“Yara! Yara! – yeye (Children! Children – Response)
Mai ku ke so? – aji! (What do you want? – classrooms!)
Wuta fa? – mai saida” (Electicity? – Its expensive)
The sweet melody of children singing greeted us as we drove through the rough narrow lane to Gofidna, a rural community in Abuja Municipal Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. We could not help but sway our hips and clap our hands to the happy voices of children claiming their rights in song.
As my ActionAId colleagues and I gathered under the mango tree, I noticed a house much like a cottage, the only one of its kind. It was covered in lemon green paint, surrounded by beautiful glass windows and had light bulbs hanging on fancy lamp stands. Light bulbs? I wondered. In a place without electricity? Perhaps the builder placed them there in hope that someday the songs of the children would be heard by the Nigerian Government and the fancy light bulbs would be put to use - afterall the Government was stationed just 35 kilometres away from Gofidna.
I looked again and saw right beside this “modern house”, a mud house with one tiny window. The entrance to the house was covered with a piece of torn old material. It had no door. Then it struck me: This right here is the embodiement of the contrast of development in Nigeria. A community just 35 kilometres away from the city centre of the 'Giant of Africa,' sat isolated and neglected. A rough road, an off-shoot from a major dual carriage way; a primary school without teachers, desks or recreational facilities; poles without connecting electricity...a community of 2,500 people without a voice in government.
We were visiting Gofidna for an exercise to build ActionAid staff capacities in a new Reflection/Action approach to our work. In speaking with the residents, the people said they worried that soon their affluent neighbours would force them to relocate so they can build their fancy estates. Sigh...
Then the song of the children resounded again in my ears – mai ku ke so – aji - and it dawns on me: these children that ActionAid has been working with do know their rights. They know they deserve electricity. They know they deserve a good road to the city. They know they deserve portable drinking water. They know they deserve classrooms, furniture and recreational facilities at the primary school built five years ago. And with our support they would fight and get all they deserve.
Perhaps when they grow up, they would be able to say to their affluent neighbours:“Don’t send us away so you can build your fancy estates and tourist attraction; make Gofidna Community a tourist attraction!”
Written by Faith Solomon