Presidential election: I have not seen my candidate

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I left the mosque after maghrib prayer this evening and met five children at the door of my house begging for food. Although they left their villages supposedly in search of Qur’anic knowledge, they do not join us in the five daily prayers.

The five children I am talking about are just few of the millions of minors daily roaming the streets of Northern Nigeria in search of what to eat. Since due to economic hardship many Nigerians are not sure of three meals a day the predicament of these children is better imagined.

While in those days it was only children in Qur’anic schools popularly known as almajirai who go about begging for food, today many children living with their parents have joined the child begging business.

Over the past several years I have read many media articles and academic papers and have personally written on the scourge of almajirci. From writers who call for outright banning of almajirci to those who call for its modification, the conclusion is the same. Nigerians are against child begging. Begging whether done by adults or children is not permissible in Islam except under extreme circumstances. Who then should end the menace of child begging?

To be candid, my support for President Muhammadu Buhari which began when he joined politics more than 20 years ago was partly because I thought as the popular candidate of his people he would squarely address their major problems one of which is child begging. I was wrong.

When confronted with the question on child begging during his 2019 campaign President Buhari reduced the problem to that of building classrooms which he said was the duty of local government councils. The problem of begging is not a problem that a local or state government can solve. We have seen how many such attempts by some state governments have failed in the past.

We are now in 2023. Every politician has gone round and is still doing so. I am yet to hear any one of them with a concrete plan of how to end child begging. Both the northern youth and elders are not hammering on it either. The fate of 20 million children roaming our street is not the primary concern of our opinion leaders. Not any of the traditional rulers, religious clerics or any of those other political babblers cares.

The politicians are also not talking about banditry. While they mention Nnamdi Kanu and Boko Haram, I have not heard any of them mentioning such names as Ado Aleru, Dogo Gide, Bello Turji, Saleh Dangote, Audu Lankai and several other bandit leaders who have confessed to international media of killing countless number of Nigerians. That none of these criminals has so far been arrested and prosecuted is a shame.

Some politicians even attempt to rationalize banditry by claiming that it is a result of injustice meted out on Fulani herders. May be that is why Tinubu is talking about addressing farmer/herder crisis.

The problem of banditry in the North-west and parts of North-central has nothing to do with farmer/harder crisis. It is pure criminality being perpetrated by well known people and it is still ongoing. Any presidential candidate who is not willing to call out the names of these criminals and tell us how he intends to kill them like they are killing innocent people is not my candidate.

Until I see a presidential candidate who is ready to address these two issues without beating about the bush I will not vote on the 25th of February.

Professor Jibia writes from Kano via [email protected]

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