By Ernest Omoarelojie
On August 24, 13-year-old Daniel Ohikhena stowed an Arik Air plane from Benin to Lagos. Via Nieuws Beest
The story of Daniel Ohikhena, teenage stowaway, has evolved into a melodrama. Not surprising, armchair analysts are falling over themselves to help justify an action which the protagonist himself has regrettably admitted he took without being mindful of its implication.
In doing so, they have, perhaps consciously, elavated him to a position of a cult hero. For many of them, the teenager’s daredevil endeavour is a defining reflection of how far Edo State has failed in addressing the general poverty smacking the people. Some of them even pushed the boundary a little further, arguing that the state has not done anything to provide food for the hungry.
To that extent, these analysts are convinced Daniel is right and deserves ‘sainthood’ for taking his destiny, disasterously so, in his hands. They justify that by the fact that a non-governmental organisation thoughtlessly announced that it was offering the lad a comprehensive scholarship, ostensibly to salute him. It matters less to them that by openly celebrating him, others of like mind are being sent a message (as was demonstrated by another individual that equally wanted to replicate the action barely two weeks later) that it is right, rewarding and legitimate to break rules in order to achieve set goals.
In the main, the argumenet that government failed to set in motion necessary mechanisms for alleviating the hunger and general poverty in the land seems germane and or logical, particularly as it became, for obviour reasons, a handy instrument for opposition elements to vent their frustration. With a decidedly biased mindset and unparalleled passion, they attempted to push their jaundiced position as the real issue on both the mainstream media and social networks.
Thus, when the state government, in whose custody he now is, announced that it had decided to enroll him in Edo College, one of the best public schools in the state in order for him to be well-mentored and monitored, it remained adamant, convinced that only a school abroad is good enough for him. Patently immaterial to them is the fact that his real problem derives mostly from failure of whoever it was that had parental responsibility over him before the bizzare incident.
Beyond the fact that most of the narrow minded stow-away supporters failed to situate the real issue at stake, they also failed, albeit deliberately too, to take cognizance of the fact that the primary role of government does not include the idea of providing food for families, not those of Daniel who comes from one that is nowhere near bankruptcy.
In the main, the role of government is to create enabling environment for the people to thrive and realise their potentials and by extension be able to provide for their own needs. In doing so, it takes into account the need of the different segments of the society, from the young to the old, by designing policies to meet their specific needs. No sane analyst, observer, no matter how cursory his commitment is, can argue that the present government in the state has not done what it ought to do for young people like Daniel.
If the truth must told repeatedly, it is that the Oshiomhole administration is celebrated today, here and everywhere, for reasons of the visible and evident development it has succesffully put in place in the education sector just as it is the case in others.
In particular, the administration’s strides in the education sector, sign-posted by new school buildings in every nook and cranny of the state, are self evident. The beauty of it is that the buildings come complete with other relevant facilities sine qua non to quality education.
The immediate reaction by the largely appreciative people of the state to the development is that enrolment in public schools, which nose dived before the coming of the administration, has risen by nearly 90%. If that is not a testimony that the state government has demonstrated responsible commitment to the course of young people, I wonder what is.
It is of note that the state government did not just stop at creating building and other physical infrastructure in the education sector. It made the point that quality and beautiful school buildings without an equal dose of quality in the character and qualification of those employed to mentor and educate school children is a waste of resources and effort.
Thus, it took on the onerous responsibility of conducting teacher’s audit with a view to identifying those that are qualified to offer the right education. The audit was also conducted with a view to offering advancement opportunities to those not so qualified.
A recent encounter between the state governor and a teacher who could neither read nor write, which became a social media hit, is a product of that audit. All these policy decisions, including that which made education free from primary to senior secondary school, were designed as part of a deliberate policy to return education in the state to its glorious days when children from the state were always counted among the best the country can present any time in term of quality.
Let us face it. The problem with Daniel does not stem from the inability of the government to take care of its people. Rather, it is a failure of parenting.
That some of us would find it convenient and appropriate to celebrate him consciously or otherwise tends to indicate the level deprevation we have deteriorated. It is time for us to take a serious look at our priorities if we are desirous of changing for the better.