Do you know your history?

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History is a vast subject. It is almost impossible to give any individual or group of people a panoramic sense of events that happened to communities, tribes or nations. Some cultures have tried to be thorough in the documentation of certain aspects of the past, whilst others have relied more on word of mouth passing on of information from generation to generation. Objectivity in the recounting of past events is a murky topic, since everyone is bound to have their own areas of bias in their perception of things.

I am not entirely sure about the facts, but I’ve been told that history was regarded as a sensitive subject in Nigeria of the mid to late 1980s. It seems as if the education system of that nation was instructed by the powers that were, to downplay the importance of history in the school curriculums of the time. This gesture had a significant impact on the nation’s psyche, especially in 2010, when people started reflecting about Nigeria’s 50th anniversary of independence from the United Kingdom.

Suddenly there were outpourings of bile and bitterness on the social media platforms. People started reappraising their friendships and other relationships, based on their discoveries of suppressed animosities – based on word of mouth history that was passed on to young people. It is likely that the separatist movements that have held sway in the public space in recent times were influenced by this repressed energy.

People born after a certain point in time are unaware of the history of how colonialism, imperialism and slavery emerged in African nations. Many of these folks are adults now. What stories are they going to tell their own children about their forbears?

We need to document events as they happen and make the information available as widely as possible, so we can learn from mistakes and also from the things we did well in the past. Everyone should have access to their people’s history.

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