A few days ago, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Mathew Hassan Kukah threw a dart (in the form of a humanitarian gesture) at the heart of the Caliphate. He offered to mop up a certain fraction of our ‘favorite children’ (the Almajiris) into the benevolence and abundance of his heart. Predictably, he is roundly condemned, judged and resisted.
I think the Bishop knew better. He is our brother and not unmindful of how our brain and mind are wired. Where certain issues are involved, we can be temperamental, reactionary and emotional all at once. The Almajiri question is one of such. So he did it on purpose. He, morethan anyone else knows that these kids are our ‘favourites’ though it may look like (especially to an outsider)as if we have forsaken them. The Almajiris are very dear to our hearts.They are our ‘sweet-bitter’ love experience. We won’t give him any number, not even one without a fight. He perhaps just wanted to provoke us to action. To many commentators up North, this I think is the lost nuance of the Bishop’s offer
I feel by now the Bishop is most likely somewhere both amused and proud of his accomplishment. He has effectively baited us. There is a significant religious symbolism to his ‘provocative’ gesture. Everyone is charging, but predictably not at the issues but the emotions within and around it. He has won. Because we are set to miss the point again. Like we did in the previous intifada and the one previously before that. Not with me this time!
I am easily moved by human misery. I hardly hold extreme views on anything. But l do when it comes to human development. I think in black and white here. Infact, it is acceptable to me if one says l am human development fundamentalist. This world view is aggravated when the victim of the misery is of a vulnerable group. Vulnerabilities of age, gender, status and afflictions. That is why I am proud to be a Muslim. Islam has explicit divine commands dedicated to their protection. The present day Almajiri child is by all standards of these vulnerable groups. In most cultures, one will rather die than to send their child (of five, six, ten or indeed any age short of the religiously prescribed) out to an uncertain life of molestation, deprivation, want, exploitation and misery. I see these children everyday. The Death of parent is better under certain circumstances
There comes a time in the life of a man when he has to stand up for his convictions, and firmly so even if he were to be alone and wounded. At 41, l am convinced l have reached that moment and shall no longer be a prisoner to my conscience.
I had known that the Almajiri system had since seized to be about Islamic education. Almost all Muslim northerners around my social and cognitive perimeter know about this as well. But most of us are scared to say this. Scared of how the culprits will label us. I think l have conquered my fears. We all should. I am ready and have nothing to fear no more. I shall not be a party to any reactionary revisionism of this Kukah’s attack that doesn’t come with a comprehensive solution in it’s package. And l won’t keep quite either. Not anymore. Not after knowing what l know and seeing what l see everyday
Our observable behaviour and social commentary whenever it comes to the Almajiri question is a benign complicity or indifference at best. We like to mischievously equate any rational enquiry of the Almajiri child as either attack on Islam or our culture. Our notoriety to conveniently breach Islamic codes to abuse women and children in pursuit of our selfish pleasures while we turn around to opportunistically use the same lslam (we breached) to blackmail those who dare stand for these vulnerable groups is near perfect
How this society hopes to curry Allah’s favours while it conveniently ignores HIS commands, perpetrates and condones this magnitude of abuse against it’s weakest component can only be possible in the realms of superstitions!
So be it if it would have to take the Bishop’s ‘satanic’ intent to reformat our social and political priorities. Otherwise, the Northern political and intellectual elites class is all but cowardly, selfish and ignorant of it’s enlightened self interest. Cowardly because they are stiff scared to make any political agenda and or commitment out of an issue so vital but yet so emotional to it’s people. Selfish because they know this truth as self evident but are rather indifferent. And ignorant of how this raging social inferno shall consume or is already consuming us. No human society on earth will (in three short decades) suffer both the Maitatsine carnage and Boko Haram insurgency and still wouldn’t take a critical look at the Almajiri system visa viz any link! Absolutely none!!
A conscientious critical debate and consensus around the topic, would have generated socially acceptable and actionable blueprints that can ultimately serve as a political agenda. Unfortunately this society is conditioned to exlusively conduct political debates and choices around issues of kinship, ethnicity, region, regional and even lesser trivialities.
It is extremely difficult to pursue any purposeful political agenda (like the Almajiri question) on the existing emotional political template of Northern Nigeria that prioritizes all trivialities but trivializes human development. Here, ‘what is good for the greater number of all’, is emotionally rather than scientifically determined. The Almajiri child was and is still never among the top 100 priorities of the North. I am strongly inclined to believe that the first is power. The second too is power and perhaps even the 99th is power. To what end?, one always wonder!
I am of the patriotic view that the North (whatever that means) shouldn’t miss the nuances of this ‘attack’ by the Bishop and it mustn’t attack his person or react hysterically either. We should instead use the opportunity this sober reflection offers to take one hard look at ourselves. And then in the name of Allah (The Most Beneficent & Merciful) and our enlightened self-interest dedicate a certain measure of our collective socio-political actions and behaviours to end the sufferings of these children.