By Moshood Adebayo
as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate the International Elder’s Abuse Awareness Day, Executive Director, Senior Citizens Care Foundation (SCCF), Mr. Jide Taiwo, has lamented the plights of the aged in the country:
“The plight of the elderly in Nigeria is pathetic, we must do something about it, both as individuals, groups and governments. We must not only stop our scornful approach, but stop exposing them to death as we currently do in Nigeria.”
He said almost 57 years after Nigeria’s independence, there is still no enacted law or government policy for them in the country. While calling on the National Assembly to enact a law to protect the interest of the elderly, he recalled that in 2008, when a bill on the elderly was sponsored, it was thrown out at first reading, adding that it was a great disservice to them and to the country:
“It was an attempt to have a national policy for the elderly in Nigeria. It was thrown out at the House of Representatives, during the speakership of Dimeji Bankole. It is not something that has to do with the rich elderly people or the less-privileged elderly people, it is a policy for senior citizens.
“There are ministries for youths, there are ministries for women, but there is no agency for the elderly in Nigeria that sees to the interest of the elderly. Instead, issues that have to do with the elderly are placed under youths and sports ministries. This is not too good for our parents.” He canvassed the establishment of an agency by state governments to handle affairs of the elderly in their respective states.While describing as worthy of emulation and commendation, the establishment of an agency for the physically challenged persons by the Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, he urged him and other state governors to create an agency for the elderly:
“It is so pathetic and so painful to see how most of these old people that have served the nation or served various companies while they were active, were being treated on retirement.
“Our governments need to pay more attention to the plights of our aged if the country is to achieve greatness, we can’t be treating them the way we are doing and expect the country to progress. A child who abandons any of his parents at old age rarely sees the favour of God.
“The elderly are the custodians of our culture and traditions, if anything goes wrong in the society, the first question we ask as Africans is where are the elders? How much are we giving back to these elders? How much are we particular about the welfare of the elderly people? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.
Taiwo said the beautiful part of it is that old age is just a grace from God, not every person that prays to be old gets to that stage: “It is not something you can buy with money, it is only something you can attain through the grace of God.
“So it is a blessing on its own and one of the values we have as Africans is our culture and traditions.
“But gradually we are losing our culture and tradition because the elderly that are meant to pass it to the younger generation are dying untimely.”
In 2008, the foundation conducted a research, which revealed that every minute in Nigeria senior citizens are lost to poor medical attention: “I am of the opinion that these people might have lived longer if only they had the opportunity of accessing right medical services.”
He cautioned youths against perceiving the elderly as witches and wizards, saying longevity has its own challenges: “There are some sicknesses and challenges which are attached to old age, one is Alzheimer, loss of memory.
“We have seen issues whereby an old man or woman would leave where he is being taken care of, maybe his house or his children’s house and he would never return because he lost memory of where he is coming from. Such a man or woman would be found on the streets wandering, people would think he or she is a wizard or witch.
“Wehave seen a situation whereby an elderly woman would be saying something she has not done because she has lost her memory and they would think she is a witch and they would stone her to death. This is what the society needs to frown at and we need to create more awareness.
“Today, there is no law that protects the interest of the elderly single-handedly. There are laws that protect them as citizens of Nigeria; there are laws that protect maybe female amongst them, as citizens of Nigeria, but there is no law, no policy for the elderly in Nigeria.”
The United Nations set aside June 15 of every year as International Elder’s Abuse Awareness Day to create awareness for the challenges of old people. SCCF was established 13 years ago, with Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), as its current chairman.