This article discusses how the Nigerian media space is often used to distort and revise history. It also argues about how these distortions and revisions are often tolerated and internalised because many Nigerians are not well-educated about history and do not possess the tools to verify their accuracy.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have simplified the dissemination and exchange of ideas, knowledge and information on a global scale. They have helped in breaking geographical and demographic barriers, making it possible for people from all corners of the globe to interact more easily. This has led to an improved and solid understanding of diverse cultures and civilizations and has promoted international cooperation.
ICTs have also made historical information to be easily accessed by people. This has enabled a lot of people to learn more about the past and it has also imparted on the growth of a more informed global population.
People from all corners of the globe use blogs, websites, and the social media to share the histories of their tribes or ethnic groups, countries and continents, to other widely dispersed users of the internet. They often provide archaeological and anthropological evidence to support their historical claims.
Unfortunately, ICT also comes with its cons and some claims have been often made about ICT and its effects on Nigerian history:
- ICT has caused some people to revise and distort Nigeria’s pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history and even the already recorded history of some tribes in order to create a false sense of belonging and to brainwash people.
- ICT has helped some people to fabricate stories about Nigerian tribes in order to put them in bad light.
- ICT has helped some people to exaggerate the achievements of some Nigerian tribes while hiding or downplaying the achievements of other tribes.
This is the problem with ICT. Though, it created the opportunity for people to have access to more information and share it easily, it has also been used to promote ignorance and ethnic bigotry.
Historical distortion and revisionism have taken deep roots and have become an alarming trend in the Nigerian media space. This has been most apparent in the way that historical events are reported, as well as in the way that public figures are remembered. People with vested interests rewrite history and control the narratives of the past so as to deceive the people of this great country. This has resulted in a skewed view of history that is often used to justify current events or situations, making it difficult for people to obtain an accurate picture of history.
Sadly, many nigerians are not conscious of this, so they internalize whatever is churned out by these agents of distortion without even knowing that they are being perpetually misinformed and led astray.
On the social media, you get to see Nigerians with no formal qualifications in history writing historical features and articles to give lectures of historical events, pretending to be historical experts and authorities on the subject. What do they do:
- They often make erroneous assertions and present fictional accounts as historical facts. They also disgorge half-baked information they copied from various unverified sources.
- They present themselves as being more knowledgeable than reputable historians by dismissing the work of these professional historians as inaccurate and unreliable.
- They attack anyone who dares to question or discredit their version of history, describing them as “ignorant”.
Many people have ignorantly fallen for this, and they treat these individuals who know nothing about actual history (may also be aware but have choosen to follow a different path) as if they are the final authorities on Nigerian history. The information being shared isn’t questioned because it reinforces what the people believe in and their cultural values. Their reaction supports the idea of cognitive bias as being correct.
This got me thinking about how cognitive bias affects history and how it can be used to manipulate people’s understanding of the past. We all know that history is written by the victors but what happens when the victors are biased? They present a warped version of history which will be accepted with ease without any questioning. This is how myths are created and passed down from generation to generation.
What this means for we Nigerians is that we should be cautious of the information we consume on the internet. Rather than take everything at face value, we should try as much as possible to conduct our own research to get a well-rounded understanding of historical events. We should also question the motives of those providing us with information.
For quite a long time, I’ve been observing some tribal historians on social media, what they present as historical facts and how their followers believe whatever they churn out, and this actually got me startled. Their followers who are so cognitively biased never even bother to do their own research to know the veracity of the historical analysis of these so-called “historical experts”.
Historical Revisionism and Distortion is leading to ethnic jingoism. This trend is gradually growing ethnic hatred and disparagement. It is also instilling feelings of inferiority and superiority in Nigerians. Nigerians are now arguing about which tribe or ethnic group is the oldest and most important in the country. Though, I’m happy that most of these balderdash end online, but the mindset of many people are being affected.
There is no one definitive solution to the problem of historical misinformation on the Nigerian media space, but regulating user content would have been a good start. Unfortunately, our government might use this opportunity to restrict our freedom of expression. So it’s more important than ever that we be critically discerning about everything we read on social media – especially when it comes to historical information. After all, no tribe has a monopoly on historical distortion.