•90% of Almajari boys are from one tribe
•Why we will still need to dialogue with Boko Haram after the war
By Wole Mosadomi
Sheik Ahmed Lemu, respected Islamic teacher was chairman of the Presidential Committee on Post-Election Violence in 2011 and also a member of some other sensitive government panels including the Vision 2010 Committee constituted by General Sani Abacha.Lemu, 86 in this interview reviews the state of the polity and expresses his opinion on how the many challenges against the country can be addressed.Excerpts:
How do you see Nigeria of Yesterday today and how do you see the future of the country.Okay. If you say yesterday, I don’t know of yesterday you are referring but if you are talking of governance in Nigeria, certainly, the years before the coup were excellent years for Nigeria.
Very positive. Those political leaders in particular, Sardauna of Sokoto, Dr. Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Tafawa Balewa, these four figures in particular were operating democracy by African standards only to be ousted by the 1966 coup.
That coup derailed Nigeria from democracy to military administration and subsequent coups made things worse right up to even when we were brought back to the so called democracy which amounts to selfishness, mismanagement in various ways.
And since then up till the end of the last regime, things have not been well for the nation.
However, with the coming of the new regime of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, we only hope that there will be change for the better. It is too early to judge him just within three months.
So, the future of Nigeria is bright under Gen. Buhari.
As we think, the future is bright.
You seem not to be very sure of the brightness.
I repeat, I think the future is bright from the way he has started. Well, he has started investigating so many Ministries, Parastatals, agencies e.t.c.
Where did we as a country actually get it wrong?
I am saying it again that Nigeria got it wrong right from January 1966 which was the beginning of the first coup. That was when we derailed and since then, we have never been the same. After that came a civil war. After the Civil war, thank God Gen.
Yakubu Gawon did his best for this nation by getting the support of some individuals and carried out throughout the civil war and succeeded. However, since then it was coup upon coup and making things worse for the country until the end of the last regime.
If you want to be sincere, what would you point to say is the or are the achievements of any of the previous regimes. Is it billions of stolen naira that is now becoming known to the public or what precisely would you say they have done? Poverty has increased, unemployment has increased, insecurity has increased, insurgency has increased, no peace of mind.
Can you give an account of some of the sensitive committees you have been involved in?
I was one of the prominent religious leaders that were put together to look into the case of Nigeria’s membership of the Organization of Islamic Countries and to advise the government under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. After signing the consensus, Christians again went back to Babangida, led by a delegation saying they didn’t want the conclusion to be published and it was never published up till today.
Next was the vision 2010. I was a member. Our hopes were raised. The regime that came after Gen. Abacha only scuttled the whole thing, so to say. Nothing was put into effect. The question therefore is that, why did we hold the vision 2010?
The most painful of all was the one instituted on the post Election Crisis after the election of former President Goodluck Jonathan. He appointed me as chairman of the committee to investigate the causes of the post election violence. We wrote our report and this is between us and God especially when among us were some prominent lawyers and a prominent retired Supreme Court Justice, Uwais.
We did our work faithfully and as a Nigerian and journalist, can you mention just only two items that you consider in that report that was implemented. I want to be frank with you. We all felt disappointed. There was another committee on political reform during Yar’adua of which I was a member. We submitted our report and recommendations but no action on the report.
In one of the reports where I was chairman, we listed previous committees which gave the government of the day then beautiful recommendations. We listed which areas of the reports of the previous committees they could visit to know what and what to implement but unfortunately, nothing was done. So, what else can I say?
So was it a waste setting up the committees?
No, no, no. I don’t want to use the word “wasteful” because wether government took action or not, some sensible people read the report or knew the outcome of the report particularly those close to the government of the day then and when it was their turn, they knew what to do and what not to do.
However, the fact as at today is that we have insurgency in our hands, insecurity in our hand, social indiscipline, corruption to the extreme, selfishness and stealing in Billions, no more in millions of naira and dollars.
Will you advise the present administration to dialogue with Boko Haram?
Frankly speaking, dialogue with Boko Haram is essential. Even when you win a war or a battle, that is not the end. You have to dialogue for lasting peace so dialogue with Boko Haram is essential and dialogue with the stakeholders concerned is essential so I will sincerely advise the government to embrace dialogue with all concerned.
