Aren’t Nigerians Taught To Forget Their History?

(By Natalie Usen)

I believe that the day South Africans forget the sacrifices of Mandela, is the day their entire world starts falling apart. It may take 50 more years for the decadence that may have been set in motion to materialise, but it surely will. This is why we must not forget our past: Its labours, its follies and its sinners—for it is only then we can truly put the past behind us and move forward. According to Maya Angelou, “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be in unlived, but if faced with courage, needs not be lived again.” Therefore, let us go back to the drawing board: to the days where it all started because we have being reliving history –all because we refused to face our past and call a space a spade.

WATCHING a video of Joyce Meyer speaking to hundreds of people about her life experience of incest and constant sexual abuse, I couldn’t help but be moved when I watched her recount all the hideous things she suffered in the hands of her father. I thought, “What if this was Nigeria?” I thought about how many people would try to hush, and then castigate her for airing such dirty linen in public. She would have been ostracised by her family members for bringing shame and disgrace to her family especially on an International platform. No one could have focused their wrath on the perpetrator of the crime: her father- because in Nigeria, we are taught to “cover” and “protect” the elderly/leaders even if it means shielding them from the effects and consequences of their misdeeds.

   I’m still amazed at the outcome of the Otedola versus Farouk’s financial saga, and many others that have been swept under the carpet for no justifiable reason. We like to “forgive” and develop amnesia even if it means spending the rest of our lives suffering. We no longer have history as a subject in our schools so children don’t know the sins many public officers we have today have committed against our beloved Nigeria. We would rather forget. I don’t believe in holding unto past hurts and using them as a tool to hurt others.

    However, I don’t believe that acting like nothing ever happened is the solution either. Samson in the Bible always forgot (after forgiving) Delilah’s mistakes and it cost him his life. This is why I don’t even believe in the “forgive and forget” theory. We must not be like Samson. Watching a movie, “The first grader” reminded me so much of the weighty implications of our chosen route, that of ‘selective amnesia’ as a nation. We have not remembered our “heroes past” so there’s no spirit of patriotism in the ordinary Nigerian because if you knew what pains someone went through to get you to where you are, you would not be in a hurry to make a mess out of things, according to Maruge, the protagonist of the movie, “We must not forget.”

    I believe that the day South Africans forget the sacrifices of Mandela, is the day their entire world starts falling apart. It may take 50 more years for the decadence that may have been set in motion to materialise, but it surely will. This is why we must not forget our past: Its labours, its follies and its sinners—for it is only then we can truly put the past behind us and move forward. According to Maya Angelou, “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be in unlived, but if faced with courage, needs not be lived again.” Therefore, let us go back to the drawing board: to the days where it all started because we have being reliving history –all because we refused to face our past and call a space a spade.

   I saw the picture of a publication that was dated 1986 with the caption, “Light for all” as a campaign promise. I was perplexed. So, the same poison has been used to catch the same rat many times yet the rat has refused to learn its lesson. As I write this article, I’m sitting in darkness doing my work from the light of a small phone. I was born sometime around that era and I still haven’t seen power supply that looks like fulfilling that promise. My people, when are we going to learn? Our leaders have realised that we have a short-term memory hence, have decided to keep up the act while we keep falling into the same traps.

   Dr. Myles Munroe said at a conference in Port Harcourt, “Don’t vote leaders who don’t have a story.” Nelson Mandela was made President not because of his campaign promises but because he was sold on his proven resolve to bring about improvement on the lot of his fellow South Africans. Why then do we vote in men who only have programmes not visions? Where were they before the elections and where would they be after? Many people appear on the scene only when it comes to power and never service. The most unfortunate part is the ease with which we get carried away with their lofty ideals forgetting that they once milked a local government or an organisation dry and left their people worse off than when they came. The same people run for higher offices and we took to the street cheering them. Honestly, I tell you, it is most unfortunate.

   History should be re-introduced in schools so that our children can learn and remember. We cannot keep trying to head in a different direction while taking the same paths. Insanity, they say is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It is for this reason I ask, are Nigerians unclear? Are we going to keep voting and honouring the same crop of people and expect different results? Doesn’t the perceived bleakness of posterity scare the living daylights out of us? Why do we continue in this path and yet expect a different destination in? I see men who have been indicted for milking the nation adorn pages of major newspapers, giving opinions on how to become a corruption free nation! Such irony! Do you wonder why former governor of Delta State now cools his heels in a U.K prison? Once a thief, always a thief! The nature and enormity of the thief is not what matters but the person behind the act. Our courts which set him free in Nigeria have the same kind of human-beings in them as the ones that sentenced him but we chose to forget his criminal record even when it was brought to the fore and elected him twice as governor! I look forward to seeing the day in Nigeria when even the children of those who have been indicted for greed and thievery would fear to seek public offices for fear of public sentiment.

   I believe our love and dignity as a people are worth far more than the current market value placed on it by our leaders and even we, for you must first think yourself worthy before another man can. Enough is enough with this never ending roller coaster of shame. Let us tell ourselves the truth as a people and call a spade what it is, not a shovel or a digger. Are we truly moving forward? Because as long as we refuse to air our stinking linens in the public, and face the fact that they need to be washed and hung properly outside to dry, we would keep trying to wash them in darkness and as a result, be stuck with sleeping in dirty sheets for the rest of our lives.

• natalieusen@gmail.com

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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