Kemi Olufunto Badenoch’s Childhood Experience and the alleged Misrepresentation of the Nigerian Reality

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Not too long ago, the President of the United State of America, Donald J. Trump described Nigeria as a country of amazing people doing amazing things. Is he saying anything new? Certainly not!

Again that cannot be another political masterstroke from the usually ascorbic and combustible American number one citizen to effect of swaying Nigeria and Nigerians to his side comes the next Presidential election.

On the other hand, you can say it without any fear of contradictions that neither he nor America in any existential equations needs Nigeria as much Nigeria and Nigerians need them.

Therefore, it is perhaps the loudest testament yet from a world leader in that bracket to the sterling qualities Nigerians have come to be known for over the years, though, the situations at home may appear a bit off tangent.

Kemi Olufunto, in case you are still wondering, is the Nigerian to join the growing and exclusive club of illustrious Nigerians to have been appointed into a high profile position in a foreign country.

She was recently appointed a minister of children affairs in the United Kingdom by the newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

And so she joins eminent personalities like the banker and billionaire business mogul Bayo Ogunlesi who was appointed a member of the economic team constituted by President Donald J. Trump immediately after his victory at the polls in 2017.

The was also the mercurial billionaire business mogul Dehinde Fernandez who until his death was an ambassador plenipotentiary and the permanent representative of the Central African Republic at the United Nations.

Many Nigerians were also both foundational and developmental expatriates in some African countries owing to the shortage of manpower during their post-independence era and gave a good account of themselves and the country.

I can go on and on with the names of Nigerians who had excelled in honorary, elective, and appointive capacities both in Africa and the wider world.

Olufunto 39 was born in Britain to Nigerian parents. But she spent parts of her growing up years in Lagos and only returned to Britain when she was aged sixteen.

She has been a member of parliament since 2017.  And while making a post-appointment speech in the parliament makes mention of her difficult childhood growing up in Nigeria.

She specifically related how she lived without a regular supply of pipe=borne water and reading with candlelight. Meanwhile, congratulatory messages have continued to pour in for her on the account of this feat of hers from different quarters.

She has been charged by President Muhammadu Buhari in his congratulatory message heralded by his senior special assistant on media and publicity Mallam Garba Shehu to justify the confidence reposed in her by giving her best at all time.

In the midst of this outpouring joy and congratulations, some people instead are quarreling not with her appointment but with her narrative of her experience.

They see it as an unwarranted and gross misrepresentation of Nigeria's present realities. And they labeled it also as an attempt to make Nigeria looked less developed than it really is and makes the international community sympathetic towards her course.

Though it has been twenty-three years now that she went back to Britain where she had stayed ever since until her appointment as a cabinet minister, things, of course, are not the same as when she was here.

Twenty-three years they argued is a sufficient time for a lot of transformations to have taken place she might not be aware of. Things are much better now they reasoned compared to the Nigeria of in which she grew up.

And they cynically added that she perhaps needed another visit to upgrade her outdated experiences and realign her understanding with the present improved situation of things.

And that I considered not only most uncharitable but hypocritical from people who rather have decided for reasons best known to them to gross over the hard-facts of our reality as a country which nonetheless is still categorized as a third world country.

Without sounding self-deprecating and being economical with the truth, perhaps the critics of Olufunto's right to owning  her experiences must be reminded that by the nomenclature  of a third-world country Nigeria is not only underdeveloped but ranked very low on some of the most fundamental developmental indices behind countries like Ghana, Rwanda and the likes.

Even as we speak and twenty-three years after Olufunto's re-emigration back to Britain the state of Nigeria's power sector is still nothing to sing hurrah about. The power outage is not only rampant in Nigeria, but we also have communities and children who have never seen electricity all their lives.

Pipe-borne water is on the same crouching pedestal. In Lagos which remains Nigeria's most developed city-state millions of households still rely heavily on boreholes and other unclean sources for their daily water needs simply because the public water corporation is functioning well below the expected capacity. Charges sometimes are arbitrary and supply inadequate and undependable.

In the FCT, on the other hand, public water corporation has not been able to develop a technology adapted to the rocky topography of the environments and so many communities outside the metropolis suffered a shortage of water supply.

In fact, one of the most thriving businesses here is borehole engineering services. Trucks belonging to water engineering companies are a common sight and sound from their drilling activities can be heard from the distance each time you step out.

Basically, we're still where we were twenty-three years ago if not worse off since the likes of Olufunto left the shores of the country.

With the bulk of our commonwealth stole and kept in vaults of foreign banks, it is little surprising we are still stuck in the past and would remain a lot dicey for the country to attain many of its developmental goals and objectives even with a government which pride itself with being parsimonious in power.

I'm not saying it is all grim and final. But the progress has been damn too slow and doesn't speak too well to our potentials as a people. The bottom line is we are not where we ought to be and no attempt should be made on the ground of ay patriotic necessity to paper over what was, what is and may probably continue to be until some ting drastic is done.

No attempt also should be made to coerce anybody into substituting their experiential narrative with a doctored spin to suit any diplomatic necessity and image laundering either. The facts of our situation are already in the public domains and cannot be edited to appeal or massage our national pride if there is anything like that.

Let’s go to the significance and lessons of Olufunto's appointment and portfolio. The Nigerian child one cannot over-emphasize is going through a lot. If they are not being sexually violated, they are being sent to the streets to hawk and as beggars.

As we speak, many of them are being trafficked into either prostitution or as house helps to relatives and no-relatives nearby or far off and the monies due to they are not even paid to the parental or guardian facilitators. 

Another of their fates is many of them having been caught up in the cross-fire of the fight against insurgency and being used either as a human shield or as suicide bombers. What is more, they are out of school in their scary numbers. And yet there is nothing like the ministry of children affairs. All there is is the ministry of women affairs.

Whereas it is a fact that combine the two are the most endangered and vulnerable groups not only in Nigeria but the world over. What concerned the Nigerian child or youth if you like is lumped together in the ministry of youths and sports and maybe in the ministry of health in a country where inter-ministerial and inter-agency collaborations are still at a foundational level. 

Even the sporting side of the ministry of sports has been left to chance over the years. Whereas sports in addition to entertainment are what Nigerian youths are passionate about?

Yet all the developments you see there are down to their innovative and daring spirit of the Nigerian youths and not as a result of any deliberate reforms by successive governments over the years.

The domestic football league is professional only in name. All other things are either semi, quasi in functionality. Or how do you explain for instance, a situation whereby teams shipped out an entire squad of say twenty or thirty-something players and bringing in  fresh legs all in the name  repositioning the team for greater performance.

However, if properly done the two industries have the capacity to absorb substantial numbers of our youths.

So, if Britain deems it fit to have a ministry of children affairs even when children over there are not suffering what their counterpart in Nigeria suffers and still saddles a Nigerian with the responsibility of overseeing such, it is only appropriate we toy the same line and do the needful.

Nigeria needs a ministry of children affairs if you ask me, and there is no better time than now when all doesn't seem to be going well for the Nigerian child.

It may be too late in the day for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to make amends but such a plan can be set in motion with a view that by this time next year all would have taken shape and the implementation shall be smooth sailing.

By so doing, many challenges confronting the Nigerian child can be properly looked into and resolved. And posterity will never forget such government that makes such a laudable idea comes to past.

P.S: Once more, I say Congratulations to Kemi Olufunto for her appointment as a minister of children affairs in Britain. 

***Friends, if you like this post don't leave without sharing your perspective in the comment section below. Thanks.

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