THURSDAY COLUMN BY SAFIYA ADAMU
A ready, permutations and realignments are in the offing as Nigeria rounds the bend to start gearing up for another round of national elections. It is still little over two years to the Nigeria general elections but we need to begin the task of preparing our minds and articulating our expectations. Do would be aspirants and incumbents have plans for the Nigerian child and the future generation of Nigerians? Thinking of the child implies that these politicians are actually thinking of us, about our general wellbeing and our collective development. It also in simplistic terms an exhibition of deep understanding of our socio-economic situation, something we cannot in all sincerity credit these crop of people or politicians; not the so called “not too young to run group” nor the older war horses who have supposedly seen it all or have gathered all the experience necessary to take us on the right path to development and growth.
Over 190 countries including Nigeria have acceded to the Convention on Rights of the Child since the UN General Assembly that birthed it in 1989. Essentially this convention seeks to address the challenges that confront the child and childhood. It seeks to set aside the distinct rights of the child and address barriers to child rights and development.
Much as this convention have sought to change the global conversation on how children are perceived and treated, it is unfortunate that over three decades later the child particularly the child domiciled in sub-Sahara Africa is no where near any form of succor. The worse hit are probably the ‘Almajiris’ found predominantly in northern Nigeria. Unfortunately, for these children they do not constitute an issue in political discuss. But does any one care? The politicians and the rest of us should care not just for the sake of humanity but because these group of children are going to grow into readily available source of mercenaries and foot soldiers for the perpetration of wanton destruction on societies. Who is speaking up for the ‘Almajiris’? Really, is the existence of the institution itself necessary in present times? Let me rephrase that….the institution that produces them has outlived its purpose majorly because it has failed operationally, it has failed to adapt to modern times. Its products are neither useful to themselves nor to society instead they have become more of a menace to people and society.
The ‘Almajiri” is today the poster child for human abuse, societal and leadership failures. The presence of millions of children out of school in Nigeria is frightening to say the least. Sadly, according to world bodies about 90% of these children are to be found in northern Nigeria and this is tragic.
Unfortunately a lot of people see this as a northern Nigeria –Muslim society problem. With this mind set tackling the issue, as a central problem requires tough political will that should be all encompassing and holistic. Some argue that it is the form of education their parents understand but I say NOT TRUE! We all know that these children learn nothing; for who can learn under such conditions of hunger and exposure to the elements, exposure to all manner of abuse??
But then it is not only the ‘Almajiri’ child that suffers in Nigeria; a lot of children are treated as less than human by their guardians. It is grossly inhuman and criminal to take a child away from its parents no matter how poor or poverty stricken those parents may be and expose that child to dehumanizing conditions, treatments and situations.
Every child has a right to childhood; right to be fed, protected, sheltered, and educated, anything less is unacceptable. Child labor, hawking or deployment as child soldiers are crimes against humanity and should be treated as such.
I have noticed that some political aspirants talk vaguely of education but every one of them is tending to talk vigorously about employment. They are all going to create employment but certainly not jobs. Why? Because it is just not possible and has never been done anywhere that employment is generated outside of human capital development. Those that claim they are going to generate employment or millions of jobs within a period of two years simply lie. And this is the problem with politicians worldwide. In Nigeria it is particularly sad because the leaders and those they purport to lead do not understand the socio-political economy. They fail to grasp the root cause of issues instead they trade punches and sling mud. This is where we are. But let us all know that children matter, and that every child including the Almajiri matter as much, we need to wake up to the reality that the future of this country is on the precipice and unless we muster the political will to tackle this menace of negligence of human capital development we do not have a prayer to make anything work.
Nigeria’s domestication of the Convention for the Rights of the Child in 2003 has not impacted on the situation of the child. Children are still being trafficked across the country by relatives and those seeking cheap domestic labor and no consideration for the welfare of the child. These issues run deep and we must develop an all-encompassing strategy to address them.
Each time a child abuse case comes to fore the world wails and wrings its fingers but that is where it stops. Children do not have a voice and sadly most become victims in the hands of those who should protect them.
My question is to those aspirants and elected persons that bestride the landscape in designer clothes, outfits, and apparels that cost enough to feed hundreds of these street children for months and more; do you really care? My advice is that you should care and so should the rest of us. Yes we must all care. We should hold leaders and aspiring leaders accountable; we should and must hold them to commit to the welfare of the child now.