Posted on: 2014-06-26

More prayers for our Chibok girls

“I trusted even when I said, ‘I am sorely afflicted’” (Ps. 116:10); so affirmed David, the psalmist in his moment of distress. But who would blame former President Olusegun Obasanjo who in his characteristic brutal frankness a few days ago expressed doubts about our Chibok girls returning home safely? It takes real courage to say such things at these sore times in the country but, think about it, 70 days have passed since the girls were abducted. Even as we grieve and groan, Boko Haram is threatening to return to the very same community of Chibok for a sad encore. God forbid that happens. David cried out again in his moment of distress, “Awake, O Lord! Why are you asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever” (Ps.44:24). Accordingly, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has called us all to more prayers over the next six months. Hope, says the Bible, does not disappoint us. While individuals keep at fervent prayers the Conference has called on families and parishes in Nigeria to pray for specific intentions during every month until December 2014. Among those intentions are the release of all kidnapped and abducted persons all over Nigeria, the consolation of the families whose members have died in the ongoing violence, the overall restoration of Nigeria and for the promotion of the sanctity of life all over the world.


The Enemy Within

The sad event of the Chibok girls may have been a sudden abduction which caught all Nigerians by surprise but a surreptitious abduction process has been sneaking up on us for years - the crippling of our educational system. It can well be argued that prolonged and incessant strikes and shut-downs in Nigerian educational institutions in recent years really amounts to progressive abduction of the lives and future of the youth. Have all these months of staying away from school and education not stolen the lives of our teeming youths from them and from their families? Federal Polytechnics in the country have been out of session since October 2013. State and Federal Colleges of Education in various places are on strike while there are universities in turmoil for various reasons. Yet Nigeria seems to get on with “more important matters without blushes, at least not over this issue. Marches are still on for the Chibok girls and their stricken families still wail for their children but media attention has begun to wane and public outrage is weakening. It does not help either that Boko Haram has continued to kill almost at will. The unspoken script seems clear, “Nigerians we are in this for a long haul, Nigerians, just better get used to it”. That, in my view is the enemy within and it is the worst kind.


The Deepest Cut

Or is it not? Samuel Smiles once said: “The greatest slave is not he who is ruled by a despot, great though that evil may be, but one who is in the thrall of his own moral ignorance, selfishness and vice”. The deepest cuts in this tragedy are those arising from the insensitivity of immoral and selfish leadership. That is Nigeria’s greatest malaise and it did not begin today. Would the Chibok have gone this same way if daughters of the president governors, and ministers in the nation been involved? Could Federal Polytechnics stay closed for 9 full months if all the children of the high and mighty studied in the same institutions? Could some State Governors continue their political campaigns seeking another term as if their children studied at the educational institutions shut down for months in their domain? This indeed must be the deepest cut, the one inflicted from inside with those paid to provide solutions becoming arrogant masters of their people.


Time to remember

Truly, what keeps politicians in office is the short memory of voters.  Or shall I say, their helplessness? As elections draw near all over the country Nigerian should remember their rulers’ credentials on issues that matter most. Did they provided security of life and property? Did they care about the education of the youth or did they in fact show reckless bravado in the face of chronic crisis in the education sector? Voltaire, the philosopher, did say that it might be dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. For too long our governments have treated matters concerning the education of our youth with levity. Well, government has been wrong on this and it still is, probably more now than ever before. If anything requires immediate, creative and sustained attention at these calamitous times it must be the education of our teeming youth population who, lacking good education is as good as an army-for-hire for terrorism and destitution. Lyndon B. Johnson, former President of the United States of America told a little tale about it. He said: “At the desk where I sit, I have learned one great truth. The answer for all our national problems- the answer for all the problems of the world – comes in a single word. That word is education”. Sharply put indeed, but these are concepts which seem alien to our dear country.


We need other mould of leaders

But perhaps we have been looking the wrong way for the solution to our woes. We really need well-educated leaders who would think differently about education. Another former President of America, John F Kennedy had a lesson to teach our leaders when he said “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource. Acting accordingly is our best strategy to restore and ‘bring back” the Chibok youths left in our homes.