“The almajiri menace is a consequence of a preponderance of a deep-seated Boko Haram ideology as typified in a culture of hostile animosity towards whatever is generally considered Western Judeo-Christian heritage in the Muslim North.”
The Falmata narration appears to give credence to an already entrenched narrative, which provides a nexus between issues of illiteracy, poverty and general social deprivation that defines the almajiri scourge and the menace of Boko Haram insurgency. It is as though the almajiri scourge birthed the menace of Boko Haram insurgency.
In this sense, the almajiri scourge laid the foundation for the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency by turning over socially-displaced young men like Shekau as easy prey for recruitment into the Islamist terror group. This appears simple and straightforward enough only as long as the flow of this narrative remains on the surface of deeper fundamental issues. Like still waters that run deep, the nexus between the almajiri scourge and the menace of Boko Haram insurgency is deeper than the often simplistic narrative of the former preceding the latter.
A careful reflection on the history of Muslim Northern Nigeria from the preceding century reveals a deeply embedded animosity towards Western ideals, values and norms associated with British colonialism. The native population of this region with a rich Muslim heritage and robust Islamist revivalism associated with the 19th century western Sudan did not make a clear distinction between what was religion (Christian missionaries), government (colonial authorities) and the enlightenment (education), all of which are the complexities of purpose associated with British colonial rule. The conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1903 and the deposing of Sultan Attahiru by the by British forces of Frederick Lugard, working in concert with rival local emirates to the west of Sokoto, deepened this animosity. The military conquest rekindled in the native population the centuries-old rivalry between Christian and Muslim powers in their mortal struggle for supremacy throughout the ages.
Following the British conquest of northern Muslim lands, there was a subsequent determination by the natives to preserve their rich Muslim heritage from the conquest of civilisation through the instrumentality of modern education, which was regarded as Western Judeo-Christian heritage. The suspicion that education was a British ploy to convert Muslims to Christianity birthed the reactionary ideology of Boko Haram among the native Muslim populace struggling hard to conserve their Muslim traditional ways of life. It is this deep-seated belief that planted the original seeds of Boko Haram ideology as a protectionist tool to withstand the onslaught of westernisation, which was denounced to be in conflict with northern Muslim culture. This reactionary attempt to conserve the culture and tradition of the Muslim North was enhanced by a relatively high level of literacy that was associated with the Islamic faith. The pre-existence of a unique form of rudimentary education among the native Muslim population, which was fundamentally the study of Arabic texts of classical Islamic works that were largely limited to theological jurisprudence, was, however, elevated to a status of Islamic education. This created a deep dichotomy between rudimentary Islamic education and what was considered Western education. The far-reaching effect of this dichotomy was the unwillingness to embrace modern education and the consequent institutionalisation of almajiri Islamic educational system in the Muslim North of Nigeria.
Due to the inherent inadequacies of the almajiri system of education that does not equip its millions of subscribers with the requisite skills to be socio-economically relevant in the modern world, it has been reduced to a menace of millions of socially-displaced youths with high affinity for terrorism and criminality as survival strategies. Like millions of other socially-displaced youths in the Muslim North, Shekau was a product of a conservative society steeped in the culture of mistrust for what is considered Western education (Boko Haram). Shekau’s parents, like millions of other parents in the Muslim North, didn’t enrol him in formal education institutions and he was left to roam the streets of urban centres as an almajiri in search of rudimentary Islamic knowledge and basic sustenance. The almajiri menace is a consequence of a preponderance of a deep-seated Boko Haram ideology as typified in a culture of hostile animosity towards whatever is generally considered Western Judeo-Christian heritage in the Muslim North.
This peculiar form of Muslim culture, which holds education in contempt as Western Judeo-Christian heritage, is uniquely Northern Nigerian as no parallel can be drawn with any other anywhere across the Muslim world. Historically, the Muslim world had always been receptive of education from whatever source and by whomever. As far back as the 9th century AD, Abbasid Caliph Al-Mamun established an academy, famously known as Dar al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) for the purpose of learning in Baghdad. The study of medicine, philosophy, mathematics, geography, alchemy and other forms of natural sciences were appropriated from earlier works of preceding civilisations. From the world of Hellenism came the works of Aristotle, Euclid, Plato and Galen that were studied and translated into Arabic with the invaluable help of Arabic-speaking Christian scholars from the Levant and Asia minor. This period in the history of the Muslim world was regarded as its golden era and has continued to inspire successor Muslim nation states into rapidly adapting modernity without reservations.
The current Boko Haram insurgency is only a manifestation of a determined attempt to forcefully obliterate every imprint of a widely despised Western Judeo-Christian heritage, in this instance, not limited to education alone but also the entire concept of a modern, democratic and plural Nigeria.
The Boko Haram insurgency is a reinforcement of the boko haram ideology, now given impetus by a global Islamist revivalist movement that seeks to re-establish a unified Islamic state. As a result of a ground made fertile from a deep-seated animosity towards whatever is considered as Western Judeo-Christian heritage, Northern Nigeria easily got entangled in the raging clash of civilisations between radical Islam and Western civilisation. In addition to the raging insurgency, the status of the Muslim North as the most educationally disadvantaged part of Nigeria, with resultant ranking as the lowest in every available index of human development, is a direct consequence of these unique religious and cultural choices. To reverse this self-inflicted incendiary trend, education should be declassified as a Western Judeo-Christian heritage and reclassified in the consciousness of the Muslim North as a universal phenomenon, which is consider- ably enriched by knowledge from the golden age of the Muslim world of pre-renaissance Judeo-Christian Europe. The dichotomy that was created between what is considered Islamic education and Western education should be dismantled in the hearts and minds of the Muslim North in order to remove the guilt of Boko Haram to give way to the unreserved embrace of Boko Halal.