By Yinka Odumakin

THERE is nobody of my generation that would not remember Eze Goes To School written by Onuora Nzekwu who passed on recently  and Micheal Crowther.It was the best Nigerian novel we were introduced to in our first year in secondary school forty years ago. Nzekwu pointed out that he wrote this famous book for children when he found out that there were no such books written for kids by Nigerians who knew the society well. For decades thousands and thousands of children in West Africa would identify with the protagonist, Eze and his travails whilst trying to garner the rudiments of western education. There are many difficulties in his path, and heart-breaking tragedy too, especially when he loses his father! The angst  lives in the mind of many readers. But quitting   was not for our  Eze as he plods  on, ever resilient…and somewhat succeeds. The importance of education is highlighted in the  book, which essentially is a long-standing triumph.

Long-standing triumph

But the Eze of 2017 Nigeria is confronted with a new demon in school as Fulani herdsmen are no longer satisfied with invading farms with their cows,killing hapless farmers and raping their wives as well. We had thought we had seen the worst when Delta State Governor, Mr. Patrick Okowa told us recently that farmers are now being escorted to their farms by armed policemen.

“The operatives (policemen) are providing security there (Abraka) and currently escorting farmers to their farm lands. A unit of policemen with specially trained police force has also been deployed to Ossissa to deal with the issues there too. But as I did say, the federal government needs to speak up on this matter as this is very important if we are to have a way forward on this matter.”

“We are beginning to have a new form of crisis, not that it has not been there, it concerns the clashes between armed herdsmen and our communities and farmers. It has been a very problematic thing and not something restricted to Delta State, but it is very unfortunate that it is escalating not only in Delta, but across the country and we are trying to work out the best ways to deal with it.”

While we waited for Godot (read Federal Government),a new low came from Edo state where images of cows in Ohovbe  Primary School, in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, where pupils have been sharing their classrooms with cows for the past few months went viral.

The   pupils usually spend the better part of their mornings to chase out cows from their classrooms and fetch water to wash the animals’ excrement and urine before settling down for academic activities. A 12-year-old pupil, Ezekiel Obeahon, said, “When we came to school in the morning, the cows entered our classes. They excreted and urinated on the floor and we chased them away. But when we returned the next morning, we discovered that the cows had come back to excrete in the classrooms.

“We usually washed the excrement every morning. But on Tuesday (June 6), we used stones to chase the cows out. I was part of those that threw stones at them because I was not happy. Some of the cows even tried to jump out from the windows.”

Several days after the publication of the bizarre incident,the Edo state Government has spoken in silence while the Federal Ministry of Education has kept mum,a development which signals we are in a greater trouble than we may want to admit.

That the tormenting Malu (cow) now goes to school is the boldest inscription of BOKO HARAM(western education is sin) down south. My good brother and friend Otoks Princewill captured it succinctly when he wrote: “All of this happening just to buttress the point that the relationship is not working. The other one says he does not want to learn. You will think he would allow you to learn.But you forget that he says you oppress him with your learning.Is it not best to let him be on his own so that you can be on your own ?”

It was reported last year that Adamawa state  said that the N700m schools for Almajiri by Jonathan administration  were too expensive to maintain.That was a wasteful investment for kids who  live in a social stratification that insists they must not learn.

The  Permanent Secretary, Adamawa State Ministry of Education, Alhaji Mahmud Abubakar  explained that the state government was finding it difficult to put the almajiri schools into use because of financial constrains.

He said, “We appreciate the AUN for taking up the almajiri problem. But as it is right now, we have over half a million of these children roaming the streets. If you take 22,000 out of it; how many per cent is it?”

According to him, the state is bothered by the number of out-of-school children and the non-operation of the school as a result of funding gaps and the government’s inability to recruit the personnel needed for its take-off because such schools required specialised teachers.

He noted that the government spent not less than N100 million in constructing each of the seven schools with a combined enrolment for only 420 almajiri but which also had been lying fallow since its establishment in 2012.

“But since 2012 up till now they have not commenced because the recruitment of the specialised teachers to the schools had not been done because of the expensive nature of the teachers.

“The feeding of the almajiri is also a big problem. I think the enrollment we intended was only 420 and the American University educated 22,000 in one year. It was expensive, capital intensive and the beneficiaries were very few. So they (schools) are there lying waste.

“We have asked the USAID to give us money so that we can start the schools but they refused us except we come with a performance indicator”?

Don’t bother about the long grammar ,the long and short of it is that the education of Almajiri is not a priority!

This clash of civilizations did not start just yesterday. In 2012, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM, a terrorist group, took control of the city. They were forced out by French and Malian government troops the next year, but not before setting fire to two buildings housing many  manuscripts, including the Ahmed Baba Institute.

ISIS militants also  ransacked Mosul library, burning over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of human learning in 2014.

Initial reports said approximately 8,000 books were destroyed by the extremist group.

However, AL RAI’s chief international correspondent Elijah J. Magnier told The Independent that a Mosul library official believes as many as 112, 709 manuscripts and books, some of which were registered on a UNESCO rarities list, are among those lost.

Way back in the 15th century, the Almoravids invaded the University of Timbuktu and burnt down about 13,000 books in the Vice-Chancellor’s office.

The vantage position occupied by cow in Nigeria of today was underscored recently by Alhaji Tanko Yakassai when he responded to the quit notice Arewa youths and their sponsors served on Ndigbo to leave the North.He equated the obnoxious order on human beings with the insistence in the South and Middle Belt that cows should be in ranches and not freely roaming on people’s farms and destroying their livelihood. Hear him :“The quit notice to Igbos by some people in the north and the purported denial of grazing right to Fulani herders in the south are against human rights provisions of the Nigerian constitution, which guaranteed freedom of movement to all Nigerians.”

Yakasai lamented that even the state laws enacted by some governors which denied Fulani herders from driving their animals in areas that were not legally granted to any individual or corporate bodies was infringement of the provisions of Nigerian constitution.

By this Baba’s logic,cows are fellow citizens with freedom of movement!

I am fully persuaded that there is a group looking for a perfect storm to  be able to discharge what they have loaded with all these provocations going on here and there across Nigeria.We shall see what it is in the days ahead.


Free Evans Campaign and its meaning 

THE recent arrest of the billionaire kidnapper popularly known as Evans has been the trending issue for some days now in Nigeria.  One ridiculous fallout is  the #Free Evans Campaign.

There are different interpretations that could be given to this campaign ranging from insensitivity to Evans victims,perverse thinking and sheer loss of values.But there is a deeper angle to it flowing from cynicism by citizens who are frustrated with organised crime and banditry that governance has become in our country .The rate at which criminality prospers and grows in our leadership is conditioning the minds of a lot of our young people to see social crimes as a flip side of governmental criminality.

A good friend of mine,Bayo Fabiyi has this message for the ruling  elite on the campaign:

“I don’t think it is coming from Evans.It’s all a reflection of frustration with our justice system .The elite will set this country on fire.I predict a day will come when ordinary citizens will disrupt criminal trials of their peers.Just watch out”

He who has ears!




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