OPINION: OF AGAMA LIZARD AND THE ALMAJIRAI

My house is sandwiched by four different houses. I live alone with my young family. My fence is low, so I could see and hear what goes on in my neighbourhood.

Some of my neighbours raise hens and cocks. These domesticated birds are allowed to roam about. My wife was raised in a house where there are such birds with large space to roam around and pick grains on the ground.

Since we are just three, sometimes there are some leftovers, especially rice. Being used to feeding hens as a young girl, my wife would look for the starved hens roaming endlessly to look for grains to pick and throw the cooked grains in their direction. She also had the habit of throwing other edible stuff in their direction.

Over time, an agama lizard noticed that, from time to time, God had instructed a woman to be an animal caregiver, so it would come to that spot where the possibility of getting any edible was highest. It is a natural instinct in any animal, including humans.

I rebuffed this idea of being a universal donor. Those birds and reptiles with time became nuisance and most annoyingly, if they never came for the food due to reasons best known to them, the little grains would release rotten stench after being there for a while. So, I asked her to stop. But I know she still does behind my back.

While the hens adjusted to the new normal, the lizard seemed never to move away from the past. Every morning, the lizard would come to that same spot looking for food. Each morning through my kitchen window I would see it nodding its head intermittently as if it was announcing that, it was time for breakfast. One day, while I was in the kitchen, I saw the massive reptile hopped to the window frame attempting to find an opening through the kitchen net into the house. I could not lay my hand on the lethal aerosol I use to control mosquitoes. So I boiled a little water and added powdered pepper. I opened the window as quickly as I could and splashed it on the intruding reptile. The redheaded confused agama scampered for safety and ran the race of its life. But, next day it came back again. I chased it away, but it kept coming, day after day…

When the governor of Kaduna state said the northern governors had concluded to put an end to the almajiri system in northern Nigeria, I was seriously worried. I worked on almajiri system with a younger friend of mine for her final year thesis, a year ago. That was the first time I understood the problems and challenges of the almajiri system in northern Nigeria from the academic perspective.

No child was born as an almajiri, but the society turned them to one. Every child is born with innate talents and abilities to attain heights in life, but through shrewd religious mechanisation and dubious political manipulation, young and intelligent boys and girls were turned into morons and no-gooders. They were schooled to think that, due to the circumstances of their birth they could not amount to anything productive in life. They must be religious and political puppets. This is the system that had been used to feed the greed of clerics and to swing the direction of political leadership.

Here we are…The almajiri had been used and dumped. It is the first time it would be clear to them that the system that turned them to domesticated lizards is against natural law of survival. Lizards are never to be domesticated, they are to roam wildly around their environment because the nature had hidden their food in places which will take efforts to find out. It is through constant searching and regular hunting that they learn to be independent and develop resilience. Laying lazily on the fence and waiting for handouts is not the calling of lizards. What fits them the most is to go into the wilds and feed on nature. That is what makes them healthy, fleshy and fulfilled.

The northern leaders need to pay the generations of almajirai reparations. Reparations for killing their brains, for poisoning their minds and for destroying their souls. They rode the backs of these innocent minds to power and to political and ecclesiastical prominence. But they now abandoned them like dirty rags.

Just like the agama lizards, it would not be easy to get rid of them. They will keep on coming back. It is difficult to unlearn a generational lie. The worst part of the story is that some of the almajirai had been taught to hate. They were taught to hate the government not supported by their principals. They were taught to hate fellow humans they referred to as infidels. They were taught to die and go to paradise since they had no hope in this life. My fear is that weapons in the hands of people that have nothing to lose may be lethal instruments of mass destruction. Everywhere these dangerous elements migrate to, they go with hate and anger. They had been used and dumped. They may take their anger on innocent people who had nothing to do with their oppression and subjugation in the first place.

EXRADALLENUM OLUSEGUN AKINSANYA

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