Cham­pi­ons of Child Adop­tion

Re­gard­less of the mis­con­cep­tion about child adop­tion in Nige­ria, Ikenna Ek­w­erike ex­plores the power of giv­ing a child a lov­ing home

THISDAY - - PAGE SIX -

Re­gard­less of the mis­con­cep­tion about child adop­tion in Nige­ria, Ikenna Ek­w­erike ex­plores the power of giv­ing a child a lov­ing home

Not too many peo­ple know that the pop­u­lar Nol­ly­wood celebrity, Joke Silva, spent the ear­li­est part of her life in the or­phan­age. Yes! Mrs. Joke Ja­cobs, wife to an­other vet­eran ac­tor, Olu Ja­cobs, ex­pe­ri­enced the power of adop­tion which Mrs. Do­lapo Os­in­bajo, wife of Nige­ria’s Vice-Pres­i­dent, de­scribed as the power of love in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Silva, both of blessed mem­ory.

“I re­ceived love; I got the best of ev­ery­thing a daugh­ter could ever wish for from her par­ents. Peo­ple out­side the im­me­di­ate fam­ily could never tell that I was an adopted child. The bond­ing be­tween me and my mother was in­de­scrib­able. My mother was the first per­son who taught me how to pray and what­ever prob­lem I brought to her she would al­ways say, ‘Joke have you been on your knees? Oya take it to Daddy, take it to Baba God’.

“Even in their wills, there was no sep­a­ra­tion; my fa­ther pro­tected me with his will. He said ‘all my chil­dren, whether adopted or not…’ I can­not call my par­ents my adopted mother, my adopted fa­ther; they are mummy and daddy and my sis­ters and my broth­ers, my cousins, my un­cles and my aun­ties they are fam­ily” Joke Silva rem­i­nisced as she shared her tale in cel­e­bra­tion of her own par­ents who adopted her while she was still a baby with the pas­sion­ate par­tic­i­pants that con­verged on the Fed­eral Palace Ho­tel, La­gos, on Sat­ur­day, 28 Oc­to­ber, 2017, in­clud­ing wife of the Vice-Pres­i­dent, Mrs. Os­in­bajo dur­ing the maiden an­nual con­fer­ence of Her­itage Adop­tion Sup­port and Ad­vo­cacy Group (HASAAG), with the theme: ‘The power of adop­tion’.

Joke Silva re­called how she would never tol­er­ate any­one cast­ing as­per­sions at her mother over her in­abil­ity to pro­duce her own bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren.

“I re­mem­ber a cousin of mine, she was one of those whom my mother used to give what­ever she wanted; I mean she was so sup­port­ive of her. And one day she sat at the bal­cony of her house and she was say­ing: ‘one of the rea­sons aunty Bimpe will never sup­port you with any­thing is be­cause ‘won okuku bi mo’ (be­cause she didn’t give birth to a child of her own) and I got to hear about it. Be­lieve me, I did a very unchris­tian thing: I dealt with this girl, till to­day, she has never be­lieved her eyes, I dealt with her,” she re­counted.

But the ques­tions that should bother ev­ery sane mind that hears the story of Joke Silva are: Would she have been able to make this great im­pact on so­ci­ety, es­pe­cially among the youths who look up to her as role model if she had not been adopted into a home and given undi­luted parental at­ten­tion and guid­ance? Again, is it the case that that in­no­cent child who finds him­self or her­self in the or­phan­age can­not be given the chance to re­alise his or her des­tiny in life?

Un­doubt­edly, it is these same set of

I re­ceived love; I got the best of ev­ery­thing a daugh­ter could ever wish for from her par­ents. Peo­ple out­side the im­me­di­ate fam­ily could never tell that I was an adopted child. The bond­ing be­tween me and my mother was in­de­scrib­able… Even in their wills, there was no sep­a­ra­tion; my fa­ther pro­tected me with his will

Adop­tion is not trou­ble, it’s not stress; it’s not bur­den­some. It’s an act of love, an act of con­cern and an act of will­ing­ness to look af­ter other peo­ple and help them trans­form their lives

ques­tions that pro­voked the soul-search­ing ses­sions which even­tu­ally fired the first psy­cho­log­i­cal shots that ig­nited the pas­sion in the hearts of the founders of HASAAG with the vi­sion to change the neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of adop­tion in the Nige­rian so­ci­ety.

While sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that there are about 17.5 mil­lion aban­doned chil­dren in Nige­ria, there are fears that this fig­ure will con­tinue to rise since stud­ies equally show that 24 per cent of girls in La­gos get preg­nant be­fore they are 18 and there is in­creas­ing rate of preg­nan­cies among 11 year olds in La­gos too.

Iron­i­cally, many mar­ried cou­ples in Nige­ria are hav­ing in­fer­til­ity to con­tend with. Avail­able data re­veals that about 25 per cent of mar­ried cou­ples in the coun­try are bur­dened by in­fer­til­ity is­sues. In fact, there is 40 per cent in­crease in male in­fer­til­ity in Nige­ria.

But, all hope is not lost; adop­tion, ev­i­dence proves, is the true panacea and melt­ing pot for in­fer­til­ity and child aban­don­ment. This was the re­mark­ably pow­er­ful mes­sage that echoed very loudly at the 1st an­nual con­fer­ence of HASAAG.

Sadly, the topic of adop­tion is one not too many peo­ple know too well and some in­di­vid­u­als would pre­fer never to men­tion it at all. For many, adop­tion is trou­ble.

