Study of History: A Means To National Consciousness And Development

Study of History: A Means To National Consciousness And Development

By Adeogun Joseph Kayode   I was over the moon when the Federal Government on Thursday- 29th September, 2016 ordered the reintroduction of

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By Adeogun Joseph Kayode


I was over the moon when the Federal Government on Thursday- 29th September, 2016 ordered the reintroduction of the subject in basic schools across the country.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who called for the disarticulation of social studies in the current curriculum of basic schools and reintroduction of history as a subject, said this has become imperative given the critical nature of history to the nation’s socio-political development.

The Minister made the call while addressing delegates at the 61st Meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session.

He urged the Council to consider making the study of Christian Religious Knowledge and Islamic Religious Knowledge compulsory for both Christians and Muslims to the end of Senior Secondary School.

Adamu said the reintroduction of history as a subject on its own in basic schools will give the Nigerian child a self identity of who they really are.

However, Nigerian lawmakers on Thursday 3rd November threw out a bill seeking to make history a core learning subject in the nation’s primary and secondary schools. The proposed legislation was rejected by the House of Representatives after members raised concerns about the implication of a language in it.

The bill, titled “A Bill for an Act to Make History a Core School Subject in Nigeria’sPrimary and Secondary Schools and for other Related Matters,” was proposed by Ayodeji Oladimeji from Ekiti State.

Mr. Oladimeji said he crafted the bill to address widespread ignorance of Nigerian history – and even major historical events around the world – among Nigerians in primary and secondary schools. But Mr. Oladimeji’s proposal quickly met an opposition, first in the person of Zakari Mohammed and later from other lawmakers.

Mr. Mohammed, an APC lawmaker from Kwara, said the word ‘core’ in the heading of the bill was problematic and blocked it from passing a second reading. His words “I know it’s important for a people to know their history, but the word ‘core’ in the title of the bill is somehow.” His position was later echoed by a few other lawmakers who demanded the bill be stepped down- even when they spoke highly of its importance. The opposing lawmakers further stated that the parliament does not need to pass a bill strictly for the purpose of mandating history. They said other key subjects such as English and mathematics are being taught in schools without special legislative backing. But Mr. Oladimeji said he proposed the bill because he understood that history used to be in Nigeria’s early education curriculum but had since been removed.

I felt as if my heart had been ripped from my body when l read that the bill sponsored by Mr. Oladimeji from Ekiti state did not scale through the second reading owing to what Senator Muhammed said. The shock robbed me of speech. I tell you, l was on the brink of tears when l read it in one of the national dailies.

Maybe Muhammed and his colleagues that supported him had forgotten the relevance of history to national development. Let me use this medium to remind them the importance of history to our national consciousness and development.

The relevance of history in any given society is germane. History basically evaluates the dynamics of human societies in all ramifications. It houses the totality of human activities in the past for evaluation. Just as the memory is to the mind, history is to the society. Therefore, for a meaningful development in a nation like Nigeria, history as a discipline and concept is sine qua non in the road to national development. Thus, in terms of policy formulation, decision making among other topical issues on national development, it is important to resort to history for road map.

History, in the words of Prof. Babatunde Fafunwa is: “To a people what memory is to the individual. A people with no knowledge of their past would suffer from collective amnesia, groping blindly into the future without the guide post of precedence to shape their course.”

A good understanding of the culture of Nigerian peoples with specific grasp of the people’s antecedents will greatly avert myriads of ethnic based conflicts, which have currently pervaded the system. Since political independence of Nigeria, the states had undergone turbulent conflict as they were confronted with the realities of national development problems in an unequal dimension. Indeed, lack of effective capacity to manage these backlogs of problems has continued to sustain this stormy moment. There is the need to learn our lessons from history to correct the imbalances inherent in the system. We must be able to ascertain our genesis, our present circumstances and a possible anticipation or projection into the future for cultural renaissance and national development.

A people without the knowledge of their past would suffer from collective amnesia and would grope into the future without precedence to shape their course. It is only thorough awareness of the people’s heritage that would allow them to make guided decisions.

The survival of any race or nation depends to a large extent on the people’s love and respect for their social order. Such love is endangered by patriotism sustained through the study of history. Citizens become conscious of their civil responsibilities, their common loyalty and commitment to the social, political, economic survival, growth and development of their state through the study of the past. It is also through the knowledge of history that people, particularly younger ones come to understand and appreciate the background, culture, beliefs and traditions of others. Thus history becomes an effective tool for effective nation building.

