By Odoh Michael
In one of my previous articles, I asked some questions which up till date I have failed to get an answer for any of the questions. My questions are, can a country tackle its troubled history when it is never acknowledged? Are Nigerians afraid of their own history? Can an honest appraisal of the past help create greater consensus about the present?
During the celebration of the 20th anniversary to mark the Rwandan Genocide, Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, told a packed stadium of sober and weeping Rwandans that , “As we pay tribute to the victims, both the living and those who have passed, we also salute the unbreakable Rwandan spirit, to which we owe the survival and renewal of our country. To our parents, children, brothers, and sisters who survived — to Rwandans who defied the call to genocide and to those who give voice to their remorse — it is you who bear the burden of our history.
……. Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words “Never Again”, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable. The people who planned and carried out the Genocide were Rwandans, but the history and root causes go beyond this country. This is why Rwandans continue to seek the most complete explanation possible for what happened.
We do so with humility as a nation that nearly destroyed itself. But we are nevertheless determined to recover our dignity as a people.
Twenty years is short or long depending on where you stand but there is no justification for false moral equivalence. The passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen responsibility, or turn victims into villains.
People cannot be bribed into changing their history.
Concluding his speech, Kagame stressed the importance of why young people should be taught history no matter how displeasing it may be, “If the Genocide reveals humanity’s shocking capacity for cruelty, Rwanda’s choices show its capacity for renewal.
Today, half of all Rwandans are under 20. Nearly three-quarters are under 30. They are the new Rwanda. Seeing these young people carry the Flame of Remembrance, to all corners of the country over the last three months, gives us enormous hope.
We are all here to remember what happened and to give each other strength.
As we do so, we must also remember the future to which we have committed ourselves.”
Rwandans have acknowledged their troubled past and at such are prepared to do whatever it takes to prepare for a brighter future but have we in Nigeria acknowledged our troubled past? A majority of Nigeria’s population are youths who were born after the civil war and have no idea about the war that cost over two million lives and this is dangerous for the future of the country.
Even the Holy Bible emphasized on the importance of history when the Bible says “People perish for lack of knowledge”.
Quoting Buhari Bello in one of his articles, “The youth of any nation are the conscience of that nation. The youths of any society are the wheel in which the society propels itself to rediscover the wheels of development. These members (youth) of the society represent the most active age that ought to have been mobilized and motivated by the society to attain development. This is because this youthful age is often characterized by curiosity, zealousness, risk takers, innovative, creativity, hardworking, hunger for fame, and passionate hearts for development. So, therefore, their state of health and mind is of major importance to any society that desires development and continues existence”.
During the period of the great enlightenment in Europe, the great Rene Descartes said, Cogito Ergo Sum, I think, therefore I am. Throughout the ages, the battles have been the battle of the mind. And if your mind is conquered then you are going nowhere, you are dead not physically but mentally. The state of mind of a man determines his actions.
In Nigeria, the case has been different, most Nigerian youths today have no idea about the Nigerian civil war. They have been left without any protection and guidance which has seriously impacted on their mental and physical contribution to the development of their country. The old guards have refused to pave way for the youths to contribute to the development and actively participate in the governance of their country. But how can the youths participate in the governance of their country when they do not even know the history of the country.
Bankole Siji in his recent article noted the importance of history when he wrote, “The importance of the study of history as a subject in schools can hardly be over-emphasised, and history will broaden one’s perspectives about life and society. People do not seem to understand the implication of ignoring history. It is like a winding river whose source has not been traced. The river runs the imminent risk of drying up. History explains and defines the past, gives direction to the present by way of repairs, adjustments and damage control and gives the opportunity to plan and map out strategies for the future. It teaches morals.
Where there is no sense of history, there will be no moral. Where such is lacking there will be anarchy. Perhaps this explains what is happening today in our country. The study of history should not be merely to appreciate the past but also to draw useful inspiration and lessons for the future. The mistakes and pitfalls of the past should be identified, corrected and eradicated to enable progress into a buoyant future.
Charity begins at home. For instance, some of the causes of Nigeria’s ethno-religious discords are located in our neo-colonial past. If today’s youths do not fully understand the history of their country and Africa, then one can imagine the type of leaders they would turn out to be in the future.”
Just as the younger generation of Rwandans have been taught about the genocide that almost destroyed their country and as they mark the event yearly in order to remind them of their ugly past and to help them prepare for a better future because they know that the effect of another genocide will wipe out the country so are the youths of Nigeria supposed to be taught the history of this country.
They should be taught about the civil war so as to help us prepare for a brighter Nigeria. Thousands of youths in the south east are calling for Biafra and are saying they are ready for war if Biafra is not given to them, only if they know how what they are clamouring for ended in the past, they will take a peaceful route. Rwandans have healed their wounds through reconciliation and we can do same in Nigeria but that is if we first understand how we got to this place in the first instance.
Taking a clue from Rwanda where both the Hutus and the Tutsis now live side by side each other as neighbours after a torrid period in the 1990s, I ask again, can a country tackle its troubled history when it is never acknowledged? Are Nigerians afraid of their own history?
Can an honest appraisal of the past help create greater consensus about the present? If an honest appraisal of the past can help create greater consensus about the present just like in Rwanda, then what are we waiting for in Nigeria?
To my teacher, please teach me Nigerian history. I want to know because I want to avoid the mistake of the past. I want a Nigeria where my kids and grandkids will not be misled. Please, teach me Nigerian history.
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