Odum Egege: Allegory Of N’Delta Question(II)
Being the concluding part of a paper presented by Adagogo Brown of the Humanities Department Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt at a seminar organised by the department, recently.
The sense of loss and enormity of efforts put in generating the goods that are carted away by the Opobo traders, in the name of trading, is captured by Nna Odum Egege in his sarcastic comment:
All day long, in the rain and in the sun, you and your children toil in the bush (demonstrating): cutting, planting or harvesting. You cut, boil, pound and press the palm fruit for the oil; you pot or -calabash, the nuts are left to dry before you crack and basket. (He pauses and looks round). You take the goods yourselves to the market to sell to buyers or exchange them voluntarily for other goods. The work you do, the market you buy, the acceptance of their prices and articles, everything you do, you do willfully, they don’t force you … (p3)
The lamentation of the people of Azumini is an allegory of the exploitation and dispossession of the Niger Delta people of their crude oil by the Nigerian State and their collaborating multi-national oil companies.
More light is shed on the sense of loss and the exploitation of the Azumini people when Chijioke says:
… But today we’ve lost the value of our labour ….
The water people can now come and take our goods and offer us whatever they like …. (p.3).
Chijioke appears not to speak for the Azumini people only, he also speaks for the Niger Delta people whose natural resource is exploited and carted away without consideration for those whose land and environment the resource is taken. In the name of derivation, the Niger Delta people are offered pittance determined by the Nigeria state ever since the exploitation of oil from the Niger Delta, the same way “the water people” offer Azumini people whatever they like for their goods.
When Odum Ogege asks Azumini people in a rhetorical questions:
“Are you not the owners of the oil kernel and foodstuffs that make the peoples of Okoloama and Opuboama wealthy and great?” (p.3) he is indirectly asking the Niger Delta people if they are not the producers of the oil that has made the Nigerian nation wealthy and great. Even Ikechi corroborates the stupendous Azumini wealth that has been lavished in the development of Opuboama and Okoloama when he says:
Only those who have been to Opuboama and Okoloama know how much they’ve robbed us to build those their kingdom. (p.4).
The same is of the reality of the plundering of the Niger Delta oil proceeds which have been deployed by the Government of Nigeria in the development of Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country excluding the Niger Delta.
With the increase in the awareness of the economic exploitation of the Azumini people, Odum Egege, tests his gift of all along been lying dormant.
First, he takes them down memory lane reminding them of the bravery of their forebears. Loaded with inflammatory elements, the speech is designed to spontaneously ginger and spur the people to revolt. Odum Egege queries:
… What has now come upon the brave people of Azumini … ·.? Your forebears were brave men who untiringly fought to protect their children from head-hunters. And you are now afraid of protecting these rights for which they fought and died, those rights without which you cannot ensure the continuity of your race …. (Pause) After eating basa, drinking manya ngwo and Esiriesi, you go about puffing, (demonstrating). I’m an Ndoki man! I’m an Ndoki man! (Pointing) to the water people, you are nothing! (p.5).
This and several other statements, no doubt, awakened the spirit of rebellion and prepared the people of Azumini for the assignment of protecting their economic rights from the invasion of King Jaja and Opuboama.
From knowledge and self-realisation, the play moves to protest and self-preservation. This is the point where the Azumini people, having realized that they have long been cheated and plundered, are ready to take their destiny In their own hands and reverse the trend. Readily, Odum Egege becomes ‘the rallying point of protest and military campaign. He urges the people:
… it is a good thing to recognize one’s rights, but a much better thing to be able to fight and protect them. Yes! Owughi egu a na ete na nkikara mkpuru. For it needs a lion’s strength, a devil’s determination to ask the oppressor to stop oppressing, the exploiter to stop exploiting, and the robber to stop robbing. The dangers are great, although the honour in life and even in death is greater. (p.6).
The role of Odum Egege and other Azumini elders in the pursuit of their right to control their resources can be likened to that of past and present Niger Delta people in agitation to also control their resources. With time, the struggle has gradually shifted from dialogue to arms struggle. In this we see correlation: literary characters and actions literally signifying historical personages and events. The signified personages and events observed since the Niger Delta struggle have remained a recurring decimal. The include Harold Dappa Biriye, Isaac Adako Boro, Ken Saro Wiwa, Edwin Clark, etc.
