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Who Was Herbert Macaulay?

A few years ago, I listened with a bit of disbelief as a friend of mine told me that she had no idea of who Herbert Macaulay was. What was shocking to me then was that she was a first class degree holder from a Nigerian university, and had grown up in my generation. However at that point in time, I did not find her lack of knowledge horrifying.

Move the clock forward a few years, and I'm now older and wiser. Thus it was that I listened in horror this Saturday past when a young lady who just finished from secondary school and is awaiting her school leaving results told me the same thing. As a matter of fact, this young lady has no idea of who the following people are: Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Mazi Alvan Ikoku, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. To be fair and honest, she recognises their names from the Naira notes that she wields each day, but that is all. She has no idea of what Biafra really was, but at least knows that Emeka Ojukwu was involved in the Biafra story. What his role was, she had no idea.

In shock, I attempted to guide her mind towards contemporary Nigerian politics, and asked her who her state governor was. She replied, "Nnamdi Ohakim". At least she got the surname right. When pressed about who is predecessor was, her response, "Goodluck Jonathan!"

I did what I considered to be the humane thing and give her a crash course on our nation's history. What I found most frustrating was her almost absolute lack of interest in what I was saying!

What I find again most frustrating is the question of who or what to channel my anger at.

The young lady (whom I must point out is exceedingly respectful) is a stunning example of the rot in our country. And nowhere is this rot exemplified more than in our educational system.

The importance of History as a course can NEVER be understated, and in the opinion of this writer, it should be made compulsory through primary, secondary and at least the first year of tertiary education.

It is knowledge of what our forebears did, especially with an emphasis on what they got right, that could well and truly give us a sense of national pride.

So just who was Herbert Macaulay?

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35 answers

All these complain about useless knowledge!

How will knowing Herbert Macaulay help us produce one tenth of what China produces?

That is after being forced to learn mathematics and the likes in a foreign language.

And then when you are old enough to take Jamb you learn that all that does not matter cause we operate a quota system.

Who wants to learn about the people that created such a nasty place?

Education must be Utilitarian!

If the knowledge is useless, then it's only a matter of time and people will stop bothering about it, even if it is printed on notes.

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I agree with you and we are making efforts to bring part some of our history. You may check out some historical articles on Nigeria and Nigerians at Abiyamo.com, actually, we just finished a detailed article on Herbert Macaulay and you can read it here>>>>http://abiyamo.com/herbert-macaulay-nigerias-father-of-nationalism/

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The youths are not to blame for the lack of knowledge of their history. Nigerian leaders have not been concerned with Nigerian history and can not be bothered. Also, leaders must lead by example. If Nigerian leaders continue to lead the world in corruption, debauchery, thuggery, tribalism, religious and tribal intolerance, and assassinations, how do you expect Nigerian youths to behave in a manner that is the antithesis of that displayed by their leaders?

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^^^^

abeg katsumoto,

no mind that guy oo. let them celebrate ignorance.

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So you think Nigerian youths should remain ignorant just because Britons are ignorant? Nations that want to grow or remain competitive must be knowledgeable. Little wonder other third world countries such as China, India, Brazil, etc are making headway in the world whilst Nigeria is stuck in the middle ages.

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@ola olabiy

do you know that at least 90% of educated nigerians (home and abroad) do now the difference between britain and the united kingdom?

please, help me to ask just 10 among your friends and come back here with their answers to that very simple question.

Without the aid of google I would not have been able to tell the difference.

Come to think of it how many Britons care to know where Nigeria is located on the world map?

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From my interactions too, I also fully agree with Ola's assertion about Nigerian undergrads. It's a sad reality you don't need any hard data to back.

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To be honest, I would only trust a Nigerian who was educated in a university outside of Nigeria. Preferably an Ivy league institution in the states.

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^^^

moreover, i used those percentages from personal interactions with friends, in nigeria and abroad. and they are all graduates. some even find it inconvenient and strenuous to read a lenghty article. so, what are you talking about? GEJ holds a PHD my brother. i love him but what do you think about his use of English? A PHD holder?

please, get REAL.

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This thread opened to discuss and educate on Mr Macauley and for two years that mission has not been accomplished. Southerners call themselves educated. I am not sure you are. You know how to blow big grammar but you are less educated and informed than the Northerner.

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^^^^^

did you attend a nigerian uni/higher institution? trust me, no hyperbole intended.

do you know that at least 90% of educated nigerians (home and abroad) do not know the difference between britain and the united kingdom?

please, help me to ask just 10 among your friends and come back here with their answers to that very simple question.

