Overdraft as an overhang

Thu Sep 30th, 2021 - Delta

The acceleration of events in the land is such that before a person has fully digested the occurrence of one event another has swept past him. Really, before one could catch his breath. What with the VAT imbroglio, and the Northern Governors Forum’s insensitivity and arrogance, foreshadowed by Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed’s recklessness. With all the harrowing experiences the nation is facing, the touchiest issue for the elite of the core North extraction is acquisition of political power. The Northern Establishment always hankers after it with uncanny relentlessness. And to do what with? As it has been shown over the years, the focus is on allocation of resources, not on development, neither in the physical nor in human capital development, and they press to be in the saddle with this incomprehensible air of entitlement. I recall the threats to make the country ungovernable should Dr. Goodluck Jonathan contest for the presidency in 2011. Now there we go again. Something just snaps at the thought that power could shift to some other sections of our vast and multi-ethnic land and there is angst in the North.

We are in the process of nation-building which calls for love and consideration. No time calls for this more than the present time. Nation-building calls for respect, for give and take; it calls for high moral tone that should be associated with statesmanship. It calls for a sense of equity, equality, and exertion for cohesion; deliberate inclusiveness and collaborative working, not attempting to ride roughshod on others nor seeking to take advantage of them. And you ask: Where is this attitude coming from? Has it to do with the quantum of contributions to the national kitty?


As I was saying last week, the often quoted UNICEF report puts out school children at 13.2 million, 11 million of whom are in the North. I am even being corrected that the UNICEF figure is, in fact, an understatement. The last national census put the population of primary school age children at 47 million. The school census carried out about the same time put the number of pupils in primary schools at 24 million. UNICEF says nation-wide, 61 per cent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 per cent of 3-5 year-olds receive early childhood education. In the North net attendance is 53 per cent. Female net attendant rate is 47.7 per cent in the North East and 47.3 per cent in the North-West.

What you would expect visionary leaders in such a Region who are out to serve to do in a sane clime is to draw up an emergency marshal plan to put these children in school and youths afforded a special adult education programme. Undoubtedly, the war on insurgency has contributed to the deluge of children in long columns roaming the street with bowls, begging. The war does not explain everything. The children are chained in the shamelessness of the so-called leaders who drive through their columns untouched by their plight. Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, erstwhile governor of Delta State, determined to put every child in Delta in school made education compulsory for every school age child. Any child found on the street when he was supposed to be in school receiving instruction was arrested, and the parent charged to court. In 1959, Chief Obafemi Awolowo took his message of educate every child to the North, his helicopter was not allowed to land. Leaflets that spelt out his programme of action if he were elected Prime Minister in the Federal Elections round the corner were dropped from the air. Those who picked them were arrested. President Jonathan sought to remedy the acute situation. He built many schools deliberately to take the Almaijiri children out of the streets. No sooner did he leave office than the schools were abandoned.


The elite of the present time would rather lock horns with Southern leaders who tried to appeal to our national sense of fairness, equity, equality and inclusiveness by pressing for power shift to the South in 2023. This Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed saw as an act of disrespect. “We can live with our poverty”, he said. He continued: “… but we cannot live with a sense of disrespect and anybody who toys with our respect, we will fight them to the end. We inherited the North that determined where Nigeria went. We will surprise them in 2023 because we will vote for whom we want, including Northerners, and nothing will happen. If we choose to vote for a Northerner, the Heavens will not fall.” Hear what the Northern Governors said following their meeting in Kaduna: “…the Forum unanimously condemns the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South in 2023,” They argued the statement is not in accord with the provision of the Constitution. Where is love and consideration in all this to weave the thread of a bubbling, harmonious national union? The condescending pronouncements of Dr. Baba-Ahmed cannot be said to be the language of nation-building. In all of this, there is no thought for the education and welfare of the school age children whose horrifying conditions I lamented last week.

The plight of children in the world negates the hope the meeting of the world leaders elicited when they met in 1991. They were 71 Heads of State and Heads of Government. Indeed, 35 of them were Presidents and more than 70 observer delegates. They agreed on a 10-point programme to bring lollipop to the children of the world. The gem of the programme was reducing mortality rates and poverty among children and improving their access to health care facilities and education. They said: “We have gathered at the World Summit for Children to undertake an urgent joint universal appeal—to give every child a better future. The children of the world are vulnerable and dependent. They are also curious, active and full of hope. Their time should be one of joy and peace, of playing, learning and growing. Their future should be shaped in harmony and cooperation. Their lives should mature as they broaden their perspectives and gain new experiences.”


