For a young man whose almost every photograph is distinguished by a toothy smile that somehow reminds one of Ibrahim Babangida, when the wily General was that age, the image of Dimeji Bankole, Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, weeping profusely before the members of the Children’s Parliament who had visited him in his Abuja office, would have marked a refreshing change.
But, sadly, our press photographers missed that bit, and we were merely served some drab tales about how Bankole was overcome by emotions, and had to let the tears flow freely from his ever twinkling eyes, after his younger colleague, the Speaker of the Children’s Parliament, Miss Chinyere Nwaneri, had lucidly articulated the harrowing ordeals Nigerian children regularly experienced, and which the authorities were yet to raise a finger to address.
“We have come to inform the Speaker about some inhuman treatment that children are going through in this country. Some are being raped by even their parents while some others are going through mutilation. We have tried to sell the country abroad through our programmes but these things are affecting our image. You should try and do something about it,” the Speaker of the Children’s Parliament told Bankole in
I want mention in passing that I have serious problems with all these talks and efforts and cravings to “sell the country abroad.” It is very saddening that the bug has equally caught up with our children. For goodness sake, let’s sell
How long shall we continue to woo unimpressed buyers with our substandard product? Why can’t we deploy all that energy to dissuade Nigerians from continuing to see their country as some unfortunate but richly-endowed whale washed ashore by sea waves, which anyone who is able to outsmart the others is very free to rush onto with sharp knives and large basins to cut and carte away as much as he or she could, before the fish totally rots away?
Now, back to Bankole’s tears. When the matter cropped up at our weekly Editorial Board meeting at the Independent three weeks ago, there were disagreements among my colleagues as to the actual reason for the Speaker’s tears.
Was the House Speaker weeping because he was hearing about the plight of Nigerian children for the first time? Or had he just emerged from a very rewarding rehearsal with a band of professional mourners, and so wanted to show off his prodigious talent?
I don’t think I have seen Bankole make a speech since he became the Speaker of the Lower House, neither did I see the footage of Miss Nwaneri’s presentation in
Well, like Bankole, I had also wept because of a child’s very touching plight last May, but unlike him, I lacked the power to do anything. I was on the perilous
As we pulled up at a filling station to buy fuel, a very tender (and I must add very weak) voice cut through my ears to my very heart: “Buy Pure Water! Buy Pure Water!!” As I turned to look at the owner of the soul-rending, tiny voice, the very tender boy I saw carrying a small bowl containing about six or seven ‘pure water’ sachets could not have been anything beyond four years. I thought about my own daughter of that age back in
My heart bled. I struggled with tears.
I longed so much to give him more money than he could make in three days and ask him to go home, but I had a restriction. Remember the Nigerian factor: Some of those fellows idling away at the filling station there might come up with the crazy idea that I wanted to do ‘juju’ with the hapless boy, and my compassionate act could land me in serious trouble! And so, I moved away most reluctantly.
Even as I write now, I can still hear that haunting voice. My heart still bleeds for that tender child and several others like him out there forced into the streets by the impossible conditions created in such a richly-endowed country like
How can Bankole’s tears help that little, tender child hawking ‘pure water’ along
What about those Government officials whose actions and non-actions create conditions that make this country hellish to children? Has Bankole’s House any plans to check their boundless greed and heartless exploitation of the disadvantaged?
Or are they not all one and the same people?
Not too long ago, a UNICEF report stated clearly that
Now, what do all these mean to our ‘Weeping Speaker’ wallowing in limitless privileges, and the unfeeling and exploitative class he represents?
Okay, just the other day, the newspapers were awash with reports about Bankole’s lavish wedding. In the course time, too, God willing, the cry of a baby will ring out from his house, and we can be sure that the delivery will take place in one of the best hospitals in the
But, what are Bankole’s plans to ensure that a rich country like
As Bankole wept that day before the members of the Children’s Parliament, N600, 000 ‘change’ which is his Entertainment Allowance as a lawmaker was lying safely in one corner of his fat account. Also, the N500, 000 duly awarded him as Wardrobe Allowance sat pretty in the same or another account, itching to be spent. He should have started by donating these to help at least few Nigerian kids through school.
There are also the jumbo Constituency votes which most of the lawmakers, reportedly, spend on themselves, instead of the purpose for which they are mapped out and the several other huge allowances that flow into their purses almost on daily basis. Over and above all these are their scandalously fat salaries, which are upwardly reviewed with alarming regularity.
For this year, the National Assembly allocated to itself the sum of N147 billion naira in the Federal budget, a hundred percent increase from the N76 billion they got last year. As all these resources flow to the largely unproductive National Assembly, the children of the masses, the most productive class, whose very sorry conditions Bankole would want us to believe had brought tears to his eyes, study in dilapidated buildings and are taken to hospitals that are in very horrible, scary states. This class of Nigerians has been effectively conquered and forced to live like slaves in their own country.
That is why the Speaker must be told that his tears were utterly meaningless to most right-thinking Nigerians. In fact, I found it very offensive that he would be seeking to appear to be sympathetic to the plight of the unfortunate Nigerian children while he is also at the very top of the oppressive class supervising the mass suffering that has become the daily menu of these very children.
We may condemn the parents of that less-than four-year-old boy hawking ‘pure water’ out there, but choose to turn a blind eye to the very impossible conditions that could motivate parents to take such an action.
So, Bankole and the callous class he represents should spare us their ceremonial tears and duplicitous sympathy. Such grand acts may earn them major roles in Nollywood, but to the longsuffering and grossly impoverished Nigerians, such spurious gestures are simply provocative.