NewsReel 22/2/2014 - The Child, the Youth and the Country, Nigeria

[ Masterweb Reports: Carllister Ejinkeonye reports  ] – When I saluted Nigeria on the occasion of her 53rd Independence celebrations last October, I was not too sure that my greeting rang out with joy and optimism. I, however, feel that an occasion like that, largely received with mixed feelings across the country, presents a wonderful opportunity to deeply reflect on Nigeria and share my very frank feelings about it.
I have been around for close to half a century now. From the experiences that came with those years, my environment and the many occurrences we have witnessed in my beloved country, I find it difficult to agree with the dictionary definition of the word INDEPENDENCE as freedom from political control by other countries or as the freedom to organize one’s life, make one’s own decisions and plans without the interference of other people. Truly speaking, it would appear I even became more confused about the word when a couple of months ago when I was reminded that Nigeria had attained 53years as an independent country. As I tried to make calls, I heard a recorded voice scream melodiously into my ears: ‘God Bless Nigeria !’ Now, I am forced to wonder: how would a man feel, if after 53 solid years,  he sits down to take a stock of his life, and all he discovers are that his woes far exceed his joys, his disappointments overwhelm his achievements and his failures swallow his modest  success? Certainly, he would immediately become miserable; in fact, his misery would be worse than that of a captive. Now, at 53, how free is Nigeria ?  Think about it.
I am not here to merely enumerate and analyze the woes, disappointments, failures, or even seeming joys, assumed peace and what have you, which our ‘FREE’ nation boasts itself of. (Well, so much of that flood our newspapers daily.) I only wish to call our attention to a particular group of people which this self-styled giant of Africa, NIGERIA , has been most unfair to.
I discovered that on Saturday, 12 October 2013, at about 3:30am, I was just rolling on my bed. Soon, these words were dropped on my heart: The Child, The Youth and the Country, Nigeria .  As I struggled with this, every bit of sleep departed from my eyes, forcing me to stand up to write down this burden of my heart, which I am quite sure, is also the burden of many well meaning Nigerians.
Since the adoption of May 27 in 1964 as Children’s Day in Nigeria , a theme has always been chosen to guide the mood of each year’s celebrations. For that of last May(2013), the theme was: Let’s Build A Culture Of Peace And Security For The Nigerian Child.’ As little kids, we always looked forward to Children’s Day; long rehearsals (for march past) and other preparations helped to build up excitement as the D-day approached. We were very happy to see the Governor or his representative stand out to take the salute and later make the usually long speech filled with promises just like the manifesto of an uninspiring electoral candidate, which only few bother to hear and understand. Now, after that what next? What bit of good does that do to the Nigerian kid writhing under the biting sun, especially, as virtually all the officer would say would eventually not bring any positive change to his welfare?  
While in secondary school, we also looked forward to when we would gain admission into the institution of higher learning as we happily listened to our uncles and other relations talk about the serene campus environment which encouraged serious efforts at acquiring knowledge, the very serious-minded lecturers who had no patience for students afraid of  hard work, the beautiful, clean refectories they ate in, and, more importantly, the several job opportunities awaiting one once the service year was over – a development on which many families placed the hope of ending or, at least, drastically reducing their sufferings. So we studied hard believing that we would have far better facilities and services at our disposal since our country was growing older and having ‘better’ leaders. But what did we see eventually when we got there? And how was our labour eventually rewarded when we graduated? It is better imagined.
Over the years, Nigerian ‘first ladies’ have made it a culture to establish NGOs to tackle the problems confronting one category of the citizenry or the other. Majority of these NGOs are aimed at the problems of the children and youths of this country. Although one sees them vigorously engaged in one function or the other, raising funds from time to time, fears and speculations are rife that these pet projects are largely self-serving, either targeted at enriching their promoters or giving them some underserved reputation. How far do these NGOs go in addressing the matters they were formed to tackle? What does one eventually find on ground to justify the huge resources deployed to undertake these  pet projects after the tenures of the spouses of these ‘first ladies’ are over and they disappear with their husbands?
Now, there is a federal ministry in-charge of youth affairs which ought to serve as the hub through which all youth-related issues can be actualized. This should give one some cause to relax one’s mind since the implication is that our beloved youths would now have at least one ministry devoted to their welfare.  But then, how can one explain the uncensored infiltration of evil lessons which promote unrestrained immoral and terrible lifestyles into the school curriculum and even the homes through the so called sexuality education, some unhealthy extra curricular activities allowed for school kids, advertisements in the media and billboards suggestive of evil, and other unwholesome programmes on television, home videos, internet, magazines, etc? It is a pity that our norms, values and morals have become a thing of the past.  The ancient landmarks have been removed. 
It is the responsibility of the relevant agencies at the Federal Ministry of Education to  formulate policies for the maintenance of standards to ensure quality education for our children. I learnt that when Nigeria was much younger, foreigners were coming down here to study. Many also came to settle into some gainful employment. And when they fell sick, they got quality medical attention in this country. But, today, the glory has departed. How are the mighty fallen? Today, the table has turned.  Our leaders and the rich now send their children to other lands, some of which at one time or the other depended on Nigeria for assistance. They go over to other countries to receive reliable medical attention. They travel far and wide, yet they pick no challenges to initiate our recovery as a country.  Can we then say, like the Holy Book puts it:  my beloved country has become like an old and foolish king who no more can be admonished?
As I penned this piece, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was yet to call off the strike it embarked upon, and which had lasted for several months. It beat me how two giant elephants, ASUU and the Presidency, could afford to stick to their pride and be fiercely locked in a protracted combat without bothering to care about the survival of the grass under their feet – the hapless Nigerian students whose future was being mortgaged, and, by extension, parents who were dying with anxiety over the fate of their children?  As concerned Nigerians waited with bated breath to see who among the two combatants would bow to the other, how many among them stopped for a moment to consider the enormous cost of their clash of ego and wits?
Now who carefully monitors all the processes of conducting NECO, WAEC, JAMB, and all the post-UTME stuff? What about the indiscriminate sales of scratch cards for every exam? Who regulates them to ensure candidates are not being ripped off? What about the change of course forms, supplementary admissions forms, etc. being freely hawked at our campuses? Why do some universities continue to invite candidates who had entered them as their second choice to pay for and sit for the post-UTME  exams when they had already made up their minds right from the outset not to offer them admission, even if they got the highest scores in the tests? Is this not extortion, obtaining money from these candidates unjustly, if not criminally? I am forced to ask our dear Education Minister: does your ‘area of jurisdiction’ not cover these?
I also ask: what is the present state of the private schools in this country: primary, secondary and tertiary? At some of these places, the future of our children and that of the country are put in the hands of largely unqualified or uncommitted instructors who only succeed in making them worse than themselves. It is also true that many of the lecturers being paraded by these private institutions are fulltime academic staff of the various State and Federal Universities who are merely moonlighti
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