Is History Passé?

In the November 3rd edition of his “Letter from Africa” column, Sola Odunfa discusses how the Nigerian senate has re-opened talks to reintegrate history in Nigerian schools. The subject had been obliterated from curriculums during Babangida’s leadership as the latter dismissed history as having “no market value” (Odunfa 2016). While Odunfa does not explicitly tackle Babangida’s “market value” argument, he claims history is valuable by representing positive role models and as a lens to analyse current events (2016).

To add to Odunfa’s argument, I argue that history is of intrinsic value to Nigerians. Specifically but not exclusively, colonial legacies that have had a lasting influence on African politics, society, and economy. Nigeria is no different, being a former British colony under indirect rule. Understanding Nigerian history means understanding the foundation of many social problems, for example the ethnic/cultural divides (i.e. Boko Haram) and economic woes. Furthermore, history does have market value – it is a powerful tool to understand the current context surrounding trade, markets, and political economy policies. Knowledge of historical implications on the economy allows governments, entrepreneurs and labourers to maximize profits and innovation, and avoid past mistakes.

In conclusion, history is important. Analysing history allows us to think critically and dissect aspects of society that seem primordial. Realising that much of what is taken for granted (ethnic tensions, for example) is actually social constructions gives us greater agency for self-determination and innovation. Thus, for Nigeria to flourish as a country, (politically, socially, economically) Nigerians need to learn their history.

Read Sola Undunfa’s article here.