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‘No museum, no history’

6 April 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes

Maiduguri residents want the government to renovate and restore the now-dilapidated Borno State Museum to preserve the culture and history of the Kanem-Bornu Empire.

They fear that if the museum is not renovated they will have “no history left”.

Mustapha Yusuf, a resident, said attacks by members of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), also known as Boko Haram, had left Borno State in tatters. More than 2-million people had been displaced and, if they did not have access to the museum, many would not learn about the culture and history of their ancestors.

“Our children, especially, need to know about the great events of the past. They need to know how we came about. They need to know the history of the state,” he said.

Museums played and a crucial role in preserving local culture and creating unity on both a social and political level, he said.

“The museum used to be a tourist attraction, filled with historic and cultural items meant to be open and available to the public but now only a few visit because it is so run down.”

Fanna Kolo, also a resident, said the museum was a public cultural and educational institution that should occupy an important place in national development.

She said it preserved the tangible and intangible culture of communities. It was beneficial not only to the public, but also to the government because it generated an income.

“It’s heart-breaking to see the museum in such bad shape. It requires serious renovation and this should happen the shortest possible time. Because it is so run down, very few people visit the museum. I sometimes wonder if the government has forgotten about it and whether they think it is no longer useful.

A staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, said the low patronage of the museum was a source of concern. The employee said the museum rarely had visitors, “unlike 15 to 20 years ago when there was a constant stream of visitors”.

Other employees said the museum lacked vital equipment. “We do not have the necessary equipment to control the temperature. Holes in the walls allow dust to settle on the precious objects. This threatens their longevity.”

One staff member said the museum used to be a tourist attraction, especially on public holidays and on special national occasions. Schools often brought their pupils on excursions to see the rare items and learn about their history and culture. “People enjoyed seeing the many rare items, one of which was the Dufana Canoe, the oldest boat to be discovered in Africa.”

A tourist guide said the museum was so run down because it lacked funding from the state commission. The frequent attacks by the JAS had resulted in the loss of some historical items.

He said efforts had been made on several occasion to consult the relevant authorities but they were yet to receive a tangible outcome.

“We hope a scheduled courtesy visit to the state governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, this month might encourage him to intervene.”

He urged influential and wealthy people to take action.

“Culture and tradition are an important aspect of our lives. Let’s encourage ourselves and others to visit such places more often,” he said.

  • The Dufuna Canoe was found in 1987 by a herder of Fulani descent, a little way from the village of Dufuna in the Fune Local Government Area in Yobe State. The boat is the third-oldest known canoe in the world. Radiocarbon dating done on a nearby sample of charcoal at the site shows that the canoe is about 8,000 to 8,500 years old.


About the author

Elvis Mugisha