EMIR of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s speech at the recent 60th birthday ceremony of the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, another recent protest by beggars against the continuous arrest of their members by officials of the Lagos state government and the ban on street begging by urchins, popularly referred to as Almajiris, by the Kano State government, are a tripod that put into context the famous The Beggars’ Strike, its author, Aminata Sow Fall and the two holy books of the bible and the Quran.
Emir Sanusi, unarguably the gadfly of the North, has consistently put the North, in relation to the rest of Nigeria, in perspective. At that birthday ceremony, he had reportedly charged Northern leaders to take a second look at the danger that poverty portends for the north, especially how rigid adherence to religion has literally helped destroy the region. At that event, the Emir brought out scientific, gross implications of the chronic poverty, illiteracy and out-of-school children dropouts in Northern Nigeria and did not mince words to say that the North’s future is bleak.
The aspect of the Emir’s speech at that event that I found most instructive is the connect between poverty and religion. He was quoted to have asked his audience why Zamfara State, which was the official bastion of the Sharia, having been launched in that state during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo, even with a symbolic amputation of a man called Jangebe, today parades just about five students with credit passes in the West African Examinations. Sanusi was not done with his rhetorical questions. Citing some Hadiths and Sunna of the Prophet, he was able to state that even the Prophet said that poverty was alien to Islam.
Up there in Kano State, the Umar Ganduje government also announced a ban on street begging by Almajiris. However, in flagrant disdain of these emerging Northern mindsets against centuries of decadence in the North, the Kano State Council of Ulama deplored this move. Chairman of the council, Ibrahim Khalil, said the Kano government was not serious about this decision because it did not follow “the right steps” which, according to him, included following the Quran. Similar to this thinking faculty was that of Lagos beggars. They were reported to have stormed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s office in ten buses and seven tricycles.
The above puts Sow Fall, a muslim Senegalese female novelist’s The Beggars’ Strike at the centre of consideration. Like the beggars’ issue, which has been engaging the mind of perceptive northerners in recent time, issues like begging and polygamy also engaged Sow Fall while writing the book. Like the Kano Council of Ulamas, Sow Fall, ostensibly due to her Islamic background, seemed to believe in the interconnectivity of all things, expressed in the fact that society could not run without this “important segment” called beggars.
Thus, in the book, while the beggars were becoming a social dis-advertisement to the people of The Capital, with the tourism minus which beggars’ physical deformities, squalid looks and physical nuisances at popular intersections in the city portended, Mour Diyae, Director of Public Health and Hygiene’s decision to clear them off brought glaring pleasure to society. Keba Dabo however carried the cleansing act with a charged zeal. The beggars were given serious beatings and imprisoned but upon achieving this, the spiritual dilemma of the rich having no beggars to give alms to, so as to get spiritual favour from whoever, soon cropped up. Mour Diyae, who was aspiring to be Vice President, who was told by a marabout that he needed to give alms to achieve this aim, is in a dilemma. With the beggars having moved out of the city, Aminata Sow Fall, with her gripping, fast-paced, satire, tells the story of the hypocrisy of society.
A variant of the imprisonment of the Northern Ulamas’ minds and indeed, their hypocrisy, can be found in Southern Nigerian rigidity to a divorce between it and unscientific reasoning. Recently, a 22-year-old female student of the Lagos State University, Favour Seun Daley-Oladele, was killed and dismembered somewhere in Ikire, Osun State by her boyfriend, Owolabi Adeeko and her body parts made into pepper soup by a Cherubim and Seraphim prophet, Segun Philips Adeeko. The boyfriend was said to have requested this from Prophet Adeeko so that he and his mother could get rich quick. Today in the South, churches and mosques are besieged by young men and women who believe that inside those places lie their monetary redemption.
What links the Northern Ulamas’ minds and their Southern accomplices’ is unscientific reasoning. Granted that scientific reasoning was not part and parcel of us as Africans ab initio, we have had a dalliance with science for so long that we ought to have seen the futility of some of these under-developing mindsets that we parade as features of our reality. Yes, even Austrian-British philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, student of famous Bertrand Russell, was one of the fiercest critics of science and its logic, the un-science of the mind of the Nigerian today rankles and needed to be purged so that he does not ruin himself in this modern age. This un-science is promoted by religion and many decrepit parts of our traditional African culture. It is the submission of Sanusi the Emir, probably Ganduje’s too and certainly that of those who have been advocating that we cannot desire the fruits of a modern world that is propelled by science and yet be enslaved by our centuries-old religious and cultural precepts.
Sanusi’s homily is very clear. The North cannot continue to be tied to the apron strings of a Quran that was probably written thousands of years ago and still expect to be a competitive player in a moving world that even Heraclitus claimed could be likened to a river wherein you cannot step into twice. In the same vein, some precepts in the bible, written for a people alien to Africa, some centuries ago, have to bow to a modern age. Or else, we will continue to encounter these contradictions. So how does the North expect to step into the river of a 2020 world with the leg of the precepts of the Quran that is centuries old?
