Prof. Ebun Clark, distinguished academic and first professor of Theatre Arts in Nigeria, has said the country is in deep trouble. She made this assertion against the backdrop of large scale violence in different parts of the country and regretted that Nigerians no longer have a sense of history.
The accomplished professor was speaking as a guest at a symposium with the theme, How did it go awfully wrong? at the just concluded Lagos Art and Book Festival, LABAF, which held at Freedom Park in Lagos. The event was chaired by Prof, Femi Osofisan, poet dramatist and academic and moderated by Mr. Kayode Komolafe, journalist and columnist.
The academic who had a distinguished academic career at the University of Lagos is the wife of Prof. J.P. Clark, academic, writer, poet and playwright who passed on last year.
“We are in terrible, terrible, terrible situation. As I am speaking right now, we have 18 years old, 19 years old, 20, 30 fighting in the bush, various bushes of Nigeria. They don’t know anything about corruption. They have no clue. They are dying right now as I am speaking to try and ensure that we can speak here. I am not saying they are going to die. They are dying right now to ensure that we can speak here. We are in trouble. Big one. And it is a pity we have no sense of history to know this,” she said.
Clark referenced the violence being perpetuated in the North East by Boko Haram and ISWAP, the Sunni/Shia divide in the North and South West, the rise of secessionist groups such as IPOB in the South East and the Sunday Igboho-led secessionist campaign in the Southwest.
“I want you to have this sense of history that we are going through right now so that we can sober down. In the north we have three situations going on right now as I am speaking, not two. We have Boko Haram, we have ISIS West Africa Province.
“Then we have the Sunni/Shia divide. Very few people think about this. It is the Sunni/Shia divide that created the problem in Iraq, Syria, Yemen etc. The Sunni/Shia divide is right now contained. And by the way it exists in the South West because we have quite a lot of Muslims as well.
“Then we have Biafra going on and the Yoruba nationhood going on. That’s what we are coping with right now. Then we have Abazonian that two days ago attacked the Northeast. When they now decide to attack the Southeast, we have problem. Our sense of history therefore is very important to know that history is not just past, past is also present.”
Clark warned that Nigeria is teetering on a precipice, adding that, given Nigeria’s large population, if total war breaks out in the country, the rest of Africa will be in trouble. “One out of every six black is a Nigerian. With an over 200 million population, if we have any problem, the whole of Africa will be in trouble. West Africa map will change. Central Africa will change. Believe you me. If 100 million Nigerians move out because of war, it will change. The demography of Europe, the race demography will change,” she averred.
The distinguished professor also lamented the abolition of history at a certain time in Nigerian schools, adding that though the teaching of history has been restored, it’s going to take a long time for Nigeria to recover from that abolition. “I agree that we have no sense of history anymore. I don’t know which head of state abolish history in school. I can’t remember. It was a great crime because history is restored I am told in WAEC. But it is going to take a generation if not more than a generation for that sense of history to return. And it is always important for us to have that sense of history.
Clark also said the tragedy of the nation is that those who started ruling Nigeria since independence are still ruling and that is the reason the youths are clamouring for the opportunity to lead and get things right. “The tragedy is that those who ruled before as young rulers are still with us today. That’s the tragedy. Obasanjo returned as a former young ruler. President Buhari is with us today as a former young ruler. This is the frustration of the youths that they should be given a chance to come in and get things going,” she maintained.