By Jerome-Mario Utomi
From the excitement elicited so far, it will not be an overstatement to characterize as historic; the recent statement by Mr Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abuja, that the Federal Government has directed all primary and secondary schools across the country to immediately implement the teaching of history as a stand-alone subject from the next academic calendar.
The situation is by no means a surprise as the most basic realities and consequences of not having history taught in schools had recently become not only predictable but real. Particularly, it could be recalled that prior to this announcement, Nigerians with critical interests have, at different times and places argued that allowing history in Nigeria schools (Primary and secondary) could be a possible escape from multi-faceted challenges bedevilling the country.
Though it is recognized that our political system is reputed for not engaging the best minds to help get answers to our national challenges, that notwithstanding, I hold an opinion that this recent move by the FG, looking at its advantages remains a right step taken in the right direction.
Apart from the time-honoured saying that any nation, group or an individual that fails to absorb lessons from history, is in the historian’s phrase doomed to repeat the mistakes that have already been made, the usefulness of history in human existence cannot be overemphasized as it without any shadow of doubt helped the students(youths) to ‘take in vast amounts of information, teach them how to write and communicate those ideas effectively, expose the students to accept the fact that many problems have no clear-cut answer, while helping to cultivate flexibility and a willingness to change their minds as they go about solving problems in whatever field they ultimately choose.
Next to assisting in knowledge about people, societies, and information on how people and societies live and behave, is that knowledge of history help immensely in equipping citizens to be both good leaders and good followers that cannot be deceived. For without such knowledge, one may be extremely educated and at the same time be ill-informed or misinformed.
To explain, it is on the good ground that between 1930s and 1940s, many members of the Nazi party in Germany were extremely well educated but their knowledge of literature, mathematics, philosophy, and others simply empowered them to be effective Nazis. No matter how educated they were, no matter how well they cultivated their intellect; they were still trapped in a web of totalitarian propaganda that mobilized for evil purpose- war. They supported the Second World War simply because they were ill-equipped with history; they had no knowledge that War, though, legal violence has never in the history of humanity solved any problem.
Further explanation as to what the nation stands to gain from this decision, and its usefulness to Leadership is the words of Lee Kuan Yew, a former Prime Minister of Singapore, that; between the 1940s and 1960s, the forte of British academics was in a serious study of the past, not of the present or the future, Noting that great leadership knowledge is gained by probing the past events(history) and using the knowledge derived to tackle the present.
Today, our inability as a people to frankly investigate our past via history, to enable us correct our backward attitudes developed during the colonial era now contributes to why we are not marching forward; but groping and stumbling, divided and confused.
Regardless of what others may, Nigerians during the colonial days developed a belief that views the public property as no man’s property. This belief was intended to fight colonialism but it continued after independence and brought about insensitiveness to government property, ineptitude, nepotism and neglect of duty.
Why the reintroduction of history as a stand-alone subject by the Federal Government should be considered a right step taken in the right direction is that our youths, that will provide the next set of our leaders have for a very long time in the absence of history as a subject yielded obedience to the power of social media; learning cultures that are un-African. Which as a consequence brought about a push in antisocial activities and adversely affects their education, promotes fake news, and appreciably encourage premarital sexual escapade,
Remember, whenever the people are well informed, ‘they can be trusted with their own government; whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right’.
This FG’s decision, no doubt will avail the youths opportunity to listen to the stories of those before them, study the actions of eminent men, see how they conducted themselves and discover the reasons for their victories or their defeats so that they can avoid the later and imitate the former’
Such stories, from what human development experts are saying can inspire the youth to action.
Also very important is that in the coming days, history will present to our youths a credible account of what transpired during the pre-colonial days.
This is important as so many historical accounts coming from the western authors and world about pre-colonial Africa creates an impression that when the Colonial overlords arrived in Africa, the natives have to be taught everything. That Africans knew nothing about writing or building; that we had no idea of what a nation, state or what political institution should look like. Message African youths are beginning to internalize.
But with the coming of history, such will definitely, be erased as African historians and other scholars are in agreement that Europeans succeeded in Nigeria as a colonial power not because they were more organized but because they met already organized political, socioeconomic institutions/ kingdoms
Utomi writes in from Lagos and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org