Before Odum Egege dies, he challenges Alabo Fubara who has come to impose Opoboama trade and protection agreement on Azumini people:
… (To Alabo Fubara) On Okoloama and Opuboama, we’ve never sought to impose our terms, and on us we refuse vehemently their coming to impose theirs. We’ll begin trade with the whites. If you can trade with them, why can’t we? We want to derive full benefits from our labour. (Addressing the elders) Umunna, is it not so? (The elders nodding) (p;49).
The imposition of oil revenue sharing formula and other conditions by the Government on the Niger Delta people is a literal translation of the efforts of King Jaja and Opuboama people to impose their trade terms on Azumini.
The objection of Odum Egege and his men to the imposition of terms of trade, calls for King Jaja’s adoption of a military option in suppressing the Azumini revolt. This same situation plays out in the Niger Delta as the Government considers military option in quailing the protest and agitation of the people for higher percentage of oil revenue derivation or resource control.
Although King Jaja and Opuboama defeat Odum Egege and Azumini, consistently, Odum Egege’s prophetic statement while undergoing torture on his journey of death in the hands of king Jaja’s executioners comes to mind as reported by King Jaja’s messenger.
He said many things. He kept on saying, for example … em, yes! I remember: “for there shall come someone to avenge innocent blood …
as I die for justice others will survive it”. When they come to the mouth, blood spluttered, and his speech become unintelligible … then, in fact, your Majesty, he mentioned, “seeds planted … “ p.l09.
Odum Egege’s last words are full of prophecies of the emancipation and restoration of Azumini rights to the prophecies of the doom of Opuboama for denying others their rights.
Hear Oruogolo: Opuboamapu, moored by divine will, Infested now by human will, The ship stinks and soon Will be tossed
With a hopeless crew
For the hearts’ desire of men
Often block their ears to the voice of the gods
And lead them always to And lead them always to destruction…
Eeee! Eeee! (He turns, skips and smiles)
For nothing but the cleaning of t his land
Can save it from being washed way.
And posterity from agony, disunity
Hunger and death…
(He turns to the king, who is looking blankly
In front of him) Amanyanabo, fromw hat
You have done.
Refusing others’ rights
Yours shall also be denied!
Nature has no better balance… (p.111)
In the concluding part of the statement of Oruogolo, the messenger of the gods, he appears not only to have prophesised but also cursed King Jaja for his unfair treatment of Odum eGege and Azumini people. The full implication of the statement for Nigeria is very obvious. In the manner Oruogolo has assured Opobo and posterity, of agony, disunity, hunger and death, except the land is cleansed, same, including disintegration appears to await the Nigerian State, except the rights of the Niger Delta people are granted.
For me, Oruogolo’s statements of caution or warning of impeding doom to King Jaja is one that the leadership of the Nigerian State should take seriously and learn from, in handling the Niger Delta question.
Checking Children Maltreatment
Child maltreatment is a serious global health problem with life long consequences.
It is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18years of age by a parent, caregiver or another person in a custodial role, especially in the hands of a clergy, coach and teacher, that results in harm, potential harm or threat of harm to a child.
According to a report by World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 3 in 4 children or 300 million children aged 2 to 4 years regularly suffer physical punishment or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers. Also, one in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged 0 to 17 years.
Subsequently, 120 million girls and young women under 20 years of age have suffered some form of forced sexual contact.
Some consequences of child maltreatment include impaired lifelong physical and mental health, and the social and occupational outcomes can ultimately slow a country’s economic and social development.
The report further stated that child maltreatment is often hidden and only a fraction of child victims of maltreatment ever gets support from health professionals.
“A child who is abused is more likely to abuse others as an adult so that violence is passed down from one generation to the next. It is therefore critical to break this cycle of violence, and in so doing create positive multi-generational impacts.
Preventing child maltreatment before it starts is possible and requires a multisectoral approach.
Effective prevention approaches include supporting parents and teaching positive parenting skills, and enhancing laws to prohibit violent punishment.
Ongoing care of children and families can reduce the risk of maltreatment reoccurring and can minimise its consequences”,the report stated.
The report explained that child maltreatment includes all types of physical or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
In spite of recent national surveys in several low- and middle-income countries, data from many countries are still lacking. However, current estimates vary widely depending on the country and the method of research used.
International studies reveal that nearly 3 in 4 children aged 2-4 years regularly suffer physical punishment or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers, and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.
Every year, there are an estimated 40 150 homicide deaths in children under 18 years of age, some of which are likely due to child maltreatment. This number almost certainly underestimates the true extent of the problem, since a significant proportion of deaths due to child maltreatment are incorrectly attributed to falls, burns, drowning and other causes.