They observed that each day, countless children around the world are exposed to dangers that hamper their growth and development. They suffer immensely as casualties of war and violence. They suffer as refugees and displaced children forced to abandon their homes and their roots; as disabled, or as victims of neglect and exploitation. It was revealed that at that time 40,000 children died daily. According to the summiteers: “There can be no task nobler than giving every child a better future.” The plight of the large majority of children in several parts of the globe has baffled the high-minded as well as the casual observers and the indifferent. It has touched poets as well as musicians. Jimmy Cliff could not help lend his voice in one of his lyrics:
“Too many people are suffering in the world.
Let’s remake the world.
Remake the world…”

The conditions cannot but trigger world-wide interest. Some children are being born where fighting is raging and in the next minute, mother and child and its sisters barely two and four years old are bombed, the father is maimed. Many are born blind, deaf and dumb, and deformed at the same time. In camps and the ranks of refugees, hundreds of children arrive with nothing to feed on. Many are thrown into gutters and thousands driven homeless by natural catastrophes or man-made disasters. Only few children are born into happy and peaceful conditions and people of means, and into a world of unlimited opportunities. Why are these? What has brought about the disparity in the conditions into which children are born or in which they live? Why is it so easy to put children in such appalling situations or ignore theme world in several parts of the globe. Perplexed world leaders raising hope of mankind said: “The World Summit for Children has presented us with a challenge to take action.” The response of our leaders to our out-of school-children is to spew out rhetoric year after year.


As I hinted last week, to achieve the lofty goals will require the world re-examining old assumptions. Solutions to societal problems have not been found from these assumptions, notions and what may be regarded as unassailable settled concepts. Some of the notions were founded on partial pictures of the particular events and the agents of the events. Take for example, those who are charged with the care of children but allow themselves to be drained of compassion and milk of human kindness! They are careless and negligent, and sometimes misapply with impunity funds meant to be used to look after children in need. Consider children born in a theatre of violence. Where will a man who clamours and campaigns for war be born if he were to live on earth once again? He longs for war and is preoccupied with bringing one about to prove to the world the richness of his armoury and the precision of his war machines and the smartness of his war chieftains. If his ardent yearning in the present time is not realised until he dies, where will he born if he were to live again on this earth plane? Where can an arms dealer who supplies weapons of destruction or an arms manufacturer who makes bombs or the scientist who prepares chemical weapons as well as his backers be expected to be born in another life? Where will a man who detonates a bomb on a busy street or a department store filled with women and children be expected to be born in another life here on earth? Where will a fashion designer who encourages women and girls to be scantily dressed be expected to be born in another life? Where will a prosperous slave merchant or owner who is encouraged by his wife and children be expected to be born—together with his wife and children—in another life?


It cannot but be just and fear if a man who, encouraged by his wife, embezzles public funds, thus subjecting thousands or millions of his compatriots to untold suffering, penury, anxiety and fear, is born together with his wife perhaps as his mother or daughter in another life into very poor and harrowing circumstances to experience himself what he had unleashed onto others so that upon coming to proper recognition that he was the architect of his misfortune, he can free himself from his self-inflicted tribulations. In offices, clerks, messengers, middle-level employees and executives look at you askance—for gratification to carry out duties for which they are paid. The market woman exploits the buyer’s bargaining weakness and charges more than the good is worth. She smiles home triumphantly and says the market is good. She is patted on the back by her spouse. Unknown to her, she has overturned balance in business relationship. Is it not only fair that they too—clerks , messengers, middle-level employees and executives, market woman and her husband —are inexorably driven and they find themselves in circumstances they have to pay education officials to get their children admitted into unity schools, or other government secondary schools, the longing of many a parent? Every morning, every afternoon, every night, Nigerian drivers, at the slightest provocation by a traffic jam, form extra lanes outside those provided by the municipal laws. Those who drive patiently on their own lanes are overtaken by the lawless who regard themselves as clever. If you are not careful they hit and dent your car, and hit you in the face to the bargain. They do not see anything wrong in cheating except when they are cheated. And once the bruises are healed, the memory fades, and they return to their pet game—cheating and unfairness—oblivious of the overdraft awaiting them to be paid some day, here or hereafter!

The point that is being made is that it is our failure to consider the entire picture of a man’s life that leads to wrong conclusions!




source: Guardian