Soyinka and Murderers of Memory, By Festus Adedayo
Two seemingly unconnected events occurred in the last two weeks, with very serious social implications for the polity. One was the Muhammadu Buhari government’s return of the teaching of history as a standalone subject in all basic and secondary schools across the country. The second was the ostensibly gossipy, “very minor” revelation of an incident that occurred on a flight between Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka and an unidentified youth, where the latter literally ordered Soyinka out of his allotted seat which Soyinka was said to have occupied mistakenly. Unrelated as the events may seem, they both tug at the heart of a social disconnect between what is and what ought to be. They mirror a very sad, barren harvest of values that this robotic generation is making due to its de-linkage from history.
In a release signed by Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, the Federal Government commendably directed all basic and secondary schools in Nigeria to immediately implement this policy from the next academic calendar. The reversal provoked a gale of questions, chief of which was, at what juncture did Nigeria get things wrong this abysmally, to the point that a government would peremptorily spike off a subject that is the superstructure of a country’s social existence, from her school curriculum? What was the cost to us over the years? We must not rest on our oars until we find out what, borrowing from the Yoruba proverbial world, the government that decreed history out of our school curriculum menu saw inside this pot of soup that made it recoil its fingers that atrociously? In other words, what was playing atop that government’s heart when it embarked on this route?
The odyssey sounds like a script from the Hammer House of Horror. In 2007, citing the need to implement a New Basic Education Curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools, effective from the 2009/2010 academic session and citing abnormalities in previous curricula allegedly hostile to human capacity development, eradication of poverty and Nigeria’s drive for total emancipation, history was spiked off schools’ curricula. Some jejune reasons were proffered for this decision, chief of which was that history graduates were becoming jobless and teachers of the subject were far between. Expectedly, diverse criticisms greeted this badly-thought-out decision. Public antagonism of the policy eventually smoked the Goodluck Jonathan government out of its cocoon to pronounce a return of History. But, returning History to status quo ante was still effete, until two weeks ago when the Buhari government effectively pronounced its return.
At the highest echelon of decision making in Nigeria, a lot of ignorance and rank naivety are daily hawked as governmental policy, borne out of warped mindset, personal constraints, tenuous depth or its deficit simplicita. Similar naivety was demonstrated by the government of then Governor Bisi Akande of Osun State. Akande had magisterially announced the removal of subjects like History, Social Studies, Government and the like from the curriculum of schools, basing this decision on what he called their barrenness as tools for societal growth and the fact that graduates of these courses had hiked the army of unemployed in society. It is the cusp of naivety to assume that medicine, sciences in general and engineering are the only requirements of a highly changing modern world like ours where inventions, scientific ingenuities are ruling the waves. Without the arts in general, philosophy, history, literature and co, society will become too regimented, robotic and engine-minded, without a touch of the humanity, rigour of depth and critical analyses that are peculiar only to the humanities. It is the Akande government hue of governmental naivety that ostensibly persuaded Jonathan to tow this highly disparaged route.
So many issues have been made of the fact that a people without the knowledge of their history, as propounded by Jamaican-born Back to Africa movement advocate, Marcus Garvey, are like a tree without roots. As a corollary to this, growing up children, it was reasoned, shouldn’t be made rootless from their infancy. But, the fatality wrought by whoever decreed History out of Nigeria’s curriculum is graver than the rootlessness theory Garvey adumbrated. Whoever was at the driver’s seat of that decision should be charged for treason. He is responsible for the surge in criminal activities, soaring absence of nationalistic spirit among young Nigerians, worsening social vices and complete flight of values that has gripped Nigeria in the last decade or so.
There is a dearth of values in Nigeria today because our people have lost every sense of history. The lessons history teaches are on social cohesion, moral values, cultural and national integration, as well as politics. Go and find out those who still lay store by the eternal values of society: good neighbourliness, respect for the other person, ephemerality of material wealth, vanity of human pursuit, respect for heroes, patriotism, prevalence of good over evil, among many others, you will find out that they are the same folks who can connect with recent or ancient history. Once a young man is speeding on the lane of wealth acquisition, those who have a sense of history will cite an ancient or recent example, or an evergreen anecdote of someone who trod same ruinous route and met their waterloo. The one who scampers after the ephemeral lust for wine, women, weed and power is dissuaded, through the narrative of the life of a similar character in time of yore who was escorted to his early grave by his penchant to satisfy and deify the gluttony of flesh.
