Hunted from home for scavenging purposes to sustain those whose responsibility it is, in the first place, for proper upbringing. Rejected outside with disdain as wretched of the earth. Lepers? Not necessarily. Political/economic refugees within their own country? That seems to be the lot of our unfortunate fellow citizens derogatively dubbed almajiris by society. This is about the third time of focussing (in this column) on the natural misfortune of these supposed fellow Nigerians.
Have we any conscience? Where are the clergy on both sides? Every weekend on Fridays and Sundays, religious adherents, high and low, flock mosques and churches praying for mercies and forgiveness of sins. In that sober moment, is there any thought for the wicked environment, which generated almajiris who are now treated like foreign lepers in various parts of their own country?
It all began like mere abdication of responsibility. For years, these fellow Nigerians had been exploited heartlessly by those expected, and indeed claiming, to cater for them in the name of governance. Annually, huge sums are allocated at local government level, state government and federal level to cater for these fellows. Remarkably, there has been nothing to show as an improvement on the plight of these luckless fellow Nigerians. It is, therefore, a crime against humanity that, amid national prosperity, we consign and sustain fellow citizens as never do wells.
For this disturbing situation, the guilt is collective. Parents whose major responsibility in life is the proper upbringing of their offspring. For a repeat, the three levels of government as well as society at large are liable. It is unbelievable how Nigerians felt comfortable and secure with almajiris around. The emphasis here is the callousness while flying about in private jets or driving about in luxurious limousines. Still insatiable, state governments and society lately resorted to blackmail by ganging up to stigmatise almajiris as carriers of the deadly coronavirus, all in desperation to dehumanise and deport them from one state of residency to their so-called state of origin or refuse the almajiris their right under the constitution to travel within Nigeria. There is no law in Nigeria compelling a citizen to reside only in his state of origin and any such idea is a violation of Nigerian constitution.
Northern Nigerian state governors must be day-dreaming with their cover-up that deporting or returning almajiris to their respective states of origin was their solution to the almajiri problem. Where in the world is a bona fide citizen of any country deported to his part of the country on account of being the wretched of the earth or even carrying coronavirus? Why pick on only almajiris for deportation to or denial of entry into another state of his choice, all within the same Nigeria? For a very long time, if not till now, Kano State government totally denied that the hundreds of mysterious deaths in the state were caused by coronavirus. How then did it come bout that innocent almajiris were carriers of coronavirus who were, accordingly, deported to Kaduna and Jigawa states? Whose strange idea was it among northern state governors that only the poor would necessarily carry coronavirus? Were Professor Ibrahim Ayagi and other numerous prominent figures who died in the Kano mysterious deaths in any way almajiris?
If the deceased were still alive and were non-indigenes of Kano/Jigawa/Kaduna states, would they have been deported to their respective states of origin? What stops settlers in Sabon Gari in Kano from being the next batches to be deported in future on account of allegedly carrying coronavirus? And then Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri in Agege, Lagos, or Sabo in Sagamu and Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State will also be deported to the as carriers of coronavirus? Why, therefore, are northerners, whatever their status, keeping quiet on the dehumanisation of almajiris in that part of the country? For the highest number of coronavirus deaths recorded in Lagos State so far, was a single almajiri among them?
By the way, there is this wrong assumption that almajiris, or any Nigerian of that wretched status is necessarily of poor health, and, therefore, inevitably vulnerable to coronavirus. In any way unenviable, almajiris and indeed vagrants have a way of special favour with God in matters of good health most of the time, despite the heavy rains, harmatan or heating sun under which they exist. As religious fundamentalists would put it, none of headache, liver problem, cancer, blood pressure, cholestrol, stroke, heart or even deteriorating sight is their (almajiri) portion. How many almajiris have been reported dead or diagnosed for coronavirus? They are, therefore, innocent victims of deportation or refusal of free movement in their own country.
And what hypocrites are Nigerians, especially those currently looking unconcerned or even maltreating almajiris. Should the Mike Adenugas, Aliko Dangotes, Tony Elumelus and Bill Gates of this world commence a massive rehabilitation programme of regularly clearing northern streets of almajiris for proper education abroad, especially United States, you can imagine the sudden increase and, of course, emergence of almajiris in the North but remarkably other parts of the country.
