The Nigerian child is under intense siege. We live in a country that is at war with her own future, her own precious children.
In the last 2 weeks, I have been on 2 of the leading national television stations, namely, Channels TV and TVC to discuss UNICEF’s reports on Malnutrition and Maternal and Child Health. I have opined in both programs that the state of the Nigerian child today is a clear demonstration of the failure of the state to live up to its primary responsibilities under its social contract with the people. These primary responsibilities are spelt our in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria thus, ‘the security and welfare of the shall be the primary purpose of government.’
MALNUTRITION AND THE NIGERIAN CHILD According to a joint report of the Federal Government and UNICEF, released in August, 2015, approximately 1.7 million under-five children are acutely malnourished. The figure accounts for 10 percent of the global malnutrition population. The report further revealed that NEARLY A THOUSAND NIGERIAN CHILDREN DIE OF MALNUTRITION-RELATED CAUSES EVERYDAY, a total of 361,000 children each year, noting that 90 percent of childhood diseases occur because of malnutrition.
MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH
According to a report by UNICEF, ‘EVERY SINGLE DAY, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
According to UNICEF, Boko Haram uprooted 500,000 children in the last 5 months, bringing the total number of children on the run in the northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries to 1.4 million.
According to the 2013 UNESCO report, approximately 10.5 million school age children are out of school. The nation holds the world record of having the highest number of its young people out of school.
I do not think there has been another time in our history that the Nigerian child has faced this kind of awful neglect and seemingly insurmountable abandonment.
The question is who are the children under siege? I do not think these are the children of the upper crust members of the society. I think these are the children of the poor, the hewers of wood and drawers of water, the children of ‘the wretched of the earth,’ as Fanon would refer to them. These are the children of the hoi polloi, the forgotten ‘citizens’ of a typical Third World nation like Nigeria.
As I write today, I have mixed feelings. I feed sad that we shed the blood of our FUTURE, our most precious children. On the other hand I feel hopeful that the new government in power will extend its ‘change’ agenda to our precious children. Whether I am right or wrong in my optimism, the next 4 years will tell.
I have written this sober piece today to enlist you as the voice of the voiceless Nigerian child. I charge you to begin to hold government accountable according to your areas of influence and expertise in the areas identified above and more. Let us make it a point of duty to compare notes in the next 4 years. There can’t be any onlooker in this matter. According to Fanon, ‘every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor.’ If we do not speak up for the child today, we betray his trust, destiny and above all, our conscience. We simply forgot that these abandoned children will make this country insecure and ungovernable for our protected children today and tomorrow. According to Martin Luther King Jnr, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We forget that a nation, which shed the blood of its own future will be judged, because the blood of the innocent will cry out for justice and when judgment comes, every onlookers shall be judged as collaborators because silence means consent to the shedding of the blood of our precious.
I think I should sign out here with the instructive words of Nelson Mandela that ‘there is no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.’ It therefore means if we are serious about CHANGE as a people and government, it must begin with the way we treat our precious children and how we respond rapidly to the dire state of the Nigerian child today.
I am Taiwo Akinlami and I am sober on my knees on this LORD’S Day.