2017/18 AND THE NIGERIAN CHILD: INVITATION TO THE PREACHER’S SOBERING REFLECTIONS

It is the eve of the New Year and I am compelled to do brief reflections on my work with children and their caregivers in Nigeria. 

Permit me to submit that I am signing out of the year 2017 on a sober note. By the grace of God, I make bold to say that we covered some grounds this year but my soberness today is that there are much more grounds to be covered as it relates the children’s Rights and Responsibilities, CARE and Protection, Childhood Preservation and Family Strengthening
In my article, written to mark Nigeria’s 57th flag Independence, published in the Vanguard newspaper on September 30, 2017, I submitted as follows:
‘How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when as it is today the families, community and state are yet to accept that abject poverty is the greatest threat to the protection of our precious children and have no concrete plan for SOCIAL PROTECTION, which ILO began to propounded since 2014 as the number solution to seemingly insurmountable inequality in our world today, particularly as it affects our precious children?’
I concluded that piece on the following sobering note,  ‘hmmm, how…how…how? I don’t seem to wrap my mind round rolling out the drums but to call for deliberate actions aimed at ending the sufferings of our precious Nigerian children and END VIOLENCE AGAINST THEM in THEIR BEST INTEREST and the PRESERVATION of our PRESENT and FUTURE of our great nation.’
As we sign out of 2017, the situation has not changed. 
Let me dwell on education as a an example of one of the challenges that the precious Nigerian children face. 
It is no longer news that Nigeria has the largest number of children out of School in the world, put by President Muhammad Buhari to be 13.2. Majority of those who are in school are not receiving relevant education, capable of  helping them to be useful in the labour market. As a matter of fact, the educational sector, both private and public is in dire crisis as it is not regulated and lacks uniformity in curriculum, training of educators, remuneration of educators, conducive 

