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Absolving poverty of responsibility for Almajirci

Though this piece is prompted by the controversy over Rev. Mathew Kukah’s initiative to train 10 million Almajirai in northern Nigeria, it isn’t actually addressing the initiative. I may do so in due course, God willing.

Meanwhile, as its title suggests, this piece addresses the perceived link between poverty and the persistence of Almajirci phenomenon in northern Nigeria; an assumption that’s not only prevalent among the general public, but also among academics and analysts, which explains why most of the measures often proposed with a view to tackling it focus on the need for the provision of facilities and other services for Almajirai so that they won’t have to wander the streets begging in order to survive.

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This assumption is so widespread that one can tell what the average anti-Almajirci activist or writer would always propose as a solution to Almajirci in the region. Besides, over the decades, all the policies formulated by successive governments and the charity initiatives introduced by charitable organizations and individual philanthropists to tackle Almajirci have always been guided accordingly.

It’s also in light of this assumption that many analysts often attribute the failure to end Almajirci to the inadequacy of the amount of resources invested in government and charity projects aimed at tackling the phenomenon. Whereas, in reality, the link (if any) between poverty and the persistence of Almajirci is disproportionately exaggerated in the first place, and the failure to end it is actually due to the inherent inefficacy of those anti-Almajirci strategies, for they are based on the wrong and simplistic assumption that links poverty to the persistence of Almajirci.

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The simplistic nature of this assumption appears particularly obvious by taking a close look at the lifestyle of a typical Hausa parent who sent his child away to Almajirci. Though poor, yet his poverty is never critical to the extent of rendering him unable to take care of his child. In rural areas, for instance, he is typically a farmer who probably also keeps some livestock and is engaged in miscellaneous things to supplement his earnings. Likewise, his counterpart in urban areas is typically either a petty trader, a street vendor, a guard or a hustler in marketplaces and bus stations. Besides, typically, each keeps more than one wife and yet is probably perpetually contemplating adding another wife or replacing one with another at any given opportunity.

Also, there are many rich and even very rich parents who send their children away to Almajirci anyway. Though in some extremely rare cases, some arrangements are put in place by the parents ostensibly to keep the children away from begging, yet even in such rare cases such arrangements hardly last. In any case, the children are deprived of parental warmth and affection, which no Alaramma on earth can give them.

There are also many parents who send their children away to Almajirci even though they themselves are Alarammomi with equally many Almajirai under their supposed tutelage. Many of them are also quite comfortable financially thanks to the patronage they enjoy from their rich clients seeking tsibbu services from them.

Now, the bottom line here is that, there is a huge exaggeration of the purported link between poverty and Almajirci. The reality is that many of the parents sending away their children to Almajirci are actually driven by some wrong assumptions or wrongly understood Islamic teachings about the merits of learning and memorizing the Qur’an. For instance, many of them still cling to the false assumption that learning the Qur’an is inherently difficult, and that for one to master it and appreciate its value, he has to endure hardship away from home and over an extended period of time. They therefore willingly subject their children to the agony of Almajirci.

Besides, some particularly irresponsible parents hide behind the excuse of Almajirci to effectively relieve themselves of their basic responsibilities towards their children. On the pretext of Almajirci, such parents actually send away their children to cities with a view to introducing them to hustling opportunities in hopes that they would make it at some point by hook or by crook. That’s why many of them spend most of their daytime hours in marketplaces and bus stations begging and working as porters and dishwashers at food joints.

These and many other relevant instances further prove that the actual dynamics behind the persistence of Almajirci are largely socio-cultural and attitudinal particularly peculiar to Hausawa.

Interestingly, though every ethnic group has its distinctive socio-cultural virtues for which it’s admired, on the one hand, and also its peculiar socio-cultural vices for which it’s looked down on, on the other, a typical Bahaushe is generally seen as someone who is particularly negligent towards the wellbeing, security, safety and emotional needs of his children.

Anyway, both the political establishment and the public continue turning a blind eye on the actual dynamics of Almajirci and the implications of phenomenon on the collective socio-economic potential and indeed the future of the society. It’s indeed frustrating that Almajirci is allowed to persist at the expense of the collective dignity of the Hausa nation on some ridiculous pretexts, as I elaborated in “Hypocrisy over Almajirci” (Daily Trust, Friday, March 31, 2017).


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