In armed conflict and refugee settings, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and abuse by combatants, security forces, members of their communities, aid workers and others.
These include injuries, including head injuries and severe disability, in particular in young children; post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Adolescent girls may face additional health issues, including gynaecological disorders and unwanted pregnancy. Also affect cognitive and academic performance and is strongly associated with alcohol and drug abuse and smoking – key risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
It is important to emphasize that children are the victims and are never to blame for maltreatment.
However,to maximize the effects of prevention and care, WHO recommends that interventions are delivered as part of a four-step public health approach: defining the problem; identifying causes and risk factors; then, designing and testing interventions aimed at minimising the risk factors; disseminating information about the effectiveness of interventions and increasing the scale of proven effective interventions.
Meanwhile, in another research, medically reviewed recently in 2022, a medical doctor of the State University of New York Medical University, Alicia Perkarsky said that causes of child maltreatment are varied.
Abuse and neglect are often associated with physical injuries, delayed growth and development, and mental health issues. She stated that, diagnosis is based on history, physical examination, and sometimes laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging. Management of the issue includes documentation and treatment of any injuries and physical and mental health conditions, mandatory reporting to appropriate government agencies, and sometimes hospitalization and/or foster care to keep the child safe.
Perkarsy stated that in 2020, 3.9 million reports of alleged child maltreatment were made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in the US involving 7.1 million children. About 2.1 million of these reports were investigated in detail, and about 618,000 maltreated children were identified . Maltreatment rates were higher among girls (8.9 per 1000 girls) than boys (7.9 per 1000 boys). The younger the child is, the higher the rate of victimization (about 29% were age 2 or younger).
Also, about two thirds of all reports to Child Protective Services were made by professionals who are mandated to report maltreatment (educators, law enforcement personnel, social services personnel, legal professionals, day care providers, medical or mental health personnel, foster care providers).
“Of substantiated cases in the US in 2020, 76.1% involved neglect (including medical neglect), 16.5% involved physical abuse, 9.4% involved sexual abuse, and 0.2% involved sex trafficking. Many children were victims of multiple types of maltreatment.
About 1750 children died in the US of maltreatment in 2020, about half of whom were < 1 year old. About 73% of these children were victims of neglect and 43% were victims of physical abuse with or without other forms of maltreatment. About 80% of perpetrators were parents acting alone or with other individuals .
Potential perpetrators of child maltreatment are defined slightly differently in different US states, but, in general, to legally be considered abuse, actions must be done by a person responsible for the child’s welfare. Thus, parents and other relatives, people living in the child’s home who have occasional responsibility, teachers, bus drivers, counselors, and so forth may be perpetrators. People who commit violence against children who they have no connection to or responsibility for ( as in school shootings) are guilty of assault, murder, and so forth but legally are not committing child abuse”,she stated.
Here, in Nigeria, in a recent study by a researcher, Chiluba Edo of the Golden Gate University, School of Law noted that, child abuse and neglect is prevalent in the everyday life of a child but it receives little or no attention by the society. This is as a result of the emphasis placed on the more prevalent childhood problems of malnutrition and infection. The study observed that another possible reason is the general assumption that in every African society the extended family system always provides love, care and protection to all children. Yet, there are traditional child rearing practices which adversely affect a child. With the alteration of society by rapid socioeconomic and political changes, various forms of child abuse have been identified and have been considered the outcome of abnormal interactions between the child, parents/guardians and society. These, the study noted include abandonment of normal infants by unmarried or very poor mothers in cities, increased child labour and exploitation of children from rural areas in urban elite families, and abuse of children in urban nuclear families by childminders. Preventive measures include provision of infrastructural facilities and employment opportunities in the rural areas in order to prevent drift of the young population to the cities. This would sustain the supportive role of the extended family system which is rapidly being eroded. There is also need for greater awareness of the existence of child abuse in the community by health and social workers”,the study noted
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
Hints On How To Safeguard Kids
Nurturing and care of children is something parents and guardians should take seriously especially in this digital era. Children can easily hurt themselves as it is part of growing up. This means that parents should do their best to keep them from preventable accidents.
Knowing where the children are at a particular time to avoid being abducted by unknown persons should give parents some concern.
A lot has to be done for parents to achieve that. Parents must set up basic safety rules and regulations for their children to abide by.
We are aware that parenting can be stressful but abiding by experts advice can help achieve that.
It is necessary to take photographs of children before they get to a place with large number of persons.
