“Ask not what your country can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your country.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
The above statement would sound to any discerning mind as if the man was addressing Nigerians. This is a country in which virtually every citizen expects the government to do everything for him; a country in which everything that goes wrong is blamed on the government if a whirlwind of hurricane passes, the government is blamed. But at an individual and communal level what are we doing to sanitise our society? What have we done to make our respective communalities more organised, more secure and, therefore, well poised for progress?
Of course the government is the primary stakeholder in society but not the only one; our society belongs to us the individuals, government is just an abstraction. The truth is that every one of us is individually responsible for his life and, as a result, needs to do whatever it would take to ensure peace and tranquillity that will guarantee his individual development. One should therefore, cooperate with his nearest neighbours to work out a well organised, safe, and peaceful environment necessary for one’s individual activities.
We are talking about almajirci which has become a social mess amidst all of us and no sensible person would wait for any government to come clean the mess in his house. The government’s best tool of doing things is the law. If the governments at all were to exclusively clear the issue without cooperating with the society and individuals, the best way for it is to pass a law prohibiting it and order the law enforcement agencies, the police to enforce the law by arresting and prosecuting defaulters. Knowing the behaviour of our people, one does not need a soothsayer or prophet to tell him that it is going to trigger a bloody conflict. I, therefore, think that way should not be our first option, nay; it should not even be part our options on the table. Moreover, the government would be reluctant to act that way due to its hunger for votes. The man at the helm of our government today did it forcefully and effectively when he sat on the chair as a military dictator, but now; being a democratically elected president who seeks for one more term in office; he would dare not send to the legislature a bill as such nor would any lawmaker agree to be the one to move a motion of that feature.
Since it is obvious that the government is technically inept in confronting social issues as such, I don’t think we, as collective individuals, should not stand aloof or remain disinterested passersby as the social menace heaps up like an anthill in our societies. The anthill that we might now take for granted may one day grow into a mountain that will volcanically erupt and spew molten lava that would not choose its victim; is it not that kind of mountain or an allied one that has been spewing such a molten lava that has already burned thousands of lives and property? Yes it has spewed so much lava in the North-Eastern part of this country; not only there, the rest of the country was never safe from the mayhem. It all happened because parents and the society as a whole took it for granted when youngsters were busy embracing and being indoctrinated with a weird religious ideology that was incompatible with the norms and values of the society and out of phase with present day realities.
If we were to learn only one lesson from the Boko Haram tale of tragedy, it should be that governments, our government at least, gets serious about confronting any social malaise only when it has already gone out of control. Everybody can hide under the grossly misunderstood phrase of the freedom of religion to propagate any sort of social incongruence as the government looks the other way or pretends not have perceived the disastrous consequences of a certain social weirdness that blossoms and flourishes in the society. Had the parents of those little children that were turned child soldiers or “killing machines” seriously frowned and took effective measures when the children were tending to and embracing the extremist ideology and; had the society as collective individuals done the needful to muffle the voice of such an ideology, this bloodletting could have been avoided. Parents and the rest of society can be excused for not being able to predict where the movement was leading to, hence, taking it for granted as their children embraced the new ideology. But security agencies with all their experts in the nature of social degeneration to insecurity have no excuse.
For the society as collective individuals, I would like to say once beaten, twice shy. Some people simply argue that almajirci would be phased out as the society progresses. That is an act of self delusion! The population of almajiris wandering about as vagabonds is too large to be ignored whereby as any society progresses in unison, any conservative element is a form of resistance and one does not need to be told that most of the Tsangayas or almajiri school teachers, the so-called mallams, are a group out of many that promote the most conservative values and ideals. We can ignore this fact at our own peril because I can already foresee our society in a fundamentally precarious situation. We, as a nation, already have more than enough crises to handle; there is, therefore, no wisdom in ignoring another potential crisis. That is one possibility out of many.
From another perspective, if we take the risk of accepting the argument that the scythe of time would do away with almajiranci; then I ask that in the meantime, how much of child labour or outright slavery are we ready tolerate as we wait for time to do our work for us? How much juvenile delinquencies are we ready to manage? How dangerous drug addicts are we ready to accommodate and entertain? How many rehabilitation centres are we willing to provide? How many more psychiatrists are we ready to train? How much talent are we willing to let go to waste? How much frequency of individual crimes ranging from minor acts such as those of pickpockets, prowling in the darkness of the night to major ones such as ready to be hired assassins (hashashin) to delusion motivated vengeances in form of deadly assaults are we stiff enough to withstand? There are inexhaustible questions with difficult answers that the proponents of time need to be asked.
My opinion is that we must something and we must do it urgently. In the next article I will outline my views on what should be done to tame and transform the system beginning from the family level to the society as a whole and the involvement of governments at the grassroots.