By: Adamu Usman Garko
I weep in profusion whenever I see children roaming the streets with growling stomachs. First thing in the morning you would see them rising up from their sleeping on road pavements and from underneath traders’ tables and parked and abandoned vehicles. They sleep on no bed, no mattress, not even a torn mat for their smarting backs and sides, and nothing to cover their bodies even in the chilling harmattan nights of Northern Nigeria.
And when they wake up, they wake up with neither a dream nor hope for their future. They live in the present and could never conceive of a future for themselves because they are made to live by chance; they are conditioned to welcome everything and anything that comes their way no matter its eventual effect on them.
They do not have specific places to get food: they walk from house to house in search of leftover food or anything that can mitigate their hunger. And if they cannot get anything after much shadow chasing, they sleep under the sun, awaiting nothing, awaiting whatever the callous Nigerian streets could offer them. Walking through the streets you would see them sleeping the sleep of forced submission, not that they are tired and needed to rest, but they are frustrated because of hunger and pains of tough living.
Sometimes they may get themselves engaged in backbreaking jobs in order to get something to eat. But there are always the fact that their hunger had weakened them to such extent that they have no strength to do the work again. In such a circumstance, they die of hunger or hunger related afflictions. Amidst this, some of them might have also chosen to become world wise and resort to engaging themselves in dirty and illegal acts to state their earnest hunger. A hungry person is capable of any evil.
Where do these children come from? They are no strangers among us, they are the consequences of the current predicament our country Nigeria finds herself: problems of insurgency and insecurity which have become very rampant and rife. It has caused the death of many parents, thereby making their children to become orphans. It is mostly children who find themselves in this type of predicament and have to flee from their homes in the trouble zones for their lives.
Most often those children who fled away to God knew where found themselves in places where they know no one, places where they have to stand on their own. They could also include children whose parents are not dead, but have to flee along with both parents of theirs in different directions when their villages are attacked by insurgents and ended up in different places.
There was a day I was talking with a good friend of mine on this Issue, he told me how he once interacted with one of those children. The child narrated to him how his parents were killed before his very eyes and how he was ordered to run away as fast as he could. Since then the child has been on the run fending for himself the best way his deprived circumstances would allow him.
The boy appeared to my friend as being very intelligent. But then in his present condition, his intelligence is likely to suffer and depreciate since intelligence like other innate endowments needs a complementary environment to nurture it. Therefore these children are in dire need of people’s guidance and support to become great, and find the potentials in them.
It is with this in mind that it become imperative that we should reach out to a cross section of people to come to the aid of these poor victims of societal miscalculations. Those who are well to do in the society should endeavor to adopt these children with sole purpose of nurturing them to fulfilment with their wealth. If you are rich and have a noble heart your wealth can actually change these children’s lives; you can create a conducive environment for their well-being today and their success in the future.
Those who are not rich also are not left behind. The educated ones and the skilled ones among us can likewise share with them our gifts and endowments. What you need do is just to create time for them, to teach them about life, about the need to be resilient enough to rise above their tribulations, with practical examples from the biographies of great people who had strived to lead successful lives in various aspects of human endeavors and had succeeded after the enormity of their failures.
Likewise, those who are farmers have their own part to play. At least there is no part of Nigeria where we don’t have farmers. Noble hearted farmers can donate farm products to them to help them out of the constant hunger. They can also employ them and pay them maximally for their labour and at the same time teach them the rudimentary of farming. We must know that whatever we do for these children is being done at the same time for ourselves as members of the same community.
Writers likewise are not left out of this very essential charity. We can help these children with just what God has endowed us with. This is exemplified in what I am doing with this piece; I do not have the means to financially help these children, but through the power and mighty of pen, I have been able to write and speak up for their kinds, by so doing, taking their cries to the hearing of those who have the means to give them succor. I do this voluntarily, I write about their depraved conditions and offer proper solutions to get them out. You can also do it, as a writer, through your poetry or stories; speak up for these helpless ones.
I believe we all have something to give, something to contribute, something to help in seeing that every child gets the home he deserves, the type of environment he needs to thrive, to prepare them for the waiting future as bright and reliable leaders. We must ensure that today gets our kind embrace for children are tomorrow taking shape today. We all have possible means to create a society full of kindness, a society that treats today well and prepare the glaring tomorrow with the best of effort.
Treat these children well. Embrace them. Dry their tears. They are the future. May we all arrive.
Adamu Usman Garko writes from Gombe State.