A few years ago, photos of Muslim youths in Kaduna who had taken selfies with the bodies of massacred Shiites, their victims, as background, went viral on social media. You could see their glazed eyes, their yellowing teeth and rotten gums bared in smiles and you could only imagine how depraved their celebratory songs sounded as they piled the mangled bodies of their victims in a heap like ridges preparatory for the farming season, only that these heaps were a harvest of innocent lives!
‘See as they slaughtered their fellow Muslims, the north is in trouble with people like these…’ was the overwhelming conclusion by all those who saw the pictures.
They all are not alone in their naivety, in the assumption that the scourge of the almajiri is a northern problem.
I think they are a threat to Islam, a threat to the north and a threat to the entire nation Nigeria.
To the best of my knowledge, Shiites are also Muslims, they believe in the basic tenets of Islam which above all upholds the principles of peaceful co-existence with one’s neighbours; yet, they seemed to have vexed the vast majority of their Muslim neighbours in Kaduna to warrant being slaughtered like nama, (meat in Hausa language.)
So vexed they must have been that no other Muslim group was crying out for justice over these murders, no mosque blasting its mic denouncing the killings and the very act itself as being un-Islamic…really makes you wonder what they will do to non-Muslims…we don’t have to wonder far, we have enough examples to select from – there is Mrs Bridget Agbaheme, a trader who was beheaded by Muslim youths simply because she refused to allow the front of her shop be used for performing ablution by a Muslim trader…trace back to the hundreds of thousands of innocent Christians and bystanders whose lives have suddenly and brutally been cut short because some youths found them offensive to Islam
So I tried to explain to the naïve I mentioned earlier, ‘Don’t imagine the almagjiris are acting rationally. They are not. Imagine this, the average age of kids sent to the mullahs to learn the Quran starts from three; these kids do not have the benefit of being raised in a proper home, they do not have parents to teach them between good or bad, they do not get the emotional support a family circle provides to the individual, not for them the comfort of a bed, a mother’s hug, a father’s reprimand, a hot meal on the table after school. No. In fact, no school, no education, no cognitive reasoning skills to fall on, no special skills acquired or taught.
Instead, they are raised in a colony; who’s first law of survival is kill or be killed…for lack of basic needs like food.
So, from as young as age three, these kids learn life the hard and brutal way. No nursing of a grazed knee with a kiss and warm embrace from a mother for these ones, no promise of extra meat for good behaviour, no childhood games nor the pleasure of a regular bath and proper hygiene; they must struggle for space in the open where they are meant to sleep. No soft pillow or mattress, no mat even on the hard floor.
To survive, they must beg, learn begging as a means of life, then when begging fails to provide enough for the stomach, the only alternative would be to steal; first petty thievery, from their course mates, whom they have to struggle to get a meal from, then the general public, and when feeding from the gang becomes unsatisfactory and in time, they learn to mask their hurt, first against their immediate family for abandonment, then the society that daily robs them of a quality life.
They learn dishonesty; it’s a by-product of the need to survive at all cost. With dishonesty comes a hardening of the heart.
Many times, these children are easy pickings for paedophiles; some of these young boys are brutally raped regularly and of course, many get infected with diseases no child should ever have to deal with…many die, unaccounted for, uncared for. Those who survive, dull their minds with cheap drugs and glue.
These are the easy recruits for terrorist groups like Boko Haram, who for the promise of a bowl of porridge buy the souls of these young ones, for life! These are people who give them food, give them a keep over their heads and they perhaps could be better human beings…
But here we are, with this three-year-old. What will he grow up to be? A man?
No, a monster!
Perhaps this is the reason why ABU (Ahmadu Bello University) lecturer, Professor Idris A. Abdulqadir, said, “The Almajiri system of education as practiced today in northern Nigeria is a completely bastardised system’
He went on to say that when the system began in the 11th Century ‘begging was never involved and certainly the pupils were not reduced to doing menial jobs before they could eat” more importantly, the children lived with their parents for that much needed moral and emotional upbringing. There existed then a co-partnership where the parents, communities and the state provided for the welfare of the Quranic schools and the school in turn supplemented efforts with farming.
But today’s almajiri children have been failed by their parents and then the state. What we currently have is a system where the mullahs use the pupils as a means of livelihood; they make the children struggle to cater for themselves as well as their mullahs and parents who can’t be held responsible for the number of children they birth are only too glad to ‘dash’ these infants to the mullahs. Any wonder these kids end up being uneducated, unenlightened and a menace to the society?
As for the state, it’s easy for the government, nay the politicians of the day to ignore the almajiri, except to use them as thugs and give them just enough cash to last them a day or two with promises of more.
To date, we have over seven million almajiri (according to the National Council of the Welfare of Destitutes) who are now mostly beggars on our streets today? They have made ‘Bara’ ie begging as a religious obligation.
They skipped the part where the Quran states that for the abled bodied man, it is haram to beg, meaning it is forbidden to beg because ‘Islam enjoins man to work, to use his brain and hands in order to eke out a living for himself.’
As a nation, the almajiri represent potentials lost; potential lawyers, farmers, doctors, engineers, teachers, civil servants, qualified Nigerians who could have helped shape the future of this country.
Instead we have a band of easy recruits for terrorists who won’t be restricted just to the north, a band of thieves, kidnappers, people who have perverted the pure teachings of Islam; people who will pass on twisted knowledge and spread their hate across borders sparing none.
We lose it all for a bowl of porridge.
(And if you think I am being too harsh or hysterical read Elnathan John’s novel, Born on a Tuesday.)