Almajirci and the Lugard connection

By Auwal A. Dankano

“Wahedi! Sadaka! Iya ko dan kanzo!..!”

The echo of these words is usually heard in almost every northern city of Nigeria. The words literary mean: “(for the sake of) the only Deity, alms! Even if it is left over!” and the words are uttered by small boys or “almajiriai”, who are sent to Qur’anic schools in pursuit of knowledge. Alas! The historic institution is being hated for the sin it never committed.

Always in dirty and tattered clothes, leftovers are what usually go to their Tommy. Indulge in errands to meet the daily needs, which is inversely proportion to their studies. They stay in ramshackle structures, in unhygienic condition ever ready to retain water born or air born diseases. And our contemporary society attributes all or most of its social vices to the students of such formidable institution. But to know the root of the problem, one has to go beyond that.

Before the coming of colonial masters to northern Nigeria, the institution, operated in bushes or farm land far away from cities or villages, so not to be interrupted by the city’s or village’s daily affairs. Hence the name “almajiri”, which was derived from Arabic word “Muhajirun” meaning immigrants.

As of then they defended on farming to feed their stomach, and sold the excess agricultural produce to meet their daily needs. Begging and other illicit acts were out of the equation.

Qur’anic schools then comprised of seven honours or classes; from Kolo (nursery), Titibiri (primary), Gardi (secondary), Malam (first degree), Alaramma (second degree), Gangarau (PhD) and Gwani Na Gwanaye (as professor).

Its undisputed fact that, Sir Fredric Lugard the then, High commissioner of northern protectorate and later governor general of colony and protectorates of Nigeria, would no doubt be responsible for the decay and rot witnessing in koranic schools.

The son of the Reverend F. G Lugard, either knowingly or ignorantly imposed a law, which made the land to be a legal property of the imperialist government. This forced them to relocate to cities, and then to beg for foods and other necessities of life, since in the cities they cannot own a farmland to produce their own food.

They left with no option but to beg for what to eat, from the people that so much believed in the system.

And it’s very imperative to note that, this particular institution is responsible for development of the northern region, long before the coming of the white man. The organized traditional system of government which the white man found wanting was due to this institution.

Presently, about three million almajirai move around, the streets looking for food to eat.

We owe the British colonial administration an apology, for the predicament they have done to the innocent almajirai with the help of their agent, also, may I appeal to our governments to de-emphasise the contributions of Lugard by renaming Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lugard Hall, Kaduna, Lugard Road, Jos and Lugard House, Kogi, with names that matter to us.

The new system almajiri launched by the president Jonathan, in my humble opinion deserve to be recommended, but fact is, to obtain almajirai-free society we must to revert to the old system of their operation where they studied in a safer place before Lugard’s intervention which really distorted the system.

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