Exploring Abuja this week brought upon me a strange feeling intensified by a visit to an orphanage. It tugged my empathy towards the dregs of the city seen across every part of the country. Earlier in the year I accompanied a friend to an orphanage in Minna where she showed me how best to mark a birthday with her modest donations. Hers was the gesture that roused me this Tuesday to join the Nigerian author Teresa Ameh for her library donation at Heritage Home Orphanage in Gwarimpa, Abuja.
In an instance where the richest man in Africa is from the poorest region of Nigeria, a show of philanthropy from the Kogi State-born writer of children literature is a call to revisit the impact of institutionalised humanitarian activities. It gets me pondering the paradoxes that make up Nigeria; a country where there are no social welfare services, where there are no birth records of citizens, where there are too many destitute beggars and vagabonds enough to constitute another country, where government doesn’t lose a sleep over our spontaneous rush to destruction…
Listening to the matron of Heritage Home Orphanage, I was shoved by the doom that awaits the orphaned babies if they had not been homed there. Some of them were abandoned at birth while others were put up for sale by their teenage mothers. The matron too exuded her grief in recollecting the case of a baby announced for sale at 200 naira by an underclass mother. Yes, it is not a typo – two hundred naira! And in my circuit round Abuja that evening, memories of the matron’s stories returned on the sights of the beautiful African girls, mostly underage, who lined up to hawk their womanhood on Adetokunbo Ademola crescent that evening. For prostitution and crime, among other debasing incursions, would definitely have been the future of the lucky babies at orphanage if the intervention had not come.
Here we must seek a way to trace the histories of our destitution back to the genesis on the spine of the rhetoric “Why does this rate of destitution exist despite the combined efforts of government, humanitarian organisations and individual philanthropists?” Perhaps we got our priorities wrong. Oh yes, our priorities aren’t actually right. So the genesis of our woes must, like charities, begin at home, with our unthinking fathers and callow, orgasm-seeking teenagers surprised by the wonders of puberty. It’s time to be blunt, beloved colleagues. Now is a time to flog the dead knowledge; this spike between our thighs was not for unplanned reproduction. And the silly ride on quasi-religious extolments to sleep with anything that comes our way, without any protective measure, for whatever reason, needs to be tabooed at once. Dubious thank to the Nigerian Population Commission for its impertinent attempts to declare “Game Over” for the sex-maniacs through the proposed family planning legislation. Dubious not because it’s not the business of a government as ours to tell me the number of children I can nurture, but because our population was rendered useless by the same government.
The ninth wonder begging to be discovered is how a shameless government even finds the moral justification to check overbreeding when it has nothing in place even for optimum population. A government that ripped the nation from top to bottom, carting away the very substrates their subjects ought to live on, the very finances budgeted for development, is surely dancing naked in the market square if it panders that diversionary policy.
The slackened bonds that hold our nationhood together has to start with immediate attention to our destroyed human capital. Our government needs an honest student of history, a political economist, to be reminded that, of the two solutions to overpopulation, the positive and the preventive, proposed by the mischievously frank Englishman, Thomas Robert Malthus, one which belongs in a list he called “positive checks” , a quite disquieting terrorism, has already taken down Nigeria!
Human capital theorists all around the country must step out now to remind the government and the moneyed citizens of the tragedies ahead if they forsake the many homeless and parentless children on the streets. A social welfare system should be set up at once to document births henceforth. And please do not tell me that Nigeria can’t afford this. What an individual politician steals in this paradox of a nation can comfortably cover the cost of studies of a thousand children from the kindergarten to the tertiary level – that’s even mathematical conjecture of a small-time politician’s potentiality. And instead of passing a bill to check population, a corporal punishment on misappropriation of tax-payers’ money is the only way to stop what confuses my ever clueless president. Over to you, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, PhD.
By Gimba Kakanda