My attention was recently attracted to a somewhat nauseating babble by an association that parades itself as Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), over a patriotic resolve by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan KUKAH, to , as MURIC alleged, “train 10 million Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria”, which the association kicked against in a statement it issued same week claiming that Kukah’s idea raises more questions than answers. The statement went further to say that the idea is a ploy for proselytisation , modern colonialism and a potential time bomb. Signed by one Professor Ishaq Akintola, Director and Founder of MURIC, the statement also said: “We all agree that something must be done about the Almajiri children. We can welcome ideas from everyone but the implementation must be in the hands of Muslims in the region. Any other thing will make the intention questionable. We cannot pretend to be naive as to entrust our Muslim children to the hands of Christian gospellers. As far as we are concerned, Kukah’s Almajiri dream is a Trojan horse.”
“Whatever the situation may be,” the statement continued, “we wish to caution northern Muslims, particularly the elders, never to allow it to happen. Instead of allowing Christian missionaries to seize this kind initiative, Northern Muslims should empower available Muslim NGOs or cater for Almajiri children. We know that from experience that whatever happens will be the point of reference in the near future. Who will bear the shame at that time? We, therefore, advise state governments in the region to rearrange their priorities and concentrate on the education and welfare of our children.”
While the position of MURIC reminds me of the divisive questions of religion and citizenship as the perennial cog in the wheel of northern Nigeria’s progress, it is doubtful if Professor Akintola, supposedly a Yoruba fellow, has the locus standi to speak on behalf of the North. He seems to have misled MURIC on what the issues are. Way back in 2017, in a goodwill message on the occasion of my book presentation in Arewa House Kaduna, Bishop Matthew Kukah, represented by Rev. Fr. Anthony Shawuya , clued us into the initiative. The Bishop said: “Unfortunately, I cannot be with you today because as this event is going on, I am also involved in a very important life changing activity that will change the face of Northern Nigeria, by the special grace of God. As this is being read, the Governor of Borno State and some of his colleagues from the 19 northern states will be signing a Memorandum Of Understanding with a Spanish company, PROFUTURO , to undertake the provision of digital learning tools that will change the face of education among our children in Northern Nigeria. Together with His Eminence, John Cardinal Onayeikan, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Jos, and the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi ll, we have midwifed a project whose impact by the grace of God will change the face of education with special focus on the children of the poor across the North. “
The take home here, contrary to Akintola’s submission, is that: one, the donor is a Spanish company and not a Christian Organisation. Two, It is an initiative midwifed by the Bishop himself, Northern Governors, Emir of Kano, etc. And the last but not the least, the target group is not the Almajiris but vulnerable children all over the North notwithstanding their tribe or religion.
It is unfortunate and a shame that apocryphal scholars like the so-called Professor Ishaq Akintola, who ought to be busy with researches in finding solution to the catalog of problems that are currently threatening the very foundation of our existence such as the daily murder of innocent citizens and the tsunami of hardship that has come to stay with us, as it is typical of scholars in other climes, have rather resorted into using religion in dredging the already shrinking sea of our primordial differences.
And even if the Bishop were to concentrate solely on our most cherished sons – the Almajiris, he should not have deserved the kind of dhimmitude meted on him by the insular professor turned knight of primordial sentiments. At least, in spite of our outward lack of care for these children, we are deep down worried about them. Only last week, when Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed came in contact with one of them, he said: “Honestly, nobody should again ask me to keep mute over the plight of these children.” And this could only spring from a heart that has a conscience; and conscience, from where compassion emanates, is not a scarce commodity in people like Bishop Kukah who are trained to preach and show love to all sons and daughters of Adam. It was the catholicity of this conscience that prompted some aliens called missionaries from overseas to the then Malaria infested Africa to make sure that many Akintolas didn’t go without education. Or, is the Professor equally ashamed of this?