learning environment and learning aids. 
We just seem to have accepted as normal the fact that pre primary, primary and secondary education are in the hands of the private sector. There are over 18,000 private schools in Lagos State where I live, competing with 1,700 public schools. Many parents are under extreme pressure today to send their children to school. Those, whose parents struggle to send to schools today can be said to have conditional access to education. These children are often sent out of school because of the inability of the parents to meet up with the obligation of paying school fees. 
My father was middle level staff at the defunct National Bank of Nigeria (NBN) and my mother was a petty trader in Erekesan market in Ado Ekiti, where I grew up. My education was never a social and economic burden for them. I often say to people that I was public child. I went to public primary and secondary schools and public University. I enjoyed the Free Education program of the UPN. My school fees per session in Lagos State University was N90(ninety) Naira. That is same LASU that the fees went as high as 250,000 about 15 years after my graduation from the higher institution. 
The story of today’s parents is different. I am conscious of the fact that we should encourage parents to only bring to this world children they have the social and economic capacity to look after. Yes, but who should propopse and enforce that? It is still the State, like nations like China has done. 
It is important to note that millions of Children in the North-East Nigeria are orphaned and unaccompanied in IDP camps. Many are denied of food and heath facilitates. The Boko Haram crisis has make that part of the country difficult for children to live in. We hear about the N1 Billion daily that the government of the day plans to spend on fighting Boko Haram but we do not hear about what is to be spent to rehabilitate these precious but poor children, whose only sin is that they were born in Nigeria.
Few years ago I had shouting march at with a director of Child Development from one of the states of Nigeria at conference on the issue of Child Labour. The director wanted us to address the issue of Child Labour without addressing the issue of poverty of the parents, who sent their children on the streets. The director didn’t want to accept any culpability on the part of the Nigerian State. Obviously, the director was not aware or pretended not to be aware of the position of International Labour Organization(ILO) since 2014 or thereabouts that Social Protection must be pursued as the leading solution to fruitfully tackling Child Labour globally. I ended my contribution by asking just one question: how many of those who were in the conference, considering their obvious comfortable or average state in life would send their children to the streets to engage in Child Labour?  
I was at a press conference few years back where a top state government functionary was announcing the program of the state government against child abuse. After unfolding the beautiful program, I asked just one question. I referred to densely populated and poor areas of the state, where abuses are more rampant and asked, if is not possible for people to give what they do not have, how do parents, whose entire existence is abuse rise up to protect their children from abuse. 
The challenge we face today is that we live in a state without respect for dignity of human person. How does that state respect the rights of children and create a conducive environment for their peaceful development? 
Here is my final submission, I have never been a rabble rouser and I do not intend to become one in the years ahead. I am not a critic or an enemy of the state. I only preach the Gospel for the protection of the precious Nigerian Child. 
Having been in the trenches since 1997, I understand the difference between short-term and long-term interventions. The short-term interventions must never be an end but a means to an end, the end being  long -term interventions, which aim is to create a conducive and structured environment for the Total Childhood Management and Child Development. The long-term interventions must have their eyes on holding government accountable to the responsibilities of the WELFARE and the SECURITY of the citizens under the Social Contract and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 
Empowerment of parents and other caregivers is as far as I could concerned part of short-term interventions, if the goal is to encourage parents and other caregivers to carry on without the support of the state in their children protection and development efforts. Until the goal of an empowerment efforts of parents and other caregivers goes beyond the foregoing and extends to mobilising  them to hold government accountable for their WELFARE and SECURITY, which has great impact on their social and financial ability to provide the best of care for the precious children, such empowerment efforts will not bring lasting relief nor be part of strategies for long-term interventions. Above all, such efforts will represent nothing but impotent tokenism. 
Also, providing individual support through personal efforts and institutional support through NGOs, FBOs and CBOs for indigent, abused and neglected children must be encouraged and applauded as short-term interventions. But beyond providing material and intellectual support directly to children and their primary and secondary caregivers, initiators of the foregoing efforts must be interested in a more permanent solutions of engaging the State and her apparatus by playing the roles of regulatory bodies, who provide enabling environment for child protection and development by developing systems, policies and regulations. To act as if the state does not exist or does not have a social contact with the people will amount to noting but excusing the state and embracing tokensim. 
The challenge with tokenism is that it is often not sustainable. Where it is sustainable, it does not provide solutions to the majority and the solutions tokenism provide for the minority is often weak in quality. Tokenism is often built around people, whose greatest asset is passion and not a system. Above all, tokenism makes heroes of the initiators at the expense of the people, whose cause and interests they claim to represent. Their social and economic conditions get better while the situation of the people do not experience tangible and enduring change. 
Yes, family is the number one ring of protection and it must be strengthened and I do a lot of that. But it will amount to tokenism ending the intervention there, without identifying the other three rings of protection and the inevitablity of their roles in protecting the child. The other three rings are the community, state and international community. It is globally settled that these three rings have a primary responsibility to empower the family to effectively play the role of protection.
In 2018, TA Academy will continue her empowerment programs but she will more than ever before pay attention to helping primary and secondary caregivers to understand the roles of the state and her functionaries in child protection and how to hold them accountable. 
We will focus a lot on working with like-minded individuals and organisations to  peacefully and respectfully engage the State and her apparatus, bringing credible suggestions for Systems and Policies for the protection of our precious children. We will not delude ourselves to think and submit to primary and secondary caregivers that that all they need to raise their children is personal determination and motivation. We will acknowledge the laudable roles of foregoing but we must move beyond same. 
I see an interesting but challenging year ahead for the precious Nigerian Children, their primary and secondary caregivers and those who defend their right. 
I really hope that 2018 will help us to evolve a conversation that will lay a solid and inevitable foundation for the narrative of what it takes to raise happy and balanced children through the instrumentality of child protection.
I may not today have enough tangible reasons to with the precious Nigerian Children Happy New Year, but I wish them an INSPIRED New Year.
I am Taiwo AKINLAMI and I am Sober on my Knees on the New Year’s Eve…
Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE™

(C) 2017 by Taiwo ‘ODINAKACHUWU’ AKINLAMI (The Preacher) All Rights Reserved T: 2348033620843, 08056979605 W: http://www.taiwoakinlami.com B: http://www.taiwoakinlamiblog.com T: @taiwoakinlami

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A NATION OR A JUNGLE: THE LAMENTATIONS OF THE PREACHER (2)

I, The Preacher live in some level of comfort and has made some friends in high places in his country and beyond her shores. The Preacher runs organisations, respected locally and internationally in his chosen field of endeavour, where by God’s grace, he is a leading light and a pioneer, with many well sought-after products and programs, making disciples of children, young people, men and women from all walks of life in their thousands and owing no man nothing but LOVE.  