Do you see these fighters as religious people fighting in the name of Islam. (Cuts in sharply).
How can they be religious people? It is for quest for money, quest for power and quest for followership.
Prophet Muhammed in the Holy Quran directed Muslims to search for knowledge and he didn’t limit this search for knowledge to Islamic Jurisprudence alone but that a Muslim should go and search for knowledge even if it will take you as far as China in an effort for people to be literate. So what is wrong in learning English language, Western Education e.t.c?
The Boko Haramn leader is said to have received Western Education and now wants to mobilize others not to go for it so that he can continue as a leader and make his followers to be ignorant to him and follow whatever he says.
Sir is there really a relationship between Islam and the Almajiri system and how can this system be modified?
Let me tell you. In the former North Western State, I was the officer in charge of Islamic religious education in the ministry of education. When this problem arose, we knew how we tried and successfully contained it.
Sardauna recognized the need for the Quranic schools and wanted to improve on their standard with better education and therefore opened the department of Higher Muslim Studies in the schools for Arabic Studies in Kano and Katsina and elsewhere for teachers to acquire sound education and also to return back to the same Quranic schools to raise their standards.
Those same teachers, if they wanted to reintegrate to western education, they could go to Bayero University College at that time to get a Diploma which will be a minimum entry qualification for a degree course. Some of the people who followed that route became Vice Chancellors, Ambassadors. I don’t want to give names.
When we were in the North Western state, we followed the same practice which Sardauna established whereby even the Arabic Teachers College was not limited to men but opened also to females and one was opened in Dikko, Niger State. It is still there.
We succeeded in integrating these two and produced a curriculum of integration of the Quranic school system with the western system and it was later recognized not as an Islamic school but Islamiyah school. This flows into Arabic Dilopma and from here one can even go for degree either in Arabic, Sharia or Islamic Studies.
These were the measures we took and it worked. Secondly, if you go to the root of Almajiri, I challenge you to start interviewing the boys involved in it from Minna and ask them where they came from, their tribe and ask them the names of their teachers.
I want to tell you that 90% of these people are predominantly from one tribe in Nigeria begging with bowls in their hands. Go and conduct the interview in Abuja, in Port-Harcourt, in Lagos, in Ilorin and
all over. To your shock, you will find out that 90% of them are from one tribe so, it is not a religious issue as such. They are only taking the advantage of religious provision e.g. Allah says in the Quran not to drive beggars away with humiliation. However, if one has nothing to offer them, just dismiss them with soft word and not humiliating them.
So, these people have taken the advantage of the provision in the Quran regarding charity for the poor in need and people now take advantage of this and make it a profession.
Out of my personal research around 1976, I succeeded in rehabilitating one of such beggars into our institute and succeeded and he became independent and self reliant. The point I am making is that those who are well to do are not
interested in facing this problem and it is going multidimensional. Apart from the tribal and ethnic problem, it has brought something related to real poverty, real lack of resources for the so called Malams who are caring for them.
They are taking advantage of the provision of Islam concerning the case for needy and for destitute. All we need to do is to harmonise the Quranic and Western Education together in order to get these boys out of the streets.
What is your opinion on the state of the education sector?
The standard is appalling and the unfortunate part of it is that it is difficult for even educationists to know how appalling the situation is as compared to the past. The problem with the country’s educational policy is what I can
describe as inconsistence and which has adversely brought down the standard of education in the country. Look at examination malpractices. It is now at its worst. Why?
What is your response to the issue of marriage by homosexuals?
(Shakes his head)
The question I am going to ask you yourself and that you can easily answer is, which animals do you see doing that as wild as they may be? Do you see a male dog running after another male dog in order to have an intercourse? Even monkeys don’t do it. Even pigs don’t do it. Then tell me the animals that do it. Just tell me the animals that do it.
Then why should a human being endeared by God as a male make up his mind to want to marry another male counterpart and also a woman following another woman trying to satisfying each other sexually? So if animals don’t do it, why should human beings who are children of God want to do that type of a thing?