In our collection of letters from African journalists, novelist and journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani appears at a younger man’s ardour for the previous.
There are many occasions in Nigeria’s historical past which 23-year-old Teslim Omipidan needs each Nigerian to know.
For instance, in October 1961, a younger American girl, Margery Michelmore, was attending Peace Corps coaching on the University of Ibadan in south-western Nigeria.
A postcard she wrote to a buddy again residence described the “squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions” of her new surroundings.
A Nigerian noticed the postcard earlier than it was mailed; distributed photocopies across the campus – sparking riots from the scholars who discovered the non-public message outrageous, and a world incident that finally drew the involvement of then US President John F Kennedy.
Nearly 15 years later, in February 1976, the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club in Nigeria’s former capital metropolis was filled with middle-class Nigerians and expatriates, who had gathered to observe two US professionals, Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe and Jeff Borowiak, play.
The Ashe v Borowiak match was black Africa’s first skilled tennis match, a part of the World Championship Tennis Pro Circuit collection. The winner would take residence $60,000 – the equal immediately of about $517,000 (£385,000).
But Nigeria’s beloved navy ruler, Murtala Muhammed, had been assassinated in a failed coup three days earlier, on 13 February. Shortly after the sport started, 5 males strolled on to the courtroom – 4 of them in navy uniform.
“What are you doing?” yelled one of many troopers. “We are mourning, you are making money. Are you all mad? Please, go.”
While a soldier shoved his weapon into Ashe’s again and led him off the courtroom together with his fingers raised within the air, the spectators scrambled from their seats and fled.
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These are simply two of about 2,000 tales that Mr Omipidan has to this point catalogued on his Old Naija weblog, which he describes as “the home of Nigerian history and culture”.
“My goal is to reach as many Nigerians as possible, at home and abroad, to educate them,” mentioned Mr Omipidan, who has simply accomplished a level in mass communications on the Adekunle Ajasin University in south-western Ondo State.
From scrapbook to weblog
His love for writing and knowledge dates again to when he was 5 years previous, accompanying his father, a printer in Ibadan, to work throughout college holidays – spending limitless hours studying from the number of books he produced.
Around the age of 10, Mr Omipidan began a makeshift e book of his personal. He lower out history-related pictures from newspapers and glued them to a pocket book, then researched and wrote tales about every picture.
By the time he was 17, he was eager to share with the world the data he amassed.
“That’s how the idea of a blog started,” he mentioned. “I started it in 2014.”
A T Nwaubani
Just a few years in the past, there was an outcry in Nigeria when historical past was eliminated as a topic in secondary faculties, with college students anticipated to be taught any associated matter beneath civic research”
Mr Omipidan scours libraries, newspaper archives, history books and the internet for content.
He is particularly inspired by the work of Nigerian historians Amanda Kirby Okoye, Max Siollun, and Toyin Falola.
The process of producing content for Old Naija has sometimes been life changing for Mr Omipidan.
He had heard about the Nigerian civil war of 1967 to 1970 – sparked by an attempt by the Igbo ethnic group to secede and form a new nation called Biafra – but he had not realised the scale of bloodshed and devastation until he was researching the story in 2015.
He was particularly shocked at the role played by ethnic hatred.
“I used to be considering: so, my nation had this sort of previous and we nonetheless go about immediately enjoying with the issues that may carry this again?” he said.
“Since then, I’ve been aware of what I say on-line relating to any ethnic-related argument or dialogue as a result of a small factor can begin one thing greater.
“The story changed the way I see other ethnicities, the way I perceive them, the way I relate with them.”
More on Biafra and its fallout:
Mr Omipidan believes that extra Nigerians would undertake this cautious angle if in addition they knew extra particulars of the battle.
Just a few years in the past, there was an outcry in Nigeria when historical past was eliminated as a topic in secondary faculties, with college students anticipated to be taught any associated matter beneath civic research.
The authorities finally bowed to strain from intellectuals and returned historical past as a standalone topic. Mr Omipidan is glad to notice that the Biafran battle is a part of the brand new historical past curriculum, in contrast to when he attended secondary college a couple of years in the past.
“As the saying goes, those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it,” he mentioned.
A interest that pays
Six years after he based Old Naija as a teen, the weblog, which he runs from his residence in Ibadan, now employs two writers and has 300,000 distinctive guests a month.
The hottest story he has revealed to this point is the “Ghana Must Go” saga of 1983, which describes how the Nigerian authorities deported greater than two million African migrants, principally Ghanaians, who had sought greener pastures within the nation through the oil growth of the Seventies. That put up has been seen greater than 1,000,000 occasions.
More on ‘Ghana Must Go’:
The second hottest story, with about 500,000 views, is the Clifford Constitution of 1922, which paved the best way for Nigeria’s first political events and allowed Nigerians to vote for the primary time. (Only grownup males, who earned an annual revenue of a minimum of £100 on the time, had been eligible).
“People used to tell me that nobody reads history,” Mr Omipidan mentioned, “but I’m now feeling convinced that people do.”
His weblog additionally fetches him a tidy revenue, which is useful as he waits for Nigerian lecturers to name off their months’ lengthy strike, in order that he can finally gather his certificates and contemplate himself now not a scholar after finishing his ultimate exams greater than a yr in the past in 2019.
“I see the income as a bonus coming from my hobby,” he mentioned. “I have always loved history since I was a boy. It is the genuine love that has kept me going for years without stopping.”
He hopes to sometime launch a podcast or radio station, by means of which he can share his ardour with extra individuals.
I are inclined to preserve my very own opinions out of historical past. It is best to go away your opinions out and permit individuals choose for themselves.”
Back in 1961, acclaimed American writer John Updike, absolved Margery Michelmore of blame in the postcard incident.
“Miss Machelmore didn’t sin in saying in a private missive that she was startled, coming recent from Foxboro, Massachusetts, to search out the residents of Ibadan cooking within the streets,” he wrote in the 28 October issue of that year’s The New Yorker.
“And the man scholar who picked up the dropped card and, as an alternative of mailing it, handed it to the native mimeographer appears responsible of a failure of gallantry. One might or might not cook dinner within the streets, however one doesn’t learn different individuals’s mail after which show as a result of it’s insufficiently flattering.”
Mr Omipidan, on the other hand, abstains from providing commentary on the stories he posts.
“I are inclined to preserve my very own opinions out of historical past,” he said.
“It is best to go away your opinions out and permit individuals choose for themselves.”
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