The May 27, 2016 Children’s Day celebration at the Kutchingworo Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in Abuja the Federal Capital Territory was a huge success. Despite the horrors they’ve witnessed in their relatively young lives, the over 1500 kids housed within the confine of this camp were so excited when humanitarian organizations like Dorcas Tabitha, OMEP Abuja Chapter, Save the Child Foundation, Human Relief and Leadership Foundation and most importantly The Paulash Community Development Initiative (PCDI) came together to put up a Children’s Day Party aimed at putting a smile on their faces. As always, I am profoundly honoured to be invited by the tireless, ten women in one Sade Okomayin, president of the PCDI, to participate in this year’s celebration. From all indications the celebration left a positive imprint in the lives of these kids……these kids we often refer to in passing as ‘those other kids’….
One glance at the smiling faces of these kids as they tapped their bare feet on the dusty ground of their camp and swept their hands in the air in joyful dance, one would find it very hard to imagine that these were the same kids who survived untold horror at the hands of the Satanic group Boko Haram. According to NEMA and UNICEF there are at least 2.1 million kids below the ages of 14 living in the various IDP camps scattered across northern Nigeria. This is not mentioning the fact that Nigeria has the highest number of ‘out of school’ kids, ‘child witches’ (those unfortunate souls who are still being maimed and killed in Akwa Ibom State as I type these words), child labourers, street hawker and child brides (a common occurrence in northern Nigeria) in Africa.
The fact that these kids are alive in the first place is a miracle because many of their peers were wiped out along side their families….Mary, a girl of 12, was said have hid herself in the bush in Bauchi State for two days, before trekking from Bauchi to Jos!…her entire family was said to have been wiped out by Boko Haram…..Any child you find in any of the IDP camps in Nigeria today, have horrible tales etched into the very fabrics of their souls, have lost a loved one or even entire family, have survived untold horror, suffering and fear…and continue to face neglect from society…. and the truth is, none of these kids should be living in any of these IPD camps in the first instance…because none of them asked to be born…in fact, many of them were not even conceived by the time the evil called Boko Haram happened on us in this country….
The great literary Icon Chinua Albert Achebe once said the trouble with Nigeria is that of bad leadership…. may I add that the bane of our collective existence as a people is our politicians….they are the ones who set these kids on this pathetic path that has led to these IDP camps and they are the ones who must have a re-think and do all within their power to bring these kids back to the normal life they were used to before Boko Haram displaced them…while they are it trying to resettle these kids, they are the ones who must also see to it that these kids are properly cared for because they are the ones who set Boko Haram loose on us….
the laudable activities of these NGOs with this kids can only achieve little if we must take cognizance of the sheer number of kids who need help in this country… and we must all know that Boko Haram did not happen from the blues… recall that the Babangida and Abacha juntas were associated with terrorist attacks of political opponents through state-sponsored bombing, assassination and arson long before the madness called Boko Haram. The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) was almost killed in 1987 for demanding for the prosecution of the terrorists who killed a prominent journalist, Dele Giwa by a parcel bomb…
If this was the end of the story it would have been ok but today, we continue to see the official manipulation of religion, a thing which commenced under the IBB junta, by various governments and this has continued unabated. Whereas it is stipulated in section 10 of the Constitution that the State shall not adopt any official religion, we have seen the Federal, State and local governments subtly adopting either the Islamic or Christian religions in their various domains. In 1986, IBB surreptitiously registered Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. As if that was not enough, he built a mosque in the Presidential villa and appointed an Imam to man it. Similarly, when OBJ came to power he erected a chapel in the villa and appointed a chaplain to manage it…. In the year 2000 the Sharia Law was introduced in Zamfara state by Governor Sani Yerima. After him, not less than 15 other governors in the North followed suit….even though their action constituted a clear violation of section 10 of the Constitution of the Republic, the OBJ administration decided not to approach the court to test the constitutional validity of the policy…. Believing that Nigeria had become an Islamic state many misguided persons set up private militias to promote the policy of these state governments….there followed violent attacks on Christians while churches were destroyed in many states in the north….as a result, thousands of people were massacred and many more left homeless in ethno-religious clashes….I believe these and many more were the sort of decisions taken either out of omission or commission by government that have nourished the canker warm that is the root cause of terrorism in the country.
In 2011, GEJ set up a Panel of Inquiry headed by Ambassador Usman Galtimari to investigate the insurgency in the north east region. In a painstaking investigation the Panel traced the genesis of Boko Haram and other private militias to politicians who set them up in run-up to elections in the country. According to the Committee; “…the militias were allegedly armed and used extensively as political thugs. After the elections and having achieved their primary purpose, the politicians left the militias to their fate since they could no longer continue funding and keeping them employed. With no visible means of sustenance, some of the militias gravitated toward religious extremism, the type by Mohammed Yussuf…”
Today, I am yet to see any top ranking politician that has been held accountable for this evil even though we know names have been mentioned linking certain people to this evil…today, Boko Haram is responsible for the displacement of countless kids within their own country…I believe it is time for well-meaning Nigerians and especially the government to come together and as a matter of urgency come to the aid of these kids…the good work of NGOs like the PCDI amounts to tiny drops in the ocean…For as long we continue to neglect these kids, even though the government may be priding itself in winning the battle against insurgency, the issue of violence in our country may not go away as no one will be able to predict what path these neglected ‘other’ kids will toe. Take for instance, in a situation where a child is exposed to persistent fear due to frequent attacks and becomes an orphan in the prison-like confines of these IDP camps with little or no care, with little or no support from society and government, the child will be more likely to get angry and depressed. Such a child may develop little or no empathy…and terrorist groups take advantage of such vulnerability in recruiting new and loyal members….
Andrei Lankov once said; “To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.” I have identified with these kids and do not intend to stop doing so. And I congratulate the PCDI and others for recognizing the suffering of these kids and identifying with them as well…they are our children and children everywhere remain the hope of any nation…while also congratulating these NGOs for a successful Children’s Day celebration, I want to bring to mind the statement of Bill Clinton; ‘it will cost less than a dollar to save each Nigerian child ravaged and threatened in the northern part of the country…’
It is up to us as a people to identify with these kids and ask how we can be of help to them because as long as they continue to face neglect…so will their continued suffering remain the shame of our nation……