Little Success and a nation at a crossroads

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Amidst the seemingly unending run of heart-rending events of the previous days which included the violent and blood-spilling dimension the recent elections took in some states, with Rivers State occupying the driver’s seat in that regard,  the internecine killings in southern Kaduna and the fiendish gun attack on innocent worshipers inside a mosque in faraway Christchurch, New Zealand, Nigerian citizens were, some days ago,  treated to a video clip in which a little girl, later to be known as Success, was protesting her being sent away from school on ground of  failure of her parents to pay her fees.

In the video, Success, with matadorial boldness and the fury of a bruised viper, was not equivocal in condemning the decision of the authorities of her school to deny her the right to acquire knowledge. Speaking pidgin English typical of inhabitants of the Niger Delta region of the country and with an eloquence enough to make disciples of Demosthenes, the legendary Greek orator go green with envy, Success could not just understand why she should be sent out of school when, at the end of the day, she would still pay the fee for which she was sent out. Such was the desperation of Success to remain in school that she was ready to be flogged to no end by her school-minders instead of sending her out.

The original source of the video clip might have meant it to serve as the much-needed interlude or comic relief in our daily seafaring in the boundless ocean of existential challenges. If this was the original aim of the video clip, needless to say that that goal was largely achieved as yours sincerely cannot deny the fact that it succeeded in eliciting some initial sense of amusement in him and I’m sure I may not be alone in this feeling.

At first view, Success came off as a baby actress, perhaps being prodded by an adult to act a script. After all, there are so many of such kid thespians these days partnering with adults and churning out motley of online skits. But the video has done more than evoking amusement. Much more than the initial sense of amusement that encounter with Success might have evoked in many of us, it also succeeded in once again, drawing our attention to the rueful deprivations and denial of opportunities that many of our compatriots battle with every day. It has unwittingly brought to the fore, the near total failure of government in this clime to provide citizens with basic needs that elsewhere come as a matter of course.

A follow-up video to Success’ outburst has shown that the school from which Success was sent out is a government-owned school in no other state than the oil-rich Delta, supposedly one of the richest states in the country. To say the least, the school could easily have passed for one in a war-ravaged zone. According to one of the teachers in the school, pupils are usually forced to move to one corner of the classroom to escape being drenched whenever it rains as the entire classroom becomes a veritable swimming pool with water dripping from all conceivable angles.

In her own account, the head teacher said vital documents in the staff room had in the past been destroyed by water dripping from leaking roof. Yet this is the same school from which fuming Success was sent out for defaulting in fees payment. Shouldn’t we now understand why Success was livid with (anger? Pray, tell me, where do fees being paid go to and what are they used for?  That a school in that serious state of decrepitude could exist in Delta State and Nigeria of 2019, speaks volumes about the long, long way we still need to go in the journey towards attainment of minimum threshold of human development. It is a sad commentary on how low the Nigerian state and its component units are on issues of citizen’s welfare. With schools like this under their watch, it will be interesting to know what the job description of those in charge of education at different governmental levels looks like. What really are they superintending over?

Success is only a point of contact for millions like her in the land. They are burning with the desire to tap into the opportunities that exist in this age and time for self-actualisation and dream realisation. They are resolute on their journey to the Promised Land and they are ready to confront headlong anyone or institution intending to slow them down. All they ask for is the removal of the hurdles placed on their way by the very government that should help them realise their goal.

Adegoke is a Lagos-based public affairs analyst

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