Thursday, 25 September 2014

What does the Future Hold for Our Children?

What does the Future Hold for Our Children?
Sam hails from Kaduna state. He was born in the late sixties in Tudun Wada, a suburb in Kaduna. He has lived all his live in that same city. He attended primary school in one of the public LEA schools in that same suburb with children from different backgrounds. The area was quite cosmopolitan in nature and all peoples lived together in good neighbourliness. His closest friend in school was Hussaini, from a Muslim home; with whom they would alternately attend Islamic Religious Knowledge and Christian Religious Knowledge classes together, Sam being from a Christian home. It was not a consciously agreed arrangement except for the fact that they both enjoyed each other’s company and would rather not split when it was time for the two religious instruction classes which took place separately. This friendship of theirs and the manner in which they attended each other’s classes were not special or unique to the two of them, for there were many other children in the school who had the same relationship as they. They simply saw each other as human beings and friends and regarded their respective religions and ethnicity as nothing other than mere differences occasioned nature’s chance arrangement – if there is anything as chance in nature.
At home also, Sam, as well as other children, lived and played with children from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. They played street football together. They played all manner of childish pranks and mischief together. Among his many non-Christian friends was Mamuda. During Christmas, Mamuda and other Muslim kids would follow Sam to the local parish for the midnight Mass, after which they would move from house to house gaily dancing and singing with drums till day break in celebration of the feast of Christmas. Sam and other non-Muslim kids also followed Mamuda and other Muslim children to the local Islamiyya every other day. One of the reasons was probably that the children did not want to have fun at play without their peers who had to be at the Islamiyya because their parents rightly wanted them to get sound moral upbringing in the faith, so they accompanied them and, afterwards, they all went to play football or whatever fun activity they laid their hand on for that evening together. Infact Sam, a Christian, learnt how to recite the Suratul Fatiha and other basic teachings his friends learnt at that time. In all of these, the children’s respective parents never minded; they were happy to see their kids play together and were only too eager to correct them all together should the falter, even if it meant disciplining with some lashes of the cane. All children belonged to all parents, irrespective of tribe and religion.
The above account looks like some exercise in romanticism but all children who had a childhood in a northern Nigerian town like Kaduna before sometime in the late eighties into the a bit of the early nineties recognize this environment, and I bet, with a lot of nostalgia in view of the hell that has unabatedly become of our society. Unbeknownst to these children and most of their parents, while they were busy being children and having innocent fun and simple pleasures, some people with dubious agenda were busy plotting mischief: some of which they – these plotters – probably never envisaged the ultimate impact. All they cared about was the immediate gratification. Some of them actually had grander sinister motives and ambitions for which they were ready to sacrifice the futures of those innocents of yesteryears without batting an eye.
So much has happened, unfortunately for the worst, and today Sam lives in the southern part of the city of Kaduna, just as many others like him have relocated to the northern part, all along ethno-religious lines. Sam would think twice before venturing into areas of his childhood for fear of the unforeseen in spite of fond memories which he still treasures inside of him and ditto for other children like him who are on the “other” side. But that is not probably the worst even. Sam has a family now with two beautiful children. While he is occasionally able to talk with Mamuda and Hussaini, who also have their respective families, on phone or when they chance into each other, their children do not know each other. Sam’s children attend some privately owned school that is basically Christian in character – of course due to the area in which they live and also for the fact that public school system has totally collapsed and no serious parents would risk sending their children there. He also hopes to send them to some missionary run secondary school in the near future.
The implication of this is that Sam’s children have probably never met a Muslim child much less befriend one. They perhaps only hear that some people are Muslim only from textbooks, and God only knows how else with whatever colourations and misinformation. Chances are that they will never get close to any until they get into the university, and with the way the public universities are today, many parents already prefer to send their children to private ones and with the many faith-based run universities, they may never have that rainbow opportunity until full adulthood when they must meet them in the larger society. The trajectory is the same for Hussaini and Mamuda’s children. The question is: how will these children’s Nigeria pan out?
The fact is that even with some lingering memories of a rainbow Nigeria, this country is already messed up as it is; what with the wanton killings and maiming along sectarian lines. Every Nigerian is defined in terms of which side he comes from. And all of these owe to the failure of the past, with injustice and impunity running in endless circle. The northern Nigerian society is the worst hit in this tragedy and as it stands no one is ready to listen to anybody because there is a serious dearth of courage to confront Truth. The level of social, economic, structural and legal injustice is enormous and it has destroyed and is still destroying our society. What we have failed to realize is the fact that, as Martin Luther King Jnr once said, injustice anywhere in the world affects everyone everywhere. While we sit idly by in our little perceived comfort zones without doing anything to address these injustices that seem to affect others, we wallow in self deceit as it they are inching in on and will surely catch up with us. The Boko Haram demon that is now tormenting us from left, right and centre started and many of us did not do anything, believing that it is “their” problem, or probably even secretly happy that the demon is here to deal with “them”. Well, now we know better.
This generation of Nigerians must stand up for posterity. We must do something to redeem the future for our children else our memory will forever remain an anathema in their hearts. We must rebuild the broken bridges. We must decide that every Nigerian is equal before the law. We must accept that everybody is indeed a human being created in the image and the like of God the almighty. This is the only way by which we can avert the impending doom that awaits our children.

Published on The Nigerian Newsday, April 27, 2014

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