The ordeal of Master Jamilu Aliyu

IN many of our previous editorials, we have spoken of the need to eradicate ungoverned spaces in the country. These are inches of the country’s soil controlled and ruled by devious non-state actors, including kidnappers, bandits and terrorists who inflict the most horrendous pains on their victims, innocent citizens who, for want of state empathy and protection, have become easy captives. Sadly, as the case of ten-year-old Jamilu Aliyu illustrates with harrowing acuteness, there are ungoverned spaces even within homesteads, and if the government did nothing else in its rather somber and lacklustre existence, it must arise swiftly from its deep slumber and dismantle these spaces with dispatch.

In the sad world in which Master Jamilu had lived for two years until his discovery by members of a human rights group, he had fared worse than the goats among whom he lived. The goats at least had regular supply of food. Confined to a goat shed, Jamilu Aliyu often had to survive on the feed given to his companions. According to reports, his ordeal started after he lost his biological mother. Aliyu Argungu, New Media Assistant to the Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, gave even more graphic details: Sometimes, he ate his own faeces for survival. He became emaciated, dehydrated and partially deformed. He limps like an ape and behaves like animals. Argungu added that the victim had been taken to the Yahaya Specialist Hospital, Birnin Kebbi, and was responding to treatment.

The Kebbi State government has decided to take responsibility for the victims upkeep, and has vowed that the culprits, namely the boys father, Aliyu Badariya, and his stepmothers, would face the full wrath of the law. The suspects were taken into police custody, and have been charged to court. But that was not all: Governor Bagudu actually submitted a bill to the state House of Assembly aimed at the protection of victims like Jamilu Aliyu, and recompense for their tormentors.

To be sure, the horrid tales of Jamilu Aliyus experience are yet to be told. But even the details that have been made public illustrate the utter collapse of family values in the country. It beggars belief that a father, indeed any father at all, would tolerate the manacling of his own son for two solid years without the slightest prick of conscience, but what Aliyu Badariya is being charged with is worse: the story is that he colluded with his other wives to perpetrate the infamy. The suspects are innocent until proven guilty, and we hope they are not. Certainly, even if the boys mother was dead, he remained his (Aliyu Badariyas) son and should not have been treated worse than animals. If the suspects guilt is established, then the nation will not, indeed should not, forget the spectacle of a father eating a sumptuous meal prepared by one of his wives while his son fed on faeces. It is a macabre tale that must invite sober reflections. In any case, even if, in the worst case scenario, it had been discovered through DNA evidence that the boy in question was of a different paternity, that still would not have justified the terror unleashed on him. The truth is that no human being deserves to be treated in that fashion.

Pray, how was this case undetected for two solid years? Did the Aliyus have neighbours or did they inhabit a jungle? How was it that no one in the household brought this case to the notice of at least the local traditional authorities? We commend the Kebbi State government for the actions taken since Master Jamilu Aliyus rescue, and for seeking the imprimatur of legislation in handling similar cases in future. But there surely are extant laws against false imprisonment, denial of human dignity and parental terrorism. If, as the current case illustrates, such laws have not been applied as they should, it is doubtful that the new law being crafted by the Kebbi State House of Assembly will fare better. The key to fruitful result in cases like the one under reference and indeed all cases is strict application of the law. That way, would-be offenders would be forced to think of the fate that awaits them should they be caught. There must also be aggressive awareness campaigns on the rights of children. Already, there is an extant Child Rights Act, a federal law which needs to be replicated across the states.

We are, inevitably, back to the vexing issue of ungoverned spaces. The Kebbi State government and indeed governments across the country must dismantle these spaces and initiate a new order. The various departments of social welfare must be adequately funded and be made to justify their existence. For this to be a reality, though, state governments must themselves be properly governed, and fully anchored on social justice, democracy and the rule of law. Needless to say, the perpetrators of the current infamy must be given their just deserts.

high time those invested with the reins of power used same to bring joy to the faces of the people. They should shelve vacuous promises forgotten as soon as they are made.

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