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Re: A ministry for children

By Helen Ovbiagele
FROM the reactions  to our piece on the need to have a ministry established for our children, it appears  some readers don’t think we can ever get anything right in this country, and so, it’s no use trying out ideas that are working elsewhere.

This is sad because it shows lack of confidence in our rulers.  I believe we should embrace whatever will spell progress for the human life.   If our forbears firmly shut the door against literacy that the expatriates brought here several centuries ago, and refused to go to school or allow their children to go to school, progress and development which are part of civilization would have been elusive.

Some people may scoff at this and say that we would have been better off if we had rejected the white man and his ways, but can such people truly say that they can do without the science and technology that the deal has brought to ease our lives?  Would they prefer to go back to using oil lanterns, trekking, etc.?

In the eighties Mariam Babangida initiated the Better Life Programme For Women, and this led to Commission of Women being established.  This later became a full-fledged Ministry for Women’s Affairs during the time of Mrs. Sani Abacha.

The late Maria Sokenu, after observing the success of the programme in the Far East Asia, returned home to recommend the establishment of the People’s Bank here.  Now we have micro-finance outfits all over the place.

Again, some people may question how successful  these imported ideas have been.   If they didn’t work out well, it would have been the Nigerian factor that was at play, not that those ideas were bad.  In most national issues, the average Nigerian has a way of putting himself first,  thinking of how he can benefit from it personally than to how much good it would do  the country and its citizens.

We do need a ministry at all levels, solely for children.  Having a ministry of youths and sports, or youths and women’s affairs, to cater for the interests of the Nigerian child  wouldn’t do.  If Nigeria is truly child-friendly, we should have a ministry solely for children that would take care of their issues right from birth till their teenage years.

Thus the government would have prepared the child for a responsible and healthy adulthood in which he/she has been helped to train for a career, and make the right choices in health issues.  The present situation in which some children are able to embrace the ‘free universal basic education’ while others are not, is not acceptable.

The government should enforce immunization and compulsory formal education, and implement the United Nations’ Child’s Rights recommendations, part of which says that the child is entitled to shelter,  good healthcare, education, and security of life.  The latter means that there should be no conflict situation which endangers the life of the Nigerian child; destroying him, his family,  his home, and his environment.

To be able to establish an effective ministry for children, intelligent government officials with integrity should be sent abroad to those countries that have that ministry, to get the relevant facts for operating it.     They will return to advise the government on the modalities for setting it up, and also train other civil servants.

Thank God that there were some readers who believe we need this ministry, and they are anxious that the government should embrace the idea. We thank all those who sent mail to communicate their views. ‘Madam, how many undemocratic ministries must we have?  These are goldmines for only a few.

The problem is that this is a class society.  What the oppressed need is an independent, sovereign democratic state which can only come through a revolution.  Why?  The money bags will make it impossible to have free and fair elections.  The masses  need power to be able to tame them.  Thank you. –

Amos Ejimonye, Kaduna.’ ‘Madam, I’ve just read your write-up ‘We Need A Ministry For Children’ about five minutes ago.  It’s a fine idea.  Please I want to plead that you propose it to the national assembly and push for its actualization.  Something within me assures me it will sail through.’  Akpouona Ese, Delta State.’
‘You mean well, Madam Ovbiagele, but let’s not deceive ourselves.

If a ministry for children is established, it will go the way other ministries are going.    It will not achieve any useful purpose for the Nigerian child.  Tell me what ministry in this country at any level is actually addressing the needs of the citizens.

Is it that of Health, Education, Transport, Works, Power and Steel, Water Resources, Communications?  You can run through the various ministries and come out with zero performance.  Even the Ministry for Women’s Affairs that was established with a lot of fanfare the other year; what has been its achievements?  I wonder if it still exists.

Whenever it was in the news some years ago, it was about power tussle.  Will a ministry for children not go the same way?   It will.   Let’s allow the sleeping dog to go on sleeping.  Let’s not add any more responsibility to what’s on the ground at present, since our rulers are not delivering on those.  Thank you.   Madam Grace, Lagos.’

I support your view, Madam

Helen.  We need a ministry for children, to give their lives more attention and meaning.  They are the future leaders of this country, so, each of them should be given a good start in life to enable them achieve reasonable goals.  Our children should be made to feel wanted by the government.  Let them know that the government is interested in their lives and how they turn out in life.

The free Universal Basic Education should be enforced.  It shouldn’t be a case of the government coming out once in a while to make a noise about child abuse and child trafficking, and then beat a retreat without achieving anything.  It should partner with parents to raise worthy citizens for the nation.  – Funsho, Ibadan.’

‘Isn’t it the same bad eggs that run the ministries we have at present that will be appointed to run a ministry for children if the government deems it necessary?  The affairs of the Nigerian child is taken care of through the ministry of youths, at present, I think, and through several other ministries like Education, Health, etc.  None of these ministries is handling the issues of the Nigerian child properly.

This isn’t because of ignorance; rather it is because, despite the federal government being a signatory to the United Nations proposed issues concerning children, it hardly implements anything.  The various issues are hanging loose all over the place.

If the government is not convinced that the Nigerian child needs its attention, setting up a ministry for children will not solve any problem as it wouldn’t staff it with qualified and capable officers that will perform, but would rather staff it to show the Nigerian character.  Take a look at the ministry for women’s affairs.  What is it achieving?  It’s just there in name.’

‘Your view is good, Helen, but if the government is serious, it can achieve much for the Nigerian child through other ministries like Education, Health, Social Development, etc.  All it needs do is get experts to identify the various areas of attention, and then go on to implement its recommendations.

The idea of a special ministry for children is good, but setting up a ministry involves a lot of money for infrastructure, personnel, etc, not to mention the programmes to be embarked upon.  Why not spend some of that money directly on the children, through the other ministries which are currently looking after their affairs?  Thanks.  – Uche, Jos.


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