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The Significance Of History In National Development

Posted: Jul 22, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Dr. Chuks Osuji

Many years ago, when I first presented myself to be enrolled as freshman student at the University of Texas, at Arlington, the first subject on the list of courses for any freshman student is American History. The second was United States Government.

Although my Major was Political Science, every student pursuing a degree course in any American University must offer six credit hours in History and six credit hours in American Government. Thus, these are two most important courses which every student must undertake irrespective of Majors. Incidentally, it was in the course of such studies that I found out the meaning of the phrase, “Six Flags over Texas.” That means in its History the State of Texas had been ruled by six authorities; Spain, France, Mexico, the United State of America, the Confederate State of America and Texas. Today, there is a tourist centre known as SIX FLAGS over Texas. This is an important attractive Tourist centre, where people come from many parts of the world to visit.

All along my University education the importance of History was both implicitly and explicitly made manifest to me and others, both foreign and non-foreign students. If one wanted to find out why there is so much emphasis on the subject of History in American, it would look foolish because it will be made clear to such a person that “a citizen who does not know much of the History of his State or country could as well consider himself or herself a stateless person in the society.” The American people cherish their history and their government. They see them, particularly the American history, as basis for the American foundation system. Point blank.

Unfortunately, here in Nigeria we have not come to accept such value at all. We have no regard for Nigerian History at all. Otherwise, why the National Education Research Council under the leadership of Professor Obioma was the time when the study of History was made less important, including dropping it from the West African School Certificate Examination. Disgraceful indeed. History has been dropped from WAEC curriculum, this was followed by a flood of protests and condemnations nation-wide particularly from the southern parts of the country. Why?

Evidently, the pursuit of Western Education is what peoples of Southern Nigeria, South East, South South and South West embraced. Although other Nigerians in the north, to a large extent, embrace Western Education, they tend to equally embrace Islamic education. With such attitude, there is the tendency for pupils and students in the north, particularly those from the core north, to have divided interests in the study of Nigerian history.

This should not be the case because the north has rich historical events which should be given to the pupils and students to form their core elementary and primary education. Even study the invasion and expedition of Othman Empire is more than enough historical event to which every Muslim child should be exposed to. Acquisition of knowledge of history is very critical to the growth.

On the Southern parts of the country it is only the western education that has been embraced. This is why from year to year the South produces the largest number of NECO and WAEC candidates. This makes it imperative for the study of History as a core subject. Every future looking student must be exposed to the Nigerian History. Obviously, the colonisation of this country by the Colonial Masters, the Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates would provide enough historical events and details to which every pupil and child should be exposed to. Besides, the invasion of some parts of the Western region and the resistance put forward by the local people to stop such invasion and compulsory imposition of Islamic religion particularly in the core Yoruba areas are some of the interesting historical details which must be taught to every child in the South. Furthermore, the system of Indirect Rule introduced by the Colonial masters could form part of the History.

What is more, the existence of a formal traditional authority which was in existence before the emergence of colonialism is an important historical event. Besides, the Nigerians Independence struggle, the various fragmentation and crisis which followed the Independence resulting in various Military coup d’états resulting in a thirty months civil war is another vital historical event which should not be lost on the average pupil in this part of the country.

Fortunately, it has been reported that History has been restored as a core subject particularly for those students whose trend of studies is in the area of Liberal Arts or Humanities. Those aiming at studying any of the Arts subjects such as Law, Public Administration, Political Science, Education, Sociology, Religious Studies, Anthropology, Philosophy etc. must be given the opportunity to study History from the primary level. No child should be short changed in this regard, because History is critical in the national development. Any education without solid foundation of the country’s History is an empty education. This must not be allowed to happen. According to Winston Churchill, “Study History, that is the secret of state craft.”