Today, no thanks to the Jonathan era’s deliberate attempt to murder memory, we sire zombies, children who are not aware of the lives of men and women who similarly trod this route a while ago. They are also ignorant of the political and cultural history of their fatherland. Ancient African history is rich with copious examples of men and women whose lives are either landmines or landmarks for upcoming youth, modernity notwithstanding. Today, money rules the world of our youth; they worship the god of fashion and pleasure while the pursuit of knowledge is secondary on the ladder of their ecstasies. If you periodically journey on the social media, you would realize how precarious your tomorrow is as a Nigerian parent. Our youth are so uneducated and seemingly uneducable. What excites them are the fleeting accoutrements of life. They are not deep, are extremely superficial and have very scant space in their mentality for discourse and study.
The youth who refused to vacate his seat for Soyinka apparently belongs to this commune of a de-historicized Nigeria. They hold culture with disdain, cannot connect with proverbs while the mores of their society sound like alien vibes in their ears. These youth don’t have heroes or historical mentors and have become captives of the unenduring preachments of modernity. I remember sometime in 2006 when I met Chief Ebenezer Babatope at the front of the Lion Building, Government House, Enugu. I went on all fours, to the cultural consternation of all Igbo people gathered. I could connect with prostration as a totem of my Yoruba culture and I gladly venerated it in that strange land. Today’s youth are bereft of even a scintilla of such demonstration.
This is why we must erect the crucifix for the government that invited nocturnes upon us at dawn and give kudos to the one that is seeking to return sunlight to our dark grooves. We must however warn of the danger of government reneging on this path or a haphazard implementation of the policy. This policy must not be killed by the artillery fire of politics and political party-ism. It is a Nigerian project, the success or failure of which will ripple on our tomorrow, individually and collectively, including the tomorrow of those who thought they had carved a hidden sacristy for their own children in Harvard, Hopkins or Cambridge. The calamity ahead, with this crop of a-historical children, can be best illustrated by the narratives of an oral poetry which tells the story of a man who left for Ede, leaving his abode (eede) in chaos; when he returns from his trip to Ede, he will surely return to the filthy embrace and shambles of his abode.
The projected curriculum that now has History in it must be compulsory and fashioned in such a way that our children will reconnect again with their roots; not only learning about the exploits of the heroes and villains of yesterday but also the path Nigeria trod that landed her inside this pitch darkness. They must be taught about Nigeria’s military and civilian history, legislative history and the likes, so that the children can appreciate the tortuous journey we made to get here.
The Fulani’s ‘Salubata’
If four ills gained notorious mentions in the four years or so that President Muhammadu Buhari has been in power, the Fulani menace should be atop the ills. Fulani menace has other irritable offshoots embedded into it, like kidnapping, banditry and killings of farmers and allied evils. Other ills would be an apparent deficit of ideas to reflate the economy, effeminate handling of the Boko Haram insurgency, corruption and a government so near, yet so distant from the desires of the people. However, none of them has the irrepressible notoriety of the Fulani herdsmen menace which mutates in various forms, colours and shades everyday.
Beginning with the killing of farmers in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States, Buhari’s responses to it varied from outright silence, benumbing and illogical replies, defence of the blood-shedding herders, denial of their complicity, profferment of excuses for their rampage and now, seeking spatial relevance for the expansion of the menace. On each of the mutations of the menace, Nigerians, on their own, propound explanations for why Buhari is this obsessed with defence of his kinsmen. While some claim that it is in pursuit of the Uthman Dan Fodio’s famous oath to deep the Quran inside the sea, an epigrammatic reference to ensuring that Fulani occupy every hamlet of the Nigerian federation, some claim that Buhari sees himself as a reincarnation of Fodio and is in a do-or-die contest to actualise Dan Fodio’s total conquest of Nigeria.
This can only be the explanation of Buhari’s obsession with the Fulani question. At a point, he claimed that those shedding the blood of Nigerians were not Nigerians but migrated from neighbouring countries, a glaring indictment of his government’s immigration competence. Now, his most recent narrative of the Fulani question is to establish what is called Ruga settlements across the country. Already, a pilot phase was said to have been commenced in eleven states. Ultimately, the 36 states of the federation are to willy-nilly cede their lands to these killer nomads so that Uthman Dan Fodio’s narrow mind can rest in his grave.
