The heartbreaking sight of Jibril, the 10 year old boy from Kebbi invaded our hearts and united us in grief for his condition. Most people either said a prayer, cursed his carers or forwarded to the next group to provoke a similar reaction. My burden of responsibility was greater and I predicted rightly that I would soon be besieged by friends, colleagues (and monitoring spirits) about this case.
Although Kebbi is yet to domesticate the Child Right Act, we have a reasonably good response team. Thus, by the time the case was brought to my attention by SSA Aisha Magawata, there had already been some appropriate reaction. The NHRC coordinator, Barr Hamza Wala had taken Jibril to the hospital, where he was received by the CMD Dr Aminu Bunza, who immediately administered all emergency care required without charge. Following this, the Special Adviser on Women Affairs Hon Zahrau Wali and a team of government officials visited the hospital and took responsibility for his medical care.
As I watched the videos, it was clear to my trained eye he has underlying mental issues along with some physical deformities. Some reports described him as walking like an animal from the long duration of chaining/confinement. I doubt this. A differential diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy stuck. I later confirmed it was actually his “illness” and “wandering” nature that necessitated the chains, after many futile hospital visits.
Ironically, I had a meeting with a UNICEF child protection team the next day to examine the outcome of deliberations by CSOs in Kebbi on the Child Right Act bill. One of the main recommendations from that meeting was to rename the bill Child PROTECTION Act. My tone through the meeting was quite pessimistic. Here we are always having high level meetings and advocating to pass big laws, yet right in the state capital a child with an obvious underlying medical condition is chained like a dog. Barr Wala states in his video how neighbours stared at them in disbelief as the police led away the suspects. All this fuss? For Jibril? To their minds, he is not worthy; he is after all -subhuman.
By morning, His Excellency, equally bombarded, disturbed and possibly sensing more disturbance from yours truly, made some calls and took further steps, not just on how to handle the humanitarian and criminal aspect of the case, but indeed to question the social welfare system
In another world, such a case would trigger an immediate mass self resignation of officials involved. History will never forget the case of Victoria Climbie, the 8 year Ivorian girl tortured and eventually murdered in London by her aunt and boyfriend. Her death triggered a major public enquiry, changes and an overhaul of child protection laws in the UK. For us in Nigeria, this is never the case. It is just another viral story.
So this time, why don’t we do it differently? Let’s ask ourselves some questions and face some truths. The question his condition begets us to ask, but sadly, I find very few are is “who failed Jibril?”
Much venom has been hurled at his father and stepmothers. Can we blame them totally? What options has life groomed them with? Are they equipped to recognize the type of illness Jibril has? Did his late mother attend antenatal classes? Was Jibril vaccinated and have baby checks? They have taken him to hospitals, until they couldn’t afford to any more. I am certain prayers and traditional herbs have been tried. His illness persists. So who let Jibril down? The simple truth is -All of us.
Jibril has obviously been let down by his father, his stepmothers, their neighbours and the Badariya community. The Hisbah and Police that didn’t pick him up during his wanderings and save him from chains must answer to this as do the hospitals and a health system that didn’t act on his condition. A Western and Islamic educational system that doesn’t educate minds to think better of children like him is a failed one. The social welfare system and civil society organizations that should protect children at this age has failed him. The state’s executive legislative and judicial arms of government that ought to have protective laws and monitor the activities of employees has failed him. A Federal government meant to fund all this and more must answer to all the Jibrils out there. He certainly isn’t alone.
All of YOU that forwarded and posted his pictures just as you did many other underaged and abused children disregarding and disrespecting their privacy have failed him alongside all the others.
And of course, the governors wife always having theoretical webinars on GBV yet this happens under her watch, has failed Jibril.
We have all failed Jibril despite knowing better and having the ability and resources to do so. Let each of us take his portion of blame and vow to do one thing differently. For now we promise to love and tend to him better. You will have to take our word for it. Because I promise you, for now, you will never see another picture of Jibril again.
Dr Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu.