The Child, The Youth And The Country, Nigeria
When I saluted Nigeria on the occasion of her 53rd Independence celebrations last October, I was not too sure that my greeting rang out with joy and optimism. I, however, feel that an occasion like that, largely received with mixed feelings across the country, presents a wonderful opportunity to deeply reflect on Nigeria and share my very frank feelings about it.
I have been around for close to half a century now. From the experiences that came with those years, my environment and the many occurrences we have witnessed in my beloved country, I find it difficult to agree with the dictionary definition of the word INDEPENDENCE as freedom from political control by other countries or as the freedom to organize one's life, make one's own decisions and plans without the interference of other people. Truly speaking, it would appear I even became more confused about the word when a couple of months ago when I was reminded that Nigeria had attained 53years as an independent country.
As I tried to make calls, I heard a recorded voice scream melodiously into my ears: 'God Bless Nigeria !' Now, I am forced to wonder: how would a man feel, if after 53 solid years, he sits down to take a stock of his life, and all he discovers are that his woes far exceed his joys, his disappointments overwhelm his achievements and his failures swallow his modest success? Certainly, he would immediately become miserable; in fact, his misery would be worse than that of a captive. Now, at 53, how free is Nigeria ? Think about it.
I am not here to merely enumerate and analyze the woes, disappointments, failures, or even seeming joys, assumed peace and what have you, which our 'FREE' nation boasts itself of. (Well, so much of that flood our newspapers daily.) I only wish to call our attention to a particular group of people which this self-styled giant of Africa, NIGERIA , has been most unfair to.
I discovered that on Saturday, 12 October 2013, at about 3:30am, I was just rolling on my bed. Soon, these words were dropped on my heart: 'The Child, The Youth and the Country, Nigeria .' As I struggled with this, every bit of sleep departed from my eyes, forcing me to stand up to write down this burden of my heart, which I am quite sure, is also the burden of many well meaning Nigerians.
Since the adoption of May 27 in 1964 as Children's Day in Nigeria , a theme has always been chosen to guide the mood of each year's celebrations. For that of last May(2013), the theme was: 'Let's Build A Culture Of Peace And Security For The Nigerian Child.' As little kids, we always looked forward to Children's Day; long rehearsals (for march past) and other preparations helped to build up excitement as the D-day approached. We were very happy to see the Governor or his representative stand out to take the salute and later make the usually long speech filled with promises just like the manifesto of an uninspiring electoral candidate, which only few bother to hear and understand. Now, after that what next? What bit of good does that do to the Nigerian kid writhing under the biting sun, especially, as virtually all the officer would say would eventually not bring any positive change to his welfare?
While in secondary school, we also looked forward to when we would gain admission into the institution of higher learning as we happily listened to our uncles and other relations talk about the serene campus environment which encouraged serious efforts at acquiring knowledge, the very serious-minded lecturers who had no patience for students afraid of hard work, the beautiful, clean refectories they ate in, and, more importantly, the several job opportunities awaiting one once the service year was over – a development on which many families placed the hope of ending or, at least, drastically reducing their sufferings. So we studied hard believing that we would have far better facilities and services at our disposal since our country was growing older and having 'better' leaders. But what did we see eventually when we got there? And how was our labour eventually rewarded when we graduated? It is better imagined.
Over the years, Nigerian 'first ladies' have made it a culture to establish NGOs to tackle the problems confronting one category of the citizenry or the other. Majority of these NGOs are aimed at the problems of the children and youths of this country. Although one sees them vigorously engaged in one function or the other, raising funds from time to time, fears and speculations are rife that these pet projects are largely self-serving, either targeted at enriching their promoters or giving them some underserved reputation. How far do these NGOs go in addressing the matters they were formed to tackle? What does one eventually find on ground to justify the huge resources deployed to undertake these pet projects after the tenures of the spouses of these 'first ladies' are over and they disappear with their husbands?
Now, there is a federal ministry in-charge of youth affairs which ought to serve as the hub through which all youth-related issues can be actualized. This should give one some cause to relax one's mind since the implication is that our beloved youths would now have at least one ministry devoted to their welfare. But then, how can one explain the uncensored infiltration of evil lessons which promote unrestrained immoral and terrible lifestyles into the school curriculum and even the homes through the so called sexuality education, some unhealthy extra curricular activities allowed for school kids, advertisements in the media and billboards suggestive of evil, and other unwholesome programmes on television, home videos, internet, magazines, etc? It is a pity that our norms, values and morals have become a thing of the past. The ancient landmarks have been removed.
