Buhari and Almajiri saga
By Emmanuel Yawe
I was happy to read on Friday, June 21, 2019 in the media that the federal government is considering proscribing the Al-majiri system of education as a way of tackling insecurity in the country.
The source of this good news Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser, disclosed this at the end of the national executive council meeting in Abuja. He said the ban is to ensure that no child is deprived of basic education.
Almajiri, derived from the Arabic word rendered “al-Muhajirun” in English transliteration, is a system of Islamic education practiced in Northern Nigeria. It means a person who leaves his home in search of knowledge.
Monguno was reported to have said that Almajiris were becoming a huge problem to the society, adding that many of them end up becoming “criminals, drug addicts and willing tools in the hands of those who have very dangerous intentions.”
He said: “I also briefed the council on the drivers of insecurity which are unemployment, under-employment, poverty, drug abuse, rising population.
“I also made suggestions regarding the way forward which include, employment creation and reduction of poverty, and being the culture of impunity and looking at stabilizing certain areas of the country by giving rise to affordable education.
“This is very important because in most parts of the country we have a lot of children roaming around without any formal education. And as the President had mentioned earlier, we need to make education compulsory and free for every child in the country because the problem we face today are rooted in the fact that a lot of people who have been denied the opportunity basically the opportunity to get formal education end up over the years becoming criminals, drug addicts and so on and so forth.
“And therefore, it is very important to proscribe certain groups running around under the guise of maybe getting some kind of education that is not really formal,” he noted.
Asked to mention the groups to be proscribed, Monguno said: “The group I spoke about on illiteracy is the Almajiri. Ultimately, government will have to proscribe this Almajiri phenomenon because we cannot continue to have street urchins, children roaming around, only for them in a couple of years, or decades to become a problem to society.
“We are not saying that they are going to be contained in a manner that you might think we want to do something that is harmful to them, no. What we want to do is to work with the state governments to enforce the policy of education for every child.
“It is every child’s right, his entitlement so long as he is a Nigerian. If you recall what happened in the Western region, I think in the 50s and the 60s, when the premier made education free and compulsory at both primary and secondary levels. This is what we are looking at.
“Imagine the child that was 10 years old on 27th July, 2009, in 37 days’ time, it will be exactly 10 years when Boko Haram erupted, he will be 20 by then. We are not talking of one child, there are millions of them. “So, when we look at population, as an element of national security, don’t be surprised if out of every 100 Almajiri, you have two neurologists, four architects, two lawyers, and so on and so forth. You have to start thinking short and long term to overcome this problem, you require collective efforts. You can’t carry this load and drop it on top of the government, even government should not work as a one legged tripod, it has to be three legged. We have to deal with the issue of these children, Almajiri, regardless of how people feel about it. We must work in sync with the rest of international community. How many countries that operate this kind of system?” He queried.
After reading the above, I concluded in my mind that ‘a Daniel has finally come to judgment’. Babagana Mungonu is a trained and experienced general. When he speaks on security issues, those of us who are bloody civilians should be circumspect in trying to contradict him. I endorse his views on Al-majiri and its security implications without any reservation.
As an ordinary civilian and a Northerner, nothing embarrasses me more than the sight of the horde of these young lads loaming our cities. Undernourished, dirty and with bowls in hand, they patrol the streets menacingly begging for alms all over the North and sometimes even down South. It is a big shame; even more so when I have sought the views of knowledgeable Islamic scholars who condemn this practice in totality.
We are breeding a whole population without the skills to make a living in our modern society. And even their knowledge of the Qur’an which they recite endlessly is questionable. The result is that we have groups like Maitatsine, Boko Haram and more, preaching heretical versions of Islam. What more can you say of Muslims that will load their guns and in broad daylight open fire on the adored Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero? This is not the Islam we were taught to see as a religion of peace.
Buhari and Almajiri saga
But just as I was about to rejoice about the new Daniel that came to judgment, came the statement from my friend Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity who called on the media for caution in reporting the President’s pronouncement on Almajiri.
The Presidency noted that while the Buhari administration is committed to free and compulsory education as a long-term objective of bringing to an end the phenomenon of out-of-school children, any ban on Almajiri would follow due process and consultation with relevant authorities.
He said that the federal government wants a situation where every child of primary school age is in school rather than begging on the streets during school hours, adding: “At the same time, we don’t want to create panic or a backlash.
“Reports that there are plans for massive arrest of parents are definitely out of place. Things have to be done the right and considerate way.
“Free and compulsory primary school education is a requirement of the Nigerian constitution and any individual or group not in compliance with this is violating the law of the land and liable to be punished, “he added.
The problem of education in the North has a long history to it. It all began from the days when in proclaiming a Northern Protectorate care was taken by our colonial overlords not to unsettle the Emirs of the North with rapid westernization. Indirect rule gave them the right to maintain the status quo. The colonial masters obviously did not want to create “panic or a backlash” – the same words Garba Shehu used in advising us today.
Buhari and Almajiri saga
I do not see any reason for a cautious approach to eradicating the North of this repugnant Al-majiri system which has with one breath not only ridiculed the North in the eyes of the civilized world but has also become a security nightmare to Nigeria.
Yawe wrote in from Abuja