by Patrick Oguejiofor
I am yet to get over my emotions over the butchery of estimated 59 pupils of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State, North-East Nigeria. The mass execution is a not just a tragedy of immense proportion but an abomination of the highest order- the kind the Bible spoke about. The Bible warns that when you see the abomination of desolation, those who read should understand. I can hear the screaming voices of those kids as I write these lines. I see them locked up in their hostel and the buildings robotically set on fire by the incarnate of Satan, King of Hell. I see their struggle to get educated in orders to free themselves from the evil of religious extremism intermingled with their struggle to escape from the inferno that eventually ended their brief lives. The scene is still vivid in my imagination, haunting and heart-wrenching. I still see the accursed mowing down those who managed to escape from slaughter! The atrocity is unpardonable and nothing can ever blot it out from my memory. No kind of sacrifice can ever propitiate for the profanity.
I see the kids going down with their dreams of becoming engineers, doctors, lawyers, and permanent secretaries! But this is not the time to lament! We must clean our tears and take a look at our past, examine our present and then approach our future. We must find out where the rains started beating us. This is the time to ask hard questions. Where did these demons come from? Who created them? Was it God that made them in His own image? Or did we create them ourselves?
The other day, shortly after the Yobe calamity, I was listening to a popular radio programme, Political Platform on Ray Power FM. Mustapha Mohammed, one of the anchors of this programme was so angry with the massacre that he wanted to know what the army has been doing with the billions of Naira being pumped into security to enable them secure our country. Mustapha Mohammed is not alone in blaming the military for allegedly not doing enough to defeat the fanatics. But would Mohammed and his likes realize that the military has sacrificed so much including hundreds and of their men killed and maimed in the course of searching for the medicinal leaf to deal with the cancerous ailment threading to destroy our land?
Long before the insurgency started, the north-east region of Nigerian was reputed to be housing some of the largest out of school children. Tragically, the heinous activities of the satanic sect equally led to the destruction of hundreds of schools leading to over 15,000 pupils dropping out of school in Borno and Yobe states alone. Let us remember that 40 percent of our children in Nigeria are out of schools. Let us also remember that most of these children are in the northern part of the country the scene of these regular carnages! If we agree with the hypothesis that there is a significant relationship between terrorism and out of school children it means that the insurgency will not end soon. It is not surprising that Pakistan and Afghanistan which has a large percent of out of school children are facing the problems of religious extremism and terrorism. According to the Society forthe Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) about one fourth of the 19.5 million children in Pakistan aged five to 9 were out of school. Any wonder why that country is today a haven for terrorists and religious extremists. Sadly, the UNESCO rates Nigeria as having the most children without school. Not surprisingly, most of these children live in the far north.
These out of school children are eventually pushed into religious schools were they are indoctrinated with teachings of hate for people who do not share the same faith with them.
The Child Right Act which Nigeria adopted in 2003 could have solved the problem of religious intolerance and terrorism ten years after it was passed but this was not to be for the usual Nigerian problems. To begin with, although the Act was passed at the Federal level, it was not effective in the northern states where politicians vehemently refused signing it into law. Although the CRA of 2003 may not solve all the problems of insurgency in Nigeria, it has laudable provisions which if implemented would ensure that children will no longer be available for negative religious indoctrination. Above all, it places responsibility on parents to ensure they send their children to school or face jail terms. Put otherwise, the Child Right Act simply criminalized Irresponsible parenthood!
Religious and cultural factors have been cited for the failure to domesticate the Child Right Act of 2003 in some northern states. Religious misinterpretation is a key issue here. I do not see how the Child Right Act would harm any cultural value or religion for that mater. Besides, why won’t we discountenance any cultural or religious practice that promotes intolerance? Any religion, no matter how old could always be adopted to fit into our time and situations. What matters most is to ensure the moral value of such faith or culture is preserved. Let us remember that the primary purpose of the Child Right Act was to eradicate such negative culture that denies our children access to free and compulsory basic education.
Add the failure to domesticate the Child Right Act and the destruction of schools by the insurgents; you will understand why we are really in trouble and why our tribulations will not end soon. People accept religious teachings on emotional grounds rather than logical argument. The same politicians who deny children access to free and compulsory basic education are the ones turning to blame the army for failing to curb the insurgency. Failure to domesticate the Child Right Act in some northern states is, in my views, largely responsible for the breeding of religious extremists who are bent on crushing our rich religious, cultural and multi-ethnic diversity as well as our democracy.
We must pay tribute to the fallen children of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi. They are heroes. They died for their dreams. We must not allow their dreams to die with them else their untimely demise will be vain. We must honour their memories. The best way to do this is to domesticate the Child Right Act in every state of Nigeria. May their innocent souls rest in peace.
Patrick Tagbo Oguejiofor is the Vice Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Abuja Chapter. He is the author of Sin of the Father.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.