Nigeria: Using History to Build Our Future

Nigeria: Using History to Build Our Future

The country Nigeria is a beautiful and blessed country. In our previous article Nigeria: Giant of Africa and Poverty Capital of the World, we examined how Nigeria with its vast territory and abundant natural resources ironically has the largest number of people living in poverty in the world with over 87 million or 64% of its total population in this category.

However, from history, we can see that Nigeria has a rich cultural heritage comprising of people of various cultures and dialectics who were part of famous ancient empires and kingdoms with some still existing till the present day amongst them are the Benin Kingdom, Ile-ife Kingdom described as the origin of mankind and such historic characters as Queen Idia, Nana Asmau, Ovonramwen Nogbaisi and King Jaja of Opobo thus distinguishing Nigeria from some of its counterpart in Africa.

The history of Nigeria can be traced back to as early as 11,000 BC when a number of ancient African communities inhabited the area that now makes Nigeria. The greatest and the well-known empire that ruled the region before the British arrived was the Benin Empire whose ruler was known as Oba of Benin. Other tribes such as the Nri Kingdom also settled in the country, especially in the Eastern side. The Songhai Empire also settled in some of the country’s territory. By the 11th century, Islam had arrived in Nigeria via the Hausa States. In 1851, the British forces seized Lagos, which was later annexed officially in 1861. In 1901, Nigeria was made a British protectorate and was colonized until 1960, when the country gained independence.

It is embarrassing to think that we have such beautiful history but few children (proclaimed future leaders) today know little to nothing about the history of our great country. Many of them opt to travel abroad  for summer holidays, when they can easily visit some museums in Nigeria (such as Badagry Slave Museum and Black History Museum, Benin National Museum and Gidan Dan Hausa) that hold priceless artefacts and show-off the beautiful country that we have.

Till recently, little was taught about the history of Nigeria in schools. Ever wonder why Americans are so passionate about their country? It is most likely because History is imbibed into their educational curriculum. They have seen where they came from and are pushing hard to learn from the mistakes made by their previous leaders. We can also adopt such stance. It might be as simple as a teacher using a part of history to teach Economics or Mathematics. Or, before teaching English, give a brief explanation of how we as Nigerians adopted English as our first language. Thankfully, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the federal government ordered the reintroduction of history as an independent subject into the curriculum of  basic and junior secondary schools in the country.

Previous leaders such as  Jaja Wachuku  who was the First Nigerian Speaker of the Nigerian Parliament, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello who was the first and only premier of the Northern Nigeria region, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who was the first prime minister of an independent Nigeria, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, who was regarded as “The Mother of Africa” and Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the first president of Nigeria had visions for a great Nigeria. But we have to ask ourselves now, will these leaders be proud of the Nigeria we are living in now?

This is the history we come from. Now we have to intentionally teach the future leaders where we have come from. In our homes, we can re-educate ourselves about our history. Rather than spend millions going overseas for holidays, we can save a lot more by taking our children to museums in Nigeria. In schools, we can encourage teachers to explain more about the History of Nigeria. On a lighter note, for organisations, while conducting an interview, you may ask the interviewee to answer questions on the history of Nigeria, rather than plain old Mathematics and English questions.

After the 2019 elections, we may have a new leader, making the present leader a past leader and a part of the history of Nigeria. We can therefore learn from the mistakes of our past leaders to build a prosperous nation. So, what are you going to do now?

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