Samuel A. Ogungbemi
It gladdens my heart to felicitate with all the children in the world on this occasion of the 2018 Children’s Day anniversary which comes up on Sunday. Without children, the world is not complete, it will snowball into an unexpected end and more so, the children of today are future leaders of tomorrow.
The popular belief is that children are God’s heritage and a reward from Him. They are likened to arrows in the hands of a warrior. Every parent (nation) whose quiver is full of them is blessed. Parents as well as every nation must acknowledge that children being gifts from God to mankind are for the building of a great nation.
We shall not have the great nation of our dream in this country unless we have a positive change of attitude by investing heavily in the development of children. This is the most appropriate time, more than ever before, for all and sundry i.e. government policy formulators, academicians, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and business barons to deliberately concentrate efforts and resources on holistic moral, academic, medical and social as well as scientific technological development of every child.
We should no longer look down or pay lip service to the issues concerning the development of our children and their welfare. The worth we place on our children determines the kind of investment we place on them.
As stakeholders we are to help our children grow in the fear of God so that they can make Nigeria a great country. We are also to help these children embrace national patriotism by mentoring them to become good citizens for nation building.
Children also have a part to play in making Nigeria great; they should not consider themselves as too young to contribute their own quota to nation building. They should see themselves as leaders of today and not only of tomorrow, in their schools, homes and among their peers. To achieve this, it must start with positive family life education.
Children must learn to show best role model of good leadership. Unfortunately, many members of the political class are not good examples to children on account of their wanton corruption and arrogant display of power.
There should be a well-developed curriculum on good leadership being taught children right from elementary school to higher institution. If this is done and with good motive, there will be a lasting and positive change that will help position children to contribute their quota to nation building.
We must all endeavor to train these children to be both Godly followers and leaders of tomorrow who will boldly stand against injustice, nepotism, tribalism, corruption, wickedness, working against the development of our great nation and her integrity among the comity of nations.In fact, this is the time to re-write the history of our great nation on a platter of gold amidst the comity of nations. All stakeholders in children affairs must take the task of positive re-orientation of our children seriously. Government policies and religious teachings must focus on leading every child to love his country.
Parents, government and religious organizations should rise up to nurture and teach the children to know what it takes to be patriotic children who will grow to be patriotic adults citizens and build a great nation of our dream.
When the righteous or patriotic leaders lead, the masses rejoice, but when the wicked and self-centered political leaders lead, the people grumble and suffer. If children from cradle learn to live righteously through the example of good role models among the adult population, they will definitely grow to become good leaders of our dreams, who will make the nation proud.
The writer of this article, working amidst children has been exposed to some fundamental truths and is burdened to open up in this article. I have been around and intimate with children that I can now tell when their joys are full or depleted. I can tell of their joys and predicaments, even when their voice cannot be heard. And I have come to know that their demands are always not much. Little things make them happy and contented. To them, life is easy, simple and without struggle. They sleep well and worry less. Minor things can also upset them. This is why children are most unlikely to carry placards or organize demonstrations to express their anguish and disappointments: even when they go about dressed in torn garments or rags or depend on foods known to lack some essential nutrients or other dietary supplements.
Sadly, many parents, guardians, leaders and government have either taken their simplicity for granted or have not bothered to understudy them and show them love and care. To a large extent; children have been cut off from some basic human rights. We cannot see much evidence to convince us that our children today are enjoying and benefiting maximally from our democracy.
Hunger, frustration, hatred and anger still grip our land in such strangulating manner that we can only perceive a cloud of hopelessness threatening to crush them and truncate their future. They have been told that they are the leaders of tomorrow and builder of a virile nation, yet there is no evidence of arrangement on ground to equip them for the leadership responsibilities.
The failure and neglect of parents and the nation to accord children their due dignity may cause “the survival of the fittest” mentality to thrive in our land. We may be confronted with a situation where one devours another just to make ends meet or just to survive? If the right steps had been taken, the devastation caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and the barbaric acts of herdsmen would have been averted. We have to come out of our Stone Age mentality and begin to mount the ladder of development.
The responsibility to develop the children rests heavily on the leaders and they must begin to think and plan for them. Many of the leaders today reached their enviable positions because some heroes of our past cleared the path for the coming generation. What obtains now is that the path meant for our children have been abandoned, overgrow with weeds and harbour all manner of beasts and destiny destroyers. Take for example, what has happened to our public schools? How many leaders and comfortable families have their children in public schools? What about the health system? Are our health centres not poorly equipped and understaffed? What about job opportunities, child labour, child trafficking? What about our poor roads claiming the lives of promising children etc? Is inequality or disparity in attention not evident in our society? Did God plan life this way? The age-long axiom that “a hungry man is an angry man” has ever been true. Except the authority heeds the warning and respond accordingly, when the anger of a hungry man is let loose, the terror is always unimaginable.
Therefore, there is no better time than now to begin to reflect on what would become the fate of these children should there not be a positive change. What would become of them should they grow in this harsh environment? How many of them would become true ambassadors of the nation in our nepotistic and corrupt- infested environment? Would they not allow the anger, frustration and hunger drive them into rash actions or rub them of their treasures and opportunities? If we fail to mend the tiny hole today, it may tomorrow turn to a crater that would swallow us up.
May God help us to sufficiently nurture these children to become nation builders rather than nation destroyers?
Ogungbemi, a cleric, writes from Ibadan.