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Almajaris: System solutions to a systemic problem (2)

Here is the second part of my system-oriented solutions to the Almajari problem. Last week, we stopped at what individuals and traditional institutions could do to support the state government.

A school for the indigents named the Abolarin College was formed by Oba Adedokun Omoniyi Abolarin, the Oragun of Oke-Ila, Osun state. He is an exceptional traditional ruler not beclouded by traditions and showing the value of his education as a former teacher.

Oba Adedokun founded this school as a tuition-free college. It is a boarding school with a system to develop the total dignity and capacity of the students. All the students must learn three languages and use them in communicating at a specified day of the week. The 94 students from the various parts of Nigeria are all farmers. They farm one-hour a day to cultivate the land, sow and harvest the food they eat. They are trained in different vocational skills with rules of engagements: the boys cut hair for one another, the girls plait hair for themselves. Each of the students is with a laptop; science and technology are priorities, and not religion.  Kabiyesi is not just a philanthropist who can sacrifice his salary and gifts for him as the king but a nation builder. In jeans, t-shirts, and face caps, he talks to the children regularly as a father and a mentor. He is indeed using education to fight poverty and improve social development through the children.

Your excellencies let me now hit the nail on the head. We have been trying to solve the Almajaris problem without zeal and with fear of the status quo. Some of us are afraid to offend the established political and traditional institutions because we need second term votes. After the second term is achieved, our focus shifts to becoming the state’s political godfathers who select the governors for future generations even when we are not alive. That’s not the way to register our names in the books of life as leaders who came, saw, and make generational impacts.

If fear is your reasons for not taking the hard decision, decisions that will disrupt the existing systems but favour our children on the streets, please consult Nasir. There is Nasir’s theory that can be adopted. His excellency, Nasir El-rufai did the unthinkable. He sacked many teachers in his first term in office. A first-term governor doesn’t behave that way. Those hard decisions are after securing the second term of four years. But today, we have El-rufai among us. We need leaders who can disrupt the existing systems; that’s the risk leaders must take in the interest of our future.

Here is the system approach to your ban of the Almajaris system. You cannot say you are sending the children to their states and call it a ban. To whom are you sending the children? If their parents have 10percent of your financial capacity, they won’t in the first place, send their children to the mallams.

So, do not ban the system until there is no belief in the myth that there is a knowledge of Islam that can only be acquired outside an organised system—banning without changing the fundamental tenets and culture in the existing order an effort in futility. Check what Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore is doing. We expect Saudi and Qatar to insist on religion education above Science and Technology, and civility in the society. But that wasn’t the case. Saudi Arabia is targeting 100percent literacy, and Qatar has achieved 97 percent of literacy ratio for her children of age 15 to 26 years. Singapore is far ahead as her students are top-ranked in the Programme for International Students Assessment. What are the illiteracy ratios in our states?

So, the starting point is changing the parts of the system before the ban of the system can be achieved. Let’s restructure the system instead of the ban.

There is a cultural tenet of the Almajaris system. We need to minimise the output from the production line to a manageable size for the packing machine and the assembly workers to handle and guarantee quality output. The culture of indiscriminate procreation of children outside one’s financial capacity must stop. I am not sure if birth control is anti-Islam, but we must find a creative way of discouraging too many wives and children that burden the states and Nigeria as a whole. We need to educate our people that Omo bee’re ni Osi bee’re according to a Yoruba adage. Please pardon, I won’t say that Yoruba adage in English. A united Nigeria is good to have as there are wisdom and power in diversity. There is a governor here with one of his political appointees as a Yoruba man. I am sure he will interpret that for the governor, and he will tell his colleagues. There is another governor, whose predecessor’s wife is a Yoruba woman and has a close relationship with his wife. The interpreters are two, and I wouldn’t need to worry.

Back to the solutions, we should show leadership. We cannot without giving incentives and ask men to reduce striking with their third legs where our senators, emirs and even local government chairpersons are breeding children as if they are to be sold at an auction and without restraints at showing them as evidence of wealth and influence.

The second part of the system is to utilise the existing physical and financial infrastructures to stylishly modified the system. There might be a need for the tracing of the family of these children, educate them before taking the children to Jonathan Goodluck’s facilities. At the facilities, we will provide food and education that is a blend of all curriculums. We should spell out rules and sanctions awaiting anyone who escapes from the school. To make this work, some of the existing mallams, the former custodians of these children can be trained and employed at the same facilities. If the children see their mallams in whom they believed and are well pleased, there will be a likely reduction in the attrition rate from the new schools, the Almajari bail-out schools.

