For Nigeria and Nigerians in diaspora, it’s a bright start to the New Year.
News of the elevation of renowned British-Nigerian scholar, David Olusoga, to the status of a Professor at the respectable University of Manchester conveys tremendous positive symbols and fuels optimism for Nigeria’s reputation abroad.
An inspiring figure like Olusoga is one of the few Nigerians in diaspora that help to keep hope alive that the usually unpleasant and scary statistics about the conduct of young blacks in the UK, particularly those of Nigerian heritage, would change for good.
Also a popular film-maker, Olusoga, who has received many awards on account of his excellent contribution to the British film industry, provides favourable counter narrative when conversations tend to focus only on Nigerians who are running foul of the law in foreign lands.
According to a statement by the University, Olusoga, also a historian and broadcaster, joined the University of Manchester as a Professor of Public History. Olusoga, who presented the BBC’s landmark series, Civilisations, in 2018 alongside Simon Schama and Mary Beard, is one of the UK’s foremost historians whose main subject areas are empire, race and slavery.
Perhaps topmost on his arrays of awards is the Queen’s honour which decorated him as Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Olusoga was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and British mother, and migrated to the UK with his mother as a young child. Yet, he has never faltered on the good path as some young people do. Rather, he has sustained the ethos of excellent upbringing and value which has made him a good reference point in many aspects of life.
It wasn’t that Olusoga had a peculiar head-start. Neither did he have a privileged early life, an absence of which many young blacks found on the wrong paths have claimed contributed to their bad behaviour. Instructively, like any other everyday kid, Olusoga grew up on a council estate where he faced threats and attacks to his family home from some political dissidents that eventually forced them out of their home. This lesson I’m certain, if consistently being brought to the fore in counseling and mentorship to younger people, will help to deconstruct wrong thinking and reshape their minds with a view to developing a generation of goal-getters and high achievers.
Like the popular saying goes, everyone needs a role model. Growing up, Olusoga saw Trevor McDonald, a distinguished British newscaster and journalist, as one of the outstanding black people in the UK whose path was worthy of emulation.
“I got into history because I wanted to make sense of the forces that have affected my life,” he said.
“I’m from that generation who would look at Trevor McDonald on television – his gravitas and authority – and see hope and potential”, he added.
Little wonder Olusoga also became a television producer after leaving university, working on programmes such as Namibia Genocide and the Second Reich, The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith and Abraham Lincoln: Saint or Sinner.
He subsequently became a presenter, beginning in 2014 with The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, a documentary focused on the Indian, African and Asian troops who fought in the First World War, followed by several other documentaries. His most recent TV series include Black and British: A Forgotten History, The World’s War, A House Through Time and the BAFTA award-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners.
Olusoga is also an award-winning author who has written several widely-acclaimed books which include Civilizations: Encounters and the Cult of Progress, The World’s War, which won First World War Book of the Year amongst others.
Undoubtedly, this is the kind of cheery news that Nigerians home and abroad always crave. It is a beautiful story that inspires hope and underscores the gains of painstaking, focused and meritorious labour. And we hope the year brings more of such with it as it goes by.