello, the political charisma of Nnamdi Azikiwe, the managerial sagacity of Obafemi Awolowo, the parliamentary acumen of Anthony Enahoro or the significance of Sir Udo Udoma to our jurisprudence.

Nothing can be sadder than to deliberately ignore the sacrifices of those who toiled or fought to give us a country. No nation ignores her history without dampening her citizens sense of patriotism and ultimately losing her identity. Let’s pretend the omission was in error and hurriedly return history as a compulsory subject in our school curriculum as done in other climes.

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the National Education and Research Development Commission (NERDC), and the National University Commission (NUC) must be reminded to wake up to their responsibilities in this regard. History is not only about past events, it is also about the dramatis personae within a time and space. History is about us and our actions as it affects our society. Let’s act now to reverse this national oversight and upgrade our curriculum to close this gap.

The theme Bring Back Our History does not intend to parodize the current search for our daughters from the Chibok school, it is a battle-cry for the restoration of our national history. We can only navigate our future from the knowledge of our past. To pretend to be moving forward without looking back is no wisdom, it is self delusion. I cannot imagine what would make a people to be so scared of their history. Please bring back our history.