The Nigerian Child And 2015 - by Taiwo Akinlami

The year 2014 was not a pleasant one for the world children. UNICEF declared it a devastating year for children. According to Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, “This has been a devastating year for millions of children. Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”

In a press release issued by UNICEF on December 8, 2014, it was revealed that as many as 15 million children were caught in conflicts in different parts of the world. “Protracted crises in countries like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, continued to claim even more young lives and futures,” declared the press release.

The Nigerian child had it very rough, our country having been identified in the press release as one of the countries where children are endangered. Over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in the midnight of Tuesday, April 14, 2014.

It was widely reported that on June 24, 2014 “suspected Boko Haram gunmen laid siege to a series of villages in northern Nigeria for three days before taking 60 women and girls and 31 young men hostage.” Reuters on December 18, 2014 reported that “suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped 172 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the northeastern Nigerian village of Gumsuri, residents said on Thursday.”

The year ended on a disturbing note for the Nigerian child. The media reported that “suspected Boko Haram gunmen have kidnapped 40 boys and young men in a remote village in Borno State on New Year’s Eve.” It was further revealed that “scores of Boko Haram militants stormed the Malari village and whisked away the males, aged between 10 and 23, into the nearby Sambisa Forest.”

According to a report, titled, “Keep away from schools or we’ll kill you: Education under attack in Nigeria,” by Amnesty International in October 2013, “The menace of Boko Haram on the educational sector of the country has been tragic with over 70 teachers and 100 students slaughtered and forcing about 15,000 potential students out of school.”

The report further notes that, “As a result of to the unbridled attacks on teachers and pupils, almost all schools in Bama, Baga, Jajeri, Umarari Garnam, Mai Malari, Mungono and Gamboru were forced to close between February 2012 and June 2013”. The group regards the siege to the educational system in Nigeria as absolute disregard for the rights to life and education as well as a crime against humanity, stating that “the Nigerian government is obliged, as part of its obligation under Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights to protect everybody’s right to education and to take measures that prevent third parties from interfering with the enjoyment of the right.”

I have focused on the many troubles the Nigerian child faces in the Northern part of Nigeria today as an index of the state of all Nigerian children. From kidnapping, sexual, physical and emotional abuses, neglect, denial of access to education, child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, insecurity and many measures of dehumanisation too numerous to mention, the Nigeria child is under unprecedented and seemingly insurmountable siege.

It is no more news that the family institution, which is primarily responsible for the protection of children, is emasculated by poverty, ignorance, denial and nonchalance. The communities today look another way when children are being abused and even some cases subtly promote abuses. The state pays lip service to the provision of social services and law enforcement. The international community is also caught in the web of hypocrisy, fuelled by selfish interests of nations.

I have released the reins of my mind to the exclusive occupation of one big question: Where do we go from here? Do we fold our arms and do nothing? If we must do something, what shall we do that will be effective in turning the tide in the direction of protecting our precious children from legions of abuses?

I write this piece today, not because I have all of the answers. Observing our collective responses both as a people and government, it could be said that the situation of the Nigerian child today defies the social and constitutional logic of how a 21st century society should treat her most precious treasure, her children.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that evil does not have the capacity to triumph over good when men and women of conscience arise to do meaningful, strategic, holistic and full-picture-oriented battle. The foundations of the edifice of evil are straws and the pillars are made of reeds, yet our fear and lack of foresight make it look like the foundations are made of steel and the pillars are made of wrought iron. When we rise above our fear and short-sightedness, courage becomes the most effective tool against evil’s seeming impenetrable pillars of chicanery. I find direction in the words of Claire Boothe Luce that “there are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about then.” The Holy Writ says, “Now is our salvation nearer than we first believed because with God all things are possible.”

This is not to discredit the crashing and sinking seats of judgment. My charge is for us to employ our highest level of sincerity to turn on and tune to the thinking mechanism of our collective conscience with a view to setting spiritual and social machinery, which is able to move us away from sporadic responses to the empty roaring of evil. The ultimate goal of the foregoing exercise will be to disarm evil by developing an enduring spiritual and social response mechanism that foresees the emergence of evil and stops it in its tracts. It is a mechanism that looks at the seed and not the forest; it is a mechanism that looks at the root and not the tree; it is a mechanism that has no respect for tokenism of methods and contributions as a tool of social change; it is a mechanism that focuses on our sociology instead of our psychology, knowing that our psychology today is a product of our sociology yesterday; it is a mechanism that spends our spiritual fasting, hunger strike and prayers for quality direction on preventive measures instead of less effective curative much ado.