Poor Riliwan! By Dele Agekameh

agekameh 600There is no doubt that the meteoric rise in crime and criminal conducts in the country is as a result of a breakdown in societal values, norms and morals. And of course, Nigeria may not be alone in this loathsome path. This is because the economic downturn in recent times has really led to family dislocations everywhere as many young couples now seek divorce soon after walking down the aisles. Not only this. The lack of economic power has led to avoidable squabbles in many a matrimonial home. In most cases, these quarrels have resulted regretfully in both parties going their separate ways at the slightest jolt. This way, many couples have been torn apart.

When two elephants lock horns, it is the grass beneath them that absorbs the pain and anguish. Major cities in Nigeria are today brimming with children who cannot readily point at their family homes. Some have lost touch since they were toddlers. They probably were born without anybody standing in as a father. In many instances, the women, who are usually at the receiving end of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, have fallen victims of abandonment and neglect from the men they thought were their lovers. These women are abandoned right during the pregnancies or shortly after putting to bed either because of poor financial power of the men or some other irreconcilable differences. And the society has no clear-cut way to address these issues or ameliorate the unfortunate situations.

Today, the rise in juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, criminality and other dangerous vices that are inimical to law and order in the society is due to the fact that many youths who roam the streets have no guardians or parents to call their own. They simply find their ways to bus-stops, vehicles’ loading points, depots, den of criminals and other innocuous dungeons as they search for the elusive daily bread.

Take the case of one Riliwan, whose plight was recently brought to the fore by a national newspaper. Seventeen-year-old Riliwan was said to have run away from his father’s house in Abuja to Lagos because he (his father) threatened to kill him. Riliwan narrated his story to a reporter who encountered him in a bus en route Abuja to Lagos. He said that he ran away from home at Tungamade, Abuja, without the knowledge of his father, who he described as a disciplinarian. Riliwan was described as ‘looking scared and tired’ when the reporter met him. The reporter said, though Riliwan claimed to be going to  Church Street in Idumota, Lagos Island, to meet his mother, his description did not show that he knew his destination. According to Riliwan himself, he decided “to run away from home due to maltreatment and death threats from his father.” Hear him:  “I left home without the knowledge of my father. He has always maltreated me. He is always threatening to kill me.


‘We must understand that, without lending a helping hand to the needy, especially the downtrodden in the society, we can never attain the much-sought-after peaceful co-existence’


Each time I needed something from him, he would turn me down. I am not feeling the fatherly love and I am not happy to be with him any longer. That is why I decided to run away to meet my mother in Lagos. I was told that my parents divorced since I was three years old. I had to abandon my education at Junior Secondary School One (JSS1) because my father refused to pay my school fees.

Each time I came home to tell him that his attention was needed in my school, he would not go.”

In Riliwan’s estimation, he was vulnerable to abuses and disdainful treatment in his father’s hands because his mother had left him many years ago. He rightly or wrongly believes that all will be well with him by the time he sets his eyes on his mother. “I believe that things will turn out for the better in Lagos when I see my mother, although she is not also aware that I am coming,” he said.

Riliwan added that he learnt that his mother was married to another person. Unknown to this poor soul, that could also be another source of trouble for him if the mother’s new lover is the intolerant type. Riliwan also said that before he left his father, he worked as an assistant in a bakery to survive. He said: “I feed myself because nobody cares. Anytime my step-mum gave me food, we had to sneak into the house because my father must not know. So the bakery became my life. I earlier tried to apply as an apprentice with an engineer but he requested to see any of my parents. When I informed my father, he ignored me.”

When the reporter later visited Church Street, Idumota, a few days after the encounter, he could not locate Riliwan. Residents of the house where his mother supposedly lives could not confirm Riliwan’s arrival in the house or the area. What this means is that, Riliwan, possibly did not arrive at his initial destination safely or he might have changed his mind to go elsewhere on a second thought. The implication is that Riliwan could now be a potential area boy, armed robber or drug peddler prowling the streets of Lagos anytime soon.

The pathetic case of Riliwan is symptomatic of the appalling situation many youths of today are confronted with. Riliwan, like other children in his shoes, out of lack of care from their parents, simply abandoned school and their families. As soon as they bolt out of their parents’ abode, they are embraced by the waiting arms of hardened criminals, drug addicts, drug peddlers and other social misfits who employ their services to ply their ‘lethal’ ware or commit crimes of unimaginable proportion against innocent and law-abiding citizens. The issue of abandoned youths, therefore, becomes a good preying ground for criminals who are perennially looking for new recruits to their nefarious ways of life.

Let us look at the rise and spread of Boko Haram in the northern part of the country. Most of the converts to Boko Haram’s stupid and destructive doctrine are easily children and youths who have no parental or guardian control. The havoc they have wreaked on the economic and social fabric of the society, especially in the North-East of the country reverberates all over the globe. Today, Nigeria features prominently in terrorists’ map everywhere.

No thanks to these misguided and abandoned youths who are hypnotised and brainwashed into taking arms against their fellow men.

Though the governments at both the federal and state levels are now trying hard to curtail the excesses of these bad elements in the society, the havoc has been done. Now it is a sort of stick-and-carrot approach to end the regime of bombs and deaths. The federal government has since May this year imposed emergency rule on three most volatile states in the North-East. They are Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. The military are prowling every nooks and cranny in these states, smoking out insurgents from their various hideouts.

In this month of Ramadan, Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno State, has gone a step further. Just last week, Government House, Maiduguri hosted some unusual visitors. The visitors, numbering 50, were made orphans through the satanic activities of the Boko Haram sect.

They were guests of the governor who invited them for the traditional iftah (breaking of fast). In addition to the cosy meals they had with their host and other dignitaries in attendance, they all bagged scholarships to pursue their education. The scholarships are designed to cut across orphans from both Muslim and Christian homes, as the government has promised to also host orphans from Christian homes during Christmas. The governor then impressed it on government officials, wealthy residents and charity organisations to assist the orphans in their midst.

Like Shettima said, it is now the duty of other arms of government, charity organisations and wealthy Nigerians to take a cue from this gesture. We must understand that, without lending a helping hand to the needy, especially the downtrodden in the society, we can never attain the much-sought-after peaceful co-existence. Even in the Scriptures, it is clearly written: “Be your brother’s keeper”.

No tags for this post.