Iboro William, a Corps Member serving in Kebbi State narrates the ordeals of the vulnerable people of Northern Nigeria. The Graduate of Technical Education, University of Uyo, Uyo has professed solutions to most of the challenges facing Nigeria as a result of the devastated North.
In his words, “Northern Nigeria is devastated, and the most disadvantaged Region in Nigeria.”
Liberation of Almajiri Children: The Journey
I went on Community Outreach yesterday with other Corps Members to some Rural Areas in the North to spend time with the kids and kinsmen, then offer them some relief materials. Unfortunately, our eyes met their woes.
Before now, the stories sold to us in the South gave us the mental picture of a North filled with opportunities; a North dominated with powerful Emirs, Government Appointees, and Political Office Holders who are doing the best for her people, a people deserving appreciable livelihood in “their country”.
I will try to explain the woes of a common Hausa Man without forgetting that I’m first a Nigerian, then an Akwa Ibomite.
The Plights of Hausa Children
First among the woes is significant lack of Basic Education. This anomaly is threatening. When moving through the streets and some areas in the North, beautiful and well-equipped learning facilities are spotted, and at the same time, helpless and very young children are seen roaming the streets with “Alms Plate” with no one considering who among them needs support, guidance and counselling.Myself with some Almajiri Kids during the Community Outreach in Augie
The woes of these young ones started with the prosperity of the Almajiri System; they are given birth to by parents and abandoned in another Northern State with Alms Plate in the care of an “helpless” Mallam and are told to seek the knowledge of God; No mother, no father, no basic education, no guide, no house to live in, no money to survive with, and no one to talk to!
The Almajiri System
This system is mostly practised by the least educated and poor among us. They would get hold of wives they are unable to take care for, then bring children into the world just to abandon them in less than 2 years after birth. Most of the abandoned kids can’t attend secular School because their ego has been raped and demoralized by lack, stigmatization and beliefs handed them by their parents. Most who force their way through secular schools end up dropping out at JSS 3 in order to marry.
These abandoned children grow up at the mercy of the streets and end up repeating the cycle; the same mistake their parents made. They end up getting no good means of livelihood, they end up without strong dominance in business or education, except a few lucky ones. They end up surviving at the mercy of people willing to manipulate them for personal gains.
This is the most significant reason Northern Nigeria becomes so vulnerable to manipulations by some highly placed political office holders who were meant to protect them.Amajiri Kids queuing to be shaved during our outreach in Augie
My Interaction with Almajiri Children
At sunset yesterday, I was relaxing on a self-hosted rock in Augie, the community that hosted me and other Corps Members, then came to me a young Almajiri whom I warmly welcomed and had him sit by my side. He was way below 10 years, but was already the leader of his Almajiri group. When he noticed I was friendly, he asked for my name using Hausa Language and I responded accordingly. I enquired to know his own too. The young “Usman” stayed at ease when I told him to come even closer to me. I held his hand and he smiled back. He then asked for my phone to “watch tv”, but I told him I only have pre-made videos of which he started viewing them. He then reached out to call his friends who were hiding close-by after ascertaining I was a safe breed. They came out looking all devastated and psychological raped. I exchanged few Hausa pleasantries with them to make them feel at ease, and had them sit all around me; some were as young as 3 years!
Free hairdo for almajiri kids during our Outreach in Augie
During our interaction, they unveiled that they were abandoned by their parents few years back and have since had no link with them. They only depend on the alms people give them for survival. They asked if I have come to stay, so I told them no. At the end of our discussion, I shared “bread” with them, hugged each of them and assured them of a brighter tomorrow. Then I advised them to keep attending school no matter how difficult it is. The least among them who was about 3 years started crying uncontrollably holding my clothes and said I should not leave them. Tears dropped from my eyes, but I had to leave.
Before this occurrence, we were able to get into their communities, invite them to come over to the location where we camped for some relief materials and body care. They came out in their hundreds. The boys got their hair shaved by our Barbers, the girls got nice hairdos. They were later given befitting showers, clothes and shoes were given to all of them, free medical check-up and treatment, and parental advice were also offered to both the young and elderly who came out.Shaving of Almajiri kids on-going during our outreach in Augie
The plight of the Common Hausa man makes me sick to the stomach. Nigerians who are not aware of these plights are not really “Nigerians”. Northerners are the most stigmatized Citizens in our dear Country. They are labelled terrorist because of killings sponsored by selfish individuals and external governments, and perpetuated by some wicked persons; killings which affect anybody so unlucky despite tribe or religion.Myself with some Almajiri kids
The way forward
Shame on any political office holder who is doing nothing to improve the lives of his people! If I had my way, I would implement orientation programmes that would greatly change the trend of events in the North and directly change people, attitude and perception. As much as there is a functional Niger Delta Development Commission, there should also be a “functional” commission to improve lives and communities in the North. If the North remains devastated, then Nigeria is doomed. If governments do not rise to sponsor a radical re-orientation programme in the North, then Nigeria is gone. Let it be recorded this day that an insider has made bare the sufferings of the people hosting him.
Northern Nigeria is doomed, and the time to act is now!