Challenging a Narrative: Nigeria’s Underplayed History

Written by on October 13, 2017

Our country has many great centuries worth of history behind it. To most Nigerians, however, this history is left largely untold.

Perhaps the best way to recognise national pride in a people is through their treatment of their history. Events such as great wars and times of economic setbacks and successes are relived through depiction in arts and education.

Having participated in both world wars, survived the slave trade, and accommodated several dynasties, kingdoms, and regimes, Nigeria has a vast number of events in her past to recount.

We should relay tales of Odùduwà, the first Ooni of Ile-Ife and the predecessor of all celebrated Yoruba kingdoms to date. We should gladly narrate the story of Bayajidda and his seven sons, the patriarchs of the Hausa tribe. We should speak with pride of the magnificent Nri kingdom and its role in creating modern-day Igboland.

Instead, we often leave our history untold and under-documented. Events in Nigerian history are only lightly touched in primary education. Our history is taught as a dispensable part of the primary school curriculum, usually as an optional elective considered less important than European history!

In fact, the world we live in today is one that is largely dominated by a Eurocentric view of history: one that considers the past only in terms of its relation to the West. Take, for example, the war memorial recently unveiled in London for African-Caribbean soldiers. Over two million African and Caribbean servicemen participated in both wars on the British side. These servicemen were not considered British citizens. This means all attempts to honour British deaths during the wars do not include the black soldiers that also fought in the war. It took the United Kingdom 72 years to pay tribute to its colonial martyrs, a large number of which were Nigerians.

We as a nation must do more justice to our own history. Illiteracy certainly plays a role in the dearth of Nigerian history, as the school is where children are first introduced to history. But there is more that we can do to preserve our culture on an individual basis.

Telling traditional stories and myths to our children more often than English bedtime stories, teaching them the songs and values whose morality guided our ancestors for centuries, telling them of the rich and vast empires that came before them are some.

In fact, telling our history is vital not only to the national pride of our people but also to the education of the world at large. By doing Nigerian history justice in schools, museums, street monuments, public buildings, and everyday life, we can challenge Eurocentric worldviews and emphasize our position as a stakeholder in world politics.

We Nigerians must not accept single-sided narratives of history. Our ancestors played an indispensable part in shaping the modern world. It is our national duty and privilege to unapologetically remind the world of our past and present glory. May God Bless the people of our beloved Country, Nigeria.


This commentary was written by Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, based in Somerset, England, United Kingdom.

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