It is the responsibility of the relevant agencies at the Federal Ministry of Education to formulate policies for the maintenance of standards to ensure quality education for our children. I learnt that when Nigeria was much younger, foreigners were coming down here to study. Many also came to settle into some gainful employment. And when they fell sick, they got quality medical attention in this country. But, today, the glory has departed. How are the mighty fallen? Today, the table has turned. Our leaders and the rich now send their children to other lands, some of which at one time or the other depended on Nigeria for assistance. They go over to other countries to receive reliable medical attention. They travel far and wide, yet they pick no challenges to initiate our recovery as a country. Can we then say, like the Holy Book puts it: my beloved country has become like an old and foolish king who no more can be admonished?
As I penned this piece, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was yet to call off the strike it embarked upon, and which had lasted for several months. It beat me how two giant elephants, ASUU and the Presidency, could afford to stick to their pride and be fiercely locked in a protracted combat without bothering to care about the survival of the grass under their feet – the hapless Nigerian students whose future was being mortgaged, and, by extension, parents who were dying with anxiety over the fate of their children? As concerned Nigerians waited with bated breath to see who among the two combatants would bow to the other, how many among them stopped for a moment to consider the enormous cost of their clash of ego and wits?
Now who carefully monitors all the processes of conducting NECO, WAEC, JAMB, and all the post-UTME stuff? What about the indiscriminate sales of scratch cards for every exam? Who regulates them to ensure candidates are not being ripped off? What about the change of course forms, supplementary admissions forms, etc. being freely hawked at our campuses? Why do some universities continue to invite candidates who had entered them as their second choice to pay for and sit for the post-UTME exams when they had already made up their minds right from the outset not to offer them admission, even if they got the highest scores in the tests? Is this not extortion, obtaining money from these candidates unjustly, if not criminally? I am forced to ask our dear Education Minister: does your 'area of jurisdiction' not cover these?
I also ask: what is the present state of the private schools in this country: primary, secondary and tertiary? At some of these places, the future of our children and that of the country are put in the hands of largely unqualified or uncommitted instructors who only succeed in making them worse than themselves. It is also true that many of the lecturers being paraded by these private institutions are fulltime academic staff of the various State and Federal Universities who are merely moonlighting at the private universities. With their divided attention and the half-heartedness with which they would attend to their duties, how can students of any of these institutions get the quality teaching they deserve and paid for? What caliber of graduates would these institutions turn out at the end of the day? Of course, graduates no one would be proud of! And with mediocrity successfully enthroned, how would their purposes not be diverted and priorities misplaced? How much of genuine, quality research work is even being undertaken by our students these days – how much rigour are they able to take in the pursuit of academic excellence? Well, do you blame them? The language now is 'survival at all costs,' or 'making it' by all means. It is the age of short-cuts to wealth and influence. Already, they have ready models to copy from – the politicians, many of whom now wake up as poor persons and go to bed that same day as incredible millionaires.
Now, should I say, welcome to the Child's Rights Act? At least, child abuse, child trafficking, forced child marriage and other forms of infractions against the Nigerian child could be taken care of by this law. But I should think it is far better to remove the smell from a man then spending a lifetime warding off houseflies. Think about that! We should look at the matter against the backdrop of the prevailing harsh economic conditions. While child labour would remain forever condemnable, it must be borne in mind that it would always be difficult to find an economically empowered parent who would love to send his child to the streets to hawk to fetch money for the family upkeep. While we combat child labour, we must equally do something about the the prevailing harsh conditions that encourage its practice. The Minister of Youth Development should think deeply about this.
Nigeria is JUST 53. I think we can still make it if we really wish to. One of my bothers, however, is: who are our lawmakers or rather what quality of lawmaking are we really getting? Who are our opinion leaders and decision makers? Who are our elected and selected leaders? Who are the people whose responsibility it is to think out and formulate policies for the good of the Nigerian child and the youth? I want to assume that I did not see clearly when television screens the other day beamed to our faces the shameful footages of our able leaders (who are mostly parents) exchanging blows and tearing their clothes at the so-called hallowed chambers of the Assembly. Oh! May be it was all part of coming together to decide the way forward for our country? Of course this was not the first time. What a spirit! What examples and precedence are being advertized and set for the country's leaders of tomorrow to see and emulate? Hear this!
“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Jesus Christ; Matt. 12:35).
If one may dare ask our current rulers and those angling to take over from them in 2015, what creative, workable developmental agendas do you have in your treasure house for Nigeria ? The words of the scriptures are forever true: 'man that is in honour and understands it not is like the beasts that perish.'
Now, what are we to do?
Indeed these are not the best of times. High profile fake prophets and seers abound, confusing the politicians with discordant, deficient counsels and feeding off their deep pockets, but there is no reason to despair. The existence of bad eggs does not and cannot mean that good ones are non-existent. As we study history as recorded by the Holy Book, the Bible, we would see that most successful leaders had by their sides genuine and sincere seers or prophets who had the ability to always interpret for them the handwriting on wall and cause them to rule with the fear of God. Of course our leaders know, and can even acknowledge the sincere ones, but would not choose to hear them because they would look them straight in the face and tell them the stark truth. And so, they, most unfortunately, surround themselves with 'prophets' who tell them only what they wish to hear and give them false assurances of peace when there is none.
