By Uduma Kalu & Laju Arenyeka
The continuous maltreatment of older persons in Nigeria is a criminal and inhuman act that should attract death sentence. Also, President Goodluck Jonathan’s threat to withdraw national honours from persons not deserving of the award is a sign of poor leadership.
These were some of the views expressed by some of the nation’s older and eminent citizens, yesterday, at the book presentation of Retirement Entrepreneurship, written by Prof. Deji Femi-Pearse in Lagos.
Femi-Pearse, a former acting Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, who lamented how government treats older persons in the country, said: “The government is corrupt. The government does not respect its people. A government that respects its people will not tolerate corruption; will not tolerate inhumanity to pensioners.
“Actually, inhumanity to pensioners should be a big crime, it should carry death sentence. We are inhuman to children and older people. It is wrong.”
Pearse noted that poor infrastructure, such as bad roads, poor electricity supply, among others, affect entrepreneurship.
The former Provost of the College of Medicine called on banks to come to the aid of older persons by seeking out those with skills and investing in them as they were wasting away. This request, he said, was the basis for writing the book.
He charged the banks to “screen those with passion, those with the skills and those who have collateral to offer. The banks that will excel in future are banks that invest in the skills of people, such as Steve Jobs.
“They never got the highest university degrees. Some of them did not even finish their first degrees. But look at them; they are the richest people in the world today. If the banks invest in selected people, they will never fail because it is skills that bring money.
“Without skills, the banks can’t make money. You can’t depend on the mediocre for your money in the banks. They must explore other avenues and this is by identifying people with skills, people who have technological passion.
“Imagine all the toys and aircraft that our children buy; they are from China and America. Why can’t we use our potential? There are potential in this country.”
David-West on democracy
For Prof. Tam David-West, government’s inability to cater for its older people discourages workers.
He said: “I keep telling them that democracy is a contract. My country must do something for me, so I can do mine. Only a living person can be democratic. If I am dead, can I be democratic? If you live, you have to thank God everyday.
“But the Nigerian system kills you everyday. If you are alive and if you are old, the system deserts you. It can be very difficult.”
He noted that there were provisions in the constitution for the government to cater for old people, adding that government does not even care to secure the people, its first responsibility, because of selfishness.
David-West said: “Government is too selfish to carry out its primary duty of securing Nigerians. Does Nigerian government obey any law? The constitution says security of the citizen is the first duty. I am just sorry for young men and women of Nigeria today.
“Nigeria is a great country, but we have useless leaders. How can you give national award and say ‘I will withdraw it from those who are not worthy of it’. If they are not worthy of it, why did you honour them in the first place?”
Chairman of the event, Prof. Ade Elebute, saluted Femi-Pearse’s background and how he overcame his challenges at the university and at the College of Medicine and in his Whispering Palms business.