Building a real reflection on the state of the nation on a presidential national broadcast in Nigeria is to start a wild goose chase. This is contrary and obviously strange to modern open-society where such broadcasts are the real basis of meaningful and progressive discuss on a nation.
It the price Nigeria pays for its breed of political elites. Their message is never known to present concrete facts which only the privilege of their position can furnish the nation. When and where they are in power, they have their own glamorous image of the country which any reasonable person can never stoop to share with them considering the nonconformity of such most times to known reality. The ruling elites usually have their ready-made image of how the country has been masterfully transformed during their regime.
An image which they usually craft even before they are sworn into office. For them, the rest of the world which may see the country differently is either misinformed or biased. And so would never attend to such views objectively and with any sense of commitment.
Yet we cannot hide from the fact that those things that paint Nigeria @60 in noticeable colors on the global map, are mostly uncontestably unpraiseworthy. One cannot for instance look away from the fact that Nigeria is rightly accounted today by the international community as the nation with the fastest growing population yet with dragging economic growth. How can it be surprising then that even though it is the seventh most populous country in the world, it strangely has the highest number of poor people globally. Nigeria by the assessment of the international community accounts for the highest mortality rate of children globally, and has the highest number of out of school children? And currently, Nigeria is said to have become the world capital of open defecation.
Boko Haram and the various acts of banditry and violence across the country, have placed Nigeria in the company of nations that constitute threat to global security. What ugly feathers to wear on the cap of a nation celebrating 60th independence anniversary in the modern globalized world? In spite of all of these hard and scary facts, those who are in power anytime and anywhere in Nigeria, would always present the country as faring gloriously at least during their regime and their days of privilege when they had access to the public money-bags. All such dysfunctions and failures that their image-making projects fail to hide are projected as deeds of their predecessors either of the military era or the days of opposition party regime.
Yet only a very few of them have never being in the military or in what they would later refer to as the opposition party before what they now claim as their party won election and held both the reins of power and the public money-bag.
Let us presume that if the leading citizens of Nigeria would not accommodate the view of adults that do not propagate their molded image of the nation, they would even if for curiosity admit an innocent child’s perspective of Nigeria @60 especially if without erring in drawing contours and shading colors it sets before all rational beings the true image of our nation as it is today.
Omar a 13-year-old boy was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Shari’a court in Kano on August 10 for blaspheming Allah in an argument with a friend. At 13, a child does not even yet have the capacity to decide about his religious beliefs and convictions. He still remains under the guidance of parents. Farouq yet has been in prison custody since February according to his legal counsel. The application of such punishment clearly violates the African Charter of Rights and Child Welfare.
Given the grave danger of prison sentence on a child’s future and the image of the country, it would be expected that the many constitutional means would have been immediately explored to make sure the child never gets near the prison gates. None of these was explored until the helpless Omar was jailed in February and sentenced in August. There can be no better time for the secular court as permitted under the constitution to immediately hear the appeal of the case and protect this vulnerable child. The governor of Kano state does not need to apply for Chinese loan in order to grant Omar state pardon which the constitution empowers him to do. Even if he fails to notice the danger before Omar because he is busy with campaign for Edo gubernatorial election, we know also that the president does not need the approval of the National Assembly to do the same. The president, the governor of Kano State and the judiciary failed to notice the misery of a child under their care while Piotr Cywinski took note from far way Poland and instantly threw himself into the matter to the extent of requesting to serve the jail term to save the boy from destruction.
Like the case of Omar Farouq, the many sufferings of children in Nigeria are not due to lack of resources. They are simply as a result of lack of goodwill by the political elite class to pursue the welfare of lives that do not share their blood. This is the case with 3,600 children that Human Rights watch reported Nigeria to have imprisoned between 2013 and 2019. The same reason accounts for the 10.5 million of Nigerian children that are not in school presently and the 10.7% of children who die at birth in Nigeria as well as the 1.3 who are homeless street children. Since the return to democracy in 1999, there’s hardly a president that ruled the country who at least did not leave power as a grandfather. Governors of various states have all been either fathers or grandfathers. Yet one continues to wonder why these persons hardly reserve any reasonable place for child wellbeing in the actual implementation of fictitious policy direction. It is doubtful whether empathy is in any way involved in the self-application of Nigeria’s political elites in discharging the offices they hold on public trust.
The case of Omar Farouq particularly shows that even when what is needed is available to deal with the myriads of dangers confronting citizens of Nigeria, nothing would be done because in reality, the political class is not interested and so does not care about the safety and wellbeing of the rest of their compatriots once their personal interests are protected. In other words, what accounts for the misery of children in Nigeria, accounts for corruption, insecurity, underdevelopment, violence, growing division and loss of faith in the country. It is not inadequate resources but lack of the will in the ruling elites to act for the common good.
@60, what Nigeria needs to overcome the multi-front battles tearing the nation apart is not additional loan from China, or cancellation of debt profile. The way for Nigeria to find itself back on its lost path to glory is to invest whatever resources it would take to instill good will towards the common good first in the political elites then is every person who must live in this nation.
This revolution of the mind is the only addition to our current pool of resources required to usher in the glorious face of Nigeria which the entire global community has sought, gazing in endless futility at the horizon. Whatever nation or individual offers Nigeria any form of support which does not tend towards instilling goodwill and patriotism in the ruling elites and the Nigerian people as a whole cannot be accounted either as friend or benefactor sincerely committed to rescuing the crumbling giant of Africa.
Rev Fr Peter Akinkunmi
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