Nigeria at 60: THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY IN DEVELOPMENT (Part 2)

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Again, if you do not know where you come from, it would be difficult to know where you want to go.

Over the years, dialogue with my age mates and those a bit younger, have made me realise that there is a need to go back and look into the previous regional government structures put up by the colonial government and the parliamentary system of government which is still being practised in the U.K. centuries after, so that the process of getting to the bottom of our crisis can begin. What exactly did the British agree with our founding fathers at the beginning and what was the vision of the four Premiers? How did they perform at the beginning?

It would be unnecessary to fault the Founding Fathers along with the British in this quest. However, a proverb in my place says that the beggar has the longest hands. We clamoured for and asked for independence. We should have extracted all the help we needed from the British. They owed us that. Above all, we should have been clear-eyed.

In research, both STEM and social sciences, notes are taken down from one stage to another and the researcher would likely go back to these notes as a form of reference to ensure that the objectives of the research are in line with the results they are achieving. In the case of a mistake or discovery, the notes which are documented properly in diagrams, words, or calculations would show what prompted the error or breakthrough, the sequence of events, methods or likely changes so that the researcher understands where they have gone wrong or right and what can be improved upon. 

History is like the research notes. We are constantly living our lives in a cycle which is broken sometimes, very few people pay attention to this cycle so and most mistakes are glossed over. It is probable that the lack of history made it possible for ‘Mungo Park’ to claim he ‘discovered’ Nigeria. How is it possible that Mungo Park founded Nigeria when the artefacts carted away by the British indicated a high level of civilisation in the current Nigerian Region with a radiocarbon dating of about 5000 BC? By the same logic, how is it possible that the British did not find nor preserve any written records in Nigeria for posterity? Could this have been a deliberate act on their part to obliterate our recorded past? This is not far-fetched, for the British were known to have burnt down libraries, museums, and palaces when they sacked the Benin Kingdom in 1897.

This same absence of our written history being archived or taught properly in our schools makes it possible for our artefacts to remain in foreign European institutions. In the 1970s and 80s, the first internationally renowned Nigerian Archaeologist and First Director-General of NCMM Dr. Ekpo Eyo made some findings of archaeological and cultural significance at Igbo-Ukwu, Ugwuelle, and Nok areas. He mounted an exhibition at the National Museum for few months on the findings to educate the Nigerian public and the world at large. 

The Exhibition titled ‘Treasures of Ancient Nigeria’ was taken out of Nigeria initially for two months and ended up staying for two years because of the high demand and turnout in countries like London, Washington D.C, San Francisco, Detroit, New York and Atlanta among others. Working as an Archaeologist, Art Historian and anthropologist, Ekpo Eyo rendered a service which was badly needed in a country like ours whilst he was in the civil service and upon retirement, was accepted at the Maryland University, U. S. A. as a professor till his passing. His study and documentation of the Archaeology of Nigeria which led to the evolution of archaeological studies in Nigeria has produced a lot of archaeologists who are devoted to studying the ancient treasures of the Nigerian art.

We might not have had history documented in the past on ancient societies and empires in this region, with thanks to the rampaging and conniving colonialists and jihadists. But presently, we have the means to do that. We also need to understand that the best and most reliable documentation of history can only come from those who have lived it or whose ancestors have handed over their history to, not outsiders. 

About two decades ago, the Global System of Mobile communication, popularly known as GSM was introduced in the Nigerian Market. It became the new face of telecommunications in Nigeria and a blueprint for the progression of various devices and the most popular method for voice communication. This came into service during General Obasanjo’s administration and has since placed Nigeria at the top of the communication tier in Africa. To date, lots of changes have occurred, from the introduction of new cellular mobile networks to the absolution of a few network providers. Sometimes I wonder what would have been the state of Nigeria if we did not join the communication world at that time. If it had made its debut just a decade later as in some countries, I wonder if we would have experienced the level of socio-economic growth we have had over the past years. The GSM made communication possible for private individuals and it has proven to be a reliable way of communicating, bringing joys to people while also exposing the ills of Nigeria and Nigerians. 

Currently, the NIN registration is being done linking mobile numbers to the one’s National Identification Number, which in some countries is referred to as a social security number. It is disappointing that this initiative is coming now rather than years ago. This is something that the national population commission should be actively involved in. The NIN should be issued to individuals of Nigerian citizenship immediately after birth so there is express documentation of them. There is no plan to do that even now being that a new-born cannot be expected to have a bank account since one’s BVN is inexplicably linked to the NIN. These long queues at bus stop leading to national registration offices before 7 am can and should be avoided, but still awaits those babies 18 years from now. People should not be made to wait for basic human necessities the government should provide for them. A lot of monies have been invested in ‘technological development’ in Nigeria, but the evidence is barely visible given the nation’s collaboration with various tech giants in the world. 

These same collaborations have been undertaken at some other times within our healthcare, electricity and infrastructure systems. We are unfortunately, at a point where we wonder if these ‘collaborations’ were fairy tales as nothing seems to have changed.

This might also be true of our progress as a nation if we do not begin to document our experiences, travails, and joys. Records are golden and can be lucrative. Creating records, keeping and updating records can generate employments. People in search of records pay for them. Records are neither cheap nor free. There is money to be made there and jobs to be created. We either have a nation to build, or we get out of the way of those sub-units who want to build their own nations.

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