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Nduka Onwuegbute

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Commanding Respect
by Nduka Onwuegbute   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, May 19, 2008
Posted: Monday, May 19, 2008

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Onwuegbute narrates his adventures in becoming a foster parent.

Jolted by my self-guilt and contrition from my encounter of the young lad from last week, I cleared thirty minutes from my open diary and cold-called some voluntary organisations to lean my efforts for the betterment of greater society. I had earlier scoured the numerous silky pages of a spider’s spinnerets and ended up with some disturbing sites along the way.

I actually found there is a guide site, which was to help me choose the kind of charity to work for. But it was the big commonplace names that immediately popped up. However, I did not want to be affiliated with the big guns; I wanted the struggling few, those who found it hard to compete with the policy making elite (a quest akin to my intentions). So I googled “children charities”, “list of voluntary organisations” but the same main ones kept cropping up. I continued until I started seeing sites in other languages (mostly Cantonese, I think). But I did not waver. I resorted to doing things back to front and my finds were far from the threshold of legality, or morality for that matter.

Of all the sites, the one that really touched home was House of Angels, a Romanian site, with its origins in the hills of Gaesti. The images of children in such deplorable conditions, the ramshackle houses that were transformed to liveable quarters for the little babies; such lofty hopes, all previously dashed; they struck a nerve. The idea of fostering, I thought, may not be that bad after all, at least, definitely not for the children. You can imagine my sense of guilt, lifting off my chastened heart, when I finally punched the subsidised numbers on my telephone’s keypad, calling the fostering organisation of my choice, asking for details of how I could be counted amongst the helpful few. I listened with great anticipation, hoping to put a smile of a child’s face by the end of the month. But as the lady on the other end of the line began, my enthusiasm was knocked for six. I was informed of the rigorous checks and re-checks, followed by the fact that I might have to wait up to eighteen months.

There was the police check, criminal check, health check, ability check, terrorist check, reference check, people who know me check, those who hardly know me check, the works. Half way through the list of checkable checks and uncheckable reality, I amused myself by thinking of how many people are actually checking the checkers. “No two cases are the same”, the lady prattled on as she told a half listening yours truly, that “fostering is a way to help those who really need care, short term”. I was still thinking of the checks (from a list of people who really know nothing of me) that were to dig up whatever I might have in hidden closets buried under mountains of lies and deceit I might have to concoct to facilitate my access to an early foster child.

My mind quickly back tracked to the Madonna/ Malawi saga on adopting poor David. I felt cheated that I couldn’t foster within the space of a year but Madonna could adopt so easily by the turn of a weekend, in the twelve million populated valley. I wondered how Bingu wa Mutharika could allow such inept rush to bundle her citizenry like unwanted slaves in glory days of the tripartite agreements of the fifteenth century.

What my quest brought to mind is the complete lack of responsibility on the part of the Malawian government. Ultimately, the buck must stop somewhere and the door is always the leader. It makes no difference if that person was the Prime Minister, President or dictator of any shape or form. Of late, the world has seen such responsibility lacking in Burma where innocent victims of a natural disaster are denied basic necessities of food, warmth and time. Forgive me for reducing the integrity of the Myanmar people to that of a common parasite. But essentially, that’s what we, human beings, are. We all need food (we are glutton led), time is always of the essence and we want to be in full control of the temperature around us to survive.

As someone who has spent a considerable part of his life in a developing country, I understand the culture of not wanting strangers walking into your home and feeding your children, doling out sweets, ice cream and all the mod cons denied a frugal lifestyle. But where a child’s state of health is threatened that not having that sweet, that flaxen of hope, that sauce which covers sixty percent of the earth, available so freely, yet paradoxically and intricately expensive and beyond ones reach; when you deny that child that liberty, you have thrown all human decency to the wind (in this case, an ironic cyclone) and your responsibility is (let’s not mince words) lacking

Having the United States (sorry Nations) diplomatically stepping in is not really the best result for the national psyche of any independent sovereign state, but can the world sit aloof and watch, agape with human souls drifting, first into hibernation (no chance of the freeze to melt, mind), and gradually into the eager arms of a confirmed pre-dug grave.

I have in the past decried long term leaders like Mugabe, Castro (both same side to a different coin), al-Gaddafi and their likes, Well Than Shwe, is now long overdue. It is the same lack of responsibility that makes all their nobler efforts in worthwhile policies, strategies and programmes hold little sway. Don’t worry, Mutharika, you’re not alone in your school of thought. Your adoption rules may not work, just look to your southern most west, and I am sure you can see the fracas in Rhodesia (sorry, Zim, I really need to keep up with the times). Seven degrees, some in education and administration and he can’t be sure of a simple incremental count. So take a hint, step aside.

As always, I end with a parallel in my soon to be published novel, Confluence. A character decides that one sure way of keeping his subjects in check is by instructing a few enemies to catch a falling tree with their bare hands. Suffice it to say a rebellion is afoot.



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