The third part of the system is to separate state from religion. No Nigeria state is exclusively a Christian or Islamic state. We cannot claim there are no beneficial Christians in Zamfara, even with the Sharia system. The use of the criminal sharia code of cutting off hands and beating of adults is barbaric and behind the evolution of time. Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Sharia laws has modified the law to allow women to drive vehicles and stopped the beating of people. Why are we more righteous than the owners of the religion? The states should stop promoting religion above other important constitutional roles under your guide. It is a fallacy that you cannot have political relevance without mixing religion with politics. If you dare to provide infrastructures and materials for social wellbeing in your states, you will see changes. The more your states become secular by accommodating others, putting education ahead of religion, the more your efforts to achieve the SDGs will be historic. Let me share one nation-building example from Turkey with you.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a revolutionist reformed Turkey. One of his battles was on religion. Yes, he wanted Turkey to be a Muslim state but with secular contents for developmental reasons. Some of his significant, bold steps that aid the development of Turkey was the ban of the Emirate system and the Sultanates. He made primary school education free and compulsory, focused on science, industrialisation, and medicine. He made creating a homogeneous and unified nation where religion status is clear but mixing it with governance is rejected. We need you to start this by selecting your team without ethnic or religious consideration. Afterall, Fausat Ibikunle is a commissioner in Kaduna state. The job should go to the best known and recommended person irrespective of race, ethnic or religion if we are to succeed as governors.

Before I talk about the funding of the new and modified system, let’s go to the last aspect of the culture and where sacrifices are required. This is the big elephant, and a lot of resistance is expected. Why can’t our traditional leaders take the lead and contribute to the education of the children, including the girl’s child in the northern? Let’s educate our emirs and other rulers, that the quota system and the functions of the federal character commission are irrelevant and cannot stand the test of time in the Nigeria of the future.

We cannot be giving intellectual positions to our people at the detriments of better-qualified candidates from the other parts of the country. This includes the presidency where we have records of space occupied but poor records of development as leaders, even in our regions. So, let the emirs emulate Abolarin College and the exploits of Oba Adedokun Abolarin. This is a tough call, but he who pays the pipers calls the tune. We should establish similar schools with the same model adopted from Abolarin College to be named along with the emirate kingdom and with a promise to name them after the emirs if they take complete ownership. There are pains without which there are no gains. Let’s stop buying exotic cars for the emirs, the commissioners and the legislators.

We can’t afford to have a few elites or privileged people living life at the expense of the coming generations. If we continue like this, posterity will judge us and reward our biological children detrimentally. Emirs should be put on salary not more than a token and made to be productive being the custodians of culture and religion. Culture and religion without the necessities of life will not guarantee peace and development. Aside, from making the emirs the chairmen of the board of trustees of these new schools, they are to be responsible for raising funds, from private sources not from politicians. They are to visit the children, teach moral values, religious tolerance, and the oneness of Nigeria like Oba Abolarin. The emirs are to be empowered by a one-time seed capital for those without an existing capacity for investment in farming.

Emirs should be large farm owners with the employment of youth that can be influenced to keep peace alive always. The traditional rulers should be made to secure the schools with the local government supports. There is no doubt, and this effort will deepen the emirs’ other sources of income if the state is separated from the throne. After all, the conferment of chieftaincy titles is a significant source of income that can be explored, but no title for the political office holders while in office.

Finally, is the depth of our resolve, sincerity and political will as governors to re-write history. We are on the bridge to changing the narratives of the northern states’ poverty index through education and system re-alignment. What are we using the UBE’s fund for? This is the time to be accountable and access the fund for its purpose. President Buhari had blamed the Almajaris system on us when he said, “where the menace persists it means the state governments are not doing their job.” Are we doing our jobs are the leaders of the states? We should be embarrassed with the smuggling of our children to the south after our ban. The embarrassment should push us to re-write the history of these children for the future prosperity of our region and Nigeria at large.

I want to thank you for taking the bold decisions and your willingness to see the ban working this time. We must know this decision is belated but timely for the post-COVID-19 life. In the post coronavirus era, there will be increased personal relationships with Allah and a reduction in the need to go after pastors and Imams. We, therefore, need our Almajaris to be scientists, engineers, writers, doctors, and skilful citizens to make Nigeria great. The knowledge of God will be personal, and religion will be best practice if poverty is reduced.

Also, the only common denominator is education. I will urge you to focus on education, especially the capacity building of the teachers. With this, the ban on the Almajaris system will be useful because of the approach which touches of the aspects of the system.


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