By Comfort Obi
I am not a social media addict. But I am addicted to the Social Media segment of the Kakaaki Morning Show, aired on the African Independent Television, AIT, Monday, through Friday. To my delight, a number of my friends are also addicted to it. So, some mornings, we have a good laugh discussing the contents. It is a natural tonic for anger, frustration and depression.
We have a depressing country, no thanks to the antics of politicians. Yet, I hate to start Monday mornings watching depressing scenes, or listening to depressing stories – especially, where I cannot help. But this last Monday morning, I was forced to.
Sprawled on the floor in my room, and glued to the television set watching Kakaaki Social Media, the video of a rather depressing story started to scroll. And my heart sank. A distressed, helpless, and frustrated father was talking to Nigerians. In his arms was his even more distressed baby. This father was asking for help. His baby is suffering from what he called multiple holes in the heart. He had no money.
Our hospitals, including government hospitals, hardly know what charity work is. A number of them are in the habit of holding their patients hostage over bills. Some are so uncaring they hold mother and new born baby hostage. They hardly accept and/or consider payment plans. They tell you Nigerians are dishonest. You make a payment plan with them, and they not only disappear, they change their cell phone numbers. When staff of the hospitals argue that they too have bills to pay, I agree with them. They pay salaries. They have families to take care of. And, the hospitals have to run.
I don’t, however, know what this man’s experience was. But clutching his baby, he cried: “I don’t want my baby to die. Please, don’t let my baby die. Help me.” He reeled out his name and account number. To save the baby, he disclosed, would cost a whopping N15 million for surgeries outside the country. At a point while telling his story, he lost it, and crumbled to the ground, still clutching his quietly moaning baby. The scene was heart-breaking. No way to start the week.
N15 million is, of course, a huge amount of money. But to a number of Nigerians, it is, excuse this cliché, chicken feed. It is money they spend, everyday, just like that. As I listened to this guy, I was diminished as a human being. But that is what a good number of Nigerians have been reduced to. Begging to survive has become our career, our culture, our new national anthem. Otherwise, which country reduces its citizens to this humiliating spectacle? But God works in mysterious ways.
Forget the wickedness of some men and women – so naked, and so intense. Nigeria still parades some good souls. Proof: within hours of the sad story of father and child going public, good souls contributed the sum of N70 million.
Now, this father can sleep. Now, he has hopes that his child might survive. Even if the child, God forbid, does not survive, this father will be satisfied that he did everything to save his baby.
In all this, the questions to ask are: Where is government? Where are our leaders? Where are First Ladies? Almost all of them claim to be running one humanitarian Foundation or the other. More often than not, it is okay to say we have no government; we have no leaders. They are so unfeeling. They are dancing Shaku-Shaku while the citizens writhe in pain. They revel in lies. They make promises they don’t fulfill. And, they celebrate failure. They dig one borehole, do one road, refurbish one school, and they celebrate . And we praise them to high heavens. Truth is, we are the architect of our pains because, we are not asking questions. Nobody is interrogating them.
Until this story of father and child, I had long given up hope there are still Nigerians who genuinely care about others, and especially, about children. And, I didn’t know we still had parents who care about their kids like this man.
The trend seem to be abandon, and/or strangle the baby, or bury alive. No feelings. Everyday, we are confronted with these atrocities. When you care for your child, some people think you are what they derisively call “old school.” They say you worry too much. Caring for kids is going out of fashion. Parents don’t care about the whereabouts of their kids, or their safety.
On, at least, four occasions, kids in my house had come to tell me about one friend or the other who has come to sleep over. My first response usually is: “I got no call from their parents and, I don’t know them.” It, usually, is my lot to ask their friends their mother’s phone number. And, often, I am shocked by the casual responses I get. “Yes, that’s my son. He told me he would sleep over at his friend’s.” And I fire back: “Why didn’t you call to tell me. You don’t even know me, and you feel it is okay to allow your kid sleep over in my house? Next time, call me first, please. Let me be sure you allowed him to”
Everywhere one goes, everywhere one looks at, our kids are brazenly short-changed. Our uncaring attitude stare us in the face. Whether it is in homes, schools, along the roads, in Churches or in the markets, our children are given a raw deal. They are endangered species. And, it has been worse this past couple of years.
At home, fathers rape their daughters and sodomize their sons. Parents, especially fathers, think nothing of holding their own children hostage in the name of discipline, or on the orders of one fake pastor, a native doctor, or a herbalist. They brand the children witches. So, even in some Churches, children are not safe. They starve them to death, almost, in the name of fasting. They chain them. They inflict horrendous injuries on them, and think nothing of it. And, there are very many wicked women out there too.
