By Sunny Ikhioya
IT is said that a people who do not know where they are coming from will never know where they are going to. They will be lost and remain in transit until they retrace their route. Such is the situation with a country without history. It is like an orphan, who belongs to nobody. Where are the historians who once traversed this land? The Ade Ajayis, Ayandeles, Ikimes and others? They used to be the shinning light, the beacon of hope, reminding the people of our once glorious past, as independent nationalities until the infamous British conquest and subsequent forceful amalgamation.
Our children in schools today have not heard of Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, not to talk of our historical heroes and heroines in ancient Benin, Oyo, the Caliphate and other empires of the past. Where are the professors of history in our universities? What are they doing with their time? Where are the historical societies?
How can we solve Nigeria’s problems when the causes are deeply embedded in our history and everyone is afraid of digging into our history where the truth can be found, because the truth will be exhumed and the truth is very bitter?
What are the remote and immediate causes of the Nigerian civil war of 1966-70? Have we taken time to do a thorough analysis of this in our universities and other centres of learning? If yes, what are the proffered solutions? What are the causes of Maitatsine and other ethnic and religious crises in the north? What did the government White Paper say about the causes and solutions? Have the recommendations been implemented? Why are Nigerians killing themselves? Does this have its roots in our historical antecedents or the emergence of third parties? Why are people clamouring for a new constitution?
Why are some demanding for a total restructuring of the nation in line with true federalism? If we truly know or understand where we are coming from, we will not be asking all of these questions.
Was there a time in our history when everybody lived in unity? Was there a time in this country when one could travel to any part of the country freely without any molestation from any quarter? If the answer is yes, why has it become near impossible to do so now? At what point did we derail? Who are our Nigerian heroes? How many of them can the average Nigerian youth identify? Do we really have true heroes in this country? What is the history of Nigeria’s technology development? Did we have our indigenous arts and cultures in the past? Our crafts, steel, medicine, building and other indigenous technology, what happened to them? What about our famed original local gin manufacturing?
The questions are many. Why was History as a subject removed from our education curricula? Who stands to benefit from all of these distortions? History as a subject, traverses all aspects of our past lives, successes and failures, conquests and subjugations and also hopes and plans for the future. It covers economics. For instance, how did our rail system collapse? It is our past record and if properly analysed, will provide answers to present-day challenges. I guess that is why we are where we are today, blinded to our past.
Today, the western world is still trying to find out happenings during the period of Noah in the Bible and especially the technology that was used to put the ark together. It is not for nothing. It is only an attempt at finding answers to the present and the future times. Where are our national airlines? Where are our shipping lines? Why is it that business is booming elsewhere and Nigeria is finding it difficult to take-off? Why is it that the country did not come out of the civil war with anything beneficial in terms of technology , which is against the norm. Great scientific and technological breakthroughs took place during the first and second world wars.
How many of us in this nation today know that Nigeria’s indigenous nationalities were once self-sufficient in food and basic needs? They did not have to run cap in hand for foreign hand outs before they fed themselves. How many Nigerians today know that the north, now clinging tight to unitary federal government once opted out of the Union for the same reason?
These are the issues our proper study of history would have brought out, but the system has deliberately consigned the subject to irrelevance. So, Nigeria’s history today is how each individual or group sees and records it. It is not subject to general acceptance, as should have been, if it is fully integrated into our education curricula.
Every day we consign history to the background, we lose a vital part of our essence as a people and nation, we sink deeper into the abyss of ignorance and what we have in place is modern Buccaneers who ‘do not know Joseph’. If we are to seriously address the challenges of this nation, we must go back to the basics, which is our history.