Almajirci, the last plague of our North

A group of almajirai searching for breakfast early in Kano

I am Arewa and proud. I didn’t make the choice. Nature made it for me. I am also usually very happy to be mistaken, to be misunderstood because my name confuses people. Sometimes that’s advantageous and at other times detrimental.

Being Arewa means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some Arewa people have embraced being bastards for the shame of the many negatives that comes with being an Arewa.

The religion of Islam was firmly rooted here before Mungo Park and his marauders braced the jungles of the south and made it to Arewa. The bloody colonialists knew better than to try to tamper with the quasi-religious system of governance in the north, so they embraced what they dubbed indirect rule. Some historians even claim, with facts from declassified documents that the British skewed the political system in Arewa’s favour. That favour has had its good and bad effects.

Arewa has raised more national political heads than any other group in Lugard’s amalgamation. This should have been a bonus except that whenever anybody looked at the national social indices Arewa has been worse off.

We are known to be educationally backward and developmentally deficient. Plagues that have been eradicated in other parts of Nigeria still ravage our Arewa. Some have interpreted this as divine punishment for our sins. Take a look; Arewa is not the sin capital of the nation or the world. So why should a just Allah punish us more for our fair share of zunubi?

Today, the greatest plague ravaging our nation’s peace is Boko Haram. Its roots are from our Arewa. It draws its most misinformed foot soldiers from the same region. It ravages our land and pushes us to the fringe of annihilation. Do we need to be told that?

Arewa has very serious problems. It remains the butt of cruel jokes by others who have their own troubles. Of late however, the mirror is in the sun and conscientious sons of the shoil and even the elites that used to hide under one finger have joined the club of critics.

When that happens, discerning minds start paying attention. Not us, we don’t like the reflection in the mirror and we are more averse to those forcing us to stare at it. Yet, if we must win this beauty contest or even qualify to participate, we must pay attention to our looks!

Two years ago, Hassan Kukah produced a blithering criticism of the almajiri or street kids system. He ventured to proffer solutions. Kukah is northern. He can’t deny his own DNA. But Kukah’s words fell on solid rock, bounced but failed to germinate. Kukah is a catholic bishop from a northern fringe nation. His minority perspective did not carry weight on the ethnic and religious scale.

The Amr of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is not a royal diplomat. He puts the nail on the right spot and hammers it in – not the stuff of royalty. His critics expect him to defend the rut with holy verbiage. Now they jab at him for being a hypocritical polygamist with lots of children. Nobody has seen SLS’s children among panhandlers. That’s all that matters.

A twitter defender of our putrid sore, Adamu Garba swears that almajirci is in our culture. Thanks to FS Yusuf who somehow got a picture of Garba sitting comfortably in his sitting room with his kid legs tucked on a delicate leather sofa.

SLS feels ashamed of what he sees in his domain! Arewa’s future are scattered in every motor park and around every street, unwashed, uncatered for, pan in hand begging for leftover, abandoned by their parents and sleeping rough on the streets. They are the offspring of parents who have read the rules of polygamy in the breach. Parents who have abandoned the responsibility that comes with parenting.

SLS has seen the divorce rates in his domain rise exponentially. He has seen secular governments assume the obligation of matchmaker to people who would make more babies than they would ever cater for in the name of Islam. For drawing our attention to the reflection in the mirror, we flare up! We want an Emir that sees evil but confesses it not, hears evil but pretends it doesn’t exist. How happy we will be if Sanusi is dethroned. His salary will never be enough to take care of the almajiri on the street.

The truth sets free only if it first hurt. Sixty years after independent, being backward is no longer a badge of honour or reasons for excuses. No parent should gender a kid except if they wouldn’t take responsibility. Arewa should stop being the home of the born-troway! It is the truth we need to hear, the reality we must see. It wouldn’t matter if it comes from an Emir, a priest or a reformed almajiri. It is not a badge of honour to be the dregs of a nation.

The north is large. It holds the potential to change the dynamics of politics and the political direction of our nation. It cannot achieve this with its future lying in the streets or waiting to be recruited into an insurgent army. A socially and emotionally disenfranchised citizenry would never bring change. For once, Arewa should look in the mirror and heed the call of the social muezzin. Or it is doomed to play laggard.

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