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do you know that at least 90% of nigerian undergraduates can't write presentable/publishable articles?

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you are probably the best brain on nairaland. and, in all honesty, you are the most objective. you are simply incredible!

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Honestly I don't know anything Herbert Macaulay, all I know is the guy is on our money.

But I do know that I am not to be blame for not knowing the guy. His colleagues, friends and the Nigerian Leaders he mentored are responsible.

And the fact that the guy is our currency do not rise curiosity to know him, because in Nigeria, we have the culture of celebrating people that happen to be in a place while history is being made whether they contribute or not and whether their presence or absence would change the course of things.

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Babapupafashola, I hail thee

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The first Oba of Benin was Eweka who came to the throne circa 1200AD. Prior to him, the Bini have records for the Ogiso (rulers before the Oba) going back a further few centuries. What are you on about? Let's not be sentimental dear. . .

I pass by the bust in front of the disgrace of a stadium in Surulere on my way to work every morning. I am also very familiar with Orlu and know that field that you call a stadium. If those are befitting monuments to heroes in your books, I wish that you be a hero.

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Use google to search fpr 'Sam okwaraji stadium Orlu' and 'Okwaraji Statue in Lagos'

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The Hausa (Kano to be precise) kept the best records, more than anyone else in Nigeria. They have documented evidence of their history dating hundreds of years. They had scholars who were versed and they can give a good account of their history going back more than a thousand years.

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Still on the theme of forgetting our past heroes, today is EXACTLY twenty one years since Sam Okwaraji died on national duty. What monuments do we have for him?

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Some good points you have there PhysicsQED, but I think you have rather missed the aim of the whole exercise in history.

I am not being simplistic, but rather realistic.

You quoted Malcolm X. In return I'll go further and quote Jorge Santayana who said, "A country without a memory is a country of madmen."

Now let me attempt to answer your first three questions one by one.

1. Who's history? Would a minority from an obscure middle belt tribe necessarily want to spend their valuable time, energy, and money studying, memorizing, and analyzing the ethnically driven political wrangling between the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa in the nations first years of independence?

I am talking of NIGERIAN history. If we want to be honest with ourselves, written records of our pre-colonial history are scarce. The best records in all of modern day Nigeria were kept by the Edo people. For all the other ethnic groups, what we have for the most part are oral traditions which have a way of changing depending on who is doing the telling. This is not to say that written records cannot be subject to manipulation, but they by far tend to be more accurate.

Every nation that exists today has a starting point. And for the most part the historical figure who was presence at the beginning of that feeling of consciousness is usually referred to as 'father of the nation'. Hence in India you have (depending on who you are speaking with), Mohandas Gandhi or Pandit Nehru. Neither man was born at the time the British created modern India, but both men were present during the struggle for independence, and one of them was India's first Prime Minister.

In Nigeria, Macaulay began as a campaigner for Lagos's freedom, and after the amalgamation, extended his struggle to the freedom of a wider Nigeria.

2. How could it be truly objective? And before you state that no historical account can be objective, take into account that publications by modern historians about ancient countries, kingdoms, societies, etc, are frequently objective, taking into account the views of the times of those societies and modern views into account without taking sides for any of the actors involved at the time.

Publications by modern historians are usually objective because they have one thing that the original writers did not have - hindsight. As an example, it would not have done the American spirit any good to have admitted that George Custer was daft in 1876, but modern historical records are finally beginning to acknowledge that the famous "Custer's Last Stand" was an exercise in both racism and stupidity.

In Nigeria's case it would do us a whole world of good to emphasize on the strengths of those people who began our struggle for nationhood, and use it as a springboard to motivate our younger ones. Great example would be the Japanese manga cartoons which look almost romantically to the Meiji restoration era as a period when Japan became a world power. While that is true, they gloss over the fact that it was also a period of great upheaval for the country.

Your suggestion of waiting for Nigeria to have a good period before teaching her children the history is not a good one because if we wait, we risk losing it all. Our children MUST learn from the past, bad half century, so that they will not repeat the mistakes that were made in the period.

3. Then of course, there is ancient/medieval history, which is even harder. How would a young child feel if they were to learn that the official position of the Nigerian government's education administrators (or whoever would authorize the teaching of the textbooks) about their people was that they were only infamous slave traders, and not much more, or only a subservient group to some other kingdom consisting of some other ethnicity?

