Soyinka and murderers of memory
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?
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 curriculum allegedly hostile to human capacity development, eradication of poverty and Nigeria’s drive for total emancipation, History was spiked off schools’ curriculum. 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 simpliciter. 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.
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.
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. 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 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.
No thanks to the Jonathan era’s deliberate attempt to murder memory, we now sire zombies who are 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 excitements. On the social media, you will realize how precarious your tomorrow is as a Nigerian parent. Our youth are so uneducated and seemingly uneducable. What excite 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. This youth don’t have heroes or historical mentors and have become captives of the unenduring preachments of modernity. 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, clash and killing of farmers and allied evils. However, none of them has the irrepressible notoriety of the Fulani herdsmen menace which mutates in various forms, colour 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, proffering 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 actualize 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.
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 his proteges and tethered them by the feet of Buhari, claiming that the quest for federalism drove them to 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 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? 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 wearing a helmet of pastoral visor which covers his real face who now gets enmeshed in unbiblical rat race for power is 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 prophecy. 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.