Opinion

CHILDREN’S DAY: A Call For Genuine Commitment

TOMORROW May 27, 2022, marks two yeas after Nigeria celebrated her Children’s Day (May 27, 2020,) amid the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus Pandemic which, no doubt, has posed some degree of devastating effects on the Nigerian children, the country and the global economy at large. All kind appreciation goes to individuals, families, groups, organizations, development partners, institutions, states, the Federal Government and all who worked and still work towards the well-being of our children and also use this medium to call for more collective and advanced commitment in the welfare of our children for the good of our nation and the world at large.

The words of Louise Diamond “ The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children” could serve as a yardstick to evaluate our performance(s) at least since the inception of this democracy as a country. Inasmuch as we annually recognize the day (May 27), what is clearly of more importance and valuable to our children is PROTECTION, commitment to their WELFARE and the entire RIGHTS & not necessarily annual celebration that has, over the years, been enveloped with repeated and unrealistic statements & promises.

One would have thought that the unprecedented economic challenges occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic would have served as key call point for Nigeria and all other African countries to pave way for the implementation of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure result-oriented actions. A time of deepest reflection on the issues affecting the welfare and overall well-being of the Nigerian children.

Now is the time to review our policies and strictly implement all strategies that will be of great good to our children to face the daunting challenges ahead of them. One unfortunate action was the unexpected reduction of Universal Basic Education and Health Fund from N111.7 billion to N51.1billion & Health from N44.4 billion to N25.5 billion naira respectively as contained in the 2020 Revised Budget Proposal that was presented to the National Assembly by the President of Nigeria, Present Muhammadu Buhari. This is in addition to the long existing poor budgetary allocations to education by previous (successive) administrations. With all of these, it appears the journey to achieving quality health and education, a sustainable development by Nigeria is farther than imagined.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 were series of unfavorable projections and reports concerning the Nigerian Child. According to reports of various development partners:  “…. by 2055 the population of children in Africa rises to one billion and one of every 13 child births globally will occur in Nigeria.” Also in a related report, Nigeria accounts  for 20 per cent of all births in Africa and five per cent of global birth. A 2016 report revealed that Nigeria has the largest child brides globally.  The challenge of how to reconcile the current and projected rapid population growth, poor investment in human capital, current rise of insecurity, unemployment, massive economic decline, and the revamping of the economy are the TASKS facing Nigeria that require our patriotic and collective commitment.

In its projection the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa stated that “ 29 million Africans risk being pushed to extreme poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” This we have witnessed, may be a confirmation of the projected loss of job and rise of unemployment (in Nigeria) to 33.5 per cent in 2020 and increase in poverty rate . It is no doubt that we may experience an unprecedented increase of out-of-school children from the current reported number of 13.2 million to a more challenging level considering the wide spread of attacks against our institutions of learning/children. You will agree with me that the need to fundamentally address the concerns of our children, the future of Nigeria is NOW and should be key to us as a nation.

From every indication, the world has moved to place survival in the hands of education, technology & skills so the states and Federal Government must rise, we all must rise today for our today and future. It is high time the state governments, we/all put an END to decades paying of lip service to the affairs of our children and ensure genuine investment in their welfare.

“We cannot ignore our children today and expect a restive youth and crime-free society, or a developed and secure Nigeria tomorrow.” We cannot claim to celebrate those whose rights we have repeatedly failed to protect after decades? How can we claim to love and celebrate those whom our failure to protect has exposed to unprecedented danger and abuse(s)? Those we have long denied of their constitutional rights, benefits and democratic dividends?

We must rise above mere annual celebration of May 27 and pay priority attention to our children, the development and future of Nigeria.

In the words of Frederick Douglass “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This Should bring us to the understanding of the fact that early and strategic investment in our children, basic education and our public institutions today is a fight against poverty, corruption, insecurity, kidnapping, banditry, political violence, illegal migration, violence and unemployment will be of massive interest to our great nation. Looking at the consistent reports of the Global Peace Index and the World Economic Forum, one may proudly affirm that it pays to invest in education and also may not be wrong to say that Nigeria/Africa is yet to realize the economic importance of investment in education but (might have) indirectly invested in ‘insecurity’ through our failure to accord grand attention to our children, decades ago.

No doubt, our inability to invest in quality education, health and welfare of our children in the past has caused the nation and the entire continent her security, development and peace.

Therefore, if we must fight insecurity and poverty, if we must restore peace that will translate to sustainable development of this nation, we must genuinely invest in the education and health of our children today; we must invest massively in human capital development – that is the intervention, the celebration that matters to the Nigerian Child. If we really long to build a “united, strong & self-reliant nation,” we must take the courageous stand to lay the foundation for sustainable development of our great nation.

With the quest for a greater Nigeria in the minds of every patriotic Nigerian, our goals and quest should be to vote for CREDIBLE and VISIONARY leaders irrespective of their political or religious affiliations.

As ‘We cannot ignore our children today and expect a youth restive and crime free society, or a developed Nigeria tomorrow’.

This, indeed, is a decisive decade for Nigeria and Africa at large. We cannot afford to waste it. For the sake of our children, vote credibly.

Happy Children’s Day!

Uchennah sent the piece in via +2349099993144

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