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?