A place like Pleasure Park, or any other tourist centre which might be crowded can be an example. Children from many homes can look alike and may want to leave with others as soon as they become friendly in such places that have large-volume attendance.
If you are not careful, some may also walk across the roads and walk into moving vehicles. In as much as parents do not wish that happens to their children, it is better to be prepared in case it happens.
According to experts, a parent can take a picture of her child before visiting an amusement park or attending a birthday party.
When a parent does that, he or she can have a picture of how the children are and the kind of attires they put on that very day in case the children are declared missing.
If it is a tourist centre for instance, the parent will show the childrens’ picture to the authorities concerned and it will make it easier and more effective.
During parties and outdoor visits, watch what your children consume because they will like to taste every delicacy prepared.
Allow them take only the quantity they can consume. Some may not be used to a lot of dishes and drinks especially the in-house prepared drinks and juice.
The effect of excess consumption might be when you finally return home for a rest and the children begin to react to food poison.
Domestic accidents are easily noticed among kids. Keeping inflammable substances away from children is important.
An incident occurred where a four-year-old boy stroke a stick of matches into a jerry- can that contains petrol at the house corridor. The result was the entire residential building gutted by fire.
The kid had minor burn as his elder siblings together with him escaped through the back door from the kitchen.
Children should be discouraged from using candle light.
Gas cylinders must be tightly closed when not in use as children can turn it on when not in use.
Washing detergents like bleach, hypo and others must be out of reach of children because they may mistake them for water.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Need To Take Care Of Children Worldwide
At the end of last year, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a new report, ‘Preventing A Lost Decade: Urgent Action’ to reverse the devastating impact of COVID- 19 on children and young people. While it is easy for reports released in December to get lost in the end of the year rush, this report needs everyone’s attention. UNICEF called COVID-19 the greatest challenge to children in its 75-year history; and the situation is exacerbated by conflict, disaster, and climate change.
The facts tell a sobering story about the impact of the pandemic on children.
In less than two years, 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 percent, increase since 2019.
In 2020, over 23 million children missed out on essential vaccines.
50 million children suffer from wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, and this could increase by 9 million by 2022
At its peak in March 2020, 1.6 billion children were facing school closure.
Behind every one of these numbers are real stories: young children were left behind as preschool closed and food lines grew. School age children, particularly those with the most to gain, had limited access to remote learning. Teens suffered from social isolation and lack of mental health supports, and growing demands for early marriage. Parents tried their best to keep it all going; yet too often without the financial and social resources they needed. And the unpredictability of everyday life brought stress that seemed almost impossible to bear.
Fortunately, many communities around the world rallied: volunteers delivered food, distributed protective equipment and set up new hygiene facilities, and teachers worked to connect children with resources at home. We were all inspired by stories of people working for change, from health care workers to childcare providers, from youth to seniors.
Yet the challenges facing children were alarming even before COVID-19 became a household word. Approximately, one billion children, nearly half of the world’s children live in countries that are at an “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change and more and more children are forcibly displaced, all too often from conflict that could have been and should have been avoided.
Clearly, those in positions of power need to make investing in children, families, and communities a priority this year and in the years ahead. This is particularly true for U.S Foreign Assistance. Building on earlier work, in June of 2019, the U.S. launched Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity: A United States Government Strategy for International Assistance (2019-23). This important document outlines a strategy for investing in the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2020 Congress passed the Global Child Thrive Act, providing additional direction for U.S. Government to invest in early childhood development. These are both important steps; now we all have to assure that they receive the attention and resources that this movement deserves.
The UNICEF report outlines an urgent agenda for action for children, including recommendations to invest in social protection, health, and education as well as building resilience to better prevent, respond to and protect children. Government, business and civil society and the public need to work together. But as in any crises, each individual action makes a difference. We can not wait for someone else to step forward with a solution. Each of us must ask: What can I do to help a neighbour, work in my community, build awareness, provide another voice, help empower others? What else can we do to integrate these issues into every field of study: from health to education, from diplomacy to economic development, from environmental studies to urban planning and design?
In their powerful new book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson, addressed an important question-How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? What is so uplifting about this story is that it draws a clear link between hope and action. It seems to be telling us that, while important, it is not the resilience of nature or the human intellect alone that matter, but also our spirit and belief in the possibilities and the power to take action. I can’t think of a better year to start.
Lombardi is an international expert on early childhood development and Senior Fellow at the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, Georgetown University.
By: Joan Lombardi
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