‘The children of the poor you fail to train, will never let your children live in peace’. Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987)
A section of the leaders and elites from the Northern hemisphere of Nigeria is now very bothered, and genuinely concerned about the nuisance of the Almajiri system that have for ages, constituted an eye sore and social nuisance in virtually all cities, towns, even villages of the Region.
The issue of Almajiri system is a socio-religion irritant that can potentially destabilize the whole Northern hemisphere of Nigeria if, measures are not taken, in good time, to rid the streets of the Region off the nuisance.
FEFERITY MAGAZINE investigations, however revealed that many of the leaders, elites and elders of the Region are no longer comfortable with their sights in the streets.
Almajiri is a generic word used to describe children who are sent away from home by their parents in the Northern part of Nigeria. They end up in one ramshackle Islamic schools or the other, and are given no money to live, thus are forced mainly to beg for survival.
As the late statesman. Chief Obafemi Awolowo succinctly put it, ‘the children of the poor you fail to train, will never let your children live peace’. Today, ironically, this is what is happening the North part of the country.
The leaders and elites, though belatedly, have started speaking out loudly against the backward system. They are no longer comfortable with the activities of the miscreants.
The first leader to openly decry the very existence of this menace was the deposed Emir of Kano, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. He lamented the Almajiri system in the North blaming their fathers and political leaders for the scourge. He angrily said that their ‘fathers should be arrested for sending their children out to beg for alms’.
According to the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), ‘any man who is too poor to fend for his himself or his family should go out and do the begging by himself, rather than sitting down at home and send the children out to go and beg for alms’.
The former Emir had spoken at a conference organized by the First Lady, Dr. Aisha Buhari in collaboration with the Supreme Islamic Council of Nigeria. (NSCIA) late February this year.
He continued: ‘Justice means that everyone is given his rights. If a man takes the privileges of being the head of the family, he should also takes the responsibilities of being the provider for the family. You cannot take the privilege and abandon the responsibilities’, he said
In truth, the large army of the Almajiris are fast becoming an embarrassing signpost of the Northern hemisphere of Nigeria. They are ubiquitous. Underage youths that are supposed to be in schools, who at work learning some trades. But here they are, in the streets, roaming aimlessly, scavenging for food, begging for alms, and as a last ditch, when hunger and desperation set in, turn to criminality to eke out their daily meal.
An unverifiable report puts the figure of Almajiris in the entire North at disheartening whopping over four million!
The world of an Almajiri is a queer one. A common feature is their filthy outlook. Body largely unkempt, with the indescribably dirt containers, permanently etched to the body. Daily, they swarmed in droves around cities, towns and even villages across the entire Northern hemisphere. At any gatherings, be it social, political or religious, they are ever present, swarming on the guests, like bees, irritatingly obtruding the conviviality of the occasion.
The streets are their homes. Most of them sleep anywhere they were at night time. No permanent home. And in their large numbers, are always in streets of all the cities and towns. Everywhere you go in the North, you are confronted with a sea of these under-age roaming boys and girls. Even villages are not even left out of this. They appear in a group of tens, ransacking every nooks and corners for left overs. And when there is nothing to scavenge, they result to begging, and at the last ditch, when desperation sets in, they move to all sorts of criminalities.
But conversely, Mallam Muhammed told FEFERITY MAGAZINE that they ‘are potent political and religion tool in the hands of the traditional, religion and political leaders’.
According to him, they formed the bulk of the block votes that usually come from the North. They are easily mobilized to harm, destroy and to vote in a particular way without questioning.
The Almajiris, usually a mixed of both sexes, are usually with ages ranging from four to 21. Many of them have never had the opportunity of an exposure to any form of Western education. They are usually kids of the poor parents. The parents would enrolled them to study Arabic education under an equally poorly equipped and ill-prepared Islamic Cleric. These Cleric most often do not have any physical structure or facility. They parked the pupils under trees, sheds, backyards, around their homes.
The Islamic Clerics are supposed to pick all the responsibilities of the pupils; feeding, housing and other general welfare. But as FEFERITY MAGAZINE investigations revealed most of the Clerics mostly rely on funds from their sponsors from other Arabic countries, particularly Libya during the time of late President Saddam Hussein, Iran, Omar, and other Islamic fundamentalists Countries. Sometimes, they get handouts from local rich men. And during electioneering process, they ‘rents out’ the Almajiris for whoever can pay their bills.
Our investigations further revealed that none of these arrangements are either consistent or reliable. Most of the Islamic Clerics and Arabic schools are not even fortunate enough to get any external funding support at all. This category only wait on the politicians to offer them stipends occasionally.
The Cleric, once he can no longer care for their welfare, and becomes bugged down with their needs, usually send them to go out and beg for alms. Along the line, the Almajiri are thus let loose on the society.
Our investigations further revealed that in other cases, some fathers sit at home and send their children and wards out to beg for alms. These fathers often sired many offspring. The family, we learnt, rely on what they bring in to feed.
However, more than the nuisance the Almajiris constituted to the society, they are also a potent religion force whenever the need arise to wage a religion war against a perceived infidel. We gathered that they are even more easily mobilized through their Clerics to take up arms against Christians or Southerners whenever there is disagreement. It is argued by some that the leader of Boko Haram, Ibrahim Shekau was a product of the Almajiri system.
Kano State alone, a home to some over 10 million people, (2020 population estimate) is said to be home to the largest chunk of the Almajiris. Of the over four million Almajiris in the North, the State alone is home to over one million Almajiris. The North East Region, however generally, is home to largest numbers
During the regime of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Federal Government moved to formalize the education of the Almajiris. A whopping sum of #15 billion Naira was sunk into the bottomless pit. As expected, it all went down the drain. Today, not a trace of the schools and other facilities purportedly built for them can be accessed.
A Lagos-based Lawyer, Mallam Kabir Muhammed, a Kano indigene told FEFERITY MAGAZINE that no ‘efforts can redeem these Almajiris again’.
He believed they are ‘damaged beyond redemption’. He was of the opinion that ‘early marriage, unguarded child bearing and economic inability and even unwillingness to take up the responsibilities of catering for the products are the reasons for the exponential growth of the system’.
The Governors of the nineteen Northern States making up the Northern Region of the country met earlier in the year and review the menace of the system. At their last meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, they took the decision to confront the obvious social embarrassment that is the Almajiri in the North squarely. They agreed that each State should round up these socio-religion miscreants and send them back to their States of origin. They have since started implementing this pact.
However in the wake of the on-going relocation’s of these Almajiris back to states of origin, a retired Army Colonel, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo, a Kaduna indigene, angrily accused the Northern leaders of ‘playing emotional religious politics’ that led to the emergence of high population of illiterates Almajiris in the North.
According to him, ‘many of the Northern leaders saw education as unnecessary Western adulteration of their religion. They adopted Sharia and abandoned education’.
He also believed that ‘the north bred too many children and did not do much to care for them. They now roam the streets. Yet it bred more. They forsook education and take to begging for survival. Now the north cannot sleep again; after all they slept for far too long’.
He believed that national policies like the Federal Character or Quota System contribute in large to the problem of the North. ‘There is no competition. Competition would have driven the people’, he said.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
Feferity © 2020
Images: Courtesy google and Freepik.