There is no doubt that Almajiranci, if what we see today qualifies to be called so, apart from its negative societal consequences such as being the sustaining fuel of the unquenchable fire of insecurity in the North, has made us Northerners the laughing stock of the world. Today, the rest of the country look upon us as doomed by some unknown gods not to excel in academics. Little wonder we are called all kinds of derogatory names whenever we cross the Niger with no distinction whatsoever.
This may have provoked a few patriotic Northern leaders who are now insisting that there must be a change of status quo. While the progressive Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi ll had admonished us to convert our many mosques into schools, in Kaduna State, Governor el-Rufai is already running an intifada against illiteracy. In a foreword to a book titled ‘The Politics of Free Education’ authored by Richard Dambo, his Education Commissioner, Alhaji Jafaru Sani, said: “Today, while Northern Nigerians are seen by the rest of the country as freeloaders, Northern elite and leaders have continued to play politics with education. According to the 2015 Global Monitoring Report (GMR), Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
“And out of these 10.5 out-of-school children, the highest in the world so far, 60 per cent are in Northern Nigeria. This is unacceptable. And this is why in spite of the difficulties, Kaduna State, the gateway to Northern Nigeria, has continued to insist that there is no alternative to reforms in the education sector.”
Again, three years back, an illustrious son of the North often referred to as ‘’The Protector In Chief of Northern region”, particularly of ‘Northern Islam’, Mohammed Haruna, had put the blame of this deplorable state on the generation of the region’s leaders who succeeded the late Sardauna. “The problem, I think,” he said “was that the next generation of the region’s politicians chose to pay lip service to investment in education without which invariably we could only send garbage into our tertiary schools. And as they say of computers: garbage in, garbage out.”
Consequently, as I said somewhere, apart from lack of trust and the strong religious tensions that are today eating the North, the rest of the country look upon us as parasites. And there is equally no evidence to show that we are not the most educationally and economically impoverished. While others have continued to build their future on investment in education, the North is comfortable in remaining the only Bakery with the license of producing loaves of illiterates to feed the rest of the country with violence at any slightest provocation. We must reverse this ugly trend.
It is, therefore, the responsibility of the now enlightened generation to resist the survivalist dhimmitude of individuals and associations who are out to divide the region for their selfish reasons. And whether these individuals and associations come as MURIC, CAN, Akintola, Oritsenjafor, etc, we must resist them as long as their intention is to create a schism among us.
“If, as a result of the agitation for the fragmentation of this great region,” Sir Ahmadu Bello said while addressing the Willinck Minorities Commission in 1958, “ fostered and encouraged as it is so much by persons seeking their own political interest, the unity of the North is impaired or damaged, then I fear greatly that we shall step, not through the gates of the future into the broad prosperity which can lie before us, but back into the past, into tribalism, into religious intolerance and violence. “ May God prevent this.
Finally, I cannot but join Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed in calling for the North never to miss the nuances of Bishop’s ‘attack’. “We should instead”, as he said. “use the opportunity this sober reflection offers to take one hard look at ourselves. And then in the name of Allah (The most beneficent and merciful), and our enlightened self-interest, dedicate a certain measure of our collective sociopolitical actions and behaviours to end the sufferings of these children. “May God save us from insular scholars of Akintola’s breed.
––Damina, a student of Religion and Politics wrote from Holy Family Catholic Church Gidan Bako, Kaduna State, and can be reached via email@example.com
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Boko Haram: Dickson Calls for More Support for Armed Forces
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
he Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, yesterday called on political leaders and Nigerians to give more backing to the men of the Armed Forces in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, said the governor spoke when he paid a condolence visit to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at the NAF Headquarters, Abuja, over the death of Bayelsa-born Flight Lt. Pereowei Jacob, and four others in a helicopter crash a few weeks ago.
The Governor said that it was necessary for leaders across Nigeria to give priority to support the efforts of the men of the Armed Forces, some of who have paid the supreme price.
He said that the condolence visit was meant not only to mourn and grieve with the NAF, but to also encourage the military and security agencies on the ongoing combat against the insurgents.
