Dateline was Tuesday, January 12, 2016. I was driving through Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria when I spotted a book of interest to me in the hands of a book hawker in traffic.
I bought the book. Thereafter I requested for the number of the male book hawker, who I have now christened Citizen Stephen. I informed him I would like to call to place orders for books as I need them. A simple request or so I thought became a tale of woes…What woes? The common woes of being a hewer of woods and drawers of water in the Third World.
Citizen Stephen told me ‘I do not have a phone’…He said, though he believed that a phone was important to his business but he had more pressing needs. Citizen Stephen has six children, who cannot find a space in the 1,700 public schools in Lagos State…He has to register them in private schools…If he didn’t make that move, his children would have been part of the 10.5 million children, who are out of school in Nigeria. I hope we know that according to UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EAGMR), Nigeria holds the world record of having the highest number of its young people out of school.
Citizen Stephen again told me that his landlord just increased his monthly rent from N3,000 to N5,000 and was demanding six months rent advance. With this increment and demand for advance payment of rent, he was afraid he would not be in position to pay his Children’s school fees this term.
Oh, I know what you are thinking…He should have embraced family planning. He should have considered his social standing before embarking on the project of begetting many children…I hear you…
But, I think it is the responsibility of the State to help citizens and families like Citizen Stephen to plan their lives and families, according to bigger plan and projections of the State for their welfare and security. This must be so because of their level of education and exposure as the masses. China is an example in this regards.
I call him Stephen today, because he and others like him are the real martyrs(yet unsung) of the Third World System, which has no respect for the dignity of human person…They are the ‘wretched of the earth,’ in the words of Franz Fanon…They are the ugly and devastating dividends of the mismanagement of our commonwealth of human and materials resources…
To call them citizens is a blatant injustice to the meaning of citizenship…In fact it is to do so much violence to the meaning of citizenship.
I commit this twin-crime of injustice and violence today deliberately for two reasons: First as protest against the system, that we have lost our sense of meaning and only make mockery of global concept by our social practices…The responsibility of government to citizens under the social contract to citizens is security and welfare…When the people do not have access to welfare and security, they are not citizens. They are simply victims of the state and its handlers to live up to the basic reasons for founding the state.
Take it from me friends, Third World, particularly African countries have no citizens. The only citizens they have are small men and women, who have seized the reins of power and only make provisions for their own welfare and security…The victims of they state are treated worse than dogs as they are not even allowed to see, not to talk of eating the crumbs from the table of the citizens.
I was saddened and burned by the story of Citizen Stephen. I am not sad for him, his family and their dehumanization. I am most importantly sad for our humanity as a people…I am sad for the enthronement of an unending circle of poverty by the State…I am sad that Citizen Stephen and his family may never fulfil their God-ordained mandate of dignified living, having being denied of the basics of life, shelter, food, healthcare and education. These are known as economic rights. Most importantly, I am saddened by the fact that the suffering of Citizen Stephen and his family, which the State has successfully built formidable and intimidating structures and systems around to continue in perpetuity is all man-made. Ghandi says, God made enough for our needs and not for our greed.’ It is my view that every human need is traceable to human greed.
I handed Citizen Stephen the much I could, after payment for the book I bought from him. I promised to get back to him. I decided many years ago not to just complain but do something. I really plan to do under our Adopt-A-Family Education Fund(AE-FUND).
It is a fund you are invited to be part of. If you are interested, I will send to you, on your request the synopsis of the FUND.
I must not end this piece today without placing on record my most profound gratitude to my wife, Oluwafunilayo AKINLAMI, who has supported the fund in no small way; my friend and sister, Lara OMIDIRAN for her financial support and Carley College, Ikeja, Lagos, who gave us a scholarship through secondary school. I am most profoundly grateful.
I think I must rest my case here, soberly on my knees on this LORD’S DAY. Do have an INSPIRED week.