Vice President (North Central) of the Historical Society of Nigeria (HSN) and Professor of History, Federal University Lafia, Prof. Okpeh O.Okpeh has stated that the 63rd conference of the HSN will seek to address some of the critical issues regarding military.
He made the revelation in an exclusive interview with CEOAfrica correspondent in Kaduna on Wednesday.
“Every year, the HSN, the oldest academic association established in 1955 takes a theme of national and international relevance as one of the issues it ought to examine annually. For this year, we are looking at “The Military Factor In Nigerian History”. It is about time that the military, their role and what they have done over the years is assessed not just by the military but by other Nigerians. And for this purpose we have chosen to look at the military not just as an institution but also the military as represented by some of its personnel, their role in economic, political and social development of the country.
This is timely because Nigeria has come of age and it`s about time that we begin to emphasize the role of the institution in the process of nation building. We have chosen the military as our focal point this time around because we feel that it has come to the point where an assessment of the military has to be done.
“With respect to the level of preparedness, the society has done so much in terms of intellectual, physical and financial investment. We are interested in making sure that this conference addresses some of the critical issues that have been brought up about the military as an institution, we are interested in telling Nigerians that the military have been part and parcel of the evolution of the Nigerian nation. But more importantly, we are also interested in looking at the military as an institution that has define the history of this country whether positively or negatively. Our business as a professional association is to provide a platform where all interest groups and stakeholders in the Nigerian nation can come and discuss the subject matter of the Nigeria state”, he said.
He added that the society is assessing what is on ground and would leave no stone unturned so as to have a successful outing.
He also lamented that we have lost our sense of history as a nation over the years.
“Most nations in the world have used history – the body of knowledge that you call historical knowledge to solve some of the challenges they have faced over the years.
Nigeria is not different from all these countries. Indeed historical knowledge inform our actions, we need to learn what happened in the past by understanding how the past gave birth to the present and how the present as we have it today would help us to anchor the future, so our lessons today has a way of informing our actions tomorrow. Now we have learnt from knowledge of history we have acquired to solve some of our greatest problems in this country. Today a question posed by citizens that whether Nigeria should continue as a cooperate body or not, this is a very fundamental nation building challenge and we as HSN, a body of professional historians have observed that since 1982 when History was yanked off the curriculum of schools, this problem became a major problem, so we have a generation (36years) of people that know nothing about Nigerian history. If you start assessing those groups that says Nigeria should divide, they belong to this category. If you start assessing the age bracket that says there is nothing in this country they fall into this category, if you start assessing those looking for opportunity to just move our through the Mediterranean by whatever means, they fall into this category. We are looking at a whole generation of Nigerians that have been swept away because of their lack of understanding of history.
“Secondly, in the process of building a nation, new values will have to emerge, you do not create values when you don`t have it, it is the traditions of the past that will inform the kind of values that we create. There are several things that have come into the country, to be able to assess which will be advantageous to our development or otherwise you need to understand where you are coming from. We say tradition is history, history is indeed tradition. In other words, you cannot create positive values unless you have a good sense of who you are and where you are coming from and where you will be tomorrow”, he stated.
According to Prof. Okpeh, historical knowledge can transform any society. It is so important that it should be the core of any nation building policy of the Federal government.