Ebuka Obi-Uchendu: Children, the looters of tomorrow (YNaija Frontpage)

…when you have children believing that leadership is a place where money is meant to be made and riches acquired or a place where appointments are not based on merit but on who you know, is our tomorrow not already doomed?

It was the Christmas of 1995 and I was at my Uncle’s in Lagos on holiday from Abuja. I can’t remember the exact TV station that was on at the time, but one of those Christmas/Santa Claus/TV request shows where children take turns to send greetings to their families right after they must have received a gift from Santa (sorry, Father Christmas), was on air.

I was watching on this fateful day when some kid who obviously wasn’t even a teenager yet, appeared on my TV and wished his parents and everyone at his school and street, a Merry Christmas. Then he went on; ‘When I grow up, I want to be the President of Nigeria.” At this point, anyone listening believed he was a regular kid with dreams, which of course is a good thing. Then he continued; “So that I can have plenty money and buy many things for my mummy and daddy.”

Fast-forward 17 years later. I was sitting at the lobby of a hotel in Abuja this past week when this middle aged man walked in with three little boys whom I assumed were his sons. They wanted to use the hotel’s swimming pool and wanted to make enquiries. While they waited to get instructions on what to do, attention shifted to the television.

NTA International was on and they showed a school that had just been rehabilitated with school children milling around. The middle-aged man then said; “Look at ministers and senators.” One of the three boys who looked about 7 years old, said; “Where?” Then his father explained the whole leaders of tomorrow thing and how one of these children on TV right now could become a Minister or Senator in the future. Then the little boy said; “But me, I will be their President so that I can sack them and make you and mummy and (some other name I can’t remember now) ministers and we will enjoy ourselves.”

I don’t know when last I had such an obvious dejavu that was actual reality. I immediately remembered that Lagos incident, which always stuck with me over the years, and everything just got me instantly depressed. I was letting it all sink in as I watched the little boy run off towards the pool area while his father paid their fare without the slightest of reactions to what his son had just said. It became obvious to me that this cycle of corruption and nepotism, may just never end seeing how entrenched they have become even with ‘innocent’ children.

There is the cliché that continues to ring everywhere that children are the leaders of tomorrow, since the hope has always been that the younger generation would eventually rescue the nation from the rot the elders have left behind. But when you have children believing that leadership is a place where money is meant to be made and riches acquired or a place where appointments are not based on merit but on who you know, is our tomorrow not already doomed?

What happened to wanting to be president so that one could build good roads and schools and help the sick? Aren’t those the regular claims that children make? Like I mentioned to a friend, the truth is that many more kids today are like the kid from television, than 17 years ago. The more the years go by, the more entrenched the systemic corruption becomes.

The truth is that, we cannot necessarily teach morals in school. The family has a big part to play in shaping how a child thinks and sees the world. But then, there’s peer pressure, which even for adults, is tough to fight off. You can only do so much at home while leaving your child at the mercy of society once they make friends. Most importantly is government still. When a child sits beside his father every day and watches the news and all he sees are stories of ex governors stealing and appointing their sons as Personal Assistants, of course it becomes the norm for the child and doing good isn’t an option anymore.

We need to do better. It is bad enough that government has failed us. What is worse is the fact that they have slowly made sure that tomorrow’s leaders are even better prepared than they were to do bad. As with everything in life, we all need to play our part and try to make sure our children are better equipped to actually change things around. As much as a fruit does not fall far from its tree, it is also true that not all fruits that fall from a tree have fallen because they got rotten. It is never too late to turn things around. At least, I believe so…

Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (11)

  1. @Ebuka,oh dear.

    We've unfortunately crossed that conscience line.If you seek honest answers as to which of the "uniforms" any fresh graduate will want to join,the list goes this way:Customs,FRSC,VIO,etc. And we all know why…"na where something dey comot..".

    About 7 years ago,when I was still in the university,I was shocked when successive SUG presidents in my school were indicted for ripping off the union to the tune of N1.7m combined!

