Many times I usually have the notion that our nation is one that consumes or destroys its future or heritage now. This feeling comes when I see the brazen destruction of our endowments- human, material and historical- that could be identified as our collective pride tomorrow. The reality of this may not dawn on us now, but the future generation may live to curse us for leaving little or nothing to them to relish as vestiges of the past. In the realm of physical structures, we daily destroy houses, not on the ground that they are weak and fragile, but because they are “old” and seem unfashionable to us.
Sometimes, I take a view of some historical cities and get appalled to see what could have been reference points of history being destroyed in the name of urban renewals. Even our wildlife, I wonder whether our children would ever know that some animals once existed in our clime. I pose this question to people of my age or older folks: when last did you see porcupine (liili) in Yoruba parlance or tortoise (ijapa), etc. We used to pick them in the neighbourhood when we were growing up, but now they have gone the way of dinosaurs, due majorly to our poor preservation culture. While we are busy destroying or predating on these, the ‘oyibos’ are meticulously preserving theirs for us to watch with interest on the DSTV toast channel -Nat Geo Wild and other wildlife channels! What a shame!
Recently, I walked pass the popular Casino Cinema at Ebute- Metta in Lagos and I twitched that the edifice had been destroyed by “building developers” who are about turning it into a residential apartment, probably. We should not be surprised to soon hear that the decrepit National Stadium complex in Surulere, Lagos or the once adorable National Theatre complex have been sold to a “rich man” to be turned to an hotel or pleasure palace. You can imagine all these “destructions” going on all over the country. We have forgotten that a nation is partly renowned by its penchant to conserve history. Sometime ago, I was in London and was to navigate the famed River Thames as part of my tour package. I was shocked that the ferry we boarded for the voyage was manufactured in 1898. In the course of the trip, the Captain kept announcing the age of the ferry intermittently with relish. There, age is an asset. No wonder those nations rate institutions or structures by their longevity. Rather than destroying to replace as we are wont to do here, they rather garnish the old structures and make them more adorable for reference purposes. Here it is not so! I pity the coming generation! History doesn’t matter to us as everybody is living in the NOW. Our leaders pride in destroying historical landmarks or vestiges in the name of constructing roads and building bridges or modern structures as part of the so called “master plan” forgetting that by so doing they are erasing history.
The famous Lee Kuan Yew in his celebrated book “From Third World to First World” revealed that when Singapore found itself in this state of brazen destruction of history, they came to terms with the need to set up what was called Preservation Monuments Board (PMB) in 1971, to identify and preserve historic, traditional, artistic and archaeological heritage for the benefit of future generation. Today, the country has a strong link between the old and the new. I hope someone in authority will see the sense in this initiative to preclude our children from feeling that our generation never had a tinge of history or heritage. With what is on ground now, I have not seen anything pointing to serious resolve by government to take care of our history through conservation initiatives. Our artifacts are still being shipped away without serious notice, while there is a lack-lustre attitude towards reviving our dying tourism and culture. It has remained an irony that we pay, individually or as a collective, to visit tourist and historical sites in other countries, when we are destroying or left ours undeveloped. Nature has definitely not left us destitute of solid heritage. They abound all over the country. But my fear is that unless we are cured of this shortsightedness, the coming generation will be left without any thing to cheer about their past and that would be a great pity.
***Adaramola is the Chairman of Ogun State Chapter of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations