By Dr. Aliyu Tilde
My Words, Your Comments (1)
Let us listen to others. Democracy. I have selected some few illuminating comments from my readers who sent their comments to my email address, email@example.com. The ones I present today are dealing with the issue of begging and almajiri issues we discussed earlier. Next week we will select some few on fallen standard of education, family planning and Buhari.
Many thanks to you for this very educating write up. I must confess that I WAS among the many people who saw the Almajiri as a product of the un-educated North, a ready tool in the hands of greedy and unscrupulous politicians and religious fundamentalists. I think that this series on the Almajiri should be published on a wider and larger scale in order that more people can read and understand what the Almajiri system is all about.
Having said that, I would like to state that I think it is wrong for the Almajiri to have to beg for alms. My view is that it exposes these children to all manner of ills on the one hand and it sends the very wrong signal to people who do not have the sort of knowledge I now possess (thanks to you). Also it runs contrary to the UN Charter on the rights of children.
While I appreciate the challenges faced by these children and their scholars, I think more can and should be done to stop Musa and his colleagues from being seen as child beggars, abandoned by parents and society and taken to be the face of Northern Nigeria. Though I'm from the Niger Delta region, I have a passion for the North and its people. Once again Sir thanks for the enlightenment, I certainly look forward to the next article.
Honestly sir, I must commend you for this wonderful treatise on the problem of begging in Nigeria and in the North in particular. The most surprising aspect I discovered with this problem is that it is particular to Northern Nigeria. When I was in Katsina, I noticed that almost all the maids (shara da wanke-wanke) and maigadi are from Niger Republic. Secondly in Maiduguri almost all the handcraft artisans are from Chad republic, including tailors, bricklayers, masons, carpenters, plumbers. Also those who took to menial jobs and handcrafts to survive are those from other tribes especially Kilba, Marghi, Gwoza, etc.
What I am driving at is that those tribes with a glorious monopolistic and colonial past are the ones which are more prone to beg. They have lost their position of being landlords over the other tribes they conquered and subjugated. As such they find it too demeaning to do any menial jobs to survive; rather, they resort to begging without any feeling of shame or remorse. Still they look down on those that give them alms if they happen to be from the conquered tribes.
In Katsina, I ask my house maid where she was from. She told me she is from Tchibiri (a village outside Maradi, Niger republic). Another instance was that of Mairuwa, he came to Nigeria simply to "chi rani". On further discussion with him, he claimed that it is the ingilishi Hausas (meaning Nigerian Hausas) that are lazy and, therefore, beg. In Niger Republic it is the custom that during the dry season, most people will migrate to towns and do menial jobs to save money for eventual use. They normally go back during raining season and farm.
In Maiduguri, all the beggars you will see are those of Kanuri and Hausa extraction. You will never see a Marghi, Kilba, Gwoza or Babur tribesman or woman begging. Wallahi Tallahi! I have a friend a Marghi by tribe. When I met him in the late nineties, he had just opened a stall selling kolanuts and cigarettes. Today, his total assets in monetary terms far outweigh mine. He is now a distributor for BAT (British American Tobacco). If you ever venture into the Maiduguri abattoir, butchers of Gwoza and Marghi extraction are the dominant group. No issue can be addressed without their support and cooperation. Back in the eighties during Shagari's time the single derogatory remark that ignites a fight is for one to be called "Gwoza", signifying a lowly position. Within two decades Gwoza people have taken over almost everywhere including University of Maiduguri, including academic positions. The secret of their success: dignity in labour. They sincerely believe in working to earn a living. Yet the Kanuris look at them as being serfs, simply because they have conquered them in the distant past.
The same thing is with the Hausa people. If you are not a Hausaman, even if you are Muslim, you are simply a Kabila, (a derogatory term for non-Hausa tribe). As if the Hausaman is superior to you. And yet it won't be long before he comes to you early in the morning to beg for one thing or the other, using many pretexts: My wife has a newborn, or my child is sick, or Wallahi we haven't cooked for two days in my house, etc. Try to engage him in a job. He will abscond after two days. Methinks the main factor that inhibits us from engaging in honest labour and predispose us to begging is simple: laziness and belief in the glorious past of Danfodio and Elkanemi. We simply believed that somebody should the labour for us, while we enjoy the fruits much alike medieval times.
This problem was so endemic that the late Sheikh Jaafar Mahmud Adam, lamented and complained bitterly about it. In several occasions, he had complained about it yet nobody bothers. For example it is only amongst Northern Muslim that you see parents refusing to pay Islamiyya school fees of fifty naira per child. Yet, the same person has money to buy a new car. Secondly, only Northern Muslim parents hardly ever attend PTA meeting. Yet they complain that standards have fallen and then resort to change schools for their wards. We are simply running away from responsibilities and yet claiming our rights. We cannot eat our cake and have it. Simply, we are both proud and foolish.
