File photo of Almajirai.
By Dele Sobowale
“The (northern) governors and other rich individuals should help transform the almajirai system of Islamic education, instead of subjecting them to humiliation. Many of our prominent people now were once almajirai.” Former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, PUNCH, June 3, 2020, p 48.
Readers who have been following the revelations coming out of the ongoing judicial inquiry in Imo State might be forgiven for sneering, “Look, who is talking.” North and South of Nigeria, governors of states, from some of the first set of 12 appointed by General Gowon in 1970 till now, had been mostly accused of corruption. Inquiries into the affairs of the 12 states exonerated only two – Governors Mobolaji Johnson of Lagos State and Audu Bako of Kano State. Former Police Commissioner Bako not only kept his hands clean, he began the transformation of Kano (which included Jigawa at the time) from a mostly arid territory to the most self-sufficient in food production today. From the standpoint of economic transformation, Bako was as much a hero as Chief Awolowo and Samuel Ogbemudia in Bendel State. He, like Ahmadu Bello, Balewa and Aminu Kano, kept a clean slate and left no sprawling estate for his kids to inherit. Since then, only Alhaji Balarabe Musa, with short tenure as governor of Kaduna State (including Katsina State then), is believed to be above reproach.
However, despite their sparklingly clean records, none of them (Bako and Balarabe), when they had the chance, promoted universal primary education as the foundation for long-term learning and social development. They allowed the almajirai system, which excluded graduates from the benefits of development while depriving northern and Nigerian society of their own geniuses. They were contented to work with those offered to them by the elite and they did not challenge the injustices inherent in the choices made by other leaders. Of course, they never read history. If they did and understood its implications, they would have realised that most earth-shaking inventions have been the brain-children of people born poor but who were fortunate that they had access to good public education. Several Harvard University professors were born poor.
In the past, the boys the elite refused to provide with good education, and make them competitive with their own kids, accepted their life-long sentence to poverty and deprivations. Now, they are the bandits and kidnappers terrorising society. Even Boko Haram, which started out as a dissident Islamic faction, has now degenerated into banditry and extortion for economic gain. They have no Islamic tenets to disseminate; they have terror to spread because it is now profitable.
NORTHERN LEADERSHIP IN A QUANDRY
“The future is a foreign country”. That was the verdict of a futurist. In April last year, after President Buhari was re-elected, an article was published on these pages. Part of it will shortly be reproduced now that widespread banditry has become daily occurrence in the North. There was a story behind that article.
I had travelled to Sokoto on a private business by air. The return trip was to start by road from Sokoto through Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Kwara, Oyo and Ogun States. It was at Chafe that I got a hint of the sophistication of the organised crime in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna. I had stopped at a buka to eat. Dressed in French suit and speaking only Pidgin English provided me the opportunity to learn about extortion by armed gangs in various communities on the borderline between Zamfara and Katsina. The gang leaders had already defined territories and the community leaders must deliver the food stuff demanded as well as cash. Otherwise a brutal raid will follow. The gang boss, who occasionally spoke impeccable English, could not have been older than 30 years old. But, he was more feared than the police boss in Chafe. That was the beginning of discrete investigation which pointed to a greater problem than everybody in Nigeria realises. The ‘almajirai’ desperately fleeing to the South and being driven back North will not disappear. They will storm back to wreak havoc. Now read again the former article:
FROM BEGGING TO BANDITRY: REVOLT OF THE ALMAJIRAI
“No revolution is the fault of the people but the fault of the government.” Johann Goethe, 1749-1832, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ.
A revolution is underway in northern states of Nigeria. The downtrodden, constituting 99.9 per cent of the population, hitherto docile beggars, saying rankaindede to the privileged 0.1 per cent, are sick and tired of begging. They are now demanding for their own share of “the national cake” to be delivered to them – at gun or cutlass points. Nigeria will never be the same again. The North is now gradually sliding into the dictatorship of the beggars or almajirai.
As usual, Nigerian pseudo-socialists, like the original European promoters of the idea, had not expected the least developed region in this country to trigger the revolution, just as the uprising which occurred first in Russia and died there as well was wrongly predicted. Our local copy cats had been writing and talking about revolution in Nigeria on the assumption that highly educated Nigerians would lead it. History might eventually record that the Nigerian revolution (and make no mistake about it there is one on) was spear-headed by those with nothing to lose – no job, no house, no family to speak of, and no hope. For too long there has been ample evidence to prove that the most difficult enemy to fight is one who has nothing to lose. The privileged class in Nigeria had been busy since 1914, and particularly since 1960, nurturing millions of fellow citizens who can only be described as people without hope living in another Nigeria from the one inhabited by their overfed leaders.”
