WE may not be exactly right to conclude that widows in Nigeria are completely neglected. However, this assumption leaves a question: Are they having the right deal, all cultural inhibitions considered?
Are there any government policies in place to serve their interest consistent with what obtains in many other societies? Many widows are handicapped and only survive through the goodwill of some philanthropists. According to Hellen Keller: "I find life an exciting business; and most exciting when it is lived for others". This is true heroism which is not the urge to suppress all others, at whatever cost, but rather the urge to serve others, something the widows desire.
On the same vein, Abraham Lincoln said: "To ease another's heartache is to forget one's own". It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice. Kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life. Practical demonstration of love is the only security language that widows understand. Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear, and understand, and the blind can read. It is universal.
Politicians often are tempted to fall into this bracket for ephemeral reasons. However, there are a few Nigerians who are apolitical about giving particularly to widows, many of which are viewed as less privileged in the society. Some are burdened by family and cultural antagonism and become deprived. This era of dependency and economic powerlessness is about to end in DeltaState, courtesy of a new foundation established by one Dr. Ngozi Olejeme, who named it after herself, to cater for the vulnerable, weak and the poor. Ngozi can better be described as "a burden bearer who carries the cross of others."
She demonstrated her determination to take hurt from the lives of widows and to make them feel better during the floods of last year in which many societies suffered and several thousand victims fled their homes. In spite of her rapid response to the plight of the flood victims across the nation, her magnanimity in charity works to widows, especially in DeltaState, never wavered. As a widow with passion to assist fellow widows, she started with the distribution of gift items and cash to them during Christmas. But she soon remembered that adage which says: "Do not give fish to the hungry but teach them how to fish."
The idea behind this write-up is to highlight the plight of the aged, the vulnerable, the weak, the sick and principally the widows in our society and how best to meet them at their points of need. In OndoState last year, the government introduced a social security scheme for the aged. The plan was aimed at paying them some specific amounts of stipends monthly. The programme started with the registration of those concerned in the state local governments by local governments. That pioneer social security scheme was well applauded by Nigerians, the first of its kind in the country.
Though there may be no basis for comparism between the Ondo sheme and the Ngozi Ojeleme Foundation because one is government targeted at the elderly, the other is privately driven and aimed at the widows and the economically weak. Though the similarity ends at size which is state. Already, the foundation in DeltaState has divided the state into three zones to agree with the three senatorial districts. It started from the north where a comprehensive register of widows in every LGA of the district has been documented. Working in tandem with the chairmen of the caretaker committees, each widow was paid the sum of N10,000.00 each. They were given lectures and those willing to learn new trades were assured and registered.
Our country will be greater if we all learn to be involved in the elevation of the poor, enrich the widow, the vunerable and the weak in our midst. Nothing is too small. In other lands, school children forfeit their lunch money to contribute to the needy's aid scheme. There are people who contribute to things they have nothing to benefit from. While others spend their resources in the building of political empires, buying flashy cars and the acquisition of material wealth. Others with contrary belief, enjoy helping the poor and the weak. Hence, the saying: "Different strokes for different people."
In fact, charity is more than giving money to the poor; it is the giving of our hearts, time, talents and energies to lighten the weight that others carry. That was why Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "The mass of men worry themselves into nameless graves, while the great unselfish soul forgets himself/herself into immortality." Another great mind once wrote that "the ultimate test of man's consciensce may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard by them." No wonder Abraham Lincoln made it a policy to always conquer by kindness. Kindness is more important than wisdom and the recognition of this is beginning of wisdom. To be kinder than necessary, does not hurt either.
Ngozi, who hails from Asaba, the DeltaState capital in Osahimili South Local government Area, LGA, of Delta State North Senatorial District, has consistently assured recipients of her benevolence that her gesture has no political undertones. Her desire according to her "is the wish to bear the cross of the widows in the State." But those widows who are beneficiaries should endeavour to invest whatever they received in productive ventures that would sustain them and to enable them to train their children. Though they are promised a monthly payment but a careful handling of the initial payment would go a long way.
Mahatma Ghandi of India was emphatic when he said that "strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will."
And Professor William James shared the views that "the best use of life is to do something that outlasts life." It is easy to conclude that these inspirational sayings apply and complement individuals but they are equally directed at governments.
For so long, the plight of the widows had for long engaged the minds of many people and communities in the country. But the will to start something has been absent. Hence a foundation like this should be an enduring catalyst in DeltaState like the OndoState social security programme for the aged.
Mr. BEN ATU, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.