For a very long time, the Chinese were vassals to the Mongols, then the Japanese. Same as the Koreans. That has not prevented them from throwing off that yoke and making progress as nations. Neither has Venetian dominance prevented the Genoans, Milanese and Naepolitians from being Italians with the Venetians. It all happened before Garibaldi. My point here is that a time comes in every nation's life when the old rivalries have to be put behind the nation and life begins. However, putting the old rivalries to the past does not mean forgetting them. That makes you lose the very essence of your being.

Now I would have loved to have an even better discourse, but I'm at work. However, what you must bear in mind is that a people's consciousness just has to be galvanized somehow. The Americans have a public holiday for Martin Luther King, and officially he is a hero. But at the time he was around, he was vilified in the media. Same way, the same Americans are slowly trying to repaint the image of George Washington, but the fact remains that he was a slave owner back in his day.

The issue is emphasis. We MUST not forget people like Macaulay.

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BTW, PhysicQED . . Wow!

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Great article there.

I also find appaling the ignorance of many people of our generation on Nigerian history. In fact, from my experience with many people of my generation in real life, I had foreclosed discussing history/politics with Nigerian youths. This was the reason I hardly came to NL Politics section in my first one year on NL. Until I stumbled into this section by chance one day and saw the depth of knowledge and interest many people here displayed, that was when I started coming here. And to my surprised, it even turned out I didn't know anything compared to what people know here. My initial stereotype may be wrong, but the truth still remains that very few of our generation know something about past events as noted by the writer up there.

Pick 10 final year students at random from a Nigerian university and ask these questions:

1, List all the presidents/Heads of state of Nigeria from independence till date

2, Who was Sir Ahmadu Bello?

3, When did civil war end?

4, When did Chief Obafemi Awolowo die?

5, Where was the capital of Eastern region when Nigeria was using regional system?

I bet you, you wont get three who will be able to answer the five the questions correctly. After all, it's not in physics textbook!

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Someone once said "Crimes of which a people is ashamed constitute its real history.  The same is true of man"

THEGOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, the truth or something close to it must be told so dat the leaf will not forget it was part of a tree

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"History is the lie commonly agreed upon" ~ Voltaire

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PhysicQED,

I don't know what tribe you belong to nor do I care, but your post was beautiful!

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History is often one sided and bias. History is told by the winners.

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I get the point you're making. This probably says it best:

"History is a people's memory, and without memory man is demoted to the lower animals. "- Malcolm X

But aren't you being a bit simplistic?

1.  Who's history? Would a minority from an obscure middle belt tribe necessarily want to spend their valuable time, energy, and money studying, memorizing, and analyzing the ethnically driven political wrangling between the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa in the nations first years of independence?

2. How could it be truly objective? And before you state that no historical account can be objective, take into account that publications by modern historians about ancient countries, kingdoms, societies, etc, are frequently objective, taking into account the views of the times of those societies and modern views into account without taking sides for any of the actors involved at the time.

You or I might not see people like Murtala Mohammed and Theophilus Danjuma as heroes  (I don't know what your stance is), but some people certainly do. Some might see Awolowo as a tribalistic opportunist and some as a visionary leader, but if he was both, could you actually publish that in official history textbooks required for reading in the Southwest without an uproar? Some people might see Ironsi and Fajuyi as heroes and some might not, especially in the North. Lots of people think Nzeogwu, Ademoyega, and company are heroes today because the national decay and corruption that they felt they were out to correct with their arrests/assasinations has come to pass, and that some sort of revolutionary change is needed, so even these people, who clearly violated all sorts of laws in the actions they took, can't be dismissed with a wave of the hand as clear cut villains or as misguided imbeciles.

In fact, I don't think Nzeogwu was a hero at all, but I don't blindly villainize him, because I realize that the coup would probably have happened with or without him and even if none of the five majors had existed, some other officers would eventually have resorted to exactly the same tactics to achieve their goal if they had the same youth and lack of wisdom. But would every textbook writer take nuances such as this into account? Probably not. Some people still cling to the idea that they (the coupists) intended to install Awolowo as prime minister, without providing evidence for this claim. Our history is still a point of contention and still being worked out, so how could we talk about Ojukwu, Murtala Mohammed, etc, when we can't even agree on a common story of the preceding events that resulted in Ojukwu, Mohammed, and others even being relevant?

Even with a figure like Ken Saro-Wiwa and Abacha, where the victim and the villain are clearly defined and obvious, it is not really clear whether Ken Saro-Wiwa was really innocent and did not actually incite his followers to violence against moderate Ogoni elders, but it might be written all over newspapers and the internet that he was completely innocent, and eventually become the official story endorsed by history professors and found in textbooks.