To such per­sons Pas­tor Ituah Igho­dalo, Chair­man Board of Trus­tees, HASAAG, speaks: “Adop­tion is not trou­ble, it’s not stress; it’s not bur­den­some. It’s an act of love, an act of con­cern and an act of will­ing­ness to look af­ter other peo­ple and help them trans­form their lives.”

He clar­i­fies that adop­tion is not only for child­less cou­ples but a call ev­ery­one can ac­tu­ally re­spond to. “You al­ready have your bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren but you can still take on one or two more chil­dren to help and ed­u­cate them.

“Or maybe your chil­dren have left the house, they’ve now gone their own ways; in your mid­dle to old age take on an­other one or two chil­dren; they don’t have to be new born babes, you can look af­ter, send them to school and treat them like your own. It will sim­ply trans­form life and change so­ci­ety,” he urged.

In this re­gard, one of the dis­cus­sants at the con­fer­ence, Mrs. Brid­get It­sueli, a pub­lic speaker and mar­riage fa­cil­i­ta­tor ob­served that re­cent in­crease in in­fer­til­ity among cou­ples was mak­ing the is­sue of adop­tion even more ur­gent to­day.

She be­lieved that the rise might not be un­con­nected with pol­lu­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment, cli­mate change, the new forms of elec­tronic de­vices, the kinds of works that peo­ple now do, the kind of life­style peo­ple live, and clothes that peo­ple wear.

It­sueli chal­lenged the pre­dom­i­nant cul­tural no­tion that ma­ter­nity must be nat­u­ral and in­val­i­dates adop­tion stress­ing that ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity were di­vine whereas hu­man be­ings con­trib­ute to this by ed­u­cat­ing and guid­ing the child with­out un­due con­sid­er­a­tion for who the child came from.

Thus, ac­cord­ing to Mrs. Os­in­bajo, who was spe­cial guest of hon­our at the event, be­com­ing a par­ent is not just through the bi­o­log­i­cal birthing of chil­dren but also by adopt­ing a child.

She ve­he­mently con­demned the neg­a­tive so­cial and cul­tural per­cep­tions at­tached to the prac­tice of adop­tion de­scrib­ing any dam­ag­ing com­ments and stigma to the prac­tice as a hate speech.

“Do you raise your voice to speak out against the stigma at­tached to adop­tion? Do you raise your voice against the hate speech be­cause that’s what it is? Do you raise your voice against fear and un­cer­tainty in the heart of those that are con­cerned? It is a choice and I im­plore us to please choose to speak up,” she ad­vo­cated.

She main­tained that our col­lec­tive hu­man­ity is ques­tioned when in­di­vid­u­als fail to care for the vul­ner­a­ble and the aban­doned chil­dren, adding that “the power of adop­tion is the power of love and we all love to be loved.”

Sto­ries of child aban­don­ment al­ways bring tears to the eyes of child­less cou­ples. They evoke hor­ror and leave goose pim­ples on the skin of ev­ery­one with ac­tive con­science. Vi­o­lence against chil­dren and var­i­ous man­ners of child abuses are di­rect hor­ren­dous re­sults of child aban­don­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, “aban­don­ment is ac­tu­ally very com­mon in Nige­ria,” Mrs. Bami Obasanya, an adop­tion ex­pert with 29 years UK ex­pe­ri­ence said, “But peo­ple do re­lin­quish their chil­dren as well. When they re­lin­quish their chil­dren it means that they ac­tu­ally choose not to care for them,” she con­cluded.

Con­se­quently, Dr Wil­fred Mamah, UNICEF rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Nige­ria who was also a dis­cus­sant at the con­fer­ence said that chil­dren who are re­moved from the pro­tec­tive en­vi­ron­ment of fam­ily need to be cared for through adop­tion which is a le­gal act glob­ally.

He stated: “In in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion, ar­ti­cle 21 of the UN con­ven­tion on the rights of the child, pro­vides for adop­tion. The child right law of La­gos State makes ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion for adop­tion of chil­dren as a mech­a­nism that they are given hope to re­alise their po­ten­tial. If you ex­pose chil­dren to vi­o­lence, what will hap­pen is that that vi­o­lence will re­cy­cle and they will al­ways be­come vi­o­lent and be­come of­fend­ers.”

In the same vein, Mr. Oluwa­toyin Ko­tun, who rep­re­sented the Min­istry of Youth and So­cial Wel­fare, La­gos State, as­sured that be­yond the pro­mo­tion of the cul­ture of adop­tion, the state was pas­sion­ate about en­sur­ing that ev­ery child handed out for adop­tion met an en­vi­ron­ment that is con­ducive for growth.

He re­vealed that the adop­tion process in La­gos State was thor­ough but highly sim­pli­fied. That notwith­stand­ing, par­tic­i­pants at the con­fer­ence called for a more adop­tive friendly process.

One of them, Engr. Olubukola Ojurongbe, pro­pri­etor of an­other foun­da­tion that sup­ports or­phan­ages, the needy and el­derly said prospec­tive adop­tive par­ents com­plain that the pro­ce­dure for adop­tion was cum­ber­some and the time it takes to re­lease the child long. She ap­pealed to the La­gos State Gov­ern­ment to re­view the process.

Thus, It­sueli feared that if the process was not made more adop­tive friendly it might drive adop­tion un­der the ta­ble to be­come hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Pas­tor Ituah Igho­dalo, BOT Chair­man, HASAAG...says adop­tion is an act of love

Wife of the Vice-Pres­i­dent, Mrs. Do­lapo Os­in­bajo...cam­paigns for adop­tion

Joke Ja­cobs...telling her story at the con­fer­ence

A cross sec­tion of the HASAAG power of adop­tion con­fer­ence plan­ning com­mit­tee team

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