"It is 9 o'clock, do you know where your children are?" Frank Olizeh, popular retired NTA anchorman
My working title for this week's admonition to beloved Nigerians ordinarily was 'The Nigerian Child', sadly as I reflected I found it difficult to even define the term anymore, just like the 'Nigerian Dream', a lot of things seems to be eroding Nigeria, I guess the only thing remaining probably is the Nigerian spirit, the resilience and the myth.
So I deviate from all the politics, the PDP, APC, Boko Haram, amnesty or no amnesty, to ask you, to ask us, do we know where our kids are right now? Simply answered, some of us would say, the sitting room, in the parlor, bedroom, children's room, and all sorts of rooms. They could be at the neighbors, or holidaying with big aunty, uncle, grandma or pa...for those with the reserves the children could be vacating not necessarily holidaying--a lot would understand my drift, as these days, while children of the masses manage a holiday, 'their' kids do vacation.
In the next few paragraphs I will tell quite a lot of us where our children are, while they are right under our noses, they have gone far away...today that Nigerian child can barely speak his local dialect, unless he lives in the suburb where English is restricted to pidgin, that Nigerian child is divided by those that never will get the Montessori education because they have to make do with the now non-existent local government education authority education where Maths is taught in yoruba for better understanding.
That Nigerian child is the very shadow of his/her parents today--they cannot recite the National Anthem, or Pledge, they are experts at foreign nursery rhymes that depict heroes alien to us, so much that our own heroes and their labour are fast disappearing. The other kids that can manage to recite it, simply mock it..."I pledge to serve my country is not by force..."
Where is your child now, do you recall when this phrase was popular--'kneel down, close your eyes, and hands up' or 'pick a pin', when we were given a whole exercise book to fill up with the sentence, ' I promise not to...(depending on whatever crime committed). We have come to refer to it as the good old days, yes the days of Onward exercise book, and the 2x2 timetable at the back, and I recall the years of waiting before one would wear his/ her first trouser/skirt to school because you were now a senior.
We folded our textbooks with used newspapers and calendars and a whole family used one particular 'understanding mathematics' textbook and after six years, it was still crisp clean. So what happened to that Nigerian child, he/she now if they must write on exercise books, had to use the one with the picture of Didier Drogba, Messi or Chelsea, we call it globalization, but really what is global about your child that cannot write a narrative essay of how his/her last holiday was spent.
Where is your child, he/she is preparing for one of the reality television shows, rather than read, as google everyday is taking the place of group study. Our kids no longer do the sesame street educative viewing, it's now children of 'Ben 10 and Penguins of Madagascar, why not Eagles of Nigeria at least.
That Nigerian child has stopped to recite the states and their capitals, my son knows more about Abraham Lincoln, George Washington than he does of Awolowo or Ahmadu Bello, and doesn't understand why Nnamdi Azikwe, is called Zik of Africa.
We are so concerned about the future that we are hardly paying attention to today. Our children do not really do the good old arts and home economics or agriculture, what we have is a mockery by Tom, Dick and Harry Private Schools littered all over the place. Where is our children, the ones that can run during the inter-house school's competition, the ones that would play the principal's cup?
We have and keeping raising shopping mall and ice cream children, while 10 million other children of school-going age are watching. Where are you kids, in some private school, but we simply forget that in some states teachers have been perpetually on strike, so for a minute reflect, where are those children going to...?
When last did you hear the phrase..."panel of judges, co-debators, guests and friends...I am here to tell you that PDP and APC are the problem of Nigeria...". No, on the contrary we are only treated to the once a year school ritual of prize giving for children that we really do not know where they are. So why express surprise at the quality of debate and intellect on display on the floor of the National Assembly.
A lot has and keeps changing but should our value system been thrown away because we are evolving, because suddenly a 6year old has a phone and the only form of flogging he gets is for his parents to say "Bankole you are grounded...". Just like Alamaeisgha of Bayelsa has been grounded, we spare the rod, we spoil the children and we are upset that Jonathan has spared the rod, like we are not the same parents that instruct teachers not to exercise corporal punishment on our children.
So you think you know where your children are, do these children of yours ever read the newspapers, certainly no--we are protecting them from the nuisance we adults have become, but sadly apart from those fantasy novels read by seeking young adolescents preparing for college, when last did you see a kiddo reading a James Hardley Chase, on the contrary, we watch Harry Porter with them.
Maybe in those days of yore we were too scared of our father, or too close to our mom, but someone tell me what was wrong with it, that we changed all so soon, to this point where we are loosing our children, loosing our innocence to an age of black and white berries, face and back books, iPads and all sorts of pads.
Where is your daughter, I hear you say she's by my side, tell us the truth, is that not because it is one of those rare days. We have practically raised house help/domestic staff children because we are busy stealing, sorry I meant looking for money. So these days, the young girls cannot boil hot water, fastfood children and the boys are not different, get a bulb on by the switch and he says, "I am not sure I know how it's done".
These days we talk so much politics, but how about our homes, that Nigerian child that is taught to lie his father, and learns about abortion from the mother. The stark reality stares us in the face, by 2030 what kind of Nigerians would we have, after we have bought examination questions for them, when they have seen us live extremely far above our earnings.
Let me not bore us, but I will end with this story, my first year on secondary were eventful, I could possibly write a book on it, but very few events strike me like...Papa Stella, Stella, Aliyu and the rest of us. On that fateful day, we were not only scared but in a state of 'what could have happened'...when we saw Papa Stella in school.
After a four-a-side which included Stella, her dad, our class teacher and principal. Later in the day, we by chance were informed that Aliyu's father would be in school the next day. No one dare missed school, one could feel the tension everywhere, even our seniors in school were not aware of what had happened.
The following day, Aliyu's mother was in school before a lot f us, Infact I recall I forget my 10k pocket money in a hurry not to miss the cinema that was to unfold. And alas on the assembly ground were almost 1500 of us, the principal, vice, head teachers, Papa Stella and Aliyu's mother. Our principal then climbed the podium, after all the rituals, and prayers, announcements.
The part we were all waiting for, and did I add, you too reading must have been waiting for. The Principal bellowed in his baritone voice..."Aliyu had told Stella he loved her, and when Stella got home she was in tears..." nothing more than that. We were all between ages 11-14 in Form One then.
Aliyu was given 6 strokes of the cane, and suspended from school for a week, for telling Stella that he loved her. Nothing more than that, Aliyu's mom accepted the punishment, we were given a sermon, everyone shuddered, don't ask me when I finally had the courage to tell my own Stella I loved her or when many a Stella stopped crying, so what changed, so again, I ask, where is your son/daughter, it is past 9.00pm, only time will tell.