How Should We Tell Our Story?, By ‘Lande Atere
I don’t think the solution here lies in teaching history alone. Yes, let us teach. But we must tell stories through tourism. Through museums. Immortalising the footprints of our greats, through writing, documenting, and many other ways.
It was a hot Saturday evening. One of those nights when going out was not on the cards. And doing nothing was even more difficult. Dinner was served late. But I had company. At some point in the long evening, one of the teenagers gathered round my dining table asked me a question. “In your opinion who is the greatest Nigerian ever?”, was all she wanted to know. Now that was a very difficult question. The sweltering weather did play its part. Against better manners, I answered her question with a question. “Which great Nigerian do you know?”
One or two of her mates mentioned Davido and Wizkid. I chuckled. I asked them if they had ever heard of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti or Efunjoke Coker? Did they know Ahmadu Bello or Tafawa Balewa? The look on their faces were blank. I tried Cyprian Ekwensi and Chinua Achebe. There was no recognition. The mention of Wole Soyinka lit up smiles on a few faces. I asked after Christy Essien or Sonny Okosuns. These drew a new set of blank faces. Sadly, our children don’t know about Rasheed Yekini or Emeka Ojukwu. Or Bisi Onabanjo. Or Sam Mbakwe. Or Sam Okwaraji. They don’t know much about the 1966 or 1976 military coups. They may never have heard of Gani Fawehinmi or Balarabe Musa. They have not heard of Philip Emeagwali or Chike Obi. They don’t know that Cocoa House Ibadan was once the tallest building in Africa. They are not aware that a slave museum exists or once existed in Badagry. They don’t know that Olumo Rock has a rich heritage.
It is worrisome to think that we are bringing up children who think our history starts and ends with rich Nigerians, artistes and social media influencers. In years to come, someone of my generation would seek to run for office and hope to rely on the good deeds of his father or grandfather. But the voting populace who would be made up of my children or grandchildren would retort with a “Huh? Who is that?”.
In other nations, nobody would be allowed to forget their great citizens. From politicians, to scientists, to activists, to musicians, to war heroes, to sportsmen and women — they never forget.
Our favoured path to bringing up kids in Nigeria, today, does not prioritise values, nor seek to chronicle our past in terms of the values that different compatriots have contributed to the national dining table. So, of course, we ought not to expect different values from the next generation. We should not be surprised if in a few years, they don’t know who Tinubu is. Not even M.K.O Abiola. Currently our history begins and ends with the name of presidents and former heads of state. We just don’t have a culture of preserving our heritage.
In other nations, nobody would be allowed to forget their great citizens. From politicians, to scientists, to activists, to musicians, to war heroes, to sportsmen and women — they never forget. In America, they still adore Dolly Parton, even though her music is “old”. Say what you like about Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson, even toddlers in the U.S. dance to their music. In Nigeria what do we remember of Osita Osadebe or Tunde Nightingale or Dan Maraya Jos?
In other climates tourism and history make good money and are major sources of revenue. Here we dump history in the bin and use some of the material to wrap akara or suya. We sweep away ornaments and delicate items away with the dust. Our historic buildings that should be marked and saved are demolished. We should be trooping to see where Herbert Macaulay was born. We should know where he lay his head at night.
Growing up, you did not have to live in Onitsha or Jos or Ibadan to know about these cities. Even if we did not visit Onitsha, we heard about the bridge. We knew about the old city of Ibadan and how important it was in pre-colonial times.
Growing up, you did not have to live in Onitsha or Jos or Ibadan to know about these cities. Even if we did not visit Onitsha, we heard about the bridge. We knew about the old city of Ibadan and how important it was in pre-colonial times. We heard about Jos and how beautiful it was up there. Today our children only know about their immediate environment and for them that is the entirety of Nigeria. Every day, the tales adults told us by moonlight lose petals liked the accursed rose in one of those fairy tales of old.
Back to the question posed, I told these kids that I think Gani Fawehinmi is the greatest Nigerian for me. Of course, they didn’t know him. I don’t think the solution here lies in teaching history alone. Yes, let us teach. But we must tell stories through tourism. Through museums. Immortalising the footprints of our greats, through writing, documenting, and many other ways.
Nigeria has a great history made by great people. We should not forget or allow anyone else to forget this. If we are interested in preserving our culture and heritage.
‘Lande Atere is a lawyer and everyday girl.