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Almajaris: system solutions to a systemic problem (1)

I was in shock and tears as I watched the repatriations of the Almajaris from one state to another in the north following the decisions of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF). It was sad to see the children and the future of Nigeria who are without the required mental capacity to decide for themselves being deported or repatriated in their own country.

The Northern Governors decided to curb the spread of the COVID-19 by returning the children to their states of origin and unite them with their families. Why this decision is reasonable given the war against coronavirus, there are, however, many questions demanding answers. Are these children (estimated to be 9.5million or 72% of the nation’s out of school students according to 2014 UNICEF report) not supposed to be with their parents due to their age in the first place? Are they not to be provided for and educated under parental care if Nigeria is to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Many comments have been made on the need to ban the Almajaris system which has obviously outlived its purpose and is now banditry and Boko Haram human production factory. The Almajaris is part of the failed policies in Nigeria, contributing to the whole, as noted in my article: judging the parts by the whole. I have been requested to write on Judging the whole by the parts in responses to that article. That will come as demanded by Yomi and Isiaka, two of my readers.

As someone who has led a revolution in education through the Positive Growth Africa with the gathering of over 5000 students and 200 school teachers in a conference (using my books, the students’ fortress and the teachers’ fortress), I will approach the menace of the Almajaris system from the education and the SDGs’ perspectives. I believe in the unity of Nigeria, which is negotiable. It is a myth to assume a country without a fair and equitable system that caters for her people will remain one and united forever. The failure to address inequality, religion and ethnic superiority has led to the demise of countries around the world and Nigeria cannot be an exemption. Yugoslavia, Sudan, and the Soviet Union are examples to mention a few. The unfortunate thing about Almajaris is the injustice against the children which is above injustice in power, positions and resources sharing (some notable examples are in the administration of the VAT system, power entitlement mentality and the jumbo pay of the political office holders) as entrenched by the structural and institutional voids in Nigeria.

Therefore, as a Nigerian, I am going to give solutions with an attitude of ‘we are in it together’. Whatever affects the poor will affect the rich in one way of the other. For example, COVID-19 is an equal-opportunity pandemic that affects the wealthy, weak, powerful, and powerless citizens. The rich want the poor to stay at home during lockdown to avert the spread of the virus and return the economy to guarantee their wealth. The poor do not want the lockdown because of the hunger virus, which is more killing than the coronavirus. If the poor children tagged as Almajaris are not taken care of, they would live in the same society with the governors, senators and the billionaires’ children with Harvard education but who will pay for the sins of their parents with the insecurity and lack of peace from the banditry and armed robbery activities of the majority. I will, therefore, at least in my imagination be a Shehu Ibin Babs, the special adviser to the NGFs on education presenting his solutions on the Almajaris system for the prevention of the future pandemic from the Almajaris children if no action is taken.

Dear NGF members, I want to appreciate your presence at this online meeting. The ravaging pandemic has forced us to embraced change and forcefully avert travelling to Kebbi for this conference. The pandemic has brought a permanent shift in our lives, the way we govern, and lead will also change. This includes how we empower ourselves to contribute to Nigeria now and in the future. Without taking your time, I am honoured to present some simple home-made solutions to the current Almajaris system as exposed by your decisions to repatriate our children to their states of origin. So far, Kano has repatriated 1,500, Nasarawa sent over 788 home and many others. The first concern is the plans of some states in the south-west to copy our repatriation policy. Seyi Makinde in Oyo state is planning to send our children to their home states. A group in Zamfara quoted Section 41 of the constitution against the plan action of Seyi Makinde. I will come to how we should handle our social and ethnical groups later.

Firstly, we as governors should not see the problems of Almajaris as a mountain that cannot be climbed. As a leadership coach before my position as your adviser on education, I have been training leaders and teachers. I know solving problems is the fastest way to gain leadership. Your predecessors have not solved the current issue not for lack of will but for failure to use the system approach. I will, therefore, be making my suggestions from the system’s perspectives. The problem of Almajaris is not without good news as efforts of the past leaders can be leverage on. You will notice I have not referred to your decision to repatriate your children on the streets as a ban on the Almajaris system. This is because it is not yet banned until we didn’t see them on the roads after coronavirus and only if you can go beyond what your predecessors did.

Musa Kwankwaso’s committee report as brilliant as it was is in the dungeon since 2012. Goodluck Jonathan spent N15billion for building 165 Almajaris’s schools. These facilities are idle because our children returned to the streets. There are fund and provisions of the Universal Basic Education to help states to educate these children. Are we utilising the UBE fund for the children or not?

I will give three analogies before stating the solutions using the system approach. Your excellencies, you have not banned or solved the Almajaris time-bound the problem until they are not on the streets, including those of the roads in the other parts of Nigeria. Those in Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu and in states outside the northern region as destitute begging on the streets are our creation. They are the output of the Almajaris system but in an expatriate form within Nigeria.

The first analogy is on what you can do as the government. I emphasised this in my article titled Kano versus Dubai-the difference where I posited that our problem is not religion. Dubai was more a desert than Kano, read the same Quran most of us is reading. In terms of development, Dubai is miles apart from Kano. The difference is simple, leadership. Also, to prepare you for the sacrifice ahead of the big problem in Nigeria, I wrote on the revolution Nigeria need now. There is a lot you can do as leaders of the states in Nigeria. It will, however, takes a different approach. If you do as your successors did, you won’t get different results.

The second analogy is on what an empowered person can do. I told of a story of one Sulaiman Isah, 23, a Kano resident who found love on twitter and will be getting married to a woman, 46, from America. His education exposed him and won him a marriage with a visa lottery. I was happy that there were no religious riots in Kano and Zamfara for this. At last, we are overcoming the problem of religious bigotry against civility. You can ask your assistants to extract relevant points from my articles published in the BusinessDay.

Now to the third analogy, the difference the existing traditional institutions could make in ensuring our children do not return to the streets after the coronavirus. Before that, let me sound a note of caution to your excellencies. Your attempts to solve this problem could be politicised by utterances and comments from the region’s youth groups and cattle breeders’ associations. This problem is of great importance to our future and should not be allowed such distractions. If you were in the shoes of Seyi Makinde or Jide Sanwo-Olu, you are likely to be tired of the menace of beggars and want to take advantage of the repatriation move to clear your streets. Let fair be fair! We cannot over-stretched or over-burdened relationships without cutting them off. We should rather than listen to these organisations craving for political favour focus on doing what posterity will judge us on positively.

To be continued next week….


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