Let the young dream

Posted by News Express | 8 January 2022 | 400 times

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Nobody can determine what the future holds. But it hasn’t stopped anyone from dreaming. It’s a rare child who would not dream of what they would want to be as an adult. The most common professions on the list of the desirable include Engineering, Medicine and Law. I have however met people who have chosen what one could call the less exciting professions based on some role models in their community. But the rule of the thumb is for the young to dream of exotic professions. Almost every youngster wants to be rich and famous. It is the route to fame and wealth that differs. And it is the duty of a good society to let its children choose whichever route they desire as long as it is legal and noble. It is the duty of the society to allow its children to dream, to aspire, to have illusions. The sky or even beyond, should be the limit for any youth to aim for. History has shown that those who achieve their childhood dreams are among the happiest people in the world.

Somewhere in the ancient city of Kano, a young girl dared to dream – like many have done before her and many would do after her.  She wanted to be a model. It was not an unrealistic expectation because God blessed her with the looks and the figure to be a top model. In another time and place, her ambition would only be deterred by her level of preparedness and determination. Unfortunately, she grew up in one of the more conservative cities in the world. A city that is still coming to terms with a woman schooling and working; or even the idea of a woman daring to be an individual.

This young lady dared the odds and contested for Miss Nigeria Pageant. But she did it in a way that reflected her faith and conservative background – she was a hijab wearing contestant. She won the contest much to her surprise. She carried this subtle, conservative game plan to the world stage. Although she did not win there, she won hearts and got accolades that made Nigeria proud with her creative dress sense. She did not go the bikini route and in my opinion, nothing that should be covered was exposed. Yet, she was elegant in her simplicity. She was soft spoken and charming. She was beautiful in an understated way. In a post contest interview, she talked about her dreams and her journey to the beauty pageant. She talked about the difficult period when schools were closed down due to Covid19 and her not having anything to do. Given her beauty and the chauvinistic society she grew up in, she would not have been short of offers for romantic liaisons had she chosen a different route. Instead, the period of idleness spurred her into trying to achieve her dreams. The result was the crown. The result was her special mention at the world stage. Not many people her age – or any age – get that level of positive exposure. The result I hope, is the key to a coveted door that should open to a career of fame and fortune. And in achieving this, she would have hopefully inspired hundreds of young women around the country but especially in the north not to give up on their dreams. I was not only proud of what she has achieved but also in the way she carried herself. I am sure many people felt like me.

Obviously people who felt like me did not reckon with religious bigots who see everything wrong with self-expression especially when it comes to women. They are the ones who throw religious books and doctrines at you to browbeat. They have come out to say that her participation violated the doctrines of her faith. In their religious book, women are confined to certain strictures and certain vocations. In their religious doctrines, her body and mind belong to her man. The less she opens them, the better for her. Going to school opens her mind, so it must be discouraged. Sports expose her body so they must be discouraged. Certain professions like acting and modelling open both her mind and body so they must be discouraged. Even talking to a male outside family opens her mind to indecent thoughts and must be discouraged. According to some of these religious conservatives, a woman really shouldn’t have a mind of her own. Her duty is to serve her man and her fulfilment should be motherhood. She is hardly to be seen outside the ‘oza room’.

The Kano I loved and visited several times in my youth as a practising journalist is not the same Kano anymore. I loved the unique blend of the ancient and modern. Kano of that time was not permissive but it was tolerant. It is now the Kano of the religious police which is getting more powerful and intolerant by the day. It is the Kano of cant and false piety. Commerce is dying while poverty is thriving. Openness is dying while illicit activities in dark corners are thriving. This unfortunately, is not the story of Kano alone. It is the story of the States which have allowed religion to take the place of good governance. I think it’s time we interrogated the role of religion in our society. Has it been a force for good? Has it been a force for progress? How helpful has the continuous sabre rattling between the two main faiths been to the country? In whose interest is the eternal competition to win more souls for God?

Meanwhile, Israel and Saudi Arabia where the two main religions come from are modernising at a time parts of Nigeria are going back to the stone age. It is time to decide whether we want to be an Israel or a Lebanon; an India or a Pakistan; a Dubai or an Afghanistan.  To be an Israel or an India, or a Dubai, we have to embrace education, science, technology and Artificial Intelligence. We have to allow our young ones to dream; to aspire; to express themselves. If we don’t want to travel the route of Afghanistan or Lebanon, we have to get religion out of the State – or the State out of religion. I am not in any way advocating a Godless State but with all our religiosity, we are still among the most corrupt countries in the world. We are still incapable of loving our next door neighbour. Religion has become an instrument of coercion and manipulation. Its by product has been an unhealthy dependence on God and miracles which has led to laziness, retardation and poverty. Israel with its history, religious sites and icons is not relying on religion to solve its problems. Neither should we. It is time to get to work in 2022. After all, Heaven they say helps those who help themselves.

•Muyiwa Adetiba is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via titbits2012@yahoo.com


Source: News Express

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