HIV/AIDS and the URHOBO FACTOR
By Patrick A. Okuneh LLB, BL
Legal/ Legislative Practitioner, Abuja
Director, Women Against HIV/AIDS (WAHA)
In protecting our tradition and rights, we should not forget to include the struggle against the deadliest scourge of our time. The HIV/aids scourge is eating deep into the very foundation of African societies. It is so much so that feigning neglect and ignorance of the situation at hand means sentencing Africa to death by AIDS. ‘Governments everywhere should look at Africa and tremble. In some countries, more than half the population will still die of AIDS. All of Africa’s famines are now AIDS-related: Hungry people lack the strength to fight off sickness, sick people lack strength to grow food, and dead parents cannot teach their children how to farm.’ (The Economist November 29th 2003, pg. 13.) However as an affected friend would say, HIV to him is now a friend, though quite an expensive one. Then if we will have to check the woes that may befall Africa, adding one more voice to arm the public with the necessary information to combat the scourge, cannot be duplication.
The sweeping effect of the scourge of the deadly HIV/AIDS disease cannot any longer be given only a federal attention in Nigeria. This then is a call for all leaders whether government, circular, traditional or religious to give a special attention to this matter to avoid the wrath of having our specie from being swept from the face of the earth.
As we know, Africa has a history of stigmatizing those with diseases they cannot readily give an answer to. Unfortunately, stigmatizing those with the disease will make them hide their identity, thereby aiding the spread of the disease. A legislation in this aspect is not going too far as other countries have legislations to this effect and we should begin to think in that direction of making legislation to reduce or bring to an end the discrimination of those living with the disease or the virus.
On the part of our traditional leaders, pronouncements, which in their communities are more or less the legislation in the macro-society, should be encouraged. Legislation in this sense should not be restricted to only the discrimination and stigmatization but also to other aspects that will discourage the spread of the disease, for example, female circumcision which now in the eyes of the law is an offence.
Urhobo leaders should do well to invite the presence of NGOs with like objectives to assist in the education of their people. Being the mouthpiece of the government in their communities in the fight should not be seen as ‘busy-body’. Leaders should be seen from the aspect of serving the people they lead by attracting development and well being to them and not fighting for contracts or hustling for a piece of the national cake.
Urhobo leaders must not feign ignorance of this deadly scourge anymore. It is high time they took it tribally to protect their people and subjects from the sledge hammer of the this deadly scourge. As they go about leading in their own capacities they shouldn’t fail in any way to put in one word or two to their subjects to alert them of the dangers ahead if the warning to combat the scourge is not heeded.
The struggle for leadership to possess our land should not let us lose focus of the fight at hand. We could as a matter of urgency add to our routine the fight against HIV/AIDS. In traditional meetings, family meetings and even age group meetings, the message that AIDS is deadly and in sweeping through the land should be a gospel untiring to say.
Urhobo is too precious to have our leaders ignorant of the world’s deadliest enemy. We also cannot run the risk of letting our work force that are our future leaders and army to get scourged by this sweeping epidemic. Our leaders do not provide a unifying factor. As in sports, this fight should be fought in unity. As we all know, we inter-marry, share boundaries and dialects.
This struggle, more than any, should be waged from the heart. This time the enemy is the same everywhere, just like ignorance, hunger and illiteracy. As we know, sick people lack strength to grow food, and dead parents cannot teach their children how to farm.
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