For every newspaper columnist globally, this is a bumper season when we are spoiled for choice of what to comment or write on. For me in particular, as I sat down to write for the Brass Tacks edition of today, so many topics came to my mind. I thought of writing on George Floyd, the Black American that was penultimate week brutally murdered by a policemen in Minneapolis, United States. Obviously, the spirit of late Floyd is so strong that the global community has risen in deep protest against the racial connotation that is fast defining everyday life in that great country held in deep esteem by the rest of the world.
There is also the matter of Akinwunmi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), who America, or in particular the Trump administration, is trying hard to remove from office for no just cause. I also thought of Yunusa Yellow, who was recently sentenced to 26 years imprisonment by a court of competent jurisdiction that sat in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Remember him? About five years ago he was accused of eloping with an underaged Bayelsa girl to his native Kano State, where he got her pregnant. I do not support what Yellow did, but surely I am not one of those who support that judgement. I align with the multitude who correctly see it as a miscarriage of justice. The truth will manifest itself one day, hopefully soon, since the matter is going on appeal.
But during the Sallah break, I travelled to my home state of Kano, and was able to dig deeper into the Almajiri conundrum. I chose to dwell on that this week, as so many commentators have done a lot of justice to all the other issues I considered. Except we make some sacrifice, the Almajiri will soon be forgotten, as he has always been right from birth. And that will be to our peril, as a nation. It is a northern problem with reverberating effects for the entire country.
My heart bled when I saw the way these unfortunate young Nigerians were being tossed around by many northern governors, and as we speak, there are quite a number of them that have gone missing in the process.
In Kano, for example, the government resorted to gangster-like approach, storming the Almajiri schools in the dead of the night, with well armed security personnel breaking doors and snatching these youngsters, throwing them into awaiting vehicles and taking them to camps set up in four different towns, where they were virtually abandoned to their fate.
In the confusion caused by this approach, I learnt from the General Secretary of the Centre for Qur’anic Reciters of Nigeria, Gwani Sanusi Abubakar, that many almajirai have gone missing and have still not been found. Schools attacked in this unwholesome manner include those that were registered by the state governments, as well as the Corporate Affairs Commission. As I write this, some of them are bracing up for enforcement of their fundamental human rights in court. They also want to challenge the state government to produce those missing children and generally allow wise counsel to prevail.
Surely there are more dignifying ways to handle the almajirai, and some of the governors that impresse me most in the way and manner the street urchins were handled are Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufa’i of Kaduna and Alhaji Abdullahi Sule of Nassarawa State.
Many Nigerians may not realize that these two governors are in a way doing Nigeria a big favour because, by treating these kids with dignity, they have ended up showing them that not all of us hate them, as they had hitherto been made to think. About a month ago I wrote on these pages why we must all fear the Almajiri revenge, with the reality that some of them may want to hit back at the society that shows them so much disdain and hatred. That is now being averted with the gentlemanly approach of some of the governors.
Now, what did these governors do? For Abdullahi Sule, he assembled all of them that were billed for transfer to their states of origin and told them, in a manner a caring father would admonish his beloved children, that Nasarawa is their home, and that they are very much free to return at any time when they grow up. He showered them with gifts, including cash, and made sure none of the kids left Nasarawa with any bitterness.
El-Rufa’i also did the same thing. He gave them uniforms and provided them comfortable accommodation and adequate feeding. But for those of them that are indigenes of Kaduna State, the Governor has come up with an elaborate plan to make them benefit hugely side-by-side from Islamic and Western education.
So also the governor of Yobe State, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, and his Borno counterpart, Professor Babagana Zulum, who have decided not to repatriate any Almajiri out of their state, but to do something special to show these abandoned children love and give them a sense of belonging.
Of course, Sokoto and Katsina have also done remarkably well. I am impressed with these governors because, by their action, they are averting a possible doomsday scenario in future, for the benefit of all of us.
