The place of history in nation building (2)

B.O. Oloruntimehin said:
“Colonial masters recognized this fact and ensured that they rested their control upon the transmission of their own culture-an exercise which was selected in the transfer of economic, political and social institutions from metropole to the colonies and in rising of a new state of elites through the inculcation of the values and orientation of the colonizing societies”.
In Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, history helps to promote understanding among the diverse elements of the society. It also promotes respect for the institutions and practices of such a nation. A nation through its history is able to give explanations on the origin of land, sea, man and other species. Through history, a nation can also explain the basis of the different laws and customs that it has, it can also explain why it differs from other nations in terms of customs and traditions, religion and political setup.
History is an instrument capable of creating and maintaining a distinctive identity- as a nation and as citizens of the nation, Nigeria. This identity as a nation and as the citizen of the nation could be used as a base for nation building. We need this identity to avoid the danger of merely drifting along with other nations of the world. As the International Community is an aggregate of nations, each nation, including ours (Nigeria), must preserve its own distinctive character. Besides, history can provide a national ideology for the country. The French used the ideology of Francophonie in their determination to preserve the independence and the integrity of their nation as well as Nigeria’s ideology of Unity in diversity. History can also be used to promote national integration and national consciousness. Besides, it has an educational values as “a training of the mind”. It can equally act as a practical guide to the problems of human society and politics.
The contributions of history to the general development of a nation had been given universal recognition. It has been shown that people can learn from the lesson of history to improve their nation. It was in recognition of the contributions of history to the development of Nigeria in particular and Africa and the world in former military Presiden (Head) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida conferred the 1986 Nigerian Merit Award on J.F. Ade Ajayi (a professor of History and Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos) who thus became the 17th recipient of the Award which came into being in 1969. According to General Babangida, J.F. Ade Ajayi was selected by the board of trustee of the Nigerian National Merit Award on the basis of his unique contribution in history as one of Africa’s leading historians.
It has been said that he who controls the past controls the future. Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems. Medically, when you go into a doctor’s office for the first time, you invariably have to fill out an information sheet that asks about your medical history. Some of these forms are very detailed, asking questions that require information from rarely accessed memory banks. Why does a doctor ask these questions? The doctor is trying to construct an accurate picture of your state of health. Your health is heavily influenced by the past. Your hereditary, past behaviours, past experiences are all important determinants and clues to your present conditions. Whenever you return to the doctor, he or she pulls out a file which contains all the notes from past visits. This is a file history of your health. Doctors understand very clearly that the past matters.
There is no doubting the fact that history contributes its own quota to the general or overall development of the society (nation). There had been queries and arguments in the mass media about the need of the relevance of teaching the humanities (incuding history) and the social sciences in our country (Nigeria). The contentions of those who argue against the teaching of the humanities and the social sciences is that Nigeria is now struggling for technological development and that humanities and social sciences can’t contribute meaningfully to the attainment of technological development in the country. People tend to have respect for professions like law, accounting, medicine, estate management etc which they argue are highly utilitarian and they therefore question the relevance of humanities (including history) and socialsciences to a nation.
To be continued Later
(Essay written by: Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde, Mobile Number: +2348132148197 +2348094095664, E Mail:, Twitter: @profseunoyediji, Facebook: Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde, Blog/website:

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