Home Opinion Again, Nigeria swallows 50 children

Again, Nigeria swallows 50 children


By Niran Adedokun

How could a county lose more than 50 innocent and defenceless children and so easily move on? I mean, it is just about four days now that a suicide bomber marched into the Government Comprehensive School, Potiskum, Yobe State, pretending to be one of the students in the school but only being on a mission to kill and maim.

But the next day, the first citizen stormed the nation’s premium open-air event centre, the Eagle Square in Abuja, to declare his intention to run for a second term in office come February 2015 – three months down the line!

His supporters say there was nothing wrong with the President’s declaration. They argue that the date was already fixed. They also say that incidents bordering on massive loss of lives were becoming too frequent with occasions in which the President had public events planned. The incidents appear orchestrated, and it would send wrong signals to the evil-doers if the President were to give in to the manipulation of the enemies of the nation.

It would be unreasonable to say that they have no point, so I sympathise with them. But then, I also ask, what would have happened if the President had delayed the declaration just for the sake of those innocent children, making the point clear to everyone, including the perceived perpetrators of those evil events. These children who were cut down at the bud, sought nothing more than a bright future, from which the country was sure to benefit. And they deserve a last respect from us.

As a matter of fact, how would sparing us the spectacle of that declaration have impacted negatively on the chances of the President in the election? However, more than all of this, the real issue for me is the failure of Jonathan’s administration to mobilise Nigerians of all shades of opinion to stand behind him in defence of the nation against these criminals.

It however did not go down without the opposition kicking Jonathan. Candidly, I would have been worried if on the day after Jonathan’s declaration, I did not read any statement from the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, describing the event as “mindless”, “insensitive” and “absolutely callous.” But the APC did not disappoint me, it indeed kicked. But that is also history.

However, the loss of these innocent souls did not stop the “APC northern caucus and some elders from the North” from meeting on the possibility of having a consensus presidential candidate on the same Tuesday that Jonathan declared, according to a THISDAY report. The only difference is that this was done out of the view of discerning Nigerians.

By Wednesday morning, the APC thought it was fair time to celebrate with Governor Adams Oshiomhole on the sixth anniversary of his administration. There was hardly any significant name in the APC that did not partake in that elaborate event in Benin, just 48 hours after the massive loss that hit our country!

So, how are our leaders able to move on in spite of the wanton loss of innocent lives in the country? How do politicians divorce themselves from the pervading sense of foreboding hanging over us all? What does the way they move on after the loss of lives, especially tens of children, tell about our humanity as a people?

I think that the Nigerian political elite have failed the people. While we have resigned and accepted the wastage of national resources on their insatiable appetites, the failure to fight the real war portends danger to our national survival. The real war is to protect the future represented by these children who are daily killed and maimed in an irrational war that is entrenched by the failure of government to deploy its coercive power to guarantee public safety.

By the testimony of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State, Monday’s attack was the fifth on schools in the state in a little over 12 months.

Hundreds of boys and girls, enthusiastic about education, killed or taken away in a region where not less than 10 million others are roaming the streets presents a danger even scarier than the extant Boko Haram situation.

Yet, our leaders carry on like all is well. Questions will be asked about why state governors keep schools, which are very soft targets, open when they have not reached an agreement with federal authorities about how to provide adequate security in the schools. They now shut down schools after evils would have visited.

Given the burden of educational disadvantage that the North-East in particular currently suffers, it would sound counterproductive to suggest the closure of all schools in the region until such a time when it becomes manifestly safe, but wouldn’t we rather have these children alive? In any case, it would take years of planning and conscientious execution of that plan to reverse the existing educational disadvantage, one which no one seems prepared for yet.

Authorities in the region appear contended with preserving the status quo than engendering change. For example, just a few days ago, pictures of the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, handing out naira notes to some children surfaced on the Internet. Although there was no explanation for the images, the action came across as the opposite of what a leader, thinking about the future of those children, would encourage.

The Federal Government talks about a Safe School Initiative for the North-East. I believe that the government of the states are involved in this, but if it is taking too long for this initiative to take off, states must find creative ways in which these children could get educated without so much risks to their lives, otherwise, they should shut down the schools until their safety can be guaranteed.

Nigeria’s ruling class does not realise that the way children are treated is a measure of our society’s humanity. Even if they would not offer these children the same level of comfort and care they offer their own children, Nigeria owes them protection from avoidable dangers and the opportunity to attain the best that life can offer.

Without that, we would be nation without a soul. And the political class should make no mistake about it, unless every child gets a fair head start in that, they would be exposing their own children, who they spare nothing to nurture, to a future even more monstrous than what Boko Haram currently presents. The time for that harmonised development plan for the states in the North suggested by Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State is now.

*Adedokun is a Lagos-based public relations practitioner

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