While the outcries against this plan were ongoing, the wind began to blow, exposing the rump of the Judas Iscariot in our midst masquerading in the robe of compatriots. On Friday, General Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Baba Ngelzarma, on a Channels Television programme, alleged that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s office was providing intellectual and rudimentary support for Fulani herdsmen to site Ruga settlements across the country. This selfsame Osinbajo was in the United States last week to tell the world that claims of kidnap in Nigeria were over-bloated. His feeble attempt to defend himself on the two scores were so shallow and laden with laughable holes that he ended up worsening earlier claims that he attempted to deny. While this was ongoing, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu spruced up an army of Yoruba renegades and tethered them by the feet of Buhari, claiming that the quest for federalism drove them to the feet of a man whose four years in power have been to defecate on the grave of federalism. While Osinbajo is helping to actualize Dan Fodio’s wonky prophecy on one flank, his godfather is conquering grounds for Fodio from another flank, all in the urge to gain supremacy in the heart of a Dan Fodio’s offspring.
But, why is Osinbajo manifesting traits of acute desperation to please the Buhari presidency and thus squaring up against the wishes of the people of Nigeria? Many have put it to his quest for the 2023 presidency, citing that imperishable quote of maggots and rottenness that always creep out of the heart of anyone who puts his heart on an ambition. For a man who, like Janus, wears a helmet of pastoral visor that covers his real face to now get enmeshed in unbiblical rat race for power is the real reason why anyone disgusted by the appearance of maggots will puke on hearing these sordid tales.
Overall, when I said in an earlier piece that Buhari might jolly well be the last president of Nigeria, many recoiled at this doomsday prophesy. It is getting obvious by the day that Buhari’s rank obsession with subjecting over 300 tribes in Nigeria underneath the salubata (sandals) of his tiny Fulani tribe may yet herald the death of Nigeria.
Our Sex Predators In Cassock
A high-pitched scandal is ripping through episcopal space in Nigeria. It is the confession by Busola Dakolo, wife of famous artiste, Timi Dakolo, of how she went through a traumatic rape experience in the hands of founder of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), Biodun Fatoyinbo. The Pastor is alleged to have been embroiled in several other sexual scandals. According to her, the two rape ordeals that occurred in a week in the hands of Fatoyinbo took place while she was a member of the church, first at her parents’ home and the second, in a secluded road path. Fatoyinbo has denied this allegation.
With no prejudice to the eventual unraveling of the truth of this allegation against Fatoyinbo, otherwise men of God are becoming predators in the Nigeria of today, no thanks to the pervasive hopelessness that successive governments have unleashed on Nigeria. Having lost hope in governments and their promises of hope and redemption, there is today a huge traffic on the road of the spiritual, comprising travelers who hope that perhaps, there lie remedies to the harrowing pains of their earthly existence. “Men of God” thus exploit this hopelessness and prey on congregants’ desperation for the comforts of life and thirst for quick fixes to their existential problems.
The plethora of crises of existence in Nigeria – joblessness, sudden loss of jobs, flight of peace in the family, poverty, decline in social status, avoidable sicknesses and diseases, doctors’ ignorance and mis-diagnoses of common ailments, deaths as cheap as syringes – among others, are on the upswing. Smart Alecs who parade themselves as men of God thus exploit the situation to their advantages. Every social crisis and common ailment are interpreted by them as spiritual affliction, with an introduction of the age-long African witch/adversary next door theory as responsible for the problems. Your mother, stepmother, your spouse, or that old woman in your village must be preying on your happiness, a la these spiritual vermin. And because women are the most passion-driven of the genders, they fall prey easily to these fraudsters masquerading as men of God. In the process, they are hypnotised, sexually assaulted while some leak their family vaults to satisfy these charlatans.
The huge multiplication of churches, mosques and the frequency of Nigerians’ visits to hawkers of metaphysical redemption are all indications of the hopelessness that is spreading like bushfire in the harmattan in Nigeria. Biodun Fatoyinbo may well be one of the millions of latent, now manifest sex and cash predators in cassock who afflict our sick land. This pestilence can never be cured; its only antidote is good governance.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.