By Sunny Ikhioya
RECENTLY, some people brought up the Asaba massacre saga as a reminder of the outstanding issues of the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) and someone said we should forget it.
For those involved in perpetrating or upturning of the status quo, it is very easy to forget. However, those who lost dear ones and their means of livelihood terminated will never forget, and will pass their grievances as history to generations to come.
It is not possible to erode history; that is why those responsible for our education curricula must be very careful in what they do.
History is fact as it records past events as they happened. Because of ethnic and religious sentiments some of us have tried to bend the facts to suit individual and collective interests. But like Uthman Dan Fodio noted: “Conscience is an open wound and only the truth can heal it”.
So it is with history: you cannot kill it; what you fail to do with your tainted education, the people will, on their own, pass it to their children through oral tradition, historical relics or monuments or whatever means of communication.
Those in leadership positions today, trying to rewrite history because of their privileged positions must be very careful, as examples abound of their predecessors who have failed in this venture.
What does history say we should do? Simple. Record the facts as you see them without any tainting. Are you doubting the possibility of this? Okay, let us take a trip to the history of the Jews as recorded by all the major historical books. At a time, they were slaves in the land of Egypt, until they left for the land God had prepared for them. After a lengthy sojourn and uncountable battles, they finally arrived the Promised Land where they settled, with Jerusalem as the capital. Again their stay in Jerusalem was truncated by superior forces and all of them had to be taken again to foreign lands.
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Before year 1948, the Jews had no land that they could call their own. It took them 1,948 years, after the death of Christ to be able to settle in a country of their own. Can you imagine this? And today, they are one of the strongest nations on the face of this earth. When you imagine what Hitler and his accomplices did to them during the Second World War, you would not have imagined this: A small country, with so much power and influence. People will tell you that the hand of God is in it, but you cannot doubt what you see, it is clear for the whole world to see.
The story of the Jews is recorded in history. A people with no land and country until the year 1948, but today, boast one of the strongest countries in the world. In fact, they are in control of the Middle East region presently.
What does this tell us? We must deal fairly with people and neighbours because we cannot tell what tomorrow will bring. At the time Jesus was crucified, the Israelis were under the control of the great Roman Empire, with Pontius Pilate as governor of the province of Judea, under Emperor Tiberius, from year 26/27 to 36/37 AD. The question to ask is: Where is the Roman Empire today?
History can be likened to the symbol of justice, the lady with a blindfold, a sword on one hand and a set of scales on the other. “She symbolises fair and equal administration of the law without corruption, favour, greed or prejudice.” That is history when you tell it as it is; there will be no need for people to try to change it and it will also serve as lessons for mistakes of the past.
Those who tried to change the course of history in the past found it difficult to appreciate the changes taking place in the world today.
History is a reservoir of knowledge: those who are interested go through it and learn but those who refuse to learn from history are stuck in the past and subsequently are conquered by the change that will surely happen.
The recent American presidential election afforded us the benefit of seeing history unfolding; we witnessed Black discriminations; how they have been sacrificed to build a nation of freedom and justice.
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Yet a Blackman had occupied the highest seat in the land as President, with a Black female vice president currently in power. Who would have thought that this will happen in the 21st century. And the change is still going on. I have gone this far to help us understand that, like justice, history is slow but it will finally have its way.
Look at the great British empire; look at France with the great Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte bestriding the whole of Europe like a colossus; look at the great Soviet Republic: all that is left of them have collapsed within their respective boundaries.
Those who fail to learn from history will keep on repeating their mistakes and failures; we must tell our stories and we must tell them correctly. It is not the Biafran story alone. The history of the entire Nigerian nation must be told correctly. The Biafran story must be included in our curriculum; we must know what caused it, consequences and why it must not be allowed to repeat itself. If we fail to do this, we will only be postponing the evil day.
It is year 2021 and Nigeria is 61 years in existence but no history to tell. We must learn how the British manipulated the story of this great nation, a nation that is full of vibrant and hospitable people, a people classified as one of the happiest in the world. The British must open up their museums and libraries and let us study the manipulations that took place; how people in a desert land became more populous than those in the coastal areas and the Middle Belt. How the Fulani people were able to hold their own and force the British to hand power over to them.
How the Fulani with their minority population, are able to impose themselves over a vast landscape with millions of people. We must understand our history, how the Hausa nation became docile and allowed a nomadic people to rule over their land. We must open our history books because there lies the answer to all of the problems facing this nation presently.
In history, you are taught to understand the immediate and remote causes of events; a wise ruler will learn from it and avoid previous pitfalls. As it is today, we have not learnt any lessons from the Biafran civil war, we must look for the root causes. The solution is the acceptance of all nations under the geographical space called Nigeria as one, with rulership based on love, fairness and progress. But how is this possible? Again I repeat, we must go back to our true history, based on justice and fairness.