December 26, 2020, was the third in the series of celebrating older persons in Obibiezena community, Owerri West local government area of Imo State.
The protagonist and financier of the Obibiezena programme are the President, Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria, COSROPIN, and International Coordinator of Graceful Ageing Fellowship, GRAF, Senator Eze Ajoku.
He has his reasons for opting to take care of older persons. Apart from using the last edition to celebrate his 102-year old mother, Ezinne Mercy Nwauhe Ajoku, the COSROPIN boss said that events over time, have shown that older persons have become an endangered specie in Nigeria, adding that no one celebrates them or sings their songs, except at their death.
His words: “The government has no programmes for older persons, nor do older persons have rights and privileges in Nigeria. The government recognizes the rights of children, youths, and women, but there are no rights and privileges or social safety nets for older persons.
“With the breakdown of family values, where the younger ones should ordinarily, look after their parents, many older persons suffer from different types of abuses, disrespect, abandonment, slavery, and exploitation.
“Both the nation and many children, do not care for the very older persons in Nigeria. Older persons are treated as witches and wizards in some communities and are seen as the cause of any evil in the land. Yet, everyone prays for healthy, graceful ageing. When we break the stool reserved for older persons, what shall we sit on, when we become older persons?”
Saturday Vanguard can authoritatively say that in today’s Nigeria, there are diverse elderly persons in different living conditions, most of which are deplorable and almost subhuman.
They lack access to basic necessities to accommodate them in their vulnerable status. The majority of them lack access to health support systems, medicare, proper nutrition, accommodation, financial and social protection rights, vocational engagement, and a host of other issues.
It is also a truism that many of these older persons, who retired from public services, having committed their labour to nation-building in different capacities, during their youthful years, are now denied their basic privileges in old age.
It is said that most policymakers forget that they are aging and that very soon they will join the rank and file of abandoned older persons. Ageing is not an emergency situation or an accident, but a transitory period of maturation, a process that every Nigerian will go through.
For Senator Ajoku, “without social security and safety nets, they have become objects of ridicule, while shameless youths, who have become state governors, divert older persons pension and gratuities, to meet their lustful tendencies for wealth acquisition.”
Ajoku argued that: “There is a huge gulf that needs to be urgently bridged to instill confidence in elderly citizens, and even our teeming citizens, who are transiting to elderly status. We believe it is time to lay the foundation that would engender their confidence so that they could face their old age with less anxiety.”
He appealed to the Federal Government to, among other things, provide health facilities for the ageing, through health insurance for retirees and the elderly, revise the social security protection, to include older persons, as well as establish geriatric hospitals and wards in existing hospitals.
More than 400 old men and women, aged from 70 and above, received free medicare, varying raw foods, cash, and other gift items from Senator Ajoku.
Vanguard News Nigeria