By Dr Sani Abdu Fari
The history of human settlements has been connected to and characterized by buildings, monuments and sites mostly named and symbolized to preserve events and happenings that matter to the society and to preserve same as memory for posterity. These aspects are key to shaping a peoples’ identity and making notable the core beginnings and advancement of a culture, people, towns, cities and nations. Across the globe, civilizations are characterized, respected, preserved and placed based on some identifying factors, some of which are names of places, buildings, heroes and heroines and monuments, etcetera, the names attached to these all important elements symbolize and create an identity for a people, thus creating within a group the spirit of belonging and self-realization, this trend is also mostly determined by the geographical location, period and existing practice. A people are simply identified by what transpires as a result of their collective existence and this remains their identifying factors, which in turn brings about self-realization, communal self-esteem, relevance and ultimately builds a distinguished identity.
Historically, the world had witnessed the emergence, rise and fall of many empires, all identified and distinguished by their unique attributes, symbolized by events, geographical location, buildings, monuments and names of individuals who at one-time matter. These artifacts contribute to the overall historical identity of all. Across all continents of the world there have been and would continue to be, events and happenings that critically influence the history of nations, that also, preserves the identity of the people. In Africa, where civilization is believed (based on some facts) to have kick-started, names of important places and events being identified, preserved and conserved give societies their identity and serves as a reference and guiding principle for a people to reflect their history and to keep the core ancestral tradition on track for generations. Each society respect their historical identity and continue to rationally guard and preserve same for posterity and to remain relevant.
In Nigeria, there are, close to 400 different ethnicities, the major ones being Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani etcetera. Each section of the country, identified as North, South and East, etc. have their identifying factors and these factors shapes their existence and preserve their identity for generations. There are cities, cites, monuments, historical events and happenings, names of individuals and attributes identified of a people that gives them unique stand and continue to be the core identifying factors of such people. Traditional institutions are some (very important) attributes of various societies in Nigeria, these institutions also symbolize the importance and uniqueness of cultures, traditions, norms and ultimately unique identities of the people. Within the confines of the traditional institutions there are titles and responsibilities all traced to the beginning of the existence of a people, and these traits are impossible to be ignored. Even if distorted, the facts of history find a way of recollecting and resurfacing for clear understanding of all and defy against any tyranny of whatever magnitude.
Katsina is a historical city, championing bravery, courage, determination, clear-cut administrative policies and strategies, and ultimately a hub for educational pursuit and attainment of socio-economic status. Many places and areas were named owing to some important happenings dating back to decades and in some cases centuries, this is done for remembrance and to keep the historical traits intact. There are many neighborhoods named within the ancient walls ‘Ganuwa’ that were of immense importance and greatly symbolizes some historical value, others included schools, roads and religious sites. All these important identifying factors of a great city are gradually and continuously being forgotten and thrown in the gutters, in many cases being renamed, heedless of the action being capable of distorting and or destroying our collective history and memory and sense of belonging. These actions are mostly ignited and executed as a result of personal, emotional and sometimes political reasons to gain popularity and to guarantee acceptance from some ‘quarters’ at the expense of preserving history for generations yet unborn.
Fresh in memory are some important places, sites and schools in Katsina Metropolis that shapes our history and are of great importance to Katsina people, the North and Nigeria as a whole. The emergence and identification of these places and sites were never for fun, they symbolize our collective history that demands special attention to bring to light their emergence and fact finding for record purposes and to keep our historical antecedents intact, preserved and be made as a reference for future generations. Right under our noses these historically pride sites and places are being erased, dissipated and disintegrated; being renamed unnecessarily since the dawn of ‘democracy’ from 1999 to date. As a result, these sites and the meaningful narratives they represent are gradually fading from our shared memory. The implications are catastrophic to our history and identity as a people, such that, our children and grandchildren may not know these sites and what they signify to us as a people. This unfortunate trend (renaming of historical sites) may continue in the sense that the next generation would rename the renamed names to suit their time, purpose and interests, be it personal or political, and that could go on and on, what a miserable trend it would be to a society of great ancestral traits like Katsina to be stripped of its past.
The democracy we are in from 1999 to today, supposedly brings about all-inclusive governance, possibility of many areas of development and increased infrastructures in all sectors, these developments could be relied upon to name any newly built sites, schools and places after whoever and for whatever reason, or at least no two public properties may have to bear the same name, that could for a people bring about unity, responsiveness and cohesion, sense of belonging and to curb any form of segregation or lopsided considerations. Places like Kayalwa, Sararin-Kuka, Ambuttai, Garama, Filin-Samji, Farin-Yaro, and many others across the State that were of significant past are renamed, now these names only echo in the heart and minds of many who know, cherish and revere their historical value. Many Katsina indigenes that now occupy different public offices and positions of power attended schools that bear these names, unfortunately that only shows in their certificates. The history of the important places mentioned above are a few out of hundreds, one could imagine the level at which our historical foundations are uprooted.
Reminiscing some famous schools that their names were changed, like Government College Katsina (GCK), Katsina Teachers College (KTC), Women Teachers College (WTC), Government Day Katsina, and others across the state that trained and produced almost all the past and present leaders, teachers, and other equally important professionals within and outside the state and even outside the country.
If we can borrow policies, programs and even system of governance, then it would be complimenting of us to borrow that sense of preserving and conserving our history for posterity and at least the generations yet unborn could call some names or sites and places with their original names of centuries before they are born. That could possibly trigger in them the sense of responsiveness and patriotism to carry the flag of safeguarding their ancestral traits till eternity. Renaming historical sites in our neighborhoods do more harm than good to our identity as a people no matter why or for whom it is done. Sincerely, it leads to a loss of our collective past, our shared origin, culture, tradition and most important, our identity.