A thought for the children of the North East
AS the elections progress, it is important for Nigerians not to forget the miseries of the weak, helpless and disadvantaged, especially the many tractions of violence in the northeastern region of the country and the predicament of children in that region.
If the Federal Government, the state governments in that zone, public spirited Nigerians and well meaning international bodies do not successfully address the situation of the children, another albatross of socio-economic dimension may well be on the way.
Owing to the ongoing crisis, children, from infants to those of school age, are beginning to witness in frightful clarity the bleakness of their future. Many of these children are orphaned, while some are born in filthy, disease-prone, unhealthy environments, where sanitary facilities (even in their crudest state) are a luxury.
The absence of food, drinking water and adequate healthcare has also compounded their status as displaced persons. But it is not only the children that will lose out; Nigeria, by the way it currently handles the situation befalling the children, will be the ultimate loser.
Unfortunately, the situation on ground points towards that direction because there seems to be no agenda and no programme to rehabilitate these children beyond routine ad hoc responses.
So what is the future for these children? Ordinarily, it is difficult surviving in some places even with parents, let alone when parents are displaced, dead, or missing. The only recollection those children may have of their supposed years of innocence are sordid tales of woes, tragedy, disaster, and ugly images of carnage and death. What is happening now will adversely affect the areas and the children in future.
The future of the state is, therefore, already in peril because, with no or little education, the children have insufficient enablement to survive in a competitive world. Without war, these Nigerian children were already marooned in a terrible socio-economic order that cares less about them. With war, the situation is double jeopardy.
While the incredible benevolence of volunteers who have been giving some hope to these children should be commended, Nigerians must also think out solutions to address this generational shame.
The solutions must take cognizance of the fact that, primarily, the whole idea is to ensure peace, for if peace reigns all other things would fall in place. So, Nigerians must do their utmost to restore peace and normalcy.
Although civil society groups have been encouraging in this regard, more needs to be done, especially from the government angle, where or which political party wins. To this end, as a matter of priority, special attention should be given to children.
By way of social responsibility, all relevant government agencies should embark upon long-term and immediate responses to the plight of these innocent ones. As an immediate response, government should strive to take care of them by providing food, shelter and schools.
In the long-term, government must plan for them, by giving priority to education as one of the most veritable factors that ultimately define Nigeria and facilitate leadership; and the absence of which would retard the country’s progress.
Considering the state of physical abuse and challenge, deprivation, psychological trauma and emotional distress that the children in Nigeria, but especially of the northeast have passed through and are still going through, the situation also calls for a lot of trauma management and counselling services to enable them make the journey back to normal life.
In this regard, there is need for an international campaign for rehabilitation since international bodies have the means and the experience to tackle this kind of situation. But it should not end there and international bodies should not be left alone to carry this burden. The leaders of Nigeria should also play their part.
It is a sad reality that Boko Haram’s momentous damage to the psyche of the nation is suddenly dawning on the elite. Now, upon the unpleasant realisation of this intractable socio-economic crisis, all should wean themselves of the hollow rhetorics and advance plans to concretely address the fundamental issues of displacement and social dislocation, by providing free and qualitative education at basic levels.
For the children of Nigeria especially in the northeast, the future seems very bleak. Elections will soon be over and there will be losers and winners, but the security of the future of Nigeria represented by those children, should be one victory the nation must score.