Militant almajiris pose a threat to Ndigbo, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi

Not infrequently they are loaded together with cattle in trailers and trucks and offloaded in Igbo land even under the watch of security agents and skeptical onlookers. To avert any suspicious eye in these times of inter-state lockdown, they are perfectly crated or umarudikkorized or concealed inside foodstuff containers and transported all the way from the North down to the hearts and hinterlands of Igbo land. Ndigbo are fear-stricken. First Republic elder statesman Chief Amaechi Mbazurike fears that the worst may happen to Ndigbo. As far as he is concerned, Ndigbo is under the worst siege at the moment. He ascribed the siege to the attempt to Islamize the Igbo nation by force. Like a river that has burst its bank they are pouring into Igbo land day by day. They are unstoppable. They are stubborn. They are irrepressible. They seem to come from everywhere. It seems as if they are also coming out from the ant holes. As we speak, they are still gaining unimpeded access into Igbo land in the full glare of the fearful Igbo natives who watch helplessly as they encumber the different Igbo social strata, Igbo forests and Igbo social milieu.

Who are these unsolicited visitors? They are the Almajirai, that is, the innocent little kids from the North who do not go to school but instead loiter the streets and expressways begging for alms. I beg your pardon; they are not the beggar-Almajirai: they are the militant-Almajirai. The militant-Almajirai are different from the beggar-Almajirai. Whereas the mission of the beggar-Almajirai is to beg for alms or food in the streets in order to maintain a simple existence, but, the militant-Almajirai or the young adults being ferried to Igbo land these days are on a mission from the devil. Their only mission in Igbo land is to destroy the place or cause mayhem.

By the way, it is very instructive that our 1999 Constitution guarantees freedom of movement across the country. It also guarantees freedom for any member of the Nigerian society to migrate from one tribal enclave to the other to eke out a living or search for better opportunities in life. Therefore in the light of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian federalism, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the popular case of Shugaba Adburrahaman Daman V Minister of Internal Affairs & Others, the Almajirai from the North can exercise their rights to migrate to Igbo land to live there or beg for alms. After all, they are generations of Northerners who have been living in Igbo land for years. In the same vein, they are uncountable Igbos freely residing in most nooks and crannies of the North for years. More importantly, social displacement is inevitable. Even at Trafalgar Square, London and other important places in many countries there are beggars loitering around the whole esplanade begging for money from passers-by. We are all members of one human family though tongues and tribes may differ. Therefore we should be our brothers’ keeper. The Almajirai, cripple, sick, mad men and women and the socially-uprooted in our midst are also human beings. The perception of our common humanity dictates that we rehabilitate them instead of expelling them from our midst.

Having said this, the militant-Almajirai or the fierce-looking armed young adults infiltrating Igbo land from Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto and other Northern States, as I earlier stated, are not the beggar-Almajirai looking for food or seeking rehabilitation: they are on a mission to wreak havoc in Igbo land. Last week, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Anambra Chapter, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) and other human rights groups raised the alarm over the ferrying of COVID-19 corpses and dangerous young adults from the North to Igbo land. Intersociety believes that the ferrying of the COVID-19 corpses down to Igbo land is tantamount to infecting Ndigbo with COVID-19. Again, Intersociety is worried that most of the 1,500 beggars recently repatriated from coronavirus-infected Kano State have ended up in Igbo land. Intersociety also reports that the militant Fulani herdsmen and Shuwa Arab Jihadists are now successfully occupying not less 350 communities in Igbo land. This is certainly a cause for alarm.

First, it beats the imagination that since Nigeria’s independence the Northern region has remained a backward region despite the fact that the region has produced many political leaders who have ruled the country. As Mbazurike Amaechi recently reiterated, Nigeria had experienced almost 30 years of our military interregnum. With the exception of the Obasanjo interregnum, different Northerners had ruled Nigeria in those 30 years. Yet Northern Nigeria is poverty writ large. If, for instance, maximum dictator Sani Abacha had used half of the monies that he stole in building schools for the Almajirai their numbers on the streets would probably have reduced by now. But Abacha did not do that. Instead he was busy stealing money and stockpiling abroad. Now, think about this: President Buhari and other Northerners have been wielding the highest political power in the land in the last five years. Yet Northern Nigeria remains the poverty capital of Nigeria. In the different world rating indices Northern region has perpetually been rated as the most poverty-stricken region in the world. I must confess that the first time I visited Sokoto State, which produced Second Republic civilian President Alhaji Shehu Shagari and other Northern leaders I was appalled by the high rate of poverty ravaging the state. It is obvious that Northern leaders have failed (and are still failing) their people. Rather than empower their people through meaningful education to enable them escape poverty, the Northern leaders seem to take pride in relegating their people to the fringe of poverty under the veneer of religion. This is not good. Take Kano State for example. Instead of devising ways of resettling or rehabilitating the 1,500 Kano beggars the Kano State government is repatriating them to other states.

Kano State and other Northern States should stop shirking their responsibility and repatriating anarchy and doom to other states. We are tired of the political ideologies and policies – fatalistic Fulanization, Operation Python danceration, judicial emasculation, forceful Islamization and Jihadization, election manipulation, ruganization, cattle colonization, forceful herdsmen occupation, almajirization-of the Buhari government that have brought ruin to Nigeria. This is the time to turn a new leaf. Therefore, Igbo States must unequivocally reject almajirization for it poses a great existential threat to Ndigbo. Even going by logic, if the Northern Governors Forum and Northern States as a whole have expelled the Almajirai and young militant Northerners in their midst, why should Igbo States run the risk of rehabilitating them in Igbo land?