The Preacher stands before the kings in his industry and beyond, The Preacher being a king himself, a co-creator in the industry, where he plays today. Having risen from abject poverty and abused childhood to a level of comfort and transformed adulthood, The Preacher represents an emerging true story of grass to grace. The Preacher lives in his ‘palace,’ in a highbrow area of the city and his office is located in the area too, where he operates like a Local Government Chairman, providing electricity, water, security, other social amenities at very prohibitive cost with his fellow well-to-do inhabitants, often referred to as residents.  
By the grace of God his organisations give some support to some indigent children and their caregivers to deplete the number of 10.5 million Nigerian child shut out of school, engage in pro bono legal and social services to indigent Nigerians, irrespective of their tribe and religious affiliation, borrow what we can afford to those who seek to borrow from us and gives gifts, according to our ability. 
The summation of The Preacher’s life today is that he lives does not live a life of just-enough. Knowing that the life of a man does not consist in the abundance of his possession, The Preacher lives in contentment and aspires for greater level of relevance, not for the purpose of satisfying stomach infrastructure as that has not been an issue in the last ten years, but for the purpose of being a blessing to the humanity around him and beyond. 
Despite all that I, The Preacher has enumerated above, the more I discover the infinite nature of the potentials, deposited in me by the Creator in His unfathomable magnanimity, the more I discover that Nigeria as it is deliberately structured today does not have what it takes in terms social, economic and political infrastructure to help The Preacher give unfettered expression to his highest aspirations first as a citizen and second as a conscious soul. I daresay that as it is with The Preacher, so it is with every conscious citizens in this clime today. 
This discovery of The Preacher as explained above imposes a heavy burden of concern, first for him and his children and millions of other so-called citizens, who do not have the kind of opportunities open to The Preacher and exposure thereof and are therefore forgotten as aliens and pariahs in their own native land. 
While The Preacher and his family may think of changing their location to developed climes of the world or go there from time to time and find better expressions to his true potential and legitimately too, but that is not the case for the majority of our people, who live and die in pitiable, yet avoidable instalments in their own land. 
Clear to the mind of The Preacher is the fact that one rich man or woman in the midst of legions of poor people is himself, a poor man or woman. Real wealth is democratised wealth, which opens majority of the members of society to access to basic needs of life like shelter, food, health, education, social security, work etc. The real wealth is called Social Protection, which root is found in the fundamental human rights of every citizen and respect for same first by the state, laying good example for other members of society to follow. 
To this heavy burden there are many options, the first, which may be in the best interest of self-preservation is to supress the burden, look another way and pretend everything is normal and continue to life in an unusual manner. The second is to book one way ticket and check out like Andrew, either to launch a social media attack from there or rest in your mind in false peace. The third is to become a spectator of those, who dare to engage the system, coming to them in the night like Nicodemus, who came to Jesus in the night, assuring them of your support, but stand fully aloof, passive and unconcerned during the day. The fourth one is to become disgruntled and angry and begin to launch virulent attack on the system and her representatives under the delusion that anger is a tool of social change, agonising instead of organising and encouraging so much motion without movement. The fifth is to ride on the success of the last, which secures the attention of the system, you may begin to trade your burden for the fleeting pleasure of Naira and Kobo. 
The sixth is that you may join the league of those who seek to seize the reins of power, without asking the critical question of how does your victory alleviate the suffering of the people, forgetting that seizing power is one thing and securing the services of altruistic members of society, who have the capacity to serve the people is another. The seventh is that you may embrace patience, anchored on social and political maturity, sit down with the drawing board, with like minds, designing credible and tested alternatives to all that you have observed to be wrong with the society, place it on the fulcrum of a social, economic and political ideology, peculiar to the people, their yearnings, hopes and aspiration and begin a long-term and peaceful mobilization along the lines of the articulated alternatives and ideology. 
The goal of the last option is to involve the majority or a tangible number of the people in their own emancipation. History has shown that the best of transformation, which answers to sustainability happens when the people are deliberately involved in the process, seeing same evolving from them as inevitable part and being in control of same. 
I, The Preacher gravitates toward the last. Permit me to end my lamentations here today.  This continues another day with the ‘THERE IS SOMETHING IN ME’ phrase, which The Preacher abandoned today to lay out his motive for his lamentations. 
Do have an INSPIRED weekend. 
I am Taiwo ‘ODINAKACHUWU’ AKINLAMI (The Preacher) T: 2348033620843, 08056979605 E: principal@taiwoakinlami.com W: http://www.taiwoakinlami.com B: http://www.taiwoakinlamiblog.com T: @taiwoakinlami  IG: @taiwoakinlami

​A NATION OR A JUNGLE: THE LAMENTATIONS OF THE PREACHER (1)

I, The Preacher, I am conscious fellow…I mean I am socially and politically conscious and concerned…