Inherent in this attitude of other parts of the country remaining unconcerned when a section is on the receiving end is merely the postponement of which turn is next. In the recent past, Lagos State government set the record by deporting to South-East vagrants to their state of origin under the silly policy of clearing Lagos State of undesirable elements. The alarm and shortsightedness of such a dangerous policy was raised ONLY in this column, while other parts of the country, particularly northern and South-South zones, could not be bothered. The same legal and constitutional issues highlighted above in defence of almajiris were raised in this column to the effect that Lagos or any state government for that matter lacks the power to deport any Nigerian citizen. Today, northern states are even deporting fellow northerners to their states of origin. That makes it easier for southern states to join in expelling northerners indirectly.
Indirectly expelling northern youths? Or what is the explanation for scandalising and refusing them freedom to move to areas of their choice in the South? Tactics being employed are particularly hostile. Not every northern youth is necessarily an almajari but is there any distinction made for those excercising their constitutional right to move to any part of the country, especially the South? These innocent ones are demonised as carriers of coronavirus or alleged to be armed in advance of a purported on-coming invasion, none of which is true, since not a single culprit has been arrested.
Deporting fellow Nigerians, refusing entry for fellow Nigerians and poisoning the minds of fellow Nigerians against fellow Nigerians are all crimes against humanity with dangerous potential consequences. A double-edged sword? Despite the desperate and ill-thought idea of northern governors deporting fellow citizens for whatever reason, it will eventually dawn on the governors to what public hatred they have exposed their youths travelling to other parts of the country. At that stage, if northern governors could deport their own without President Muhammadu Buhari checking them, the same northern governors would have no qualms in deporting non-northerners. After all, Lagos deported south-easterners. Who would be worse off? There are more southerners in the North than northerners in the South. The calculation had, therefore, be well done on any idea of refusing entry of fellow Nigerians into any part of the country.
For my friend, Senator Muse
The death of every human being shocks but the better deceased was known to you, the more the shock. Such was the state in which the passing of Senator Muniru Muse came. Along with other kids, we all grew up in Olowogbowo area on Lagos Island, comprising mainly Breadfruit, Bishop, Bankole, Apongbon, Wesley and Cole streets. Olowogbowo accomodated some of the best community leaders in business and politics. The Jibowus, Odekus, Isah Williams, S.L. Edu, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, Dawodu, Gbajabiamila , the Akinsemoyins and J.A. Ajao. The reputation of such prominent figures flowed on us the young ones, such as refelected in the personal conduct of Muniru Muse throughout his working career and public life as a politician.
One of the serene quarters of Lagos at that time, Olowogbowo moulded us to be humble, asssertive, loyal and honest, qualities which Muniru displayed when we were playing series of games, tennis ball on tarred streets, marble game, high jump and table tennis in which Muniru Muse was particularly almost invincible throughout. The pattern was for any intending player to “drop” one penny and commence playing until he was defeated or would retain his eligibility for days, if not the whole week. That was Muniru.
His family house at Breadfruit Street was sandwiched by the Jibowu and Odeku family houses, while I lived directly opposite in the family house of Akinsemoyin. While Muniru was a pupil at Olowogbowo Methodist School, I attended St. Paul’s School, Breadfruit. He proceeded to Methodist Boys High Scool, and I opted for CMS Grammar School, Lagos. The school break every term offered us the opportunity to occupy ourselves with tennis ball at Olowogbowo Club House in sets of five players each, one of which must give way on conceding three goals. These games kept us fit and strong.
Muniru Muse? He was a spartan dresser and a man of good conduct. How he fitted into politics was not clear. But despite the perfidy of politicians, my friend distinguished himself with distinction in every aspect, not the least his unblemished conduct as chairman of Apapa Local Government Council. Unlike others who turn supposed community service as a senator into eventual political civil war, Muniru Muse never embarrassed his party or leadership even when traditionally provoked.
Muniru firmly exhibited the two qualities entrenched in us at Olowogbowo in those days, gratitude and abiding loyalty. He always spoke of God’s graciousness to him in life through his mentor, former governor of defunct Gongola State and his boss at Nigerian Ports Authority, Mallam Bamanga Tukur, himself another nice man.