In Nigeria, to be specific, knowledge of history can help the country to have a deeper understanding of the antecedents of her diverse peoples and culture. It is also expected to serve as motivating factors in the march towards creating institutions and the consciousness that propel a people to make progress. So, Nigerians cannot afford to do away with the ideas, institutions and issues of how plural and diverse people can co-exist and find a common ground to make progress especially in this dense and competitive global community. History can help Nigeria to develop a national consciousness. History is more than just a study of the past. It is an exploration of change and the socio-political dynamics of human society. History has helped to correct distorted accounts about African past and it can also help our sense of discipline and experience and provide the intellectual support for the patriotism we so much longed for in this nation, thus, making Nigeria a better place.

In planning, antecedents are indispensable. For example, the issue of the constitution under which the country would be governed has been an issue that has generated a lot of heat. We continued to experiment with different models from American or elsewhere, yet most of our experiments have not quite worked well. Unless the constitution takes into account, the collective experiences and historical antecedents of the people it intends to govern, rapid development would continue to elude Nigeria.

There is one fundamental reason why Nigeria has failed to attain the desired national development. That is failure of successive leaders and Nigerians to learn from the lession of history. Development cannot be achieved without history. For a better understanding of the nature of forces and processes of national development, there is need to grasp the nature and various nationalities in Nigeria. So, historical studies can inculcate national consciousness, patriotism and sense of social responsibility. Certain historical elements like good neighbourliness, inter-group relations/trade, cultural diffusion, language, etc, should form the basis of national orientation, instead of debate on indigenship, resources control and other naughty issues that stunt development.

More so, a major reason why so much violence (physical and psychological), aggression, hatred, poverty, et cetera, dominate the day to day existence of the people in Nigeria is that, collectively, they lack historical consciousness. They tend, indeed, to act or react based on the present situation and care little about the past. It is therefore not surprising that few care about the kind of future to be built for both the people and the nation. Due to the fact that Nigerian statesmen lack a proper sense of history, the politics of the belly and that of the moment dominate the polity. Merit is consequently slaughtered on the slab of power profiteering. With all these vices, development at all levels in Nigeria remains a wild goose chase. To escape from this seemingly inescapable quagmire, there is an urgent need to imbue Nigerians with an enduring sense of history.

The study of history makes the world intelligible. Not only that but it also makes people historically minded. History is not static, it is inexhaustible and constantly changes. The major problem associated with the study of history is the immensity of its scope. There is nothing on earth or in the heavens without its history, even the stars have their courses and sometimes disappear. Darwin, in particular looked for history in geology and earth worms before he discerned the descent or ascent of man and natural history takes precedence of the past politics‟ which free man identified with history and every particular science has its own particular history. The scope of history has no limit, as it embraces the entire world, thousands of years and endless energies.

The fundamental basis of the value of history is that the past has made the present and the present alone can make the future. We cannot even understand our immediate world without knowledge of the past and the further we delve into history the deeper and broader will be our grasp of the present and insight into the future.20 The past can never be undone but can be redeemed at times and then with blood and sweats and tears. History is also the most humane of the humaner studies.

As Professor J. F. A. Ajayi once submitted:”The nation suffers which has no sense of history. Its values remain superficial and ephemeral unless imbued with a deep sense of continuity and perception of success and achievement that transcends acquisition of temporary power or transient wealth. Such a nation cannot achieve a sense of purpose or direction or stability and without them the future is bleak.”

According to the University of California Department of History mission statement on the teaching of history entitled, Significance of History for the Educated Citizen, the documents states: “In a democratic society, knowledge of history is the precondition of political intelligence. Without history, a society shares no common memory of where it has been, what its core values are, or what decisions of the past account for presence circumstances. Without history, we cannot undertake any sensible inquiry into the political, social, or moral issues in society. And without historical knowledge and inquiry, we cannot achieve the informed, discriminating citizenship essential to effective participation in the democratic processes of governance and the fulfilment for all our citizens of the nation’s democratic ideals.”

Every serious country cannot toy with history because its neglect would spell doom. Through history, we study the past to understand the present and project into the future. The study of history atthe primaey and secondary levels should be made compulsory for each and every Nigerianstudent for the understanding of Nigerian ethnic groups, culture, beliefs, norms, values, and histories in general. It should be borne in mind that if this successfully reintroduced in the Nigerian educational curriculum, certainly there would be better Nigeria as far as peaceful co-existence, mutual trust and sense of belongings are concerned. It is of course through these concerted efforts, the need for the inculcation of right attitudes, morality and patriotism into the hearts of contemporary Nigerian youths could be attained for the development of our beloved the primary and secondary levels of education. Hence, history should be made to be one of the compulsory cross-cutting core subjects.