By Grace Zhikmwa Kwaja
This goes to wish a Happy Children’s day to all Nigerians wherever they may be found. Those who are adults today were once children at some point in their lives and may have had cause to celebrate the children‘s day. I remember vividly the inter school March-past I took part in on one of the children’s days back in my secondary school days at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, (TCNN), Staff Secondary School in Bukuru, Jos. It was a Children’s Day Celebration at the Bukuru Stadium in Jos South Local Government of Plateau State. It remains a day to remember, coming after weeks of rigorous practice. We worked so hard under the hot sun and although it was so hectic, we loved it.
On the D-day, students came from different schools for the marching competition and there was an array of students all lined up in batches, dressed in colorful and beautiful uniforms. Each school was at a display there at the stadium with my school in purple and white. I still recall the pink and white colour of the Rwang Pam Secondary School uniform that seemed so intimidating. Well, I was so proud of my own school uniform all the same. And then came the time for us to march and to sing the National Anthem. I felt so good and proud of my country as we raised the flag and even more as I looked up and sighted my dad giving all the possible support he could. I cannot explain the feeling of joy that overwhelmed me heart at that point.
I was 13 years old and although my school came neither 1st, 2nd nor 3rd position in that competition, I was so glad to have been a part of that event. All the way back home that day my dad talked about what a great performance that was and about Nigeria’s sovereignty, the significance of the Nigerian flag and the National anthem etc. I felt so proud to be a Nigerian and the positive stories my dad told me still echo in my mind till this day. He always shared in my dreams and was often there to support them. I recall those days with a lot of nostalgia.
Well, I recited the Nigerian National Pledge with my kids today. We started with the National Anthem actually but what struck me was how they all shouted “amen!” after the pledge. You know, the pledge is very deep. I wondered for a moment if they understood its significance and made it a point of duty to explain it to them in detail. Every day during school sessions in Nigeria, children recite the National Anthem and Pledge all over the nation- well, except during holidays and now of course, during this period of confinement. How accurately they do this recitation, however, I do not know but usually they would do so with so much passion and enthusiasm. Some of them may not really know what the Pledge means nor the National Anthem. We must give kudos to all those instructors, teachers, parents or wards who take time to teach them the practical implications of it.
Anyway, the question that bothers me now is how many Nigerians actually do “know” the National pledge, understand its meaning and truly believe in it? Will this present generation of children grow up still believing in the National Pledge and decidedly upholding it when they become adults? I honestly pray so. Although I strongly believe that if tomorrow, they do not, then it is because, today, we have failed to do our part. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German, once said that “the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
My heart goes out to all the children who are forced to stay home today due to the coronavirus pandemic and are looking up to their parents and to the government to bring them out of this situation so they can go back to school and lead their normal lives. Also, to those who may have no one to turn to, nor home to return to during this period. Some may be in very difficult and unimaginable situations right now with the coronavirus pandemic only making them even more vulnerable.
I believe Nigeria has a responsibility to protect such children and help them to not lose faith – but the Nigeria we are talking about here is us the adults. Children have great hopes and aspirations as well as a lot of confidence in Nigeria’s capability to defend them, protect them and help them achieve their dreams. My desire for them today is that Nigeria comes through to their rescue in whatever possible way and provides lasting solutions to the problems they face especially in the face of this pandemic, solutions that will truly make them proud of their father land – Proud enough to aspire to also be “faithful loyal and honest” when they grow up, and to desire to “serve Nigeria with all “their “hearts”, to choose to “defend her unity and to uphold her honour and glory”. So, help us God! Well, at this point, I join my children- and all who believe in the Nigerian National Pledge to shout “Amen”!
The author is a doctorate student in Information and Communication Sciences @ the University of Burgundy-Franche-Comté, France