I am worried that by focusing on our differences and vocalising them to our children, we will make them become numb to their humanity and that of others. Children are quite impressionable, and they learn from we adults all around them. Let’s help them keep their humanity intact and not make monsters out of them.


Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. – Dalai Lama

I had set out to write this article two weeks ago when the height of the election fever was felt all over Nigeria. With great trepidation and anxiety, I read the posts on Facebook, Twitter and then in Whatsapp groups as the divide grew because of politics. People called each other names on the basis of political choices; people insulted people on the basis of tribal affiliations.

I tried to ignore the noise. I avoided joining political discussions in Whatsapp groups. I just read what each person had to say and asked questions. As a scientist by training, my first response is always, ‘what are the facts and where is the data backing this up?’

As the noise grew louder on social media, I began to wonder, ‘where was all of this hate and bitterness taking us as a nation?’ More importantly, I worried about the children in the various homes, absorbing all of the vitriol, the hate; ‘how could they embrace brotherhood of all men when they got to their various schools? How could they view people as humans first before all of the other distractions?’

This point hit close to home two weeks ago when my car broke down on my way back from our STEM outreach programme at an elementary school. The children were eager to learn, motivated and filled with unbridled joy. I felt refreshed and re-invigorated after being with them, my earlier lethargy and anxiety dissipating from learning anew with them.

My car overheated (due to a leak in my radiator, we later discovered), sputtered and stopped in the middle of a busy intersection close to a bustling market between Surulere and Yaba. I tried starting it to no luck. As I suspected overheating, I scoured around to find someone to help me with opening the hood (the ‘bonnet’ as we term it here in Nigeria) and upon smelling the acrid odour an engine normally gives off when too hot, my suspicions seemed confirmed.

I sat there wondering what to do, before calling my mechanic who was however stuck miles away working on another client’s car. I couldn’t leave the car where it was to retrieve it later, as the possibility of some of it’s parts being stripped was extremely high.

I kept thinking about the two men for a couple of days, even when the gubernatorial elections took place, about how when things get heated up due to our differences in politics, tribe, gender, religion etc, we forget that in the very first instance, we are all human beings.


As I sat there perplexed about what to do, a man on the street began to ask me questions about what was wrong with the car and why I was parked where I was. As we spoke, he moved closer to where I was, opened the radiator cap and validated my premise that the radiator had overheated. He began to describe the steps he would take to help me cool it down and he proceeded to do so for the next 20 minutes. He and another man got buckets of water to flush the radiator down. When it was sufficiently cooled in their estimation, they directed me to start the car and declared that I was good to go.

They didn’t ask for any money, they didn’t ask where I was from and they were concerned about my getting home. Their care and concern for me without any strings attached moved me deeply. They spent time and energy to ensure that I, a stranger, was able to get out of a tight situation with no apparent gain for themselves.

I kept thinking about the two men for a couple of days, even when the gubernatorial elections took place, about how when things get heated up due to our differences in politics, tribe, gender, religion etc, we forget that in the very first instance, we are all human beings.

Just yesterday, I was busy watching the news at the airport in Dubai, and then news about the building that collapsed in Nigeria came on. I was alternatively horrified and saddened as I watched the updates of the situation.

When people were frantically working hard to retrieve the children from underneath the rubble (they were hopeful that the children were still alive), they weren’t concerned about what tribes the children were from, or how their parents voted politically; all that counted at that very moment was that they were children, innocent of the situation that had led to the building’s collapse.

I am worried that by focusing on our differences and vocalising them to our children, we will make them become numb to their humanity and that of others. Children are quite impressionable, and they learn from we adults all around them. Let’s help them keep their humanity intact and not make monsters out of them.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.