Slavery is a position similar to many issues of global concerns which human beings had longed to resolve since the beginning of time. The universality of human world made it possible to accommodate variety of human colours, races, manner, languages, customs and practices. The practice of slavery is as old as the history of human race.
Very notably, man has been making implementation and significant involvement of slaves in their economic activities, very significantly in the agricultural sector. Major great nations and ancient communities were identified with this practice. Greek and Roman philosophers, Persian military generals, Jewish monks, Christian war records, Arab chiefs, all had the antecedents of not making declarative position relative to anti-slavery. Mean while, the ancient philosophers and some major secularist support the practice of slavery.
Slavery represents a global norm and concern that was facilitated as a result of different reasons owing to diverse cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs. For a brief reference, the Jewish monks approve the practice of slavery as means of relieving a sinner from his sin, by exposing him to this status in order to purify him from the filth of sin.
The above proposition vividly sight and identify slavery has not been a recent birth in Nigeria. It is an act that also exist in the ancient democracies of the world.
Resting on the forgoing, the concept of slavery in all context have different backgrounds, styles and dimensions. Child labour can be equally noted as child slavery. It particularly possesses a global danger at the community which it is encouraged.
There are diverse sources of slavery according to the institution that host it. Prisoners of war who are captives in the ancient cultures in Nigeria are taken as slaves. They are being exposed to various forms of hard labour in farming, domestic works and even offering them for sale like other wares taken on war. Wars fought in the past had terrible records of inhuman treatment of women and child(ren) of the conquered.
In the build up of civilization in Nigeria, there are still significant actions of slavery, particularly child slavery and labour. Then, the community had two classes: the free and the slaves. The slaves captured or taken on hostages in the ancient Yoruba race were exposed to serious hardship and dehumanising treatments. This was justified by the claim that the sons and daughters of the monarchs or chiefs who are original inhabitants of the land had no time to participate in any energy-consuming work and activities, hence, the exposure of those in captivity(mostly women and children) to labour.
The major players in the ancient Nigeria history were the warlords of the old empire, the religious monks and high ranking members of the community(mostly the wealthy or those who have huge properties and estates). Each of these classes of people did not only support the practice but actively endorsed it with their actions.
Mordern civilization in Nigeria has come to reorientate the unjustifiable positions of slavery and child labour in the society. Particularly, in the case of child slavery and labour, it came to openly negate the status of using small kids, infants and children who have not grown up for any hard labour or exercise.
The Nigeria community today, predominantly in the Northern part of the country have rampant situations of child labour. This ugly development was often necessitated as a result of the harsh and poor economic realities of the country. Besides, the Hausas who statistically are mostly Muslims believe it arms taking as a means of survival. Many of their men are largely farmers and women are either petty traders, market women or beggars. Their kids too are openly subjected to “strive” to survive. Teenagers are often sent on errand of begging for food, money, and clothing. Some of these kids act as supporters and helpers to their parent’s means of survival which the strength of the child can not hold or manage to cope with.
Parents who could not afford regular feeding of wards proceed to send their children(mostly infants and underaged) to neighbors, community friends or faraway accomplices on missions as maids or “helpers”. They subject the little ones to intense hardship and traumatic situations. The kids are sent on errands that they have no strength or mental capability to handle, this is very saddening and grievous.
Child labour basically affect the child and the community they grow in. The kids are sometimes exposed to trafficking and unjustifiable movements under harsh climatic conditions plus poor economic standard of the country. Those children are poorly fed, they are malnutrited. At the same time, they are made to face the danger of the unsafe society, asking them to go to streets on hawking or in any other dangerous source for survival.
These happens in many Nigeria communities, in rural areas or semi-rural settlements. The immediate community where I live have similar and rampant cases of this menace. Even, parents ask their small wards that live under their nose to go ahead to streets and make survival out of it. Agreeably, these streets are practically unsafe for all categories of adherents(adult or child), as a result of reckless motorcyclists, no well monitored vehicle movement. Summarily, these streets and local settlements are prone to accidents and other societal abuses. Parents send their wards on street not considering any risk without putting into consideration possibilities of risk on the path of the child. This is child labour and it is not sane and welcomed in a progressive society.
Girl children in most cases are the most vulnerable of this menace, a perpetual exposure of a girl child to slavery and such kind of labour gives a sad story and outcome. They are mostly victims of rape and sexual harassment.
Undeniably, child labour and slavery deprive kids access to education and proper orientation for their mental upkeep. A child who have poor or no education access is prone to the hazard of been improperly oriented by the ugly situations of the society – thus, lured to possibility of committing crime or aiding the process of criminal activities. We all should agree this is bad for our country.
The health of children in labour is at serious risk to themselves and the society. In the process of been engaged badly to slavery and labour, they possibly have contact with communicable diseases(as our society is not free from germs and infections) or personally nurture health crisis which affect their healthy living and mental balance.
As it stands, child labour is condemnable, not justifiable or excusable in any sense in Nigeria society. The world has grown beyond above old styles and systems. There is a pressing need for a durable plan for child labour eradication and measures to be designed for complete avertion to the practice.
Everyday, there are establishing new connections in new environments – child labour should not be an exemption. Government must make a frank position against child labour and all forms of child slavery in the country. This can be achievable by finding lasting and sustainable panacea to the state of the nation’s economy. In real sense, the economy should be designed and restored in a way that it will be friendly to all classes of Nigerians. It is not deniable that the accelerating level of poverty in the country is a root that exposes children to hard labour and sorts of slavery.
On the same stand, government should identify child slavery as a crime in the country and to humanity at large. Government as a matter of alacrity should establish capital punishment at anyone found wanting relative to child labour. The law of our country should demonstrate a total devotion and commitment towards eradicating child labour in the country.
Nigerians of all categories, tribe, ethnicity and race must develop a high level of shared responsibility and national consciousness against child labour. A collective effort against it will do the nation and her people great goods.
It is not deniable that children and young heads are the bright hope of this country. They are the vision and future of our country. They deserve proper upbringing void of been exposed to labour. They merit nutritious foods. They have right to education and they should be given. They deserve health insurance and a better health system. They deserve the best to keep the body and soul together for future prospects of this country and not the sad narratives of child labour and slavery.
The constitution of our dear Africa giant have provision for personal liberty and rights. It covers all Nigerians and inclusively the children. This should be properly honored with full strength and adherence.
I submit that a nation void of child labour is very open and beneficial to peace, security absolute tranquility and prosperity in all forms. The growing ones of our country deserve a future that should truly speak for them and recognise a beautiful place for them in the nation’s spaces and capacities.
English Studies Department, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state.