In the streets of most northern Nigerian cities and villages today, the issue of almajirai has since become a hot topic. There are cases of fathers who could not cater for their children and are using the almajiri schools as an excuse to abandon and dump those children. The teachers who operate these schools know they do not have the wherewithal to fend for these children brought to them as pupils, yet, they accept them without asking the parents for upkeep money. They then threw the children on the society. And the children roam about aimlessly begging for food. They have no idea whatsoever as to what the word parental-love means.
A UNICEF report released in 2014 shows there are 9.5 million Almajiri children in Nigeria, making up 72 per cent of the nation’s out of school children. Nigeria presently has between 13.2 million and 15 million out of school children, most of them situated in northern Nigeria that has ironically produced the highest number of leaders of this country.
The almajiri grows up in the streets without the love, care and guidance of his parents. His struggle for survival exposes him to heavy abuse. Oftentimes, he is used as a slave, brainwashed and recruited for anti-social activities and at times deployed for destructive and violent activities.
Depriving children of a loving family environment causes lasting damage to their intelligence, emotional wellbeing and even their physical stature, according to the most extensive study of social deprivation yet.
Such children are likely to grow up feeling alienated, becoming hostile, aggressive, and anti-social. They are also less likely to report hostility, distressing social interactions and psychosomatic symptoms. For those who want to know how the terrorist organisation Boko Haram was formed, this provides the basis. The inability to report hostility also largely informs why Boko Haram finds it easy to operate because up to now in Maiduguri, very few people cooperate by informing the security services when these terrorists hide in their midst. They strangely still see them as their own that should not be exposed, perhaps because Almajiri had its roots in Kanem-Borno in the 11th century, though it was of a noble variant at that time.
In a publication entitled Child Attachment Disorder written by Dr. Jacqueline Payne, a renowned general medical practitioner and author, she emphatically states that “when a child does not bond with his mother, it results in a condition called attachment disorder. It happens to babies and children who have been neglected or abused, or who are in care or separated from their parents for some reason. It usually leads to the child having aggressive or violent behavior towards other children and adults. Such children grow up depressed, unable to control their temper or anger, and they are more likely to be in trouble with the police when they start growing up.
Dangerous people use them because they grow up without any fear for strangers. They have no one to verify whether the person influencing them is a good or bad person.
“For babies or children who have never had the person who looks after their needs properly, there is no secure attachment. There is no safe base from which to form relationships, explore new situations and deal with stresses. The end result of this is a set of difficulties with behavior and emotion, which can affect the development of the child.”
This informs why Boko Haram, whose soldiers were mostly drawn from the thousands of almajiris roaming the streets of Borno and other northern states, was once cited by the CIA as the most brutal terrorist organisation in the world. It also informs why those almajiris that have resorted to deviant behaviour end up becoming the most heartless and callous.
And it is in this connection that I want to strongly advice our governors to tread with serious caution the way and manner their respective administrations are going about transferring almajiri children to their states of origin. Firstly, as many respected lawyers have stated, it is a breach of the fundamental human rights of these children, but even worse is that they are being reunited with their parents who have never shown them any love. A few such almajiris I interviewed told this column that right now, they feel unwanted by the society, because they were not doing anything wrong when they were picked up by police and forced into vehicles that ferry them to places they hardly ever knew all their lives, against their wish.
Let me at this point, state that not all almajiris are bad or criminally inclined. A vast majority of them can impact very positively on the society if it shows them care and love. I belong, for example, to a Whatsapp chat group that feels that one of the best ways to resolve the almajiri conundrum is by showing them care and love. We resolve at our level to each of us fending for at least one almajiri. And so, in my house in Kano, I am responsible for the feeding and upkeep of six almajiris, and these young lads are already contributing positively to the society by engaging in small trades, with five thousand naira that I gave each of them as capital.
