New Telegraph

Where have the parents gone?

“Education is our children’s passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it, today” – Malcolm-X

Having spent 69 years on Planet Earth, one cannot but be grateful to God, the all-powerful Creator for His limitless mercies, love, grace and favour, especially when one still enjoys sound health against all odds. The pain, however, stems from the current state of the nation, especially with preventable mass poverty, hunger in the land and youth unemployment that has spiralled into sundry crimes, in the midst of abundant God-given resources.

One is seriously disturbed by the news headlines which are scary, literally screaming blood and getting more heart-rending by the day. For instance, recently, residents of an estate in Abuja panicked as 40 suspected ‘Yahoo boys’ all dressed in white stormed the place for their nocturnal meeting. That same week, a young man was paraded in Delta State, after he was apprehended with human faeces by a vigilante group in the area, which they observed that he ate from time to time. Reprehensible, isn’t it? Not long after, one Afeez Olalere, a 32-yearold suspected ‘Yahoo boy’, confessed to killing his younger brother with the support of his mother, for money rituals!

He was arrested by operatives of the Lagos State Police Command during a stop-and-search operation along Itamaga, Ikorodu Road, in Lagos State. What do we make of this horrendous tale of the inhuman kind? But there was more to come. Early in this same February, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ogun State, Abimbola Oyeyemi paraded four youngsters suspected to have killed Sofiat, a girlfriend to Soliu, one of them for ritual purposes.

The boys, aged 17 to 20, were discovered by a community security guard who saw them burning the head of the girl! He, in turn, then informed the police at Adatan Station, who swooped on the boys. What a generation of blood-thirsty criminals, driven only by the Machiavellian doctrine of the end justifying the means.

It all reminds one of ‘Get Rich Quick, or Die Trying’, a 2005 American hip-hop crime-drama film starring rapper 50-Cent in his feature film acting debut. Years before then, precisely in 1992 the first mainstream movie on Nigerian home video ‘Living in Bondage’ shook the nation’s socio-economic spectrum.

The movie tells the riveting story of the occult world and the story of ritual killings. As of this day the news media is awash, virtually on a daily basis, with stories of varying grades of cybercrime, advance fee fraud, internet fraud and 419 as grand deception. Others include scam emails and those on false marriage proposals to foreigners. With the greatly misguided Nigerian youth as the hungry flies caught in the well-woven cobweb of money answering all questions, there is cause for serious concern.

And they lead us to the burning questions. How did we get here-to this depth of moral depravity as a people? What factors fuel the passion for sundry crimes? What are the most sustainable solutions to clipping the wanton wings of the vampire bats chasing the shadows of get-rich-quick by all foul means? How do we get the younger generation of Nigerians to follow the natural principles of sowing seeds with the sweat of hard work, weeding off the thistles and thorns, waiting patiently for them to flower and flourish and eventually reaping the fruits when they are ripe and juicy? That was how life panned out when one was growing up as a youngster. That was back in the rural and largely agrarian, idyllic setting of Oboroke-Ihima town in the then Kabba Province of Northern Region of Nigeria, from the mid’50s up to mid ‘60s.

With a deep sense of nostalgia one recollects that the moral standard was high, facilitated by a people-oriented leadership structure. The citizens valued the family’s ‘good name’ and did everything humanly possible to protect it. Our parents were there for us; to inculcate in the children the virtues of hard work, humility, self-discipline, respect for elders and creativity. With the communal living matrix of ‘one for all and all for one’, we ate food from the calabash bowls of love for family and neighbours. Such was the level of discipline that we were corrected from wrong doing not only by our parents but older members of the extended family, who saw us as one. Crimes were therefore few and far between. In fact, there were thoroughbred herbalists and traditionalists who could identify thieves with their unfailing investigative tools.

The perpetrators were brought to speedy justice, as the law had no respect for people or places, or the sentiment of social status. That was apart from protecting our rich culture through festivals and the creative programmes of clothweaving, weaving of baskets, mats, communal cultivation of farmlands and sharing of the bumper harvests. Besides all these, there was great respect for the sanctity of human life. From the family unit through the education and religious institutions nothing was spared to ensure that the life of every villager counted. Even as the feats of achievers were celebrated so was the probing of the sources of anyone boasting of sudden wealth. But what do we have these days? Some teenagers who suddenly appear with fanciful cars and mansions are celebrated by those who should question their sources of sudden riches! The million-naira question therefore, is to ask if the ritualists, the kidnappers, the armed robbers, the bandits, the members of Boko Haram and other groups of insurgents do not come from some homes? Where are their fathers and mothers? Who is feeding them with food and arming them with weapons of war? Why are they having a field day when the primary duty of those in different arms of government is to protect their lives and property? The way forward is for every citizen to understand that sound and solid education begins from the home front. But unfortunately, the family unit has broken down. Back in the ‘80s Frank Olize who anchored the hugely popular ‘NTA Newsline’ on Sundays would look at his watch and ask: “The time is 9 pm, do you know where your children are?” How many parents of today can answer that all-important question? Do the parents know what manner of hard drugs their children consume, when, where and with whom? How many parents of the 13.2 million school-aged Nigerian children currently out-of-school can tell us if they know where they are, what they feed on, what they do during the day, or where they sleep at night, if they do? The current spate of sundry crimes by the youth can also be traced to the dysfunctional political structure that makes our ministers and law makers some of the highest paid political appointees in the world? They, their family members, cronies and hero-worshippers show off wanton wealth to satisfy their epicurean tastes, stirring up mass anger and disenchantment. This is therefore the right time to use the Root Cause Analytical Approach (RCAA) to stem the waves of crimes involving our rudderless youth. Only then shall we understand that the solution is predicated on sound moral education foundation right from the family unit. We need solid education delivery in schools and sustainable education policies by the government that place great emphasis on the significance of the protection of human life of others, just as we value ours.

Baje writes from Lagos

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