They traffic their own children. Young girls, teenagers, give birth to babies and sell them, at times, hardly because of poverty, but greediness and, carefree life. For these young girls, it is a career. It is their profession. They get pregnant every year, and sell their babies.
So, enters baby factories. While other countries are establishing factories, manufacturing companies, to take care of thousands of the unemployed, in Nigeria, what we have are baby factories. But our leaders don’t care. They don’t care about some mothers who because of poverty give their children out as house-helps. Many of those to whom they give out their children are wicked and God-forsaken women. They have sold their souls to the devil. They treat their house-helps, usually minors, like animals, like sub-human beings. They give them knife-cuts. They brand them with hot-irons.They flog them with electric wire. No part of the body is too sacred. They use pins and pepper on their private parts. They pour hot water on them. They deliberately set them on fire. They make them drink their own urine and eat their feaces. They starve them. They chain them like criminals. They lock them up in toilets. They deprive them of sleep. And the government does not care.
At times, because of the awareness now created, these wicked madams are arrested. Some neighbours and school teachers have been of use. But that’s where the cases end. Nobody hears anything about the cases again. Which is why the same horrendous incidents repeat themselves. Our leaders don’t care. So, Nigerian children are all-round losers. Parents hardly care. So do teachers. And their problems are not government’s.
Those of them who should be in schools roam the streets. Nobody cares. Government officials see them. They don’t care. They hawk along the streets. Children between the ages of five and 17 years, and nobody cares. School enrolment is low, very low. As our leaders criss-cross the country campaigning for our votes, they see kids who should be in school at those campaign grounds, and they say nothing. They are more interested in the crowd they see than the welfare of the kids. They dance shaku-shaku as they campaign. The question nobody has asked them is: Where are your own children?
So, this other day, it gladdened not a few hearts when Ekiti state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, threatened that his government would start arresting parents whose children hawk during school hours. Said the governor: “The current school enrolment rate of 55 per cent as against 96 per cent recorded in 2014 is unacceptable to this government. Something must be done urgently to reverse the ugly trend.
“Part of the responsibilities of government is to ensure that children and youths, who are the future of the nation, are properly groomed through qualitative education that will prepare them for the future.” Good. But I am not moved. It is like a secular sermon.
A number of governors had issued same threats before. It never worked. In Lagos where I live, many children roam the streets hawking. Lagos had issued such threat on more two occasions. . No parent was ever arrested on account of that. Government officials, including the Governor, Deputy Governor and the First Lady, drive past without a blink of the eye. They don’t care. They just drive past.
One of the most pathetic spectacles in Ikeja, Lagos, is that of a young boy whose right hand is almost as big as his whole frame. He has what I choose to call elephantities of the hand. His hand is too heavy for him to carry. So, often, he heaves it up, and hangs it on his shoulders. Nobody cares. They see him, and they drive on. Instead of giving help to the deserving,
our leaders would rather spend money on things which ridicule the people.
Early last month, a member of the House of Representatives from Imo, shamelessly commissioned a Batcher, yes, a batcher, for Bet-Naija, as his constituency project. Another one in Delta state commissioned a funny looking wooden bridge. In their communities, there are scores of children who can hardly feed, or go to school. But there they were, commissioning Batchers and rickety wooden bridges which cost they would claim to be millions of Naira.
Fayemi says the children and youths are our future. Correct. He says they need to be properly groomed through qualitative education that will prepare them for the future. Again, correct. But do our children and youths get any such qualitative education and/or grooming? Not on your life.
Many of their teachers neither teach them, nor guide them morally. In schools, the children are on their own. A number of their teachers are petty traders in schools. So, the children do whatever they like. Isn’t that why we hear of cultism in primary and secondary schools? Isn’t that why there is complete moral bankruptcy, even in our primary and secondary schools? Some of them have not just become thieves and robbers, they have become certified kidnappers. The girls have also become free girls.
This other day, a friend forwarded to me a video of two students, a boy and a girl, between the ages of 14 and 15 years, having oral sex, openly, in their classroom. Others looked on, excited. The school is identified as Oluyole Grammar School, Ibadan. This video has since gone viral. But deafening silence is the reaction from both the Oyo state government and the management of the school. The kids are identifiable in their blue and sky blue school uniform. Their faces were not hidden. These are the kids and youths Nigeria is bringing up.
We are in a worse situation than we thought. A nation which thousands of children have no future is gone. That is Nigeria’s fate. Yet, our leaders, like vultures, fight over rotten meat. Like Rome’s Emperor Nero, they are fiddling while our country is ablaze. We need caring leaders like the man on Kakaaki Social Media, who gave his all to give his baby a new start in life. That’s what we need. A fresh start.
Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source (Magazine), https://thesourceng.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.