Friday, December 05, 2008

Saving the Nigerian child

A TYPICAL Nigerian child is to be pitied. He is not only despised by the society of which he is a part, he is also denied those favourable conditions that could make him thrive successfully in his environment. He is hungry, abused, rejected and abandoned, and with a future too gloomy to be his own. He is incapacitated in relations to others and deficient in education, science and technology. The Nigerian child is not only a victim of circumstances but also of the manifold atrocities and injustices that pervade the Nigerian society.

May 27 annually reminds one of the celebration of the Nigerian child. The day which is earmarked as a public holiday seems to remind him that he is remembered, celebrated and at the centre of attraction. It seems to tell him to have faith in the government, his country and the political system. It tends to assure him that the future is his and that he has nothing to worry about. The usual advice is that he has everything to live for, and that Nigeria is indeed his father's land. This is a big fa?ade, a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth and a mirage!

Indeed, it is hard to say in which area the Nigerian child has his bread buttered. There is no enabling law that makes it compulsory that his teacher will stay in the classroom, or that his well-planned lessons will not be hindered by academic strikes. There is also no assurance that the government's housing policy will not render him homeless, or if he is given a holiday, the Power Holding Development Company of Nigeria (PHCN) will give him electricity for a little comfort. It is hard to say whether in the event of ill health, there would be affordable health care for the lad, or that doctors and drugs would be available to salvage his debilitating condition. Should he be hungry, wouldn't he be reminded that Nigeria only has oil as its mainstay, and that there is a global food crisis? The condition of the Nigerian child is terrible. He deserves a little - just a little - consideration.

If proper stock is taken of the number of governments which have ruled Nigeria successively, it would be alarming to note that these governments had little or nothing for the Nigerian child. Usually so much noise, jingles and so much paper work. The saggy and warped face of the Nigerian child bears testimony to the agony and suffering unleashed on him by the Nigerian society, It is his own toga, a symbol of easy identification and recognition wherever he goes.

It is always very painful and indeed irritating to hear our leaders refer to the Nigerian child as the leader of tomorrow. This appellation is not only misleading but also used deliberately to ease his unending suffering and neglect that will continue ad infinitum. It is he that trades on petty articles: sweet, chewing gum, sachet water, groundnut, oranges, etc because he needs to survive and to keep faith with his dream. He can be found at every spot imaginable and can be beckoned to as an errand child and be settled with tips or leftover food for a job well done. In sum, he is both an outcast and a destitute, and very susceptible to danger and even death.

The Nigerian child is a child on the edge of a precipice. He has long been bruised and battered by the ills of the society not to be given a little space for comfort. He needs to be cuddled, cared for, adequately nurtured and loved. He needs to be closely guided, tutored and disciplined so as to display his talents and be relevant to himself and the society at large. This can only be possible when the government is alive to its responsibility and capable and well-meaning Nigerians can make free-will donations that can alleviate its plight and lessen his burden.

There is need for government to review its agenda with dispatch and to make plausible adjustments where necessary. The Nigerian child needs our support; he needs someone to stand by him, to cherish him, to trust him and to see him through. It is our collective responsibility as a nation to assist in whatever small measure we can, and it pays if we all join hands together to make things work