Nigerian schools on yet another date with history

Image source: Daily Post
The announcement by the Buhari's administration that the study of history will return to our schools starting from next term, I must confess, is one of the most heartwarming news I've heard in recent time.

This may not be unconnected with the fact that I'm an avid student of history.

It was, however, a seed planted by my late dad who did not only taught me in the foundational class but took out time to educate me about the history of the Yoruba, and the Egba in particular.

History like tradition and culture was dear to him. And according to the Yoruba, ‘if a child should out miss out on history, he would by no means miss out on myths’. It is instructive that they also believe the myth is the father of history.

Tradition, on the other hand, they believe is a proverbial rope that drawn from the beginning of time that must not be allowed to snap.

Whichever way, the two meets somewhere and serves the purpose. Like the popular saying that, ‘if you don't know where you are going, at least, you know where you are coming from’.

The significance of that traditional Corpus mentioned above will be re-echoed later in the prelude to and during the coronation of the current Alake of Egba land, Oba Michael Aremu Adedotun Gbadebo, Okukenu IV on 2 August, 2005 as one of the kingmakers proclaimed the line with pride.

Before and after that event particularly, it became clearer to me that the place of history in the life of a people cannot be overemphasized.

And for a very long time, the book 'History of the Yoruba by Rev. Johnson was one of my most prized inheritance until I lost it in the many unpredictable change of environment which is inevitable in the life of a man.

I believe the same deep satisfaction I get from the news applies to every Nigerian at home and in the diaspora.

And this can be deduced from the outpouring of enthusiasm and the shared varied perspective in terms of inputs as to what this is capable of doing to the country in the ongoing conversations around the topic since the news broke.

I think the government of the day deserves a swing of the Shekere for such a laudable but long overdue policy reinstatement or reversal if you like.

The instructive part for me also is that it would be taught as a stand-alone subject unlike what was obtained in the past.

I recall that before history was yanked off the subjects list available to the Nigerian students in 2007, and more so afterward, it was taught inexplicably and regrettably too as an embedded topic in social studies.

Though, it was a disservice to Nigeria and Nigerians in the first place for any government to have taken off history from the academic menu of Nigerian students which is something that has endured for donkey years now, the action may also be put in perspective.

Yes, the action may be categorized as a policy somersault but it was long in coming.

While I'm not holding brief for the government which committed the policy Hara-kiri, in retrospect, I think in addition to whatever was on their mind, the subject suffered from its elective status, even as an art subject, at some point in time when it should have been made compulsory.

I think like literature, many students also avoided it because they assume it entails the reading of voluminous titles, remembering of dates and the writing of long essays during an examination.

Some even confused government with history. It was that bad.

To illustrate the above scenarios, I remember when I went to retake my O-level papers back then in the 90s that I was the only student in the center who wrote history. To say the least, I was alarmed.

However, now that it is back, one can only say a reasoned choice, at last, has prevailed over a decision that on the face of it could be described as idiotic and misplaced.

I also believe that it is coming at a time it is perhaps mostly needed because Nigeria is currently going through a lot of challenges which can be possibly attributed to the lack of in-depth knowledge of the country's historical heritage by the mass of our people who are mostly youths.

Their ignorance was as recently displayed when on May 29, 2012 the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to rename The University of Lagos after the stand out Martyr of our current democracy, Bashorun MKO Abiola.

The students who mostly were in their 20s or thereabout had trooped to the streets threatening violence in objection because they could hardly comprehend the fuzz about the man in question and what he has done.

Lest we missed it, another point is many of them ignorantly believed that the name Unilag on their certificate would give them as graduates of the school an edge in the marketplace.

If I may ask, where on earth is the name of your Alma Mata a guarantee for job placement? Your guessed answer is as good as mine.

Meanwhile, the same University of Lagos also benefitted from the uncommon and unequaled philanthropic gesture of the late acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, Presidential election who once doled out several millions of naira to all higher institutions in Nigeria on an individual basis.

This is perfectly in line with one of the things that define him which is intellectualism or education if you like.

The second one is music. Yes, music. I know many people are not aware that Abiola as a youngster did sing in addition to hewing the firewoods to support himself through elementary and high school.
Finally, others are business, religion, sports, and politics.

Though some people may disagree, I think being referred to as the pillar of sports in Africa when alive, it is comforting, fitting, and compensatory, therefore, to see President Muhammadu Buhari rename the national stadium, Abuja, after him, to commemorate the celebration of June 12 as Nigeria's official democracy day.

Back to the topic at hand, it couldn't have been the fault of the youthful Unilag’s students but that of the educational and political authorities who failed to render this relevant aspect of our history to them when it matters.

But at the same time, the outcry of rejection of that move could also be as a result of the belief it was politically motivated and not borne out of genuine drive to immortalize the principal actor on June 12, 1993, Presidential election.

Because in truth Jonathan’s administration was desperately trying to make an inroad into the South-West, politically, and could’ve been a strategic move to curry political favor or sympathy from Yoruba. And it was ill-timed in the opinion of many political observers.

In the final analysis, the return of history as a stand-alone subject in our schools is certainly more than a welcome development.

If properly done, it is one that's duty bound to help refreshingly brings back into focus some of the lost narrations as far as documentation of events is concerned in Nigeria.

That said, the next important question would be what and what should be included in the curriculum by the developer.

Clearly, there is no shortage of agreement on the fact that Nigeria is brimming with jewels of events and personalities that will forever compete to feature in the evolutionary narratives of Nigeria. 

However, I strongly expect that a little bit of Nigeria's pre-independence history should be conveyed.

More importantly, events and people who shaped Nigeria from the post-independence era must be carefully detailed and fed on incremental ration to the Nigerian child as he or she progresses through the stages of their academic ladder.

But to fully heal the wounds of the past injustices, individuals who were actors in the Nigerian project would have to own up, and confess their guilt that they have wronged the system viz-a-viz the tasked committed to their hands instead of continuing to act in manners that suggest they have been right at all time and in all situations.

At the end of the day, I hope and pray that this new date with history by our schools will be fruitful and continuous. And one that Nigeria and Nigeria will remember for good.

So that we will never go back to the same policy somersault of obliterating our history as a people from robustly interfacing with us no matter what.

Along with other watershed events like it, it would, however, amount to an Aberration, if the account of what transpired before, during, and after June 12, 1993, Presidential election is not included in the history books that would eventually be taught in our schools and to the Nigerian youths.

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