By Abdu Abdullahi
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass
What is it again that borders on the terrible situation in the North? Indeed, there is another sad news filtering the air affecting Northern Nigeria!
It is bad news only if it is accorded the prominence it deserves by all and sundry. It is not news to be ignored and rendered prosaic by people of conscience and Pan Northerners alike.
It is sending a pathetic story of how our children, the leaders of tomorrow, are growing without developing. It is warning us seriously that we are getting prepared for more troubles ahead!!
Are we so adamant that we are only afraid of the sudden emergence and consequences of insurgency and banditry that we are not scared of not developing our children so that they will not be another generation of bandits and insurgents? Are we so much lukewarm in behavior and vision that we dispel the factors responsible for our insecurity predicament?
Undoubtedly, children are huge human resources and assets for tapping to be good ambassadors of bright future and societal rehabilitation.
Make no mistake about it; they are like building blocks for constructing a befitting house. Children are remarkable blessings bestowed on us to raise and sustain our human values and essences.
Against the forgone therefore, we are collectively saddled with the basic responsibilities of ensuring not only the growth of our children but also oversee their positive development. Thus, it is imperative here to distinguish between growth and development. While growth refers to increase in physical size, development denotes a process of gradual transformation. Accordingly, growth and development ought to be simultaneously interwoven for our desired aspirations as well as yearnings to be actualised. To build a strong and viable world and life for our children, we must remain focused on their developmental process.
This is because development, unlike growth, is functional, qualitative, organisational as well as life long activity that culminates in a blissful living.
Contextually and clearly, the North’s numerous children are the main theme of this piece. How do they fare? Are they developing or only growing? If they are only growing, what will be their future and the fate of the region they represent? Who is responsible for their development?
You can ask as many questions as possible as long as your thoughts on our children remain constant, firm and mind-boggling.
For the sake of clarification, a worthy attempt shall be deployed to get the authentic concept of the term child, from which children are derived.
According to the UNICEF, ‘a child is any human being below the age of eighteen years.’ With this, we are now rest assured of the class of human beings we are discussing. More importantly, we are looking into ‘Northern children’ in which it is hoped that at the end of the presentation, significant lessons will evolve for necessary actions and adjustments to save their living and the next generation.
But at this point, it is fundamental to make some striking revelations on the reality of our children with a view to proffering solutions.
In the year 2018, the UNICEF released the findings of a research on Nigeria’s out-of-school children. At that time, the North carried 69 per cent of the nation’s out-of-school children. The report further revealed that Bauchi had the highest number of 1.1 out-of-school children, followed by Katsina with 781,500.
In the same vein, it was reported that in the year 2013, some 15 million children were working in agriculture, as domestic servants, hawkers and beggars. As a result of lingering insurgency in the Northeast, more than one million children have fled their homes for safety. And there is a dangerous implication for the Muslim North because another research conducted showed that children make up 45 per cent of the Muslim population in any country!
Undoubtedly, many of us must have encountered one research or the other on the unfortunate and backward state of our children.
Also, for the full comprehension of the term children, the point of reference is not in anyway related to the children of the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie or the middle class members, for they are socially secured and enjoy realistic progress. The definitive term is mainly correlating to the children of the masses, the bulk of our population.
What type of children do you often come across hawking even at the risk of their lives, running mindlessly at traffic points to sell drinking water and collect just ordinary N10 from passengers in moving vehicles?
In major towns of the North, this singular and unpleasant experience will lead you to understand that our common children are being neglected and are grossly underdeveloped and by and large, the regional development is also adversely affected.
From the Muslims’ point of view, there is the erroneous construction of a point that we are vast in population, including the vastness of our children. But Sheikh Ibrahim Khaliel at one time debunked this pride in population. According to him and of course he was right, we can only be proud of our great number only if we are developing and not growing.
It is with a great sense of concern to the discerning minds that if we ignore the potential dangers our underdeveloped children portend to the North and its development, we ought to spend sleepless nights that we are producing the next generation that lacks intellectual development, creedal development, devotional development, behavioural development, skills development and so on and so forth. Evidently, most of our children do not attend school to learn skills that will prepare them for future living. They are left to cater for themselves engaging in hazardously petty trading. This is in complete disregard to the teaching of Islam that the child is entitled to shelter, maintenance, health care, proper education, religious training and right to financial security. Also in the Charter of the United Nations, article 3 emphasises that the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration. Although the Almajiris among them are regarded as learners in the Islamic perspective, the fact remains that their supposed learning is thwarted by lack of economic support as in the past.
Dwelling deep into the predicament of our children in the North will expose the parents as the primary culprits of their social abuse and bondage. In one of his noble teachings, the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW) admonished us that each one of us is a Shepherd and will be questioned regarding his flock.
Therefore, the trouble with our underdeveloped Northern children is primarily culled from parental negligence. But that should not mislead us to exonerate other societal institutions from lifting and sharing the same blames of parents.
Accordingly, there is bad news for the society at large. If the members of the well-to-do cadre think that they have no social and moral obligation to uplift those children of immense talents and whose parents cannot further shoulder the responsibility of their advanced education, then eventually, the wealthy shall become targets of criminal attacks of the same children they once denied financial support to cushion the adverse effects of backwardness and the government will have to employ more security personnel, procure more sophisticated weapons to cleanse the society of the same ‘rotten eggs’ that were once neglected and despised.
The case of rampant kidnapping
is one good example in which the kidnappers are from the masses and their victims are members of the upper social classes. But is it not an exercise in futility that we abandon building strong children and finally resort to repairing broken men?
Today’s bandits, insurgents and kidnappers were at one time children.
Interestingly, none of them have their parental origin from the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie as well as the middle class. They were the unfortunate children of the masses years back. Now they are grown up men we cannot tame the wildernesses within them. As children, they were obviously not rendered the mandatory training they deserved for their overall development.
Sadly, they only had to undergo the process of growth.
Based on the above revelations on the hopeless condition of our children, it will be a great service to the North in particular and humanity in general that we are today living in terms of great technological changes for development. Technology is now a friend to all and must be fully utilized to save our children the danger of being the next set of insurgents or bandits or kidnappers.
Apart from entrenching parental responsibilities, the government should enforce educational policies to make education cheap and very conducive to the children of the poor. Where necessary, the wealthy in our midst must lift the burden of ameliorating the financial demands of the poor where it is vital, especially in areas of education and economic empowerment.
Our concerted failure to address the regrettable and dangerous state of our children will be another bomb blast for Arewa. We cannot fold our arms to see the underdevelopment of our children when other regions’ children are passing through the process of rapid advancement.
We should not continue deceiving ourselves in the belief of growing children who will be potential voters in the next few months or years to exert political supremacy through massive votes.
The unfortunate case of the Buhari Presidency is a typical example of how our votes were counted to produce a president from the North, but ironically his home state is the worst hit by insecurity.
Today’s bandits, insurgents, kidnappers and drug addicts among others were yesterday’s children of the North. Now that they are adult and we did not care for their development, they grew up to be not only broken but brutish men.
Whatever efforts we exert we can never repair them! They are becoming Emperors trying to sack everlasting peace.
In other words, they now determine our period of peace and our period of horrors. Even if children are not properly catered for by their parents that should not make us forget about their problems entirely because they are very prone to dangerous activities that can destabilize our region as we are currently experiencing.
From this analysis, what is left for the people of conscience in the North is to converge together and map out strategies for developing today’s Northern children so that we should not breed another class of agents of insecurity and merchants of social decadence.
Abdullahi wrote in from Galadanci Quarters, Ringim, Jigawa State and can be reached through: email@example.com or 07036207998.