Study Of History Essential To Nation Building – Fayemi

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…as UI’s History Department honours late Prof Ade-Ajayi

Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has hailed the Federal Government for re-introducing the study of history back into the schools’ curriculum; saying that this would prevent foreign nations from projecting a distorted picture of the nation’s future.

Dr Fayemi who delivered a paper in Ibadan at an international conference in memory of Emeritus Professor Jacob Ade-Ajayi at the University of Ibadan on Monday stated that learning about one’s past would enable one get informed about the present and future trajectory and how “we can fit into the entire worldview”.

The international conference which took place at the Otunba Subomi Balogun Conference Centre was organised by the institution’s Department of History. It was attended by renowned scholars including Emeritus Prof of Linguistics, Ayo Bamgbose; Prof Jacob Olupona of Havard University, Prof Michael Omolewa, former UNESCO Secretary-General.

Governor Fayemi who was special Guest of Honour at the event explained that the late Prof. Ade-Ajayi and his contemporaries never accepted the position of the colonialists that Africa had no history. Instead, he said they confronted the circumstances of their era with scholarly creativity and innovation which proved that Africans had a history and traditional political formations before the coming of the colonial masters.

He lamented that younger scholars have, however, failed to react to developments in contemporary time, hence the persisting challenges of nation-building.

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“The most important role of history in society is nation-building. It is when you learn about your past that you can inform your present and your future of the trajectory and how you fit into the entire worldview.

“The lesson of history and the lesson of the Ade Ajayi era is that they confronted the circumstances of their era with creativity and innovation. That’s what they did. The colonialists said Africa had no history. Ade-Ajayi and his colleagues, the generation that emerged in the post -World war era, said NO, we have a history and traditional political formations way before the colonialists came. They developed a scholarship that could be referenced. That is what is not happening in a great deal today and we are all guilty”.

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“We the younger scholars have not done what they did. I read out a list of books that were produced in that department between 1965 and 1975; they still remain classic texts in the study of history today. If you read history in Nigeria in the last two decades and you did not read any of those texts I mentioned: Anenih, Ikime, Tekene Tamuna, Banji Akintoye, Afigbo and all of them, that means you did not study History.

“How is our politics responding to the dominant tendencies of the world, be it American, Chinese or any other part of the world. In those places, history is very central to everything they are doing and that is why we hear an American President talking about the American dream and “In God we trust”,. He is referring to a generation of history way back to Washington, Lincoln and other successive leaders who have paved the path for where they are today”, he said.

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While carpeting the then PDP-led Federal Government for cancelling History from schools’ curriculum, Governor Fayemi charged younger scholars to be actively involved in filling up the “contested space” created by the return of history; saying that this would help to “define character and content of our history so that outsiders will not define it for us”.

Fayemi commended the Ekiti-born late Ade-Ajayi for being an exemplar in his field; adding that his teachings informed public policies which shaped the country in the past.

His words: “Prof Ade Ajayi was an academic but he was not just a university academic in a cloister sense of it. He applied knowledge to society and ensured that his teaching in history informed public policy and he committed himself to a life of academy in all of its ways, as an administrator, a scholar. He was decent, humble, passionate, committed and dutiful and a person of character”.

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