The Almajiri, Talakawa Dan-Arewa Ideology

by Ephraim Adinlofu

The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity” – Late Prof. Paulo Freire

First, I will like to define two concepts in the above title, and their usage, in the generic. They are, the Almajiri and the Talakawa. The Almajiri, as a person, is any Nigerian who is so poor that even the poor call him poor; is homeless and lives off the streets-cum-urban slums; jobless and stack illiterate; unkempt and dirty; hopeless, looks abandoned or is abandoned; is secretly being abused, openly begs for alms and food; and believes, based on religious dogma, that his fate is sealed and destined to be so

The Talakawa on the other hand, is any Nigerian who works, is exploited and alienated; is relatively poor and lives in rented accommodation; is enlightened and slightly educated; again, because of his low income, could not really make ends meet and is daily struggling to beat the odds against him; is always angry with himself {displaced aggression} and has also, due to religious dogma, left his state to fate: destined by God. Now, apart from the bulk number of low income workers in the public and private sectors, I can safely place some peasant farmers, petty traders, artisans, and petty market women in this category.

Dan-Arewa Ideology, is defined as the economic and political ideas of a few ruling Northern political elites which has been in tandem with an apotheosized traditional aristocrats and their cheapened reactionary counterparts in the army. Their proclivity to oppress the masses, tenacity to hold on to power, defend their interest and impose a patterned way of thinking on the poor people have become their imprimaturs. Wherever they members meet to this very day, as public and private sector workers, they greet themselves with the term dan-arewa to the chagrin and consternation of their Southern counterparts.

With global changes and internal dynamics of power play in Nigeria’s voodoo politics; deeply guided cautiously and covertly by the British and International capital, Nigerians have witnessed the emergence of OPC {Yoruba}, MOSOP {Ogoni}, MASSOB {Igbo} and Niger-Deltans {South-South}. The ever faceless Northern Kaduna Mafia that had held sway in Nigeria’s politico – military of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s has finally metamorphosed into human beings and is now called the Arewa Consultative Forum {ACF}.

However, my first two defined elements above are the downtrodden, scum and the wretched of Nigeria. They are found in both North and South of the country. But, the degree of their presence and level of deprivation varies from region to region. It could be said that they are more in the North than in the South. In other wards, both categories, going by my definitions, harbours, and this is socially dangerous, what the late Brazilian, Prof. Paulo Freire, calls the “oppressive consciousness”. What is this “oppressive consciousness”?

“Oppressive consciousness” is a form of “ retarded consciousness” and a cleverly conditioned state of mind and thought system of a person who sufficiently holds that there is no alternative to his state of destitution. The individual knows he is being exploited, oppressed and demeaned by a system but is unwilling or disinclined to social action to free or liberate himself. It is difficult to disarticulate that thought from his ossified brain. For example, if a person lives a life of penury, misery, ignorance and backwardness and believes that he is destined to remain in that state for eternity either because of a religious belief and / or through man-made superimposed social programming, that person is suffering from oppressive consciousness. The individual looks at the rich with awe, respect, and God blessed while he sees himself as cursed. In English, it is called destiny. The Igbo call such a state of mind Akala-aka; Yorubas call it kadara or Ayonmo, the Hausas call it Rabonka. It is dangerous to live with such a state of mind.

The worst is that the individual does not end the suffering to himself, no, he reproduces the thought in his marriage, brain washes and makes his children believe they cannot venture, dare or put up even a feeble fight to liberate themselves. Thus the children, falsely believing they have inherited this lazy ‘gene’ from their father, in turn live the life of their father. The circle of poverty then goes full swing. It becomes far worst when they are only allowed to marry within their group {endogamous marriage} and not outside of their group {exogamous marriage}, which would have thinly helped to liberate some of them.

This consciousness is created