Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has called out the Nigerian government for ever removing history from the curriculum of primary and secondary schools in the country.
Soyinka stated that the move amounts to an attempt to wipe out a collective memory of events which he described as a criminal attempt.
He spoke on Sunday at the 24th edition of the Lagos Book and Arts Festival.
It would be recalled that the federal government in the 2009/2010 academic session, removed history studies from primary and secondary schools’ curriculums.
However, it was reintroduced in 2019.
Speaking against the backdrop of the removal, Soyinka stressed the need to tell historical happenings from the correct perspective.
Citing Biafra and the Nigerian civil war as an example, he said the memories of the Biafran agitation can never be wiped away from the people.
Soyinka added that the events that led to the civil war and the aftermath/effects are visibly seen around up till now so cancelling the study of history in schools is a great disservice to such important memories.
The Professor added that Biafra is more than what transpired on the battlefield and it’s an act of naivety on the part of the government to try and suppress it by cancelling the teaching of history.
In his words, “Collective memory is the key because it is that memory which is related to the mechanisms of relating reality to whatever narrative is given to us. It is far more important and it is more dangerous because you can get trapped in it because it is collected as a community activity and some of that I think is happening to us here in Nigeria,” he said.
“I’m referring of course to Biafra.
“The collective memory there is very strong, even before the war, I warned that this collective memory might remain to plague efforts at nation being and that therefore, everything should be done to avoid that war.
“When I use expressions like, Biafra can never be defeated can never be wiped away, people thought I was talking about just the battlefield.
“I was talking about, a notion, a passion which enters the collective memory in active life not just as a past narrative. this is what I was warning against. And we’re seeing it today.
“Governments sometimes think that by undertaking the criminal act of removing history from schools, something which I never believed could ever happen to us. The government actually stopped teaching of history in schools.
“So naive, so stupid as not to recognise that there is something called memory, collective memory, active memory in the present.
“If the purpose was to obliterate the war or memories of the war, what about events that led up to the war? What about the position, the narrative of existence in relation to the outer world? How do you obliterate for heaven’s sake?
“Yet people sat down and went about their business when they removed history from the curriculum.
“That’s what I mean by saying that we must always adjudicate the present by history, by the collective memory.
Soyinka however cautioned that history must not be allowed to become a negative tool but must be channeled in such a way as to create progressive mindsets.
“At the same time, however, we must take care not to become prisoners of that collective memory. That member must be able to use our collective memory in a progressive, productive, creative, and advanced way,” he added.
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