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A bucket of flour not a bouquet of flower

Gone are the days when the saying was true that “the words of our elders are the words of wisdom”.  We are holding the wrong…

Gone are the days when the saying was true that “the words of our elders are the words of wisdom”.  We are holding the wrong end of capitalism and have embraced utilitarianism. The saying that gray hair is an honour from God is no more useful. We throw away our experiences and prefer to make new mistakes.  The elderly have to struggle for space in order not to be forgotten in the dustbin of history. I told him of a recent interview granted by former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme to a newspaper.
He complained of not being accorded the respect he deserves and desires as a former Vice-President. He complained of the marginalization by the younger generation of politicians who no longer value the contributions made by him and others of his age. He spoke about how they formed the famous G 34 that fought the draconian military regime to a standstill and finally gave birth to the current political dispensation. Many other persons like him who do not want to die of loneliness and in political obscurity struggle to stay politically relevant. That is  why once in a while, you hear a First Republic political war horse making random noise here and there just to tell the younger ones that they are still around. This category of elders should have retired into comfortable political museums where the younger politicians go to consult them as oracles of statecraft, but not in Nigeria. They are too hungry to be quiet. It is not their fault. It is simply because we have no program for retirement and for the elderly. This also affects adversely patriotism while encouraging corruption. I want to speak for those who are retired.
Every year we celebrate Armed Forces Remembrance Day. Public servants, politicians and top government functionaries are made to wear the Armed Forces Remembrance Emblem for almost a month.  The Remembrance Day celebration culminates in the laying of wreath, release of many pigeons to signify peace and inspection of guard of honour, on 15th January. That has been our practice since the Nigerian Civil War ended officially on 15th January 1970. Very colorful ceremony I must admit. This ceremony is always at the national or state arcade, before the statue of the Unknown Soldier. I always look around to see who will present. Everyone is always present except those who truly deserve to be present, the retired military men! The current security challenges would always exclude them from what should be their day of honour and glory. This should be their day when they are expected to sit around themselves and ruminate with pride their exploits in the wars in Congo, Burma and Lebanon. This should have being their day to congratulate each other for how they fought to keep Nigeria one. This would have being their day to receive delegations of goodwill from Sierra Leone and Liberia to thank them for restoring peace to those countries. But that is not always the case. To large extent they are forgotten. For God’s sake, the fallen heroes were their colleagues!
The irony of it all is that during the celebration this year, the retired armed men had planned a nationwide demonstration to press home their demand for a better condition of life and payment of the backlog of their pension. It was an irony that on the day the president and other top government functionaries were busy honoring the dead armed men, laying flowers in their honour all over the country, the colleagues of those dead men who are still alive are here begging for flour for their tables. I consider it a national ridicule for the government to organize such an elaborate ceremony in honour of the dead armed men while the living ones are left hungry.
The plight of retired persons in Nigeria is not restricted to those in uniform. It is even worse with retired local and state government staff. A little boy was asked in the class; ‘what do you notice in a person to show that he or she has retired from service as a class teacher?’ The little boy answered; “stroke”. The men and women who have served our nation well are never properly taken care of. It is so scary to retire from active service in Nigeria. One is never sure of what to expect. That is why civil servants falsify documents and age, swearing to all sorts of affidavits to remain in service. Those who have access to government funds and can steal, do so with the hope that it will become their insurance when the reality of retirement dawns on them. But after one to two years they realize that what they have stolen cannot pay for all they need. Then they join a political party and struggle to contest an election or remain close to power. For such, the politics they play is not for the interest of the nation or community but just a survival tactics. That is why political parties have complicated and unnecessary structures to take care of all characters of people that populate the parties. The Board of Trustees (BOT), National Executive Council (NEC), the National Caucus, Regional Caucus, Tribal Caucus, State Caucus and Elders, Zonal Caucus, Local Government Caucus, Ward Caucus, Village Caucus, family Caucus, etc.  All these categories of party structures must be well serviced by contracts, board appointments, statutory allowances, etc. How can a nation survive and progress with such a clumsy organogram of party men and women, who by every means contribute almost nothing to national development after elections?   
The government has well laid out programmes and projects for every category of persons and organizations. The big problem is that we do not strengthen the structures that take care of the needs of these programmes and projects and they end up becoming conduit pipes of corruption. Take for instance, National Pension Fund. It is a government establishment that is well thought out to take care of the retired person. But see what we have done to it. The National Pension Commission should have being the ‘retirement savior’ for civil servants. But see what happened to the pension fund.  I wrote in February 2013 about the Pension funds. Read this extract from it;
“Watching the live broadcast of the Nigerian senate discussing Mr Abdulrasheed Maina on the 13th February, 2013, my mind raced back to that carton as my stomach turned in revolt.  Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina is a deputy director in the federal civil service, the embattled Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) accused of stealing billions of Naira who refused to honour the invitation of the senate committee charged to look into the activities of that Task Team. The President of the Senate said the sins of Maina are many and could not be counted. Contributions by individual senators on the floor showed signs of a nation losing the necessary war against corruption. Both printable and unprintable terms were freely used. Senator (Prof) Olusola Adeyeye representing Osun central, Osun State, describing Maina said, when God was giving out manners to people, Maina decided to be absent. Senator Aloysius Etok, Akwa Ibom North West, summarized it all; “If we have five people like Maina, Nigeria will collapse. He is a fraudster. He is riding two bullet proof cars while pensioners are hungry. He spent N1 billion to verify 29 pensioners abroad. He goes around with 38 security men and every week, he spends N8 million on his personal security”.
Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko, Director of Pastoral Affairs Department, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria

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