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Friday, March 31, 2017

Hypocrisy over Almajirci

….also published in Daily Trust

Though the ongoing process to come up with marriage-related reforms in Kano state isn't the first of its kind, the momentum it has gathered is obviously unprecedented, thanks to the particular interest in the issue demonstrated by Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Sunusi ll. Besides, in view of the sheer socio-cultural influence of Kano state among other affected states in northern Nigeria, this process is expected to inspire similar reforms across the region.

Also, the intense yet interesting jurisprudential, scientific and sociological debates the issue has generated are expected to culminate in the adoption of some reform measures that, without prejudice to the relevant religious teachings, would check the persistent negative marriage-related practices in the society.

However, obviously achieving this remains subject to the extent of the sincerity of the individuals, communal commitment and political will that drive the process, otherwise it would simply end up the same way several measures adopted on various occasions over the decades ostensibly to address some negative social phenomena e.g. Almajirci ended up.

Now, as the title of this piece implies, my focus is actually on Almajirci, which involves some of the worst forms of child abuse, waste of human potential and other primitive forms of human exploitation, yet I began with the issue of the proposed marriage-related reforms considering the fact that Almajirci itself is already one of the major negative social phenomena associated with, among other things, the challenges created by family and marriage-related problems in the society. After all, Kano state, where more than 3 million Almajirai roam the streets, according to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, is probably the worst affected state in northern Nigeria where the conservatively estimated population of 10 million wandering Almajiraia  across the region is more than the population of the citizens of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and a few other countries combined. 
Incidentally, for the sake of clarity, my reference to Almajirci in this context is solely based on the current widespread practice whereby a child is effectively abandoned by his own parents, to an Alaramma too poor to provide the child with his basic needs e.g. food, clothing, shelter, love, care, education, moral and professional training, etc. under the pretext of putting him through the process of acquiring expertise in Qur’anic reading and memorization. The helpless child starts off his journey in Almajirci as Qolo to grow into Titibiri then Gardi, Goni and finally Gangaran having acquired the ability to read and memorize the bare Qur’anic texts without knowing or bothering to know its meanings and intendments. In fact, in most cases, he reads it largely incorrectly also, for he wasn’t introduced to the correct way of reading it all along. He also grows up ignorant of the basic teachings of Islamic religion, and having assumed to have attained ‘mastery’ in the Qur’an while people refer to him as Alaramma, he feels too important to learn even the basics of Islamic religion let alone other pieces of knowledge, of course. Furthermore, with no specific skill to pursue any legitimate livelihood, he claims spiritual ability to manipulate Qur’anic verses to influence things and events, whereas in reality he is only providing sorcery- based services to his gullible clients.

This note is quite relevant here, because many tacit apologists for Almajirci often unnecessarily and indeed dishonestly cling to some historical circumstances of the social trend of vigorous pursuit of Qur’anic reading and memorization skills in the society, in the past, which was, after all, quite different from what obtains under the current form of Almajirci, in their attempt to justify the continuation of Almajirci in its current form nowadays.

Anyway, though there has always been apparent unanimity among Islamic scholars, experts, traditional institutions and political leaders, on the urgent need to tackle Almajirci phenomenon in our societies, the persistent failure to make headway remains due to the reluctance of a significant number of individuals among the abovementioned parties to implement the appropriate measures agreed upon.

Also, though these parties represent the elite in the society, yet many of them betray reluctance to pursue, implement or push for the implementation of anti-Almajirci measures under various pretexts. Apparently, some of them feel lacking in the moral high ground to do so, because they are either descendants of families with historical roots in Almajirci, or they were themselves Almajirai before some turn of events changed their destiny. Hence, in either case, they probably think that being committed to tackling it is tantamount to questioning the validity and the wisdom behind their forefathers’ legacy, or they (think) would simply expose themselves to ridicule, having been through it in the past. 

Yet, the most ridiculous pretext is this regard is the superstitious belief held by many, if not most, of ‘yan boko elite who are lacking in the correct teachings of Islamic religion that such Alarammomi possess some special spiritual qualities and ability to intercede with Allah of behalf of their clients. It’s therefore quite hard to find a single individual among such ‘yan boko who doesn’t keep a number of such Alarammomi as his personal so-called prayer warriors who he believes are able to manipulate circumstances in his favour, hence he shares with them not only his personal secrets but also many sensitive and confidential pieces of official information. This explains why, even in the position of power, such ‘yan boko are often reluctant to implement anti-Almajrici measures lest they incur the wrath of such Alarammomi who they believe can ruin their lives.