Their pipes and harps give no clear distinction in their sounds. But then what king can adequately prepare for the battle looming in front of him when his prophet's trumpet is giving out uncertain sound? Today, from Mr. President to Mr. Governor to Mr. Head of the Family, how many among them have true prophets who have told them point blank that evil and iniquity are a reproach to any home, state and nation? The clear neglect of the law of the God Almighty, the acceptance of whoredom and prostitution (spiritual and physical), wanton spilling of blood daily in the course of ritual sacrifices, ungodly religious ordinances/demands, terrorism, occultism, abortions, etc, intimidation and oppression of the helpless by the powers that be and those that feel they are born heirs to the throne, whether at the presidential level or other tiers of government, or even communities and families obviously prove that there is no fear of God in them. Sadly, none of their 'prophets' has declared this truth to them.
My problem is: as they stubbornly persist in their acts of wickedness, who are usually the worst hit? Who else but tender children and youths? They are the prey and key victims of oppression and intimidation, denial of essential privileges/rights, false worship and uncommon evils and wickedness. They have become the captives of the mighty! These are crying out in different ways and, indeed, the God of children and youths has heard them! He can no longer have it so! And make no mistake about it: judgment is already determined! And so the big worry now is: who will stand in the gap today to draw down God's mercy and save this country from the looming judgment – the just consequence of the hideous evils flourishing in it daily?
Also, all who claim to belong to any place that identifies itself as the house of God should tremble for the visitation of God would begin among them if they fail to do something. All the leaders who have contributed in one way or the other (through corruption, looting, etc) directly or indirectly to the endless lamentations of our young ones, those who have made their lives hell on earth should just wait and see; the God of the fatherless, poor, needy and orphan is on His way. His sword has been released and shall not return. It is not a battle of physical weapons or between man and man; therefore do not look at it from a political, religious or ethnic perspective. If Nigerian leaders (political and religious) have decided to do only what pleased them, the God of Nigerian children and youths will rise to do what pleases Him. The outcome is better imagined. We should look into history and get ourselves well-informed.
I therefore call on Mr. President, Governors, all Nigerian leaders and well meaning Nigerians to come down from their beds of Ivory, suspend their chanting to the sounds of various instruments of music and humble themselves before the ALMIGHTY God in repentance. Why was God once described as the 'God of England' and the 'Lord, Mighty in Battle ', during the “dark days” of World War II? In the face of an expected greatest military disaster in history, the King of England announced a National Day of Prayer and thousands came down from their exalted seats of power and authority and bowed before the Creator in humility and repentance and, then, the unexpected took place. A miracle of deliverance occurred and all acknowledged it. Several other National Days of Prayer followed and God went to battle Himself.
Now, where are they that are called by the name of the Lord? Humble yourselves and pray on behalf of our country and seek the face of the Lord in repentance.
The king of Israel , the king of Nineveh , the king of England , at some point in time, all arose from their thrones in humility and fell before the true God. President Jonathan should also rise from the throne and call for a solemn assembly. This is not the time to be distracted by politicians and power seekers. He should search for true prophets who will weep between the porch and the altar. This is his chance to save the country, not by power or might.
To Nigerian children and youth I also say, arise and turn from your evil ways and repent on behalf your fathers and seek God to intervene on your behalf. Let the children of corrupt leaders and money looters and murderers who have been blinded by all the evil wealth their parents have accumulated and still gathering turn to God in repentance. Else, God has promised to visit the evil of their fathers upon them unto the third and fourth generation, though it would appear that they are meanwhile safe and prospering.
Nigeria and the Nigerian children and youths have very important role in God's programme at this end of time. God is therefore set to sanitize this country. None can question or stop Him.
This call is to all leaders (executive, legislative, judicial, religious, traditional, community, family, etc). If any one should at this time hold his peace and stand aloof, then shall deliverance surely arise for the Nigerian children and youths from another place but he and his house ... The battle with God is better imagined.
Let me close by saying that my heart is becoming light because I can see hope, I can see freedom out there. My children, the Nigerian child and youths, shall be saved and delivered from the hand of the evil mighty and the terrible. I see this stanza in our great country's anthem being realized.
“O God of creation
Direct our noble cause
Guide our leaders right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty height attain
To build a nation where peace
And justice shall reign.”
Now may I say, Happy Anniversary, Nigeria . Let all join me and say “God bless Nigeria .”
Mrs. Ejinkeonye, a system analyst/programmer,
writes from Lagos ([email protected])