In Nigeria of today, myriads of intractable problems ravage the society. They include internal crises, insecurity, child slavery, brain-drain, cultism, rape, hunger, kidnapping, lust, armed robbery, youth restiveness, prostitution, homosexuality, unemployment, corruption, poverty, disease, currency
devaluation, inflation etc. Of all these and other societal malaise, the commonest killers are hunger, poverty and disease. The Nigerian child, to say the least, is the most vulnerable.
Hunger, according to the Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English, is the desire or need for food. Food, no doubt is one of the physiological needs of man. Though the Bible made us know that man shall not live by bread alone, food is a conditio-sine-qua-non for life and healthy existence. But oftentimes, this food is unavailable or scarce. Land tenure system in Nigeria has scuttled or sabotaged all efforts geared towards mechanized agriculture which is a sure bet to surplus food. Besides, the get-rich–quick attitude of Nigerians, has led to the abandonment of agriculture which is the greatest employer of Nigerians to the aged and uneducated who still use archaic and out-dated farm methods, equipment and tools.
In this kind of hopeless situation, the Nigerian child becomes a waif (homeless person) in the bid to get body and soul together. The Nigerian child becomes a house-boy, maid-servant, slave, armed robber, street beggar, hemp-smoker, prostitute, kidnapper or cultist. As a matter of fact, hunger has disorganised many Nigerian homes, families and children.
Aristotle the Greek Philosopher postulated that poverty is the parent of crime and revolution. Poverty, on its own, does not treat anybody, family or situation it visits with kid-gloves. Prison sentence by a court of law is only but a caution and restriction of one’s freedom of movement, the worst type of prison is poverty”.
God, in his infinite wisdom blessed Nigeria with many natural endowments. But incidentally, those at the helm of affairs in the country mismanaged the resources thus causing abject poverty in the land. The Nigerian child, because of poverty, is deprived of the good things of life namely quality education and medication, good health, security, shelter, among others. Crimes are the ugly dividends and by-products of this deprivation as the Nigerian child wants to survive. The Nigerian child wants to be a parent, owner of buildings, cars. In fact, he .wants to belong properly in the society. But then, could it be true that poverty is the weakest defence of integrity.
Child mortality in Nigeria is high. Death in Nigeria is mostly caused by diseases. Typhoid, malaria, yellow fever among others are caused by bacteria and water borne diseases. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the latest of all the death agents besides Ebola Virus Disease. Poverty, unemployment and hunger have lured many Nigerian children into prostitution or child slavery. Unemployment has prodded many girls into accepting to be sex-slaves, sex mistresses and sex girls (sales girls or ladies) to some “Damaging Directors” nay Managing Directors in some private business enterprises thus exposed to veneral diseases and AIDS. Some of these extra-marital affairs result in contraction of diseases, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, marriage break ups, divorce etc.
The problem of the Nigerian child should give every right thinking Nigerian sleepless nights. There is no gain-saying the fact that if the Nigerian child who is the father of tomorrow’s man is in jeopardy, Nigeria by implication is in trouble. Parents should help the Nigerian child via good parenthood. These problems should be tackled head on right from the home. Parents should not abdicate their responsibilities to their children to the wicked environment. Maid servants in various homes have become parents of the Nigerian child as real parents junket the whole place in the struggle to make ends meet. Government should at the same time play its own role properly. The primus inter pares task of parents is to guide, direct, control and provide for their children. The children on their part, should at the same time be helpful to themselves and their plights.
As remedy to this situation of the Nigerian child, efforts should be made at massive and aggressive food production which mechanized agriculture no doubt has the answer. Agriculture should be given priority attention by all and sundry. Perhaps the necessity of food has warranted King Henry IV of France to say, “I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he is unable to have a chicken in his pot every Sunday”. In the words of Booker Taliafero Washington, “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling the field as in writing a poem”. What this means is for the Government of Nigeria to give farming and farmers their rightful place in the society.
However, it is only when farming truly becomes mechanized and a profession that wealth would be found in it. In the developed societies, farmers are wealthy as everybody depends on their production for existence. Nigerians should not be an exception. Above all, they are employers of labour besides wealth-creators. This special position keeps farmers kilometers or miles away from poverty. The lackadaisical attitude of Nigerian youths towards embracing farming as a profession is a “borrowed–culture” from the Government. Instead, youths look for white collar-jobs which are unavailable. Idleness and restiveness among our youths should be checked through agriculture. A situation where there are more hotels, beer parlours, pool betting centres, casinos, native wine drinking joints and film centres than libraries, factories, palm and banana plantation and farm settlements have shown the direction of the country in few years time. Worse still, the rate at which Nigerian youths have turned into mobile sales dancers for herbal drug sellers because of unemployment is alarming. This is a disheartening development and wrong type of empowerment. Every Nigerian should always remember that his chickens are not safe when his neighbours are hungry. It requires wisdom to understand wisdom and the music is nothing if the audience is deaf. Quo Vadis (Where are You Going) Nigeria?
Parents and governments should partner in the rescue mission of the Nigerian child situation and predicament. That the Nigerian child is ravaged by hunger, poverty and disease is not an exaggeration. Health is wealth, is a wise saying and to corroborate this claim, Government should move in the right direction. To ensure that free health care is affordable and necessary for the Nigerian child is a task that must be done. There is need to have sensitization unit in our health ministries to propel the campaign for children to be taken to hospital or health centres whenever they are ill. Schools should have dispensing units while community hospital, should be established.
Finally, it is a collective responsibility of all to see that hunger, poverty and disease are eradicated from the society particularly on the side of the Nigerian child.