Jonathan’s gaffe on almajirai schools



The fact that President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s hitherto shoeless President came to Sokoto city, the seat of the legendary Sokoto Caliphate, is no longer news. Indeed, majority of the President’s recent public speeches were always controversial.

Jonathan’s political foray into Sokoto on Saturday, February 8, 2014 was just the same. The President on that day presided over a political jamboree which only added nothing to the dwindling fortunes of the sinking Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The President, his vice, the Senate President and the national president of the party, among others, were all in Sokoto to receive into their fold, Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa. The crux here however is that Jonathan abandoned very serious government business in Abuja and wasted useful man-hour and public resources to celebrate  a politician the Sokoto people have rejected since leaving office as governor.

As if that was not enough, the President assaulted the cultural, religious and socio-economic identities of sakwatawa nay, the north. The President told the whole world that he was in Sokoto a couple of months earlier to commission a model almajiri school. The school was also a copycat of the one already established at Tudun-Yandogo, Dange/ Shuni local government.

It was first established by Governor Aliyu Magata kardaWamakko to bolster the historic and premier almajiri education system (Tsangaya). Jonathan was sold the idea and he sent a powerful delegation led by former education minister, Professor RukayyaRufai, to understudy the Sokoto model which was eventually replicated by the federal government. This centuries-old system is indeed not only ascribed to the poor, up here in the north. It is a system that took its roots in the desire by the Muslims to ensure the ceaseless study and memorization of the Holy Qur’an, the Holy Scripture of the Muslims.

Indeed, the system is as useful as any of the formal and non-formal education systems in Nigeria. The Muslims, the world over study and memorize the Holy Qur’an, from craddle to the grave. So for the president to say that if he were from the north, he would have been an ‘almajir’ because he was poor, was terribly devoid of any political decorum. That statement and allusion to the effect that the north is predominantly poor, was uncalled for.

So, there was little wonder therefore when the ever-goofing megaphone of the federal government emulated his boss by describing the governors of two foremost states in the north, Kano and Sokoto, as “shameless…and being like nomadic Fulani.”

In fact, the gaffe of Jonathan on that day had really exposed the inability of his administration to add any value to the electorate in Sokoto. The said almajiri school at Gagi near Sokoto is presently the only physical evidence of the federal government in Sokoto state since Jonathan came to power. The connection of that school and the inability of Jonathan to deliver any tangible dividend of democracy to the people of Sokoto state is not therefore far-fetched. The north boasts of ever-successful almajiri schools even before the emergence of an amalgamated Nigeria. The rest story is self-teaching.

The northern agricultural sector still plays key roles in fattening the nation’s GDP. So, to ascribe poverty and almajirchi to the north is insulting to persons of the north. That provocative vituperative statement of the hitherto shoeless President had indeed stirred the Hornet’s nest. It has continued to attract the right reactions from various quarters.

Chairman of the Sokoto state chapter of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Ambassador Bala Dan-IyanSokoto, wondered why Jonathan made such a callous and heinous pronouncement. The former minister and an astute diplomat rightly said that the federal government has done nothing to the state and indeed the entire north when juxtaposed to the dozens of billions of naira being sunk into the south-south and the Niger-Delta in particular.

This, the foremost traditional tittle holder and elder statesman said is an act of injustice against a key player in Nigeria, the north. Former Minister of Youths and Social Development, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, has also taken a swipe at President Jonathan. He lambasted the “basket-mouth” of the federal government for describing two northern governors as ‘nomadic Fulani’ sequel to their recent defection to the APC from the PDP. This is as if it is not the right of any citizen of this country to legally associate with any group of persons or to belong to any political association. Abdulkadir, who is also the incumbent interim Chairman of the All Progressives congress, APC, stress the need for equity and justice in Nigeria.

Governor Wamakko had also expressed disappointment with the President for his seemingly negative thinking and actions. According to the governor, “Nigerians are desirous of a country where all the citizens are equally free and treated as such.”

All these point to the fact that, prioritizing the construction of almajiri schools in the north by the federal government and eulogizing it, is a misplacement of priorities. Therefore, for the President to publicly eulogize this largely misplaced gesture is a gaffe by him. The north indeed urgently needs more federal government’s presence much more than the wrongly celebrated almajiri schools.

Mustapha wrote from Sokoto

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