By Divramredje Lawrence Efeturi
A common misconception is usually demonstrated towards the study of HISTORY as a discipline by contemporaneous compatriots throughout the stream of academic studies, irrespective of the levels they are in the various institutions. Going by the remarks elicited from the sample study carried out among some target learners, they feel themselves beyond every reasonable doubt less alien in the business and science fields. The question commonly asked is: “of what relevant is History in this contemporary world?”
Without stating an argument we can draw a consensus inference that History is the branch of knowledge that deals with the past events of man, country, continent or the world so that the present could be corrected for a transparent tomorrow. Just imagine what the everyday life would be like in a society where no one knew any history, that a society has no knowledge of itself! No wonder that Professor Levi-Strauss asserted that”… those who ignore history condemn themselves to not knowing the present because historical development alone permits us to weigh, and to value in their perspective relations with the element of the present”. A society without history is like a man without memory and self-knowledge and that would be a society in drift, just as Cicero put it that: ‘not to know what took place before you were born is to remain forever a child’.
Concrete evidences have proven that even scholars and professionals uphold the view that History is the making of myth and story-telling as a result of their irrational attempts in handling the subject. It has been deciphered that myth is a sacred information of fundamental realities meant to explain the true history of the origins of things and why they happen the way they do. Myths are set down rules for human behaviours, and are such regarded as been bequeathed by the gods themselves, most of whom lived earthly lives as culture founders, hence they lay a divine sanction on their improper use. Let us note that History is rational and scientific in character.This is because it gives answers to questions like: ( what happened? how did it happened? etc ) as science asks alike. This, of course, dissociate historical character as theological writings.
The apostles who echo the creed in a drowning crescendo that history rekindles possible conflicts between families, communities and nations do so because of the consequences that might befall them when their past deeds are unveiled.They also do so because they have been jinxed in irrationality and this is antithetical to what history accommodates. Rationality would always make one, thus, to believe that the study of history impacts a sense of solidarity, share the general justification which is attached to all intellectual on socio-political advancement as well as provide valuable mental training and of the mind. It gives the ability to cite an evidence and find out the truth from a conflicting statement. It is only this understanding that could diminish incidence of likely conflicts to the barest minimum.
History trains one to weigh evidence in dealing with the common affairs of life. Every responsible father of a family and every adult member of a community needs the willingness and ability to compare an evidence, detects prejudice and falsehood and then draw a correct conclusion. Likely conflicts become unaborted when the led and their leaders lack historical ideology. Consider the 5th May 1789 French Revolution as a sample study. When the Third Estate, which comprised the masses of different professionals, demanded to meet with the First and the Second Estates for a deliberation on how to remedy the socio-political disharmony of France, Louis XIV who was the then monarch was deceived by the bourgeoisie to turn down the demands of the Third Estate. The Third Estate revolted and when the bourgeoisie saw the orthodoxy of the aggression, they stooped to join the queue at the expense of the King. Yet, their demands were met! The detriment incurred by the Monarch was as a result of his lack of historical knowledge of the society that would have enabled him avert the disgrace. We should note that History teaches about the society itself, what it is, how it grows, the way it works, what it has achieved, who are its friends and enemies, what are its standards of conduct and religious beliefs, the behaviour expected of its citizens and so on.
Nigeria’s national and State assemblies are a pack of some politicians who skate on the thin ice of the sea of violence. More than 50% are subterranean scraps; round legs in square holes that have left the comfort of our society only to spew conflicts at the very bottom they have relinquished. These are people who have abandoned the cultural heritage of the nation, and as a result they pursue and sponsor selfish bills that still make us to experience a perilous and economic quagmire. States governors would delay workers’ stipend until a strike action is embarked upon by the workers, yet their demands will be met having done enough havoc to the economy. Do we have to opt for a revolt of any sort before attempting solutions for a speculated impediments? Or we have to learn from the mistakes of our predecessors so as to amend the present? We should enliven our imaginations, brains and thoughts with historic retrospects. We should realise that history is self-revelatory. It familiarizes us with varieties in social forms and cures us from a dreaded morbid. History lays the foundation of a tolerant outlook and enlarged sympathies. Sympathy here means understanding people’s behaviour and appreciating both good and the bad in them instead of judging them from a narrow point of view. It is the subject that can promote sympathies and genuine tolerance because it is the only one subject directly and entirely concerned with the behaviour of human beings.
One of the commonest complains some students make is that they feel very inferior whenever their science counterparts designate the technological advancement of the world to themselves. It is pity that those who pride themselves over this are not being reasonable. They should realise that if they were not historians and other liberal professionals life would have been too unorganised, unenjoyable and meaningless. Every students cannot be a scientist and not all students can be good in the arts as well. Each field deserves its praise. Remember that no matter the discipline you find yourself, you must at a start study its history because it cuts across all parts of every discipline. The one studying Mathematics or Accounting will in part be studying the history of Mathematics or Accounting. The study of History is to modernize and improve on the substandard achievements of the past. History, therefore, becomes a terminal or meeting point in which other fields anchor.
It is important we refresh our memory that History gives continuity to societal development. The principle of continuity and the higher principle of development lead to the practical consequences, that is, one of the vital importance for citizens to have a true knowledge of the past and to see it in daylight in order that their influence on the present and future may be exerted in the right directions. The fundamental justification for historical study is that History is necessary. It meets a basic need of man living in a society.
Closely knitted is the fact the history is functional in the sense of meeting the need, which the society has to know and understand its relationship with the past and other society cultures. The bottom line is that possibility of extracting from the past, lessons for the present and future, becomes a means of helping humanity of its problems.
Therefore the full blown foundation, human solidarity, glory and awareness that a society would seek, cannot be realised without a recourse to the study of history as the prerequisite and live-wire to progress. The eurocentric and stereotyped ideas that we do not have history, that is, the past by the colonial masters, must be repudiated and sabotaged. We must develop the spirit of patriotism and the recognition for our country. We can do this if we throw our weights behind the day’s government to right the wrongs now for a better headway; for a better tomorrow Nigeria. If you want to know the past, then, you had better develop a positive attitude towards the study of History. Remember that “ the taste of the pudding lies in the eating”.
Divramredje Lawrence Efeturi is a commentator on national issues