Letter from Africa: Why Nigerians need to learn their history


In our series of letters from African journalists, Sola Odunfa looks at why it is a good idea for Nigeria to reintroduce history as a school subject – a move recently backed by the country’s senate.

When I was growing up, one of the subjects I learnt in both primary and secondary school was history – not only of Nigeria but also of Europe.

The bare facts of the growth of nationalities might not have been interesting to my young mind but I grew up with the conviction that hardly anything could be more exciting than the study of the exploits of men and women who later became heroes – or villains – among their people as they shaped the course of history either in their local areas or in the world at large.

A long ago, I read in hist

ory books of the conquest of the Ilorin people in the central Kwara State, by Fulani forces from Sokoto under Shehu Alimi following the betrayal of the Alafin of Oyo by his former warlord, Afonja.

So now I understand clearly the never-ending undercurrent of ethnic restiveness between the Yoruba and the Fulani peoples in the Kwara state capital.culture

Many other ethnic crises across the Nigerian nation are similarly rooted in historical events and they may be resolved only after excavating the root, but who has the tools?

Conquered chauvinism

Queen Amina of Zaria in the north, Moremi of Ife and Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Abeokuta in the west were historical figures whose lives I studied in school.

They were women who conquered the chauvinism of their times to lead their communities in war and in political emancipation.

Their history is a study in equality of the sexes, each given the same opportunities.

A government has to be retrogressive to discourage the studying of the lives of these great human beings by removing history as a subject from our school curricula.

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