OPINION: In defence of the Almajiris — Stop the Covid-19 repatriation now

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By Prince Ejeh Josh.

The atmosphere is already stormy. The premonitions of the pregnant cloud portend a rupturing dystopia in our country. In the words of a celebrated African poet, David Rubadiri, the sinister is already gathering to perch on the hill.

To drive home the above point in a lucid way, a Nigerian Senator, Shehu Sani, a rights activist, succinctly captured the ambiance of the time when he noted thus about the Nigerian State: We give flowers, emojis and cards to the children of elites who imported the virus and we give whips and slaps to the Almajiri who caught the virus.

This radical submission, sadly, entails, ignorantly though, a factual redistribution and proliferation of the virus through the primitive repatriation of these defenceless children—Almajiris, from one state to the other. This ongoing decision by the Northern governors has further exposed the ill-patterned class structures and how the masses are perceived by political rulers in Nigeria. The structural disequilibrium and artificially vertical relationship in our society is already boomeranging.

Without presenting the depiction of fear mongering, let me warn that Nigeria may be dripping into the depth of the evil sea as regards the plaguing Coronavirus pandemic. We’re gradually creeping towards the bank of the sea. We’re already weary of the fringe and glitches of the little waves from the sea. May I predict here that; either we like to hear the truth or not, Nigeria is in “troblem”.

I still could not fathom any ethical prism or frame on which the governors could base their recent decision about the Almajiris. Were they (Almajiris) responsible for their woes? Were they the architect of their problems? The vagrant Almajiris were just the manifestation of a product of a failed system. They are brute symbolic representation of bad leaderships, failed religious management system and acute socio-economic setting.

These systems combined have turned all of us into the itinerant Almajiris. Many of us were only fortunate to be where we are today. It could have been anybody. They too are humans. They deserve care rather than whips. They, indeed, deserve our love rather than malicious repatriation.

Now, with the repatriation of the Almajiris from one state to another, so is the spread of this COVID – 19. In his verified Twitter handle, Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasifu El-Rufai, who himself once caught the virus before being given the best treatment in the world, recently made a shocking revelation about the spread of the virus.

According to him, 50 out of 59 COVID – 19 cases in the state were Almajiri pupils repatriated from Kano state. Following this was the news that 6 Almajiris repatriated from Kano state to Bauchi state have also been confirmed positive to the virus. This is a sad development. Isn’t it? 16 more of these children have also been confirmed positive in Kaduna state. The story goes on and on.

More worrisome was Nasarawa state’s impervious audacity to announce that 788 Almajiris had been repatriated to their home states of Jigawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Gombe and Taraba states to rejoin their parents.

While addressing them, Governor Andullahi Sule of the state noted that the essence of their repatriation was for their parents to take proper care of them. And I’m forced to ask: who are their parents? Do they have caring and supportive homes before deciding to take to streets and beg? It’s submitted here that the only parents these deprived children have, for now, are the states. The states in the north have the wherewithal to take proper care of them.

This may sound offensive, but it nevertheless not intended: the family system in the north is dysfunctional. It’s not working. There is an urgent need for total overhauling and re-orientation of the family structure and planning to meet with the reality of our time. People cannot be found to be breeding children they cannot care for in the name of religion.

Such thoughtless argument must be immediately perished. Freedom of religion and freedom of sex come with responsibilities. Until people are held responsible for their action, they’d keep harping on their freedom of religion to have sex and procreate uncontrollably.

This was why I’ve always agreed with the strong arguments adduced by our noble Emir, Mallam Lamido Sanusi. People should marry base on their financial capability. They must not hinge their marital right on religion to abuse the tenet of their faith, thereby creating problems for the entire society. Parents must be held responsible for every (single) child they produce.

I can imagine that most of these kids never felt the warmth embrace of their parents talk more of the society. They don’t understand the meaning of care and love. That’s strange to them. Many of them live and feed on the streets. Scum and wretched of the earth, to borrow Frank Fanon’s popular phrase.

When President Buhari, in recent past, lamented how overwhelming the Boko Haram had become, I wonder if he had adverted his mind to these kids. It’s only a matter of time before people will revolt out of anger, hunger, frustration and oppression. You cannot be wining and dinning at the comfort of your palace made possible by the wealth of the nation while others are eating from the bins, and expect peace to reign. Peace is justice when every man has food on his table. This is by no means intend to serve as encouraging laziness.

Today, Coronavirus is killing more and more people in the North. Most cases are unreported. The crux of the matter is; the virus doesn’t discriminate between the wealthy oligarchs and the scummy Almajiris. Keep repatriating them and see the virus keep spreading.

Let me leave you with these words from Aminata Sow Fall’s “The Beggars’ Strike” and Sola Owonibi’s “Homeless Not Hopeless”. For these Almajiris, they are saying: “We are necessary. We are part of your existence. We are major fragments of the globe”.

One day, the beggars will go on strike, we’ll look for them but not see them. We’ll need them, but it’ll be too late. Perhaps, one day, they will strike back and strike hard.




DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on our opinion page are those of the writer and do not represent the position of INSIDER or any of its reporters/editors.

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