What's the evaluation of Akintola (a controversial figure) going to be? That one would be even harder.

How would one explain to current and future Nigerians that the reason that Nigeria wasn't the first black African country to gain their independence soon after Enahoro called for it, was because Northern rulers did not feel they were "ready," without making Northerners seem like fools and burdens? Or would one just gloss over that? What other unpleasant facts will have to be hidden? Will Nnamdi Azikiwe still be referred to as "Dr" if historians find out that he didn't actually have that title?

I think the writing and teaching of history is harder than it seems. It might be best to wait for Nigeria to at least have a good period in her history before attempting to force official stories on innocent and vulnerable children.

3. Then of course, there is ancient/medieval history, which is even harder. How would a young child feel if they were to learn that the official position of the Nigerian government's education administrators (or whoever would authorize the teaching of the textbooks) about their people was that they were only infamous slave traders, and not much more, or only a subservient group to some other kingdom consisting of some other ethnicity?

How would one write ancient Igbo history? Was there a Nri kingdom from the date of Igbo-Ukwu until the early 1900s or was it the case that, as a figure as esteemed as Chinua Achebe says, the Igbo had no loyalty to any sort of authority beyond their own town?

How would one write Benin history? Were they violent imperialists, no better than the British they later fought? Were they publicly executing criminals right before the Punitive Expedition or practicing massive amounts of juju? What was the degree of their influence on their immediate neighbors and what was the degree of outside influence (African and European) on Benin? Did they attack innocent British visitors first or did they preemptively attack a British invading force?

Were over half the population in some Northern kingdoms slaves? Did the Sokoto Caliphate capture Illorin or were they invited?

Was the Nsibidi script developed by Ibibio, Efik, Annang, or Igbo people? Or by two or all four?

Was there any intrinsic worth to any of the native religions/beliefs or any of the "juju" being practiced by some of our ancestors and should any detailed account of any of these practices be made in history books? What if some specific ethnic groups' practices are found to be cruel, foolish, or comical?

4. To reconcile all the disagreements and write a "proper" history, would take a lot of resources and funding for many scholars from across Nigeria and I don't know if it would be feasible. But even if it was, aren't there so many more pressing, day-to-day concerns, like electricity, roads, flood control, etc., that deserve attention  so that history could never be a focus until the country is actually "comfortable"? Perhaps at that time it will be possible to right an unpolitical, ethnically-neutral account, because tempers will have cooled down.

5. History might have lots of value, especially in inspiring people, and in making people feel that their family/ethnic group/city/state/nation/race has  some greater worth beyond merely existing, but when so many of our previous leaders made so many mistakes (even some of the names you mentioned) and the fools and crooks are as numerous or outnumber the upright men and women, could anybody really be blamed for not being enthusiastic enough about their history to find out who Mazi Ikoku, Ernest Ikoli, Macaulay, or other pioneers or nationalists were?

I look forward to a reply.

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While you have reason to celebrate Nigerian forefathers, the vast majority of Nigerians, who are saddled with the struggles of daily survival have no time, energy or even reason to remember or celebrate them. Some Nigerians see no reason why we are even a country, as someone pointed earlier, so there is no need to even celebrate, honour and remember those that have cause hardship to us.

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Gbam!

Since this hardship is still prevalent everywhere in the country, no one would be motivated to study about our past.

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Nigeria has a history that is nothing to write home about or as the case may teach anybody about. Humans are designed to forget bad memories, while keeping just enough to avoid repeating the most egregious ones. The problem with Nigeria is we never even stopped creating bad history. Good times are far in-between and end up in the mouth of the greedy.

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Chxta, I don't do sentiments. The only people in Nigeria with self composed written history are Kano-Hausa and to an extent the Sokoto Caliphate. Yes, Benin people do have a very good and admirable history, but the written records were not there prior to the arrival of the europeans. All the accounts were verbal prior to the arrival of the europeans.

I have been able to trace my roots to nearly 400 years and I have been able to establish that my kinsmen (lineage) have lived in our current location for that long and the reasons why they left our last ancestral home (about one mile away). I established that through an educated guess based on hand me down stories about who begat who and not written history. The person with written down history has a superior account of their history with regards to time and dates .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kano

Please don't say Wikipidia because I also read the history from somewhere else.

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So dear Tsiya, did Herbert Macaulay cause us any hardship?

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