Why we should celebrate Children’s Day & Democracy Day
As is always the case with politics, many things are done for eye-service or what we believe others expect. However, what the mark of a great leader is the ability to go against the grain. The band-wagon effect is very dangerous, but common place. The bandwagon is not for visionary leaders, but rather the crowd that follows the leader's dictates.
Since the kidnapping of the over 200 girls in Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, there has been several protests. Some have been well-intended, while others were clearly motivated by a desire to be in the limelight, especially by those enemies of the president that see it as a political opportunity. Anyway, sometimes opportunity is the midst of tragedy is sometime symptomatic of politics of negativity.
To me it was appalling that the National Union of Teachers (NUT) went on strike to protest Boko Haram when they knew that one of the main gravamen of Boko Haram's complaint was Western Education. It is like biting off your ears to spite your face.
It is my position that we should celebrate Children's Day (May 27) and Democracy Day (May 29) this year. The method of celebration is left to various governmental entities, but the celebration must be visible to all, especially our detractors. Some people may wonder why celebrate these two days in the midst of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls and the precarious security situation in Nigeria. First we should look at the history of both celebrations which are just two days apart.
Democracy Day is meant to celebrate the return to democracy after years of military subjugation and punctuation of all attempted civilian regime since the independence from Britain in 1960. Yes, some clamored for it to be June 12 based on the emotion surrounding Chief MKO Abiola supposed victory in the 1993 presidential election. Others felt that it should be kept as part of October 1 independence celebration. Nonetheless, it is a day that represents our decision to shake off the shackles of dictatorship and never allow the military to return to power. The classic definition of democracy is government of the people by the people. It means a collective government of choice, not imposition. Boko Haram by virtue of everything they stand for opposes democratic ideologies and would prefer to impose their views on the rest of us, by any means possible. That is essentially what terrorism represents because it is defined as 'the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.' See my treatise titled 'Between Terrorism and Genocide.'
Unlike Democracy Day celebration of May 29 which is a Nigeria Phenomenon, Children's Day is not limited to Nigeria, but rather an international celebration. The difference is that the day is celebrated on different days in different countries. Nonetheless, all countries have the same purpose behind the celebration which is children's well-being. Historically, Children's Day was meant to honor children globally and was first established by the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in 1925, following the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924. Note that there is also a story that Children's day is traceable to the archives of the pastoral church in Salem USA in 1791 relating to the trial of children accused of witchcraft. Its counterpart, the International Day for Protection of Children, observed in many countries as Children's Day on June 1 since 1950, was established by the Women's International Democratic Federation on its congress in Moscow on November 22, 1949. Thereafter, Universal Children's Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954 as a day for the benefit of Children that should take place annually on November 20. Some credit V.K. Krishna Meno for first suggesting the date. Variants exist in countries around the world with Nigeria, celebrating children on May 27 annually. In Nigeria, Primary and Secondary school children usually engage in celebrations, including 'March Past Parades' at government fields.
Two documents are significant as they concern children's welfare. They are the 'Declaration of the Rights of the Child' that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1959 and the 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' signed thirty years later on the same date. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child contains 10 enumerated rights, but the preamble states 'THIS DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD to the end that he may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his own good and for the good of society the rights and freedoms herein set forth, and calls upon parents, upon men and women as individuals, and upon voluntary organizations, local authorities and national Governments to recognize these rights and strive for their observance by legislative and other measures progressively taken in accordance with the following principles:' So it is a clarion call on parents, upon men and women as individuals, and upon voluntary organizations, local authorities and national Governments.
Child Right number 2 states that 'The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.' We have failed in guaranteeing these rights as there are clearly atrocities still committed against children globally. Children are still brutalized, denied education, kept away from school, forced into early marriage, sent to bed nightly without food, subjected to torture and manual labor, used as sex slaves, denied shelter and accommodation, and taken through other unmentionable hardships. Should we stop celebrating 'childhood' because of all the wicked people?
The Chibok situation is a confluence of challenges to democracy and challenges to children. The kidnapped girls are children and the actions of Boko Haram and their supporters are meant to scuttle our democracy.
Delta State governor, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, CON has asked for fasting and prayer on both days based on our current political and security exigencies. This should not take away from our collective resolve to protect and honor children, but should rather strengthen us. Jesus in Matthew 17:21 emphasised that certain demons (Boko Haram) cannot be dislodged except first by prayer and fasting. When His disciples could not cure the epileptic son of a particular man, Jesus answered His disciples' inquiry as to the reason for their inability to cure the young boy by telling them that "this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.' We are further encouraged by the promise that "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.' (2 Chr. 7:14). So, let us fast and pray, and thereafter take strong actions to kill off Boko Haram.
We should never give in to the enemy.
*Rev. (Prof.). A.O.A. Akpodiete is a public affairs analyst and writes from Asaba, Delta State. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected],