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"The rejection of Nigeria's history didn’t just sneak in overnight"
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"The rejection of Nigeria's history didn’t just sneak in overnight"

These days many Nigerians are loathe to learn lessons from history, argues Nnadozie Onyekuru, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Borno State in the north-east. This, he claims, is a symptom of a wider malaise.

At a recent lecture at my university, the main speaker sought to acquaint his audience with the journey that arrived at the event they had come to celebrate. “Let me begin by taking you to the history of…” he started.

Immediately he mentioned the word history, a wave of murmurs started rippling through the crowd until it was powerful enough to make him abandon that part of his speech.

Later in the night, as we spread our mattresses to sleep; my roommates and I sympathised with the speaker. We analysed his experience in the context of similar occurrences in the past and came to the conclusion that the audience’s behaviour was representative of what had since become part of our national behaviour.

The average Nigerian of today has a restless impatience with any exercise that seeks to dredge up the nation’s past. National monuments are less patronised than graveyards, fewer students are voluntarily enrolling for history courses and HALF OF A YELLOW SUN, the most successful novel on the nation’s only civil war was first published abroad.

In 1999, the proceedings of the Oputa panel (modelled after South Africa’s Truth Commission) though revealing, were regarded as a waste of energy by many citizens. In 2010, after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua whose health status generated flaring debates, the Deputy President of the Senate suggested that the parliament should conduct an inquiry into the events that were shrouded during his illness. He had hinged his suggestion on the need to provide lessons for future leaders in the polity and even the Senate President put some words of favour for the proposal. The suggestion was roundly rejected by their colleagues.

The rejection of history in Nigeria didn’t just sneak in overnight. It has accompanied the decline of intellect in our national politics. When the nation’s leadership changed hands to successive military governments, the golden era of books, knowledge and history disappeared. Even after a decade of new democracy, many Nigerians have refused to indulge themselves in reading or learning anything that does not produce instant financial gratification.

As a result, leaders keep making the same policy mistakes of their predecessors and every election season, many characters who played infamous roles in the nation’s history run for ambitious offices successfully. Some people call our situation ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACKWARD. George Santayana put it better when he said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

As a science student, I remember sneaking into history classes during secondary school. The teacher always began his lessons by stating that the study of history was useless if it was not for the benefit of the future. I believe that if my fellow citizens return to that culture of being interested in their past, of reading lines that might not seem expedient, they just would find out that there is nothing happening in our country that has not happened before.

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About me:

“I am a Nigerian student. I love books. I am young and restless with firm dreams that are only tempered by Christianity. I dream of a world where people, inspired by their common humanity, engage in a global wheel of ideas and do not use history as a tool for blame game but as a lesson for the future. In my spare time, I write stories, speeches and participate in activities that advance the respect of human dignity.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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