    Ebuka,you're probably not in tune with what's happening.But that sinister future has already arrived since…

  2. Great content which showed a perspective that we tend not to talk to about. While I think it may be a tad bit late for bay boomers to make an effect on our children I think this current generation must step in and teach the value of leadership and the impact it cane make on our country. Our education system is trash and with many coming out jobless do you blame them to aspire to go into govt when they see that's where the money is. Than look at many of our current young people in the limelight . Several them are involved in the same cycle as those in the past. It is a cycle that we must break but it will start with us owning up to it.

  3. Thank you Ebuka for this piece… Everyone has to work for change, a positive one. people are just too corrupt and negative to see that change is possible. I still believe Nigeria, our country, will change for good. Isha allah

  4. This is a piece well written and thought provoking. We should all play our part right from our homes by informing them that because the govt consist of adults does not make them right. So its a pure case of charity begins at home, kowa ya gyara gidan shi!

  5. My 8 year old once said he wanted to become Nigerias president. I was rather taken aback and asked why. He replied " so I can build really big prisons all over abuja and nigeria to put all these government thieves".

    I thought, hmm I rather like that idea.

    This evening, we decided to ask our 5 year old what nigeria's problems were ( I was trying to prove a point to my friends that even a 5yr old could name atleast 2 of our issues). Well, shockingly (I expected NEPA) but he exclaimed "Bombs and Boko Haram!". I mean, wetin concern 5yr old with such thoughts and talk.

    We have a lot to do and we need to ensure our children have good and uncompromising morals and upbringing. Its their right and our responsibility to groom them to be outstanding citizens of Nigeria.

  6. Beautifully written. Good content.

    Our morals and mental picture of leadership has to change.

  7. Oh Ebuka, I can imagine how it feels. It is heart rending to say the least! Went to one of my friends house and noticed her 7 and 5 yr olds have a mobile phone each. And I asked, what are those phones for, she says, so I can reach them in school! Now that wasn't my problem that night in as much as it was unbelievable but schools now let children come to school with mobile phones and nobody sees it as improper? Parents run the schools now and whatever they feel or do is totally acceptable cos *in business, your customer is king* and you have to satisfy them. Parents today pay whooping sums as school fees and woe betide any teacher if that child complained or failed any subject! and then ofcourse they run the schools on *pay as you go* basis! What am I saying? Parents, non parents, it is our responsibilities to start this re-orientation and turn things around cos the truth is, that Ebuka's 17yr old child today(assuming he was one then) will be a saint when compared to a child born today if nothing happens now!

  8. I love the introduction, totally caught my attention. The corruption in high places is just a reflection of the entire population except maybe some of us aren't as heinous. Acquiring wealth is the main attraction to leadership right now in Nigeria and the only way to stop it is to make these positions as unattractive as possible.

    I was teasing a colleague at the office in Burkina Faso, she shares surname with the President and I inadvertently said something about her being rich because she was related to the President but immediately another Burkinabe corrected me and said it was not about the riches but the power.

    Truth is, we don't lead simple lives, we aspire for a lot of material things and when we chance to feed this hunger using 'free' public funds, we go wild. Take a case of Ibori or even some of the names being mentioned in the fuel subsidy scam. Like Ebuka says, the culture has to change.

  9. Hahaha! Nonso, you have my vote…

  10. This is really true, gone are the days when children say they want to lead the country with pure intentions in their heads such as build roads, provide security,promote good leadership for our younger generations, provide a suitable environment for business and investment, provide education, electricity etc But now our young leaders only think of enriching their pockets and those of their families and young ones.

    My name is Nonso Enekebe vote for me in the coming years and you would notice the difference i would make to our beloved country Nigeria.

  11. This very disturbing trend has been on my mind since this past weekend when I was listening in on a radio program with school kids of varying ages and classes.

    Of about 7 kids that were interviewed,4 said their future ambition was to become ministers of portfolios ranging from health to communications and the likes.I was honestly taken aback!Since when did a ministerial appointment qualify as a life career?Where are we going wrong now?Whatever happened to becoming Drs so we can save lives,teachers so we can impart knowledge,engineers to build good roads and oil refineries,barristers(or lawyers as we used to call them back then)to uphold justice and the likes?

    I think a lot has totally gone wrong in our society starting from the basic cradle training.We all should get back to the drawing board before it gets worse(I'm wondering what that would look like though!)

    Thanks Ebuka for your piece.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail