By Meduoye Adeyinka
Under the scorching sun, I had hurled into town to do the needful during my National Youth Service days when I was greeted with a sheer display of what I had often read and seen on national display. “broda, abeg come give us money, broda abeg” I slowly looked back to catch a glimpse of where the voice was emanating from. They were young, less energetic, wearing a facial conformation that doesn’t synchronized with the bane of modernity and the cradle of civilization. They stood like desert wanderers with ghostly misplaced destinies in no traceable path.
Street begging is nothing but a thesis in an average Northern State, as the emptiness of their pleading pans openly glorifies the cloud hovering above. I was lost in thought when they uttered in the most sporadic but pathetic form. This time in the Hausa parlance “Don Allah”, meaning “Please”. I sluggishly deep my hands into my kit pocket and gave to them, #150, which therein induces smiles on their face. In a blink, I paused and watched as they scattered, pacing faster to reach their prospective helpers. I couldn’t say a word.
With the lords of hope not outstretching its hands of relief to the high heavens, they wandered from place to place in notorious search of remnant, if any, falling from tables to devour. They resort to begging, carrying out menial jobs for families, in exchange for food or clothes. Living in filthy and unclean conditions is often regarded as part and parcel of their daily hustle, as they can go without a bath for weeks, despite the fact that Islam puts huge emphasis on cleanliness. Chai!!!
Before now, there have been discussions about putting an end to it but in a region where religion is an exceedingly sensitive issue without discourse, exponents and defenders of such system accused those who wanted them reformed of attempting to stop Islamic education. They have now occupied the back seat, making noise in silence as an unseen enemy of mankind quietly sneaks into the core of the land.
The leadership of the core northern region continues to masquerade their strife of interests as a context of principles. The conducts of the actualization of their public affairs are being channeled to their self-advantage and personal aggrandizement. The threats of the preponderance of illiteracy are nothing but page-one factors, which have undermined the development of the region, thus paving way for social vices. These jobbers never cease to play the game of pretense even in the midst of a pandemic. They fail to subscribe that the citizens are the conscience of the society, and the youths, the propeller in the determining of a developing society. Distancing them from the corridor of western education is a negative factor on their persons, and also on the society.
The domination of the northern political denomination was partly placed on such heinous and uncivilized system. It doesn’t just happen by chance, it was planned beforehand. As evident in recent development in the midst of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, the northern leaders are seen pushing with might and strength, for the scrapping of the controversial Koranic school. Since it is no election time, they are crammed into open vans and sent back to their respective State of origin across Northern Nigeria, in a controversial move by State government to curtail the spread of the pandemic. The movements of the almajirai are two-dimensional within their territories – some leaving, others returning. What a matter!!!
Despite the interstate travel ban from the privy of the upper-room, the open vans, with children sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, were allowed to criss-cross the region’s highways to get the boys to their villages. Boss Mustapha, the head of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, had warned that the repatriations of almajirai could cause a “time bomb”, but they rather chose to feigned deaf ears to his callings. To some, if they aren’t given 15bn in naira or dollar, they won’t swing into technical action. Their sharpness in burying wads of dollars underneath their “Agbada” is undoubtedly a niche carved for them.
Without feigning ignorance of strong constitutional alignment hinged around the statutory freedom of movement and association, the army of almajirai has infiltrated the southern region, with clear interceptions at several southern-state borders. Some are seen squeezed beneath tomato baskets and onion bags; others secretly lying in corners and empty fuel tanks of lorry conveying cows and other essentials. Why now? Why the sudden invasion of almajiris down south? Is there an underlying factor beyond COVID-19 attributed to this invasion? Can we be mindful and vigilant in such a critical time? Your guess is as good as mine.
The catalogue of the region’s abnormalities and negativities, embraces such system that has bedeviled the pace of development of not just the region but the country as a whole. It will be important to accede that – once a part of the system isn’t in line with the agreed objective, if any, then in its entirety, it suffers same declination as seen in the nation’s present realities.
No sane society sprung up and develops on its own; it is the birth of ideas, and the application of such that thus transform a society from a state of dystopia to an enviable state of utopia. I had refused to be a product of conformity, as I never choose to pitch my tent at the side of prevailing mediocrity. Subjecting our northern brothers and sisters to just Quranic education is not fair, and denying them western education is mentally brutal to the soul of man. Religion is one thing, education is another – both play pivotal roles in the life of every man. Something they can’t deny their own children of.
Instead of tranquility and nobility to be our emblem, we rather choose to pitch our tent under the aegis of mediocrity and oppression. We are quick to send honorary invitation to the lord of the underworld, to come preach to our open-mindedness, the spirit of societal division and its maladies, much to the dismay of the populace and to their own chagrin. These leaders nurture and develop the ambitions of their children, in a quest to occupy top positions within the nation top agencies and parastatals. Which way Nigerians?
The view of the system is harsh. It is slavery; it is bastardized as these lads are used to perpetrate crimes and criminalities in the land. It is high time for the government of the day to step in by acting fast and stop dragging feet on this. The major issue is – poverty. With better alternative for the almajirai and their parent, a light is visible.
God bless Nigeria.
Adeyinka writes from lagos.