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Nigeria and the North’s thorn bushes

IT happened one day that Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan the following nepotic words: “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.”(Nigeria)

His words were repeated to the citizens of Shechem and they were persuaded to follow Abimelech, for they said: “He is related to us.” They then gave him 70 shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers.

He thereafter went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his 70 brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal except for Jotham the youngest son who escaped by hiding. Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king over themselves.

When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to the people in a very emotive way: “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king’. But the olive tree answered: ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honoured, to hold sway over the trees?’

Low-growth  thorny shrub

After the olive declined, the trees said to the fig tree: ‘Come and be our king.’ But the fig tree replied: ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

They would not give up as they went to the vine: ‘Come and be our king’. But the vine answered: ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’

The trees then picked the thorn bush, a low-growth thorny shrub that has not even a shade to give anyone and said: ‘Come and be our king.’ The thorn bush said to the trees: ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thorn bush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

Every tree that had value declined kinship as it would affect the service-rendering mission to the community. But the one that has no value was emitting all the nonsensical.

Our country Nigeria always reminds me of the thornbushes, always having a sense of entitlement over the fig, olive, and vine. Anyone who has to judge only by what is available in our public space would not believe the country boasts of first-class beings who can hold their own anywhere in the world. That leadership is the major job that requires no preparation or serious qualification explains why our country is where it is today. The eighth miracle of the world it would have been if Nigeria made it!

Every chain will always break at its weakest link. The clash of civilizations in Nigeria runs too deep and our national failure is the sum total of the various strands of our fault lines.

A social system in the North, for instance, that deliberately keeps a large segment of society in absolute ignorance and abject poverty was seen initially as only the problem of the region until its thorn bushes have now taken away the peace of the entire country. Boko Haram, uneducated herdsmen and Almajiris have today seized harmony in Nigeria. They would probably not be with us if the leaders of the region had made education affordable and accessible to every child.

A report in the Daily Trust of November 27, 2017, A Nigeria newspaper entitled: “N15bn Almajiri schools in ruins” detailed what has happened to the intervention programme by the Goodluck Jonathan Administration. I quote from it:

“In Zamfara State, the Almajiri schools have been converted into conventional secondary schools, Daily Trust findings reveal. Investigation reveals the school in Talata Mafara local government was converted into Command Science Secondary School, while the one in Damba was converted into Government Girls Secondary School. Our correspondent who visited the school in Damba saw dozens of schoolgirls in uniform taking lessons but neither the school officials nor students agreed to speak. Contacted, the state Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Muktar Lugga, said: “When we came on board we took over the Almajiri schools and converted them into conventional schools …”

Also read: Breaking: Another Nigerian teenager killed in Xenophobic attack in South Africa

Unoccupied classes

An official at the State Universal Basic Education Board who craved for anonymity said Amajiri schools in the state were not put to use since they were built, adding that he could not tell why. “I have learnt recently that the structures were taken over by the state government and converted into conventional schools for boys and girls,” he said.

Sokoto: “The first Tsangaya School commissioned five years ago in Sokoto State by the former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, are not put to proper use as seven of the 10 classes in the school are unoccupied. When contacted the principal of the school, Malam Hussaini, declined comment on the condition of the school, saying they were barred from talking to the media without written permission from the Sokoto State Universal Basic Education Board.

“Students of other schools revealed to our reporter that they had not been undertaking vocational courses despite having a well-equipped vocational centre in the school. They teach us English, mathematics, computer studies, Quranic lessons among others but we are not given vocational courses,” two of the students told Daily Trust. The school had 260 pupils in 2015, mostly from Sokoto and the neighbouring states of Kebbi and Zamfara. But during our last visit, only a few students were sighted around the school. The Secretary of SUBEB, Faruk Shehu could not be reached for comment at the time of filing this report.

Kaduna: “Almajiri schools in Kaduna are characterized by lack of facilities just as bed bugs have taken over the majority of the schools in the state. The operators of these schools have also decried neglect by the present administration; saying they got better attention under the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

Bauchi:  “Four Tsangaya Model Schools were established in Bauchi State in 2012. They have located at Buzaye and Kangere in Bauchi local government; Sade in Darazo local government and Azare in Katagum local government. Buzaye Tsangaya School is located about 15 kilometres outside Bauchi town along Jos-Bauchi highway at a village called Buzaye. It is situated about 400 metres from the highway. The school which presently accommodates 400 students brought from different parts of the state is fenced and its frontage attracts instant attention. The school has three dormitories, three blocks of four classes and another three blocks of two classes, a language laboratory, mosque, and a non-equipped, non-functional clinic.

“A source in the school said: ‘We also don’t have enough beds, mattresses and beddings because they have not been added to the ones supplied since the establishment of the school. Also, the language laboratory is not functional because the equipment needed has not been supplied and installed likewise the vocational centre that is supposed to provide skills for the pupils. The clinic is also not equipped and was turned into a toilet by the students who defecate on the floors because of its proximity to the dormitories. Some of the schools have broken ceilings, partially blown up roofs, broken doors and windows, lack of seats for students and other challenges.

Kebbi: “Many pupils in the Almajiri schools in Kebbi State roam the streets to seek for alms and food as a means of survival. Most of them are from villages in Kebbi while others are from the neighbouring countries of Niger and Benin Republics. However, because of the poor state of the schools, rather than attending their classes the children are sometimes seen engaging in casual labour such as helping bricklayers or working in the farms for their survival. When our correspondent visited one of the special schools for the Almajiri in Tudun Wada area of Birnin Kebbi, many of the pupils were said to have gone out to beg for alms and their breakfast. Only nine out of the 104 pupils in the school were in their hostels and within the premises. The few that were available were looking tattered for lack of care. There were others waiting for alms by the school gates.

“One of the pupils told our correspondent that he came from a village in Jega area of the state to study at the school, adding that he and his peers go with bows seeking for food and alms because they are responsible for their feeding and upkeep even as pupils of the school.

Unitary arrangement

“An Islamic scholar, Malam Saliu Magaji told our correspondent that though Islam spread to other parts of the country through the northern region, the old practice of sending the male children to Arabic schools without adequately catering for their needs had been a serious issue but has nothing to do with Islam. “We have Arabic schools and institutions in other parts of Nigeria yet they didn’t turn their male pupils to beggars,” he said.

“At Tudun Wada area of Birnin Kebbi, the principal of the school, Malam Aliyu Abubakar said: “I was posted here two months ago. I will tell you that the situation of things is bad here. Even though the school was established by the Federal Government to address the education of the almajiri we have a series of problems here.

“We have only four teachers attending to 104 pupils in the school, we have two classrooms but only one is functional and the 104 pupils are being taught in one classroom. We cannot afford to feed the pupils, they feed themselves.”

How would this demography not be a problem to the country as it is a production line for Boko Haram and violent herdsmen? These groups cannot embrace the same values as those who are educated across the country.

No person with education will be roaming a cow about and trespassing on other people at this age and time; he would prefer ranching. A person equipped with the right knowledge will not take N20 to carry a bomb.

Nigeria is gone forever if we don’t address this issue. Co-habitation with clashed civilizations on the basis of a unitary arrangement will always put Nigeria in a state of war until it melts away. A country of olive, vine, fig and thorn bush can only produce what we have.

Vanguard

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