By Mark A. Upaa
News of the elevation of renowned British-Nigerian scholar, David Olusoga 48, to the status of a Professor at the University of Manchester has been met with optimisim and fanfare among acadamia and lay-men around the world, as another feather in the cap of distinguished Nigerians in diaspora. While recieving scant mention in the land of his nativity. Where positive news items about youg Nigerians making a mark on the world are routinly swept under the carpet, in favour of political reportage and sensasonal stories of advance-fee-fraud and corruption. As the mass-media estabishment and its practitioners continue to devastate Nigeria’s reputation abroad.
A handsome, articulate, inspiring and award winning individual like David Olusoga is a virtual poster boy of a hard working youth and an example that good things can come out of challenging circumstances and unconventional places. With hardwork, dedication and a little luck, we can write our names in the stars. David a popular film-maker, who has received many awards on account of his excellent contribution to the British film industry, provides a favourable counter point when conversations tend to focus mainly on Nigerians who are running foul of the law in foreign lands.
According to a statement by the University of Manchester, Olusoga, is a public historian who studied Public History at the University Liverpool, he is an authority on the study of Military History, matters of race and slavery. He is also an award winning author, broadcaster and film maker. Olusoga, who presented the BBC’s landmark series, Civilisations, in 2018 alongside Simon Schama and Mary Beard, is one of the UK’s foremost historians on black history, race and slavery. Perhaps topmost on his arrays of awards is the Queen’s honour which decorated him as Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Olusoga was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and British mother, and migrated to the UK with his mother as a young child. He grew up in Newcastle, one of very few non-white people living on a council estate. By the time he was 14, the National Front had attacked his house on more than one occasion, requiring police protection for him and his family. They were eventually forced to leave as a result of the racism. Yet he has never faltered on the good path as some young people do. Rather, he has sustained the ethos of excellent upbringing and value which has made him a good reference point in many aspects of life.
David Olusoga did not have any special advantage in life. Neither did he have a privileged early life, Ready excuses used by many youths of today when trying to rationalise bad decisions and wrong life choices, which invariably put them on the path to crime and other unsavoury directions.
Growing up, David saw another outstanding black man, Trevor McDonald, a distinguished British newscaster and journalist, as a role model and mentor, a person of colour, making a way for himself in the UK whose path was worthy of emulation. He ould later say; I got into history because I wanted to make sense of the forces that have affected my life.” “I’m from that generation who would look at Trevor McDonald on television – his gravitas and authority – and see hope and potential”, he added.
Little wonder Olusoga also became a television producer after leaving university, working on programmes such as Namibia Genocide and the Second Reich, The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith and Abraham Lincoln: Saint or Sinner. He subsequently became a presenter with the BBC, beginning in 2014 with The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, a documentary focused on the Indian, African and Asian troops who fought in the First World War, followed by several other documentaries. His most recent TV series include Black and British: A Forgotten History, The World’s War, A House Through Time and the BAFTA award-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners.
Award winning books authored by David Olusoga include Civilizations: Encounters and the Cult of Progress, The World’s War, which won First World War Book of the Year amongst others.
Undoubtedly, this is the kind of cheery news that Nigerians home and abroad always crave. It is a beautiful story that inspires hope and underscores the gains of painstaking, focused and meritorious labour. Lessons which if highlighted enough will go a long way to correct many wrong sterotypes as-well-as reshape the minds and thoughts of the next generation of youths of colour. Helping to form a template for accomplishment and success, not based on our position of birth, or the wealth left to us by parents. But rather on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of being better than we currently are. Congratulations prof.