Same exists for those who believe that the metaphysics of money exists in rituals. Money is more of science than metaphysics. The richest people in the world can articulate how they make their money by science. American business magazine, Forbes compiles world billionaires’ names periodically and I cannot see anyone of them who arrived at being wealthiest billionaires in the globe on account of their being embroiled in human rituals. I cannot see among those wealthiest people anyone who sleeps in church or mosques. Even Aliko Dangote or Mike Adenuga’s religious colour is at best opaque. In 2018, 2,208 people made the Forbes list and that included 259 newcomers. Most of them were from China and the US. Sixty-three of them were under 40, with a record number of 256 women. The average net worth of the people on that list was said to be US $4.1 billion, up US$350 million from 2017. 2018 wealthiest human alive, Jeff Bezos, with an estimated wealth of $131 billion, and his billionaire ilk, are not reported to sleep in mosque or church or fiddling with human entrails to make money.
The same un-science percolates round virtually every aspect of our lives and that is why we are under-developed and the rest of the thinking world sees us as some baboons in a cage. Why, for instance, would the people of Borno State declare a fasting and prayer session about a week ago, when it was obvious that they could protest to the feet of Muhammadu Buhari to change his Acheulian age, Oldowan military technology, purchase modern sophisticated arsenal, sack his fat-stomached security chiefs and lift the morale of the fighters? It is this selfsame un-science mind and it is in every stratum of our lives. The moment we leave this realm of un-science and embrace science, we will be able to play in a competitive world that does not have space to accommodate our useless metaphysics.
Makinde’s Auxiliary honour
ANYONE who lived in Oyo State at a time when members of the road transport union called the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) became law unto themselves, killing, maiming and making the state ungovernable, would applaud Governor Seyi Makinde for the recent Park Management initiative that was launched recently. We all remember the gory killing of factional chairman of the NURTW in the state, Alhaji Abdul Lateef Salako, also known as Elewe Omo, in the bid to neutralize one another. His blood-soaked picture became a poster of the festering violence of Oyo State for a very long time.
The park management initiative is said to be a policy which, according to the cliché, thought out of the box. Makinde appointed these managers who would superintend over the running of motor parks in all the 33 local councils of the state and thus harvest estimated billions of Naira said to be in the hands of motor union kingpins whose only entitlement to this revenue was their mastery of the instrument of violence. It is no hidden fact that these kingpins were buoyed in their outlawry by the unfunnelled cash in their hands, got from unilateral collection of fees, while successive state governments went on a junket of looking the other way.
However, the Makinde government hit its foot against the stone by its inclusion in the list of the managers the name of Lamidi Mukaila, a notorious outlaw who had recently been released from jail after serving out term for violence. He goes by the sobriquet, Auxiliary. By this decision, the Oyo government had harvested all the enemies of Auxiliary planted in the state and beyond from his years of outlawry. More importantly, while trying to build a name as a government that is on the path of rectitude, Oyo government shouldn’t be seen as walking on the path of same old politics of pandering to whims of uneducated and notorious leeches. These are people who have over the decades profited from the years of divisive politics by government runners.
To my mind, it is very puerile to argue that because Auxiliary had become “born again,” a la its theorists, society had forgiven his past criminalities. The law might have, having returned from jail, but those he allegedly violated cannot. This mindset finds a corollary in the minds of Senator Ibrahim Gaidam who claimed that Boko Haram terrorists should be rehabilitated and sent abroad with tax-payers’ money, simply because they had repented. We do not operate a theocracy here and every hand that offends, by the tenets of our law, should be made to face the music. Society may forgive them but they should not forget.
For Omoleye at 80 and Ranti Ajeleti at 70
ONE of our forefathers in the pen-pushing profession, Chief Mike Omoleye, clocked 80 years on Jaunary, 26. Quiet and unassuming man that he is, this memorable day went without any celebration. But Omoleye, for those who know the history of this profession, is an icon who deserves our celebration. A veteran journalist and prolific author, Omoleye worked with the Morning Post, Sunday Post and Sketch newspapers before he established his own weekly newspaper which he called the Sunday Glory in the 1980s. He was a correspondent of the Post during the war where he interfaced with the major war heroes like General Benjamin Adekunle. He is also a die-hard Awoist. I sneak to Baba Omoleye’s home to drink from his trough of wisdom and of course, the oranges and other fruits he stuffs my car trunk with!
Another icon turned 70 last week. A former journalist lost to law, he is Ilesa, Osun State-born Ranti Ajeleti, one time Chairman of the Awo Free Education Beneficiaries (AWOFEB). He was a journalist with the Sketch newspaper and had a stint in the broadcast industry as well. The story of how he became a lawyer is very interesting. He had seen a policeman’s unsavory role in a matter that involved his elder sister and he, there and then, made up his mind to one day read law so that he too could wear the wig and gown. He read law years after journalism practice, even after a degree in Political Science. Today, he is making waves at the bar. This is wishing both Baba Omoleye and Ajeleti happy 80th and 70th birthdays respectively. And many happy returns.