Honestly Malam you touched a raw nerve in me. Because of the fact you eloquently presented the bird's eye view of the 'almajiri" phenomenon. It is very disheartening to find the almajiri in a very bad state, but they are very noble as you said. But the piece is true. Permit me to tell you a personal story.
Back in 1993, in Maiduguri, my father decided to remedy my juniors' deficiency in Qur'anic studies, because the malam in the Islamiyya had been appointed a Qadi by the state Shariah Board and posted to a village. So my father recruited a malam called Malam Abubakar from Kwaya Kusar Local Government in Borno State. He was in Maiduguri to be a shop attendant to one of his kinsmen. They learnt we need somebody that can teach Qur'an to children so someone recommended him. He was very humble. Wallahi, malam, within a very short time he managed to convince us, we the "big boys," to replenish our Qur'anic stock and memorization. He is adept at making small children enjoy his class and equally the big boys too. So my father decided to employ him full time. Finally, my father encouraged him to enroll into High Islam College in Maiduguri and become literate in English. As of today he has graduated with BA Shariah Law from University of Maiduguri. His father visited us in year 2000 and cried tears of joy for what we did to his son. That was when we learnt his mother died at infancy and was nursed by a Fulani herd-woman and subsequently sent to Sheikh Usman Dahiru Bauchi's College for Qur'anic studies. Today he is a member of our family. He has more manners and etiquette than most of us. So I sincerely believe what Alhaji Kiyawa is doing the single most important tasks that we private individuals, particularly we the "boko halal," can do improve on the the condition of the almajiri.
At the same time, there are other irresponsible parents who use the almajiri system to shirk away from their responsibilities by sending infants right away from their mothers' breast into the system. I personally saw one in Damaturu, in 2004. A five year old almajiri was crying of hunger. On inquiry, I learnt that their father brought four of them to the malam on the premise that his stock of grains will not last to the next raining session if the kids remain at home. So they must be sent to go and fend for themselves. How could a kid in this frame of mind grow up and be noble and a good member of the society? Rather, he will grow up and be hardened and bear a grudge against the whole society. So my friend took it upon himself to buy three square meals for the kid which cost nothing compared to our level of consumption.
Secondly, the malams do not make things easy to benefactors. All of them are vying for recognition and wealth. If you try to help the almajiri on a constant basis, they resort to disturbing your peace until they become a bore. When I was in Abuja, recently, I happened to be in Zamfara state during the rainy session on an official assignment. So I decided to check on the homestead of some my almajirai who are helping my household to do some chores for a fee. Because they were very honest, I decided to pay them for services rendered apart from feeding them on sadaqa. Recently, I made it to their village and they were joyous to see me. Their Malam beseeched me to contribute to their mosque project. I did. Then just before I left Abuja this year, the same malam sent his boys that the rains are here again and they need help. So I have become a cash cow, to be milked, notwithstanding whether I am in the position or not. It is this frame of mind that makes people to simply get tired of trying to help.
Finally, our corrupt leaders, particularly the Northern type, have devised a wonderful strategy by feeding on our emotions. Simply by launching a "Tsangaya" project, large amount of money is being siphoned away from the treasury with the active connivance of the establishment malams. Case study: Yobe State Tsangaya Project, launched by Maryam Bukar Abba Ibrahim, former Yobe State "First lady." Apart from one simple Tsangaya school in Bundugari ward, Damaturu, that was painted in whitewashed, there is nothing on ground despite the colossal amounts spent on the project.
Malam I rest my alkalami (pen used by the almajiri to write the Qur'an on their slates) here since I am still a titibiri am still on the learning curve.
Hello Aliyu. I just accidentally 'stumbled' on your write up. What a discourse? I didn't get to read the two earlier pieces because I hardly read the Desert Herald. But I can conjuncture what's likely to be in those pieces. Congrats for this and your many other social crusades. Our prayer is that those with "ears" should listen and take appropriate actions. Just to add to the discussion, about 10 years ago I had a boy that comes to my house to do some cleanings but within six months he had brought three other siblings who also came to 'assist' my wife with household chores, making them four in number. The surprising thing was everyday they come early enough before breakfast, so naturally we take breakfast with them. By noon all of them were around and also by sunset. By implication they eat three meals in my house.
Three months down the road, one evening, the father came with Kola nuts from their village to inform me that a third wife had been forced on him and that he will be grateful if I could accommodate the younger children permanently. Well I leave you to guess what my response was. True and funny, but that's what's happening. People are transferring their responsibilities to somebody else in the name of almajirci.
Keep the crusade going. Someday we will see light at the end of the tunnel.
Dr Haruna Muktar
19 November 2009