I am surprised that some Muslim groups are complaining that some Christian groups are planning to train ten million almajiris and give them a sense of belonging. They fear that the children could be converted to Christianity. But then you cannot eat your cake and still have it. The Muslim north should either, in unison, show true care and love to these abandoned children, or run the risk of having them converted to any religion or even high-grade criminals and terrorists. A society that only uses these children as thugs during elections and abandon them thereafter cannot expect any good from the children. The North is sowing the wind, and strangely feels it should not be entitled to reap the whirlwind.
Forceful removal of almajiris from their present bases to their states of origin will only breed serious resentment, as it is already doing. Already, these children that have been abandoned by their parents are feeling the society also has deep hatred for them. The northern governors should go for the real culprits; the heartless parents of these children and deal decisively with them. The problem can only be resolved from the base, except we are deceiving ourselves.
We have to be very, very careful of the implication of these rejected children deciding to take a revenge on the society. We will then be having in our hands, a monster that is far worse than Boko Haram. Moving them from one state to another could not deprive them of their citizenship of Nigeria, and so, in as much as they are within our shores, they can decide to return with vengeance sooner than later. It doesn’t require any rocket science to decipher this.
If we are really serious about resolving the Almajiri menace, part of the solution is to go back to the same Tsangaya schools established by President Goodluck Jonathan all over northern Nigeria. Sadly, the same northerners that stand to benefit from these schools abandoned them because of cheap politics.
A year ago the Guardian newspaper published a report on the history of the Almajiri system in Nigeria. Before British colonization, a system called Tsangaya prevailed in the Kanem-Borno empire. It was established as an organized and comprehensive system of education for learning Islamic principles, values, jurisprudence and theology. Modeled after madrasahs in other parts of the a Muslim world, Tsangaya was funded largely by the state. Islam traditionally encourages charity, so the community readily supported these Almajiri. In return, the Almajiri gave back to the society, mostly through manual labour.
The Danfodio jihad brought with it some modifications, the establishment of an inspectorate of Qur’anic literacy, whose inspectors reported directly to the emir of the province concerning all matters relating to the schools. In those days, the pupils lived with their parents or guardians for moral upbringing, and all the schools were located within the immediate environment from where the pupils came from.
The students were at liberty to acquire skills in between their Islamic lessons, and so were involved in trades such as farming, fishing, masonry, among others. Many were the farmers whose produce formed the famed groundnut pyramids in the North. After colonization, Almajiri were recruited by the British as miners in Jos.
The system also produced the judges, clerks and teachers who provided the colonial administration with the needed staff. The first set of colonial staff in Northern Nigeria was provided by the almajiri schools. With the coming of the British, the capture of Emir Aliyu of Kano and the death of Sultan Muhammadu Attahiru of Sokoto, the emirs lost control and accepted their new roles as vassals to the British. They also lost fundamental control of education.
The British abolished state funding of Tsangaya, arguing that they were religious schools. Western education was introduced and funded instead. With this loss of support, the system collapsed. The pupils and their malams, having no financial support, resorted to begging for survival. Animosity and antagonism grew, worsened by the belief that the Western education was of Christian-European origin and therefore anti-Islamic. Fears grew that children with western education would eventually lose their Islamic identity. The malams increasingly sent their students to beg. The malams assured their students that it is better to beg than to steal. The students in their turn swarm into society with no bearing. This was the genesis of the predicament of the Almajiri system today.
And it is for this very reason that I strongly feel we need to go back and unearth those Tsangaya schools; see where, if any, President Jonathan got it wrongly, and effect modifications in our collective interests. I am happy some of the northern governors have started exactly that, and more are likely to join them.