There something in me that does not accept the debilitating poverty to which the mass of our people are subjected to today, simply by the reason of their citizenship…
There something in me that does not want to celebrate pockets of so-called achievements of individuals and organizations in Nigeria, which does not in any way translate into lifting the majority of our people from the doldrums of social inequalities and abject poverty…
There is something in me that does not want accept any more, the impotent mantra of the practitioners, sponsors and protagonists of motivational speaking that it does not matter your Social background and economic environment you can make it, forgetting that your social background and economic environment has unusual impact on you. Please how does the foregoing mantra help 10.5 million Nigerian children, who are excluded from access to schools, except to agitate for their inclusion by all means necessary?
The most celebrated motivational speakers are not from Africa…They are from developed countries, particularly America. As a matter of fact, motivational speaking as we know it in Nigeria today is largely influenced by America. America is a developed country where the state and its government have taken appreciable responsibility for the personal development of their people and have put in place working system and structures to bring their yearnings, hopes and aspirations of the people to fruition…For example, America is called the land of opportunities, where people are empowered to live in pursuit of personal and general happiness. In America, social consciousness is encouraged to create Public Will for people-oriented causes. 
I therefore think that it is an unforgivable fallacy for us to situate and transplant everything the American or European motivational speaker is saying to Africa and Nigeria without considering the context in which he is saying it, the people to whom he is saying he is saying it and our own peculiar context here and the state of our people here. It is important to note that when the American motivational speaker speaks or writes, he/she does not cite African examples or use African personae or places. This may be a clue that it is not everything he or she is saying that is meant for us. Since it is the responsibility of those who receive information to process it, the motivational speaker from a developed clime cannot be held responsible for our inability or refusal as Africans to understand that principles may be a universal commodity but for its application to answer the requirement of wisdom, it must respect the peculiarities of the space and the people, where the principles are to be applied…
It has been said that there is no motivational that can make a carpenter to perform surgery…This example means motivation is beyond telling people that determination is all they need to achieve their dreams, where they are able to dream. For a dream to become a reality, there must be articulated and tested process, sustained by an operational systems. In the case of the dream of a citizen of a country, these process and operational systems must be encouraged, created or support by the state and her government…
Let me declare unequivocally that when you live in a state like Nigeria, where the State as represented by successive governments has refused to pay ACTUAL NOTICE to the hopes, yearning and aspiration of the people, it is not enough to dream and hope to see the dream come to reality like in other climes, where the state and her government pays ACTUAL NOTICE. In Africa, the state pays what I call MENTAL NOTICE to the aspirations of her people. To pay MENTAL NOTICE is to be aware somewhere in the forgotten region of your mind that you govern a people, for whom you are responsible for their WELFARE and SECURITY. To pay ACTUAL NOTICE is to think ahead of the needs and threats to the citizens and make adequate preparations to meet those needs and mitigate or obliterate those threats well before they arise…
Let me say at this point that any attempt to claim that we want to motivate the people in the Third World or Africa to achieve their dreams, without addressing the uncivilized and abandoned social, political and economic state of our continents and her peoples WILL NOT WORK…At least alluding to it or mentioning it may be the beginning of introducing the people to a conversation we need to have in Nigeria. 
I even consider it, a game of deception and at highest level of candour, a fraud of a massive magnitude, to which the judgment of history will be justifiably scathing. If we continue this way, what we will continue to see is people paying in cash and kind for the programs and events of the motivational speaker without too obvious and enduring results. On the other hand the life of the motivational speaker gets better. 
Despite our massive consumption of motivational materials, the candid question is how many world-class home-grown global brands do we have in Nigeria with our so-called wealth of wisdom. The book that I read says, wisdom is known by her children. Our greatest contributions to the global economy till today is still CONSUMPTION, pure and simple. 
It is my persuasion that it is impossible for an average Nigerian, whose all of his hopes are in this country to find full expression for their God-ordained potentials to achieve same. 
There is something in me that rejects a concoction of motivational capsules, (which has no respect for a people’s social realities) built on expiring anaesthetic of false hope of a utopian Eldorado, which when it wears out as it surely does(from time to time) puts the people in the worse state than when they received it. 
The lamentations continue another day because there is something in me that has finally rejected SILENCE as a tool of self-preservation. 
There is something in me saying it is time to start meaningful conversations, aimed at creatively engaging all of us and the system, which seek to divert our attention from the reals issues to shadow chasing. 
We cannot continue invest the best of our mental and financial resources into finding the cure of ringworm when festering and contagious leprosy is left to hold uninterrupted sway, eating off every part of the body, and rendering same useless to the owner and his/her neighbours, who may soon, very soon suffer same fate, to the detriment of the larger society. 
Do have an INSPIRED day. 
I am Taiwo ‘ODINAKACHUWU’ AKINLAMI (The Preacher) 

T: 2348033620843, 08056979605 E: principal@taiwoakinlami.com W: http://www.taiwoakinlami.com B: http://www.taiwoakinlamiblog.com T: @taiwoakinlami 

IG: @taiwoakinlami