The governor also promised to visit the widow of the late pilot to announce the support of the Bayelsa State Government and urged Nigerian leaders to support families left behind by the security personnel.
“We are saddened by the loss of these very brilliant, dedicated, promising officers. The Government and people of Bayelsa are further saddened that the pilot who died in that incident, Pereowei Jacob, was a Bayelsan.
“The government feels that we should visit you, to condole with you, your officers, the airmen and women. I will also be visiting the family, especially the young widow who was married and stayed with her husband for just about three weeks before this sad incidence.
“Bayelsa mourns with you, Bayelsa grieves with you but above all, we are here to show solidarity with you, the Air Force and indeed the military in the efforts that are being made to keep the country safe.
“I want to use this opportunity to call for more support for the Armed Forces. I call on all Nigerians and leaders to join hands to support the work of the military and security agencies in containing the insurgency. Every one is paying a price. Your officers and men have once again paid the supreme price.
“And we are here to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of your men and indeed all the officers to keep the country safe.”
In his remarks, the Air Chief said that the helicopter crash that led to the unfortunate death of the Air Force personnel would not discourage the service from intensifying the onslaught against the insurgents.
He said that the NAF was focused and working hard to carry out its statutory responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
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After a Success in Lagos, ‘Moremi the Musical’ Goes to US, Europe
he much talked about staging of Queen Moremi the Musical in Lagos has just been concluded. The outing, according to the organisers , was a huge success, paving the way for the next staging at Easter and abroad.
The show premiered on December 21, 2018, and ran till January 2, 2019 at the Terra Kulture, Lagos.
On December 23, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ogun First Lady, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the PDP governorship candidate for Lagos State, were among those who watched the command performance.
The cast included Nollywood stars and regular theatre actors.
Speaking on the success of the Lagos outing of the musical, the Global Ambassador of Queen Moremi Ajasoro Initiative, Princess Ronke Ademiluyi, said: “The musical has been very receptive more than we thought. In the beginning, the idea was conceived to join the Moremi project but we recorded a huge success beyond that.”
According to her, creating a musical out of the story of Moremi came about in December 2017.
“We approached Bolanle Austen-Peters to direct the production but she refused because of the traditional and cultural aspects of it. At the said time, she was also engaged in contemporary projects like Saro, Fela and the Kalakuta Queens among others. Doing a traditional project then was a ‘no, no thing ’ for her. And that took us a lot of going back and forth to convince her until Her Excellency, Mrs. Amosun, came into the picture to convince her to accept. And the outcome is what we have just seen as Queen Moremi the Musical,” she said.
“We had 21 shows and all the tickets were sold out. Right now, people have started to book for Easter shows. After that, we will be having a global tour that will take us to the United Kingdom, the U.S., some African countries and some states in Nigeria.
“The show went beyond our imagination. Some people booked ahead of time. Some booked from abroad, came home to watch the show severally, and at some point, people were asking why it shouldn’t be more than two shows per day, and I had to say that the cast needed a break because they are human. Overall, it was a success.
“It is phenomenal and as an Ambassador of Queen Moremi Ajasoro Initiative, it is my role to look for strategic partners to portray the name of Queen Moremi out there which is what it is all about.
“And we have been approached by some people on the film project of Moremi which is the next project that will be a Hollywood blockbuster movie.”
On the issue of space challenge and overbooked tickets for the show, she stated: “We are looking at different options to explore, having witnessed the surge at the just concluded outing. The entire production team will put head together to figure a way out of the space challenge. “We saw that people booked in advance even when the seats were not enough. This will be taken care of in the Easter outing.”
Moremi the Musical, an initiative of House of Oduduwa Foundation, is supported by Rejuvenee and produced by Bolanle Austen-Peters Production (BAP). The musical has the blessing of Ooni Ogunwusi as part of his vision to revitalise the cultural heritage of the Yoruba race.
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