COVID-19: A fresh perspective
I want to share with my readers, some perspective on COVID-19 that is still very much with us, as sent to me by a young woman who calls herself my number one fan. Her name is Rukaiya Yusuf, and she is a lecturer with the Federal College of Education, Zuba, FCT. Enjoy:
According to Karl Marx, “Religion is the opium of the masses. With religion, the common man is often manipulated so much so that they can deny a simple truth that is staring at them right in the face. Little wonder therefore that Northern Nigeria who are predominantly Muslims especially Kano which has become the epicenter of the corona virus pandemic in the North, recorded a scary number of “strange deaths”. As a matter of fact, if we are to achieve anything as regards to the pathetically heartrending issue of the constant denial and nonchalant attitude of the people of Kano towards COVID-19 pandemic, it has to start with the sensitisation of the Religious scholars.
*The scholars command much respect and trust of the people more than the political leadership of most states in Nigeria. This is due to the dogmatic nature of the spiritual practices. In the Northern part of the country, The political leaders plays little or no role in influencing the thoughts and directions of the people as against the so much influence enjoyed by the religious leaders. Thus, it’s imperative to note that, their influence can not be underestimated. For example, we can see the role and impact of Muhammad Yusuf (Boko Haram) and the consequences of his clash with the authority till date. Therefore religious scholars play crucial roles in shaping the thinking and directions of the people in the North all in the name of Islam. Notwithstanding, Islam is a perfect faith (Deen). A religion that preaches absolute peace. A religion emphasizes the importance of peaceful coexistence among the people but the distortion, misinterpretations, and misapplications of Islamic jurisprudence among these religious scholars inform the kind of confusion and disoriented society we have all over the place. No central command or authority to hold responsible as scholars have carved out a niche for themselves to suite their sentiments and maintain relevance as against the unity of the ummah.
The people have implicit faith in the “Imams” and take whatever these religious scholars drum into their heads hook, line, and sinker. It is therefore against this backdrop that it is important to make the clergymen aware of their roles in the guidance of the society in line with the national guidelines against the global corona virus pandemic that has caused a great pandemonium and brought the so called world powers to her knees and rubbished the technological advancements of the hitherto powerful and “Developed” countries. This global pandemic that has united the world in their helplessness in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and brought to naught the superiority complex of the western world. The only way the people will ever believe that the noble coronavirus pandemic is real is when the religious leaders have a rethink and believe that the the coronavirus is real. That way, and only that way, will the people begin to take the issue of the noble corona virus seriously thereby minimising the rate of infection. You can’t convince a people to take precautionary measures when they (the people) themselves don’t believe they have a problem.
I have had the opportunity of interacting with a few people. Mostly water vendors, popularly called “Mai ruwa”, cobblers, otherwise known as “shoe shiners” and commercial bike riders commonly referred to as “Okada” among others.
I especially took my time to interact with the “Keke” tricycle drivers to have an insight into their mindsets. I realised with horror and disbelief that their perception of the noble coronavirus pandemic is more to them like some sort of conspiracy by the world to deprive them (the poor masses) their daily bread and means of livelihood by continuously holding to ransom at home and not providing adequate palliatives for them. Their perception of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing but that of complete ignorance and perpetual denial of the existence of of the virus.
I boarded a tricycle and as was one of the conditions for easing the lockdown, I had my face mask on. I met the rider of the tricycle “keke,” a young man who is obviously in his mi-20s, and other two passengers all without the face mask even though they hung it loosely around their ears so as to be allowed passage by security personnel rather than for their safety. I asked him why he was not using the face mask and his simple response was, “Hajiya, everyone must die. Face mask or no”. I replied that we all must die but we need to protect ourselves from the global COVID-19. He smiled this time around asked me rather calmly, “Hajiya, Do you believe this virus exists? It’s only the Federal Government politicising a simple ailment and educated people like you are vulnerable to their lies. Hajiya this country is obviously tired of the common man otherwise why will the government ask people who earn their daily bread only when the go out to stay at home?”
