On Wednesday, January 2, 2019, as reported by many national dailies, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), through a statement issued by its founder and director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, rejected Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah’s initiative to train 10 million almajiris (specifically on what? Nobody knows) alleging what Hausa call Lauje cikin nadi: a Trojan Horse (in alluding to Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the independent city of Troy and win the war after a fruitless 10-year siege).
Part of the statement reads: We all agree that something must be done about the Almajiri children. We can welcome ideas from everyone but the implementation must be in the hands of Muslims in the region. Any other thing will make the intention questionable.
We cannot pretend to be so naive as to entrust our Muslim children to the hands of Christian gospellers. As far as we are concerned, Kukahs Almajiri dream is a Trojan horse.”
The statement further asks if a Christian community will ever allow a Muslim initiative, for that matter, to rule the world of their children just like that. This philosophical question brings Yunusa Yellow into mind.
To back up this argument, it is of great importance we refer to the story of one Yunusa Yellow, who was accused of abducting one Ese Oruru from Bayelsa, in 2015. In a matter of days, the saga was made a national issue; and even enjoyed the front pages of national dailies with AIG, state governors, and many human rights organizations calling for the prosecution of Yunusa Yellow even before thorough investigation of the saga was concluded just because Yellow professes Islam.
As soon as MURIC’s statement came out, there were, still are, mixed reactions from especially Muslims of northern extraction. Some of whom out of sheer naivety and without giving the offer made by Bishop Kukah a second thought, lauded his outwardly messianic effort; and and thank him and said good riddance to his offer; or take it as a wake-up call from a supposedly hater-turned Muslim north apologist – marvel of marvelous.
The truth is that there is no denying the fact that the menace of almajiri or what I preferably call street begging is on the rise especially in the northern part of the country; and if decisive measures are not employed to put an end to it, it will give birth to more excruciating socioeconomic problems.
Last year, I wrote a two-part article entitled Top Brass Street Beggars in which I discussed the issue in detail and argued that our societies are facing diverse and difficult socioeconomic problems that have both direct and indirect social and physical implications.
“What first comes to mind when analyzing such a nuisance is: how will our society look like in some years to come with street begging on the rise? What measures our governments and other social institutions are putting in place to address this social menace?
Of recent, there has been the issue of increasing drug and substance abuse, widely reported in the media and which is yet to be addressed or regulated.
Kukah’s offer may overtly be commendable to imprudent elements in the Muslim north, who mistake the offer for civilisatrice (a civilizing mission) by an outsider to end the menace of almajiri that has been bedeviling the north for long. But what they have missed is that who is Mathew Hassan Kukah? Has there been a similar initiative that offered any training by a non-Muslim to the children of Muslim north and got acceptance by the Muslim north?
For one, there is Rochas Foundation, a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organization initiated by Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha, incorporated on February 24, 1998, whose vision is to make education free and accessible to the less-privileged African child, irrespective of tribe, religion or class (mind the word religion).
In my mind’s eyes I can see its mighty building on Airport Road, Kano. Many Muslim children enrolled in it or participated in some of the competitions the school organizes; and there is no suspicion raised whatsoever.
For another, Kukah is well-known for his endless incendiaries against the people, whose children he now wants to liberate. We ask Kukah: are there not poverty-stricken children in Christian dominated states like Plateau and Benue or his beloved southern Kaduna? Or do the two mentioned states not deserve Kukah’s attention? To whom are we going to entrust the destiny of these children, if we cannot do it ourselves? These are some of the questions we need to answer before giving Kukah a standing ovation.
I am a party to some people who believe that Bishop Kukah should not be derided or paid in the same coin of incendiary; but some straying minds among us should be cautioned.
It is very important we flashback to Kukah’s Yakowa burial speech. As Muhammad Haruna wrote in one of his 2006 column: “The problem I, for one, had with the bishop’s homily then, as now, was that after praising the rump of the North’s secular and religious Muslim leadership and also praising much of their followership as being compassionate, he would still go ahead to blame Muslims exclusively for the violent religious crisis which has engulfed our country for a long while now,” which was an attempt at killing two birds with one stone: to comfort the leaders and then clampdown on all the faithful.
The homily Kukah delivered at the funeral of the former Kaduna state governor, Patrick Yakowa is still fresh in my mind. To Kukah, the problem of this nation begins and ends with Muslim north. Remove or wipe out the riff raff as he named them, one has an imaginary utopian state of his dream.
After praising a handful of Muslim personalities, for a reason best known to him, Kukah went ahead to say: “Those who have projected Islam as the basis for power have created the condition that now threatens the foundation of our society today…I want to assure you that there are millions of Yakowas outside the Muslim community and that the monopoly of power by one section or even one gender or generation denies our people a future,” as if the Muslim north had a hand in Governor Yakowa’s death. This is one example out of many.
What those praising Kukah’s training offer have fail to understand is the difference between the likes of Rochas Foundation and Kukah’s evangelical mission. While Kukah stands as a symbol of a mortal enemy of Muslim north, who openly and carelessly makes connection between Islam, Muslim north and any form of thuggery or insurgency, despite the fact that investigations by even security agents have proven him wrong, the likes of Rochas Foundation never openly attacks Islam or the Muslim north and his target has never been exclusively Muslims – let alone raise some suspicion of his real intent.
As we declined Kukah’s offer to train 10 million almajiris out of suspicion of his real intention, we need to sincerely map out a plan that will, at least, reduce this menace to the minimal.
The menace of almajiri can arguably be said to be the mother of most of the socioeconomic problems facing the north and by implication the country. Those children we call almajiris are in a pretty dilemma: there are no traces of school, hospitals, roads or modern means of transportation in most of the villages they come from. They are stuck in a purgatory of some sort, neither here nor there.
In conclusion, government at different levels should enact a legislation that will ban almajiranci or compel the local malams to charge the parents huge fees towards taking proper care of these hapless children.
AbdulHamid writes from Kano via [email protected]