Where have the parents gone?

Frank Oliseh was the ace broadcaster who expertly
anchored the hit programme, NTA Newsline every
Sunday night in the ‘90s. He would begin each
edition with the all-important question: “The time is
9pm; do you know where your children are?” while
casting a look at his wrist watch. The significance of
that thought-provoking question was for parents to
be there for the children they brought to this world,
as responsible fathers and mothers. It rings truer
today with the prevailing sordid socio-economic
spectrum than it was decades ago, for more
reasons than one.
For instance, as of June 12, 2013, UNICEF ranked
Nigeria as the country with the highest number of
primary-school aged children out of school, with
10.5 million caught in the troubling trap of illiteracy.
That was almost half of the global figure! It is
worrisome that in spite of being an oil-rich nation
enormously blessed with other natural endowments
from huge agricultural potential, solid minerals,
tourism and human resources, Nigeria should post
such parlous figures.
Sadly, the situation is not much better today
because as of May 18, 2014, the UN body also
reiterated the deplorable situation, with Nigeria
accounting for one out of three primary school
children in the world receiving their lessons under
trees! One cannot therefore, but ask the pertinent
questions: Why are these helpless children out of
school, if their parents really cared about their
educational development and ultimately their future?
Why bring them to an increasingly complex world,
where most of those in political power have become
the people’s enemies rather than their leaders?
Does it not amount to sheer wickedness added to
folly that a grown up man would keep breeding more
children than he and his wife could adequately cater
to, erroneously believing that God would send
manna from heaven to feed them?
Worse still, it boggles the mind the odd and
sometimes outrageous things these out-of-school
children engage their time and energy with. Many
have turned themselves into denizens of the street,
caught up in sundry crimes such as stealing, pick-
pocketing, armed robbery and accomplices in gun
running and illicit hard drug trade. Our ever dutiful
policemen paraded some of such miscreants in
states such as Cross River, Oyo and Lagos the past
week on a popular television channel. It was heart-
rending watching some of them confessing to
having been lured to Lagos where they were trained
in shooting of guns, even as a teenager boasted of
the capacity to smoke up to three wraps of Indian
hemp per day! Don’t the mindless men who
introduce such youths to sundry crimes have their
own children? And where have the parents of these
tools of treachery gone?
Only recently too, the Yobe State Police
Commissioner openly lamented that two of the girls
caught as suspected suicide bombers in the state
were under 10 misguided Boko Haram members.
So, where were their parents and those of several
others who had been actively engaged in the killing
spree as members of the extremist religious
fundamentalists when they were being
indoctrinated? The answers are patently obvious.
It all reminds me of my 2003 novel with the working
title, Orphans, but which my publishers based in
Onitsha changed to Orphans with Living Parents
after reading through the manuscript. It focuses on
the ill-fated journey of two young minds, one from a
poor background and the other from a rich home in
their hard drug trade that ends in tragic
consequences. And it is all because their parents
were not there for their proper upbringing.
Similarly, many parents are too busy now chasing
after blood money than to have adequate time for
their children’s welfare. This runs against the grain
of the communal living some of us enjoyed at youth.
Back then, in the sixties, parents spent quality time
with their children. The extended family social
system ensured that children were brought up with
strong moral values inculcated by all adults whether
relatives or not. One could distinguish between what
was right and what was wrong. But the opposite
holds sway these days, as the line of morality has
since thinned out, such that whatever brings instant
fame and fortunes is right!
Another challenge is that whereas government was
there for the citizens as the protective and
providing father figure in the past, all of that is now
history. These days, political power is sought to
serve the self rather than the state. So, what is the
future for our children who now view crime as the
quickest means to survival? And whose parents
cannot categorically tell where they are at 9 pm,
every blessed day?
Oyoze Baje, an author, wrote in from Lagos

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