This is an expository essay is undertaken by me to, indicate my interest in African history and its propagation, and in writing of which, I will attempt to do 2 things:
- Trace the modern historiography of Modern Africa, within the context of Nigeria and the works of pioneer African historians starting from the 1950s who undertook a non-biased African history in contrast to the early prejudiced writers of African History, and by so doing, debunking the myth that Africa has no history as a background to the main aim of this essay in number.
- Address the lamentable trend of the celebration of ignorance among the present generation in the lack of knowledge and neglect of the study of African history, I believe the time is long overdue for the renaissance of African history and the proliferation of knowledge of the African past among the resent generation.
STUDY OF AFRICAN HISTORY
“Perhaps in the future there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none or very little: there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness, like the history of pre-Columbian America, and darkness is not a subject of history”. Prof. Hugh Trevor-Roper (An Oxford University Historian).
Africa is a land with an early civilization in spite what many prejudiced authors might claim or assert, and during the scramble for and partitioning of Africa and during the colonial era shortly after, many European racist authors as a result of superiority complex, ignorance and self-interest painted an unflattering picture of Africa and for a long time all types of myths and prejudices concealed the history of Africa from the world at large and African societies were looked down upon as societies that had no history. As Prof. J. Ki-Zerbo points out “the history of Africa like the history of Mankind as a whole is really the story of an Awakening”. As a result of this African history needed re-writing.
Following decolonization of Africa, African authors emerged with Western historical training and who began to apply these methods in the writing of true African history engaging and utilizing an inter-disciplinary approach of oral traditions (which had long been neglected and even despised) written sources, archaeological evidence, linguistics and anthropology.
There emerged a new generation of scholars mainly African in origin notable among which is the Ibadan School centered at University of Ibadan< Nigeria which was among the first and for a long time the dominant school in the study of African history in particular Nigerian history and parade of eminent scholars in African history such as K.O Dike, J.F.A Ajayi, A.E Afigbo among others with other contemporaries like Michael Crowder and Abdullahi Smith etc.
These eminent scholars with their works exploded the Myth of African inferiority, by glorying in the African past, and these scholars upheld African history and its existence and virility before the coming of the Arabs and the Europeans after them.
In doing these they posed a serious question to the bigoted and jingoist statement of the over-bloated European nationalists like Prof. Hugh Trevor-Roper, Hegel which are too many for me to mention and many others and set the pace of the writing for African history for decades to come notable among which is the 8 volumes of UNESCO’s general history of Africa. This era marked the golden Age in the writing of and knowledge of African History.
Where is the zeal?
However the revolutionary zeal has abated and the burning in those years has been quenched now. It is most unfortunate that as a result of the debilitating and worsening socio-economic conditions that progress in the study of and research in African history has slowed down considerably. As the Philosopher George Santayana rightly pointed out “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is one among the many Quotes that highlight the importance of history as a societal force whose profound study and understanding among large sections of the population is important in achieving development as a nation and as a continent. It is unfortunate that following the military era and the decline of historical academic scholarship and some mis-reforms in the educational sector, this has led to disinterest and decline in the study of history.
More so, this has led to the celebration of ignorance among Nigerian youths, which is appalling to the present writer.
The work of the pioneering historians as mentioned above are not known to the Africans of the present generation. The present generation has no interest in knowing how they came to be and the factors of the past that have shaped and are still shaping them.
It is my profound pleasure to be a leader and to take the front stage as a propounder and upholder of the learning of history among the present generation to ignite a renaissance and rebirth in the study of history. To initiate a movement for the study of Africa, for without knowing our past, we will not be able to learn from the mistakes of the past and use it to forge a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.
Knowledge of history is an integral part of any name and is an enzyme that inspires growth of nationalism anywhere in the world.
While lack of knowledge of it causes cultural dislocation and nakedness like someone, to borrow the poet’s Gabriel Okara s words “lost in the morning mist of the piano and drums” and I believe that most of the problems confounding us today in this part of the world is due to lack of proper understanding of the past and if we can engage in history’s critical study especially among the youths, the leaders of tomorrow, most of our current problems can be solved.
If we only can remember the past and learn from it, we can utilize it in creating a better world for ourselves and generations yet unborn.
Finally, the present writer wishes to point out that learning of History is not only of use in inducing and inspiring Nationalism in our countries, it is also necessary in context of the world in general as knowledge of history of other parts of the world helps us to appreciate their history and this culture, and encourage smoother relations between countries and continents around the globe.
Composed and Written by – Tèmítọ́pẹ́ Emmanuel.
Temitope Emmanuel Ọ̀jọ́ is a Lawyer in Incubation at Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀ University (IFELAW). He is Enthusiastic about History and believes in the role that Profound Knowledge in History plays in the society, and thus, more attention should be paid to its knowledge and study in our Society.
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