When Buhari returns home to Daura in 2023, as a former President, he will find a different and more insecure place than the one he left to be President in 2015. Embarrassingly for him, Buhari will discover an astonishing truth which most of his co-northern leaders already know but which his security chiefs have kept hidden from him. Katsina is ruled by agreement between the state government and bandits. Buhari will return to what will be described as terra incognita – unknown territory in which he will become one of the endangered species. As usual, here is the evidence of a CHANGE legacy which neither the President nor the All Progressives Congress, APC, with which will be proud to be associated. The daily records of bandits operations in the North-West zone cannot be erased from our history books. They will all be charged to the account of Buhari Presidency, 2015-2023.
NORTHWEST GOVERNORS’ FOLLY AND THE CONSEQUENCES
“Every time you negotiate with terrorists, you become their accomplice.” Israeli Defence Official, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, P244.
Negotiating with terrorists started with El-Rufai – the governor of Kaduna State. When herdsmen attacked Zango Kataf farmers and the victims fought back, Rufai self-admittedly compensated herdsmen, most of whom were not even indigenes of the state. I was in Zonkwa on a condolence visit to a Christian family which lost two members and took the time to observe first-hand the genocide perpetrated by ‘herdsmen’. No well-armed army battalion could have done a better demolition job. Obviously, negotiations took place before the compensations were paid to appease the herdsmen. I knew on that day that Kaduna would pay dearly for that ethnic-motivated folly.
El-Rufai had inadvertently (or was it pre-meditated?) opened the gate for endless blackmail by armed gangs. Later, as Governors Masari and Yari, of Katsina and Zamfara States, respectively, followed the same disastrous path, it was clear to me that Nigeria’s major crime triangle, like the Bermuda triangle which became the graveyard of several aircraft, of organised banditry, of kidnapping and endless mass murder had been created by the elected members of the northern elite. The North, in particular and Nigeria in general, would pay dearly for their individual and collective follies. After all, an eternal sage had already warned the world, “For every folly of their [leaders], [Nigerians] feel the lash.” (Horace, 65-8BC, amended, VBQ, p 61). Nothing demonstrates their individual and collective failures better than Masari’s recent utterances.
Incidentally, that statement was made after Buhari ordered the military to mount an assault on the bandits in Katsina. A closer reading of Masari’s declaration would suggest that he has no confidence in Buhari’s forces. Here is what Masari announced: “We chose to sign the peace agreement with the bandits so as to avoid loss of lives and property, but it didn’t yield a positive result.
“This time around we will hand it over to security personnel. In our effort to honour the agreement between us, we cancelled all vigilantes and volunteer groups and we allowed them to continue with their normal activities in the state.”
The first observation about that astonishing confession of abdication of responsibilities by Masari applies to all the governors of the North-West and President Buhari as well as the rest of the zone’s elite. As a people usually get the governments they deserve, so, they unfailingly receive the punishment that result from their choice of leaders. Masari’s statement goes beyond the ordinary confession of incompetence. It amounts to criminal surrender of governance to bandits. The governor actually identified terrorists, and instead of calling Buhari, decided to reach an agreement with them. Expectedly, the strategic hoodlums insisted that the state should dismantle its first line of defence. Vigilantes and voluntary groups were disarmed and sent home. All the people of Katsina were turned to sitting ducks for the bandits who did not surrender their own weapons. That the governor felt duty bound to honour an agreement which was reached under duress should qualify him for an award for folly. Wiser people could have warned him that criminals have no honour to uphold; that to them, the agreement was pure surrender by the state government. And pray, what “normal activities in the state” can armed robbers continue but more heinous crimes?
Meanwhile, readers might ask a pertinent question: What happened to the security personnel posted to Katsina? If the misguided governor had offered the state to bandits on a gold platter, were the DSS, police and army part of the flawed agreement? If not, did any of them inform Buhari that his state had been given to criminals? If not; why not? If yes; what was Buhari’s response to the alarming report? Anyway you look at it, one thing is clear. The people of Katsina have been betrayed by ALL their leaders.
A week ago, the President ordered the bandits to surrender or face brutal attack by security forces. That was as empty a threat anybody ever issued. Take it from me; the bandits will ignore it and probably launch an attack. The failure of northern leadership is now total. Anarchy is near.
LANGUAGE: “In the human species, language as a rule forms the sharpest barrier between populations, and that is why the line of language forms usually the national boundary, and why, with rare exceptions, political boundaries enclosing varying language groups tend to enclose trouble as well.” Robert Ardrey, in THE SOCIAL CONTRACT, p 52, Alhaji Audu Bako, Police.