Filed under: National Issues |

October 1st is a remarkable day in the lives of every Nigerians because it reminds us of 1960 when Nigeria got her independence. It is also a worldwide day set aside to celebrate and remember the older generation still living in our societies. The importance of old people in our society cannot be over emphasized, it transcends the gray hair on their head which of course cannot be bought with money, but comes with and signifies experience.

How do we treat the older people living amongst us in today’s Nigeria? The answer to this question will bring tears to the eyes of every reasonable young person. These elderly people that are today treated with scorn were once young, pretty or handsome as the case maybe, with most dedicating there entire life in service to nation building while others committed the best part of there lives taking care of us. Many young people see their aged parents as burden, some go to the extent of insulting and at times beating them up for being old. Others speak of “The Old People’s Home”, not forgetting that these old people that now see as burden had the option of either doing there primary duty or casting them to the orphanages(you are free to call it “The Young People’s Home”). Old age is not a Cause but rather a blessing, like Prof. Chinua Achebe says in one of the world widely read books “Things Fall Apart”, “Looking at the mouth of an elderly woman, one will think she never sucked her mothers breast”.

One of the biggest factors constituting Nigeria’s problem, aside corruption which emanate due to bad leadership is the habit of copying things existing in foreign countries. It has become part of us so much so that we don’t even know what can and cannot work for us. Can another man or woman take care of your parents the way you will? Absolutely not. We must not copy the Westerners or any region whatsoever, especially the Americans, who have little or no respect for there elderly parents.

From a common perspective, parents and children both want a comfortable life – there are limits to the sacrifices that they will make for each other and from a scientific perspective, natural selection, as proposed by an American Scientist. He proposed an abomination: “It may under some circumstances be better for children to abandon or kill their parents than for the parents to abandon or kill their children”. The repositories of knowledge are the memories of old people, if you don’t have old people to remember what happened 50 years ago, then you’ve lost a lot of experience for that society. The old people are useful in a society and play a big role in making it more habitable. While old people in traditional societies can no longer spare games or battle enemies, they can still gather food to care for children. They are also expert at making tools, weapons baskets and clothes.

The East Asia cultures steeped in a Confucian tradition that places high value on filial piety, obedience and respect, it is considered utterly despicable not to take care of your elderly parents. Same goes for Mediterranean cultures where multi-generation families live together in the same house. That is a better region and act worthy of emulation. Perhaps most important culture lacking written records of history, songs and other forms of culture, older people are invaluable sources of information. When people grow old in traditional villages in Fiji, family and friends care for them at home until their dying days. In America, the elderly are sent to nursing homes. A contrasting action towards one time brain of the nation, while in Paraguay’s Aché Indians assign certain young men the task of killing old people with an ax or spear, or burying them alive.

Here in Nigeria, great patriots who has worked assiduously in service to there nation, after retiring from active service are lined up like students awaiting supervision, to collect their pension. They are asked by the Federal Government to leave the comfort of there States and homes to the Federal Capital Territory, where most don’t have shelter and enough money to feed let alone transport themselves back to their various stations. Some die in the process while others end up begging to feed and transport themselves back home. At the end of the whole exercise they are left hanging with no pension money. Is that a way to appreciate those who once served the nation? The Federal Government are yet to inform Nigerians about the where about of the over N2 billion pension fund.

Steps can be taken to improve the lives of our elderly ones, understand their changing strength and weakness as they age and, appreciate their deeper understanding of human relationship and their ability to think across wide ranging disciplines, to strategize, and share what they have learned. Look around you and make a self-appraisal and evaluation and answer these question, how well do you treat your old people?