By Tope Templer Olaiya
It was a memorable Children’s Day on Monday, May 27, 2013, for over 5,000 students in Ejigbo who embarked on a solidarity march to commemorate this year’s event in a parade tagged Children March For Democracy. In a remarkable difference from previous celebration where a selected few are handpicked to represent the school in a march past, this year’s event was celebrated by all pupils of public schools in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and some private schools in the council.
As early as 7am, the parade ground, which is located opposite the Ejigbo Police Station at Ifoshi Road, was cordoned off to road users, while the area was lined on both sides with plastic chairs and speakers, which blared revolutionary songs from late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Early callers began arriving and soon, the parade ground was bursting with children excitedly waving the Nigerian flag and dancing to the melodies of the music played by the DJ. By 10am, all was set for an avalanche of speeches from various speakers, which sought to inspire in the children the promise of a new Nigeria and hope of a brighter future.
The pupils were allowed by the council to truly feel the import that they are celebrating their day, as the traffic was diverted from Orilowo bus stop, where the pupils began their street parade, after coming out from Fadu primary school complex. With the assistance of the police, the council’s traffic men and neighborhood watchers, the road where the street parade took place was cleared of traffic.
From Orilowo bus stop to Ifoshi road, to pipeline junction, where the council chairman, Kehinde Bamigbetan and other dignitaries were waiting, the pupils, in their neat school uniform and colourful flags, walked through the road, led by their teachers, and singing aloud and excitedly in English and Yoruba languages.
The pupils stopped their parade temporarily to listen to goodwill messages from dignitaries and the council chairman who had mounted the big podium placed at the pipeline junction. They resumed the parade after the delivery of goodwill messages.
Explaining the significance of the march, chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the council decided to use the day to celebrate the culture of civic value and democracy. “The difference we are introducing to Ejigbo is to involve everybody, all our students in public schools in the LCDA to popularise the march that has brought change to this country like the June 12 and January 2012 subsidy protest march, which illustrates the beauty of democracy as government of the people by the people and for the people, rather than the military parade for a selected few that reminds us of the not too pleasant history of military dictatorship.”
Continuing, he said: “The idea of Children’s Day march past is a military hangover, where selected students are primed to march in military style before dignitaries. We believe student parades should play a role in nation building, for them to learn that people that make history are not necessarily elites; and that collectively, they can make things happen.
“This is why we are changing the paradigm from the old system where a selected few are taken to the stadium to march and the rest of the kids are turned to spectators. This system promotes elitism and gives the impression that some are anointed to lead while others are anointed to follow, leading to the misguided conception that only few people can run society,” he said.
He concluded that it is common knowledge that children are leaders of tommorrow, but to help the society groom future leaders, government at all levels must create an enabling environment for them to develop.
Bamigbetan added that his administration, since its inception in October 2008, has motivated pupils of public primary schools and youths in the council with free meal, free uniform, free desks and benches, annual free GCE and JAMB forms, sponsorship of 100 youths on skill acquisition programme, internship programme for youths at the council secretariat and recently, provision of employment for 176 unemployed youths in various private organisations in Lagos state.
Other dignitaries who spoke at the occasion, admonished the children to concentrate on their studies and ensure they desist from social vices that can make them enemies of the society. Dignitaries who delivered goodwill messages included the Executive Secretary of Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Education Authority, Alausa Adekoya; DPO of Ejigbo police station, CSP Oliver Inoma Abbey, who advised the pupils not to roam about during school hours; Chairman of Ejigbo parents forum, Alhaji Adeyemo Aliu, Chairman of all Community Development Associations in Ejigbo, Chief Sharafadeen Alimi, Chairman of National Youth Council, Ejigbo Chapter, Comrade Olawale Fashola, representative of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Ejigbo Chapter, Comrade Mohammed Adekunle and Chairman of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, Ejigbo LCDA branch, Comrade Jelili Balogun.