It was heart-warming that one of the cultural and intellectual challenges that threaten our posterity came up at a symposium recently organized by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Archives and History Bureau (AHB) to mark Archival Day. The occasion was organized to sensitize Nigerians on the need to preserve all valuable records. The FCT administration usesthisannual event to educate the public on the importance of archivists and role of record managers, as well as share experiences in the management of public and private records.
Speaking as a Special Guest of Honour at the event, Governor Nasiru Ahmed el-Rufai decried the poor culture and state of record keeping in the country. Represented by the Kaduna State Deputy Governor, Dr HadizaBalarabe, Governor el-Rufaiencouraged the Bureau to improve upon its existing archival system; calling for the digitalization of its records.
History and archives are two sides of a coin. While historyis concerned with accounts or stories of past events, archives dealwith the preservation of such narrations in forms of documented records including diaries, memoirs, annals or chronicles. Other historical records kept by individuals, organizations and government agencies include files, reports, maps, plans, photographs, films, videotapes, sound recordings. Modern archival records may includeCD Roms and computer databases. These records that are preserved because of their enduring value are collectively called archives.
Archiving is the process of moving data that is no longer actively used to a separate storage destination or device for long-term retention. Archival data consistof older data that remain important to the organization, which must be retained for future reference or regulatory compliance reasons. Archival recordscould be used as effective tools for social justice and reconciliation with a deliberate view to achievingsocial cohesion. Historical narratives offer us stories of humility, courage, wisdom, virtues and hope.
History allows us to learn precious lessons from the legends of the past. The future of a societyessentially evolves from events of the past and present.History equally enablesus to learn from the mistakes of the pastin order to forestall a repeat of the same set of errors. Without an understanding ofour past, we may beill-fated to repeat our collective past.A good sense of history helps us tocreate a better future.
A visit, to the National Archives Kaduna (NAK) and the Archives of the Arewa House, also in Kaduna will irresistibly prompt you to appreciate the British colonialists for the systematic manner in which they documentedhistorical events and records of pre-colonial and colonial Nigeria, many of them on the Islamic north of the country. In a recent research visit on the history of my community (Agaie, Niger State) that took me to the NAK, I searched for and found a letter dated December 16, 1917 and signed by the then Resident of Niger province, Sgt E. G. M. Dupigry. The warrant was a letter for the establishment of the native court of Agaie as well as the appointment of EtsuAbubakar as President of the court.
Government, organizations and individuals in post-colonial Nigeria have, regrettably, not imbibed much of the documentation and record-keeping legacy left by the British at the country’s independence. While it may not be difficult to trace and locate native authority records of many communities in Nigeria, such may not be the case with records of not-too-distant events in many states and communitiesof post-independent Nigeria especially those that occurred from late 1970s to date. The trouble a university graduate of the late 1970s or even early 1980s would go through is better imagined if, for example,he decides today to apply for his academic transcript from any Nigerian university.I very much doubt if I will find my official file today, 40 years after it was opened at the Agaie LEA secretariat when I was employed as a Grade II teacher in July 1979.
Even in our homes, we are not too good at documenting events or keeping records. About two decades ago, I and my wife took one of our children who had injection abscess to the hospital. When the records officer who needed the child’s bio-data to open a folder asked me of the boy’s date of birth, I turned to my wife to provide the date. This, however, does not mean that women are better in record-keeping or do not easily forget. In fact, they are much more forgetful than men. My wife remembered probably because the boy was just three years old. Records are essential extensions of human memory.If we fail to document family records and events, our children and future generations unbornmight suffer the consequence of not only being told liesabout their own history but shallbe compelled to accept and believe in misrepresented historical facts because they lack knowledge or evidence to disprove what they have been told. This is how we coulddestroy our future by our inexcusable failure to document the past and preserve the present.
Nearly six decades after the departure of the British colonialists, we could yettrace origins, bases and philosophy behind certain cultural trends or historicalevents in Nigeriabecause of the meticulous nature in which the colonial masters recorded regional and national events including the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our history. Today, we unfortunately choose what to document in modern Nigeria. Given the depth and the ubiquitous nature of corruption in Nigeria, It would not be news to hear that many incriminating reports of investigative committees, panels and commissions are missing from their supposed places of custody either because they have been distorted or even destroyed.Destruction of official documents is barbaric, unethical and a dis-service to humanity. The themes of classical Arabic literature, for instance, largely pertain to love poetry (Gazl in Arabic), romance, satire, which are ordinarily outside of Islamic principles and teachings. Yet, classical Arabic literature books were not burnt by the coming of Islam. Instead, thestudy of classical Arabic literaturebecame and is still fundamental for anyone who wished or wishes to acquire linguistic competence in Arabic language.
As we encourage corporate bodies and government at all levels to begin, if theyhave not started, the process of archiving its records that are no longer actively used including files; we also urge them to digitize their archival system considering the huge volume ofvast informationoccasioned bytoday’s age of hi-tech info. May Allah (SWT) guide us at organizational, family and individual levels to keep and preserve all essential records for posterity, amin.