He kept insisting and lamenting that “hunger virus” is what is killing people in their numbers in Kano. I knew it was useless trying to explain how the spreading of the virus works. I knew it would be difficult trying to get him to see reason, so I held my peace. But the truth is, unless something is done real fast, (sensitising the people especially the religious leaders about the reality of the corona virus) there will be countless number of “strange deaths”. The case of Kano is a very sad one because it kept spreading like wildfire because of the ignorance and perpetual denialn of the existence of COVID-19 global pandemic. The Governor of Kano didn’t help matters due to the snail’s pace he was handling the issue of COVID-19 because he did little or nothing when he had the opportunity to do so not until the virus caught up with the state like a terrible and monsterious predator chasing it’s otherwise weak and helpless prey.
*The Governor, despite all the warnings and vulnerability of Kano State due to it’s demography and deficit infrastructure to handle the pandemic, he waited until handling the corona virus pandemic became an uphill task for him before showing helplessness and calling on Federal Government to assist. His attitude and late response corroborate the views of observers which explains why he proposed that Federal Government should support the state with N15bn as against the N10bn given to Lagos State which is the epicenter of the corona virus pandemic in Nigeria.
History will not forget the tragedy of the of the dethronement of Emir sunusi and the compliance of Kano elders and their vested interests who took solace in the event of the destruction of the emirate.
Karma they say, has no menu. While I say, Karma is a bitch for she has no menu. You can’t bring rice and beans to Aunty karma’s kitchen and expect to be served “Ogbono”with generous amount of goat meat with “okproko” and senorita. What you bring to the table is what you get served. Observers are of the opinion that it is simply the law of karma at work due to the pathetic and forceful dethronement Emir Sanusi.
I read the tweet by Ahmad Bashir on Sunday the 17th of May about the 120 trucks of assorted food (palliative) sent to Kano state by the Federal Government. various reactions trailed that tweet. An observer asked “is Kano state the only state in Nigeria?” Observers have aired their views on the issue with some bitterly complaining that the palliatives given to South west are not fit for human consumption as they claim it was the rice seized by the government early last year. I am of the opinion that we must learn to keep our differences aside and unit to fight a common enemy. (COVID-19).
Even though some people believe it was nemesis that caught up with Governor Ganduje due to law of karma for his forceful dethronement of Emir Sanusi, I am of the opinion that politicising the issue of COVID-19 will be of no benefit to us. We need to unite now more than ever because tribes or Nations that have conquered invaders (in this context, the corona virus) is by uniting against a common enemy by grasping whatever ray of hope they have against the enemy with both hands and making the best out of it. We don’t want to go down in History as a Nation that were divided amongst themselves rather than unit to fight the invader or the common enemy (COVID-19) We want to go down in History as the giant of Africa that we are. We want to go down as a Nation whose large number was a strength and not a weakness. A giant that only bent down during the storm(the noble COVID-19 pandemic) but grows back to stand tall like the maize stalk after a heavy down pour.what we need now is to see how we can put all measures in place to see that the rate at which the corona virus is spreading is being curbed. What he need is to unite and stand tall in the face of this common enemy (COVID-19) of mankind.
There is no denying the fact that the Government and people of Kano went about their businesses in the wake of the corona virus outbreak unperturbed as if they were living in another planet. But as the saying goes, you can’t pluck out your eyes and throw them away just because they are bad. You have got to live with it. That is the reality of life. We will do well to remember that Kano state is in Nigeria and right now, not only Nigeria but the whole world is in a race with the common enemy of humanity(COVID-19). It is a race to outwit one another between humanity and the COVID-19 global pandemic. The deed has been done. The blame game won’t do us any good. Lives need to be saved first before politics. The blame game can always wait because we can’t afford to play politics at the expense of people lives. For now, all hands must be on deck to see that the outbreak of the corona virus and the rate at which Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) announces the result of the infection rate as if they are announcing some result of election is being curbed. We need to put all measures in place to see that the corona virus nightmare becomes a thing of the past. All hands must be in deck to see that the curve is being flattened.