Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The National Archives of Nigeria, especially those in Ibadan, Enugu and Kaduna, are currently in a very sorry state, foremost historians in Nigeria have told the Federal Government.
The historians are advocating for the re-invigoration of the Ibadan School of History in order to lead research in regards to African History and Historiography.
Their conclusions were reached at the end of a recent international conference in memory of the late Professor Emeritus of History Jacob Ade-Ajayi, held at the Subomi Balogun Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, which was made available to reporters in Ibadan at the weekend.
A communique issued at the end of the conference was signed by Prof Babatunde Sofela, Chairman, Organising Committee; Prof Olutayo Adesina, Head, Department of History, UI; and Dr Niyi Ade-Ajayi, son of the honoree, on behalf of JF Ade Ajayi Foundation.
According to the communique, the Federal Government should “inject more life into the records and services of the National Archives of Nigeria (especially those in Ibadan, Enugu and Kaduna) which are currently in a very sorry state.
It continued that: “Towards actualising this, the conference hammered on the need for more funding for this national institution for the preservation of the nation’s past. By the same token, states that have established archives were equally implored to ensure their effective and maximum operation.”
The conference also noted that the “key role of the Ibadan School of History in re-framing the narrative regarding African History was widely acknowledged. It was pointed out that seeds from the University of Ibadan were planted in History Departments and African Studies Institutes across the world.
“As many of this Overseas Centres for African scholarship flourished, there was a decline in the productivity and international profile of the Ibadan School. In their respective keynote speeches, both Prof. Jacob Olupona and Prof. Andrew Apter made passionate calls for a re-energised Ibadan School and emphasised the importance of African voices leading the way regarding African History and Historiography.
“The Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stressed the need for a renewed invigoration of historical studies, to provide a solid foundation for accelerating the process of national integration and overall national development.”
The conference also discussed the central role of history in nation building, and commended the Federal Government for reintroducing History as a discipline into the curricula of primary and junior secondary schools in the country.
“This, it was observed, is a good step, in line with one of the aspirations of Emeritus Professor J.F. Ade Ajayi, until his demise. The decision to remove history from the Nigerian core school curriculum in 2007 was perceived to have been a catastrophic error of judgment in the first instance.
“This singular act, the conferees pointed out, significantly impeded rather than enhanced national cohesion and development. Its re-instatement, two years ago, following intense appeals thus provides fresh impetus to examine, understand and disseminate the ways in which the past continues to shape the present in Nigeria and in Global Africa.
“We are, through this medium, appealing to governments at all levels to ensure the full implementation of this worthwhile policy.”
On preservation of African languages and cultures, the conference welcomed the idea of a commission tasked with fostering renewed appreciation for the language and culture and helping to accelerate co-operation and integration. It enjoined the government to “utilise and put into optimal use, the initiatives generated by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission. The other regions in the country are also advised to borrow a leaf from the activities of the DAWN Commission.”
The conference further emphasised the need for more synergy between the Town and the Gown for sustainable local and international links and exchanges, which is the partnership that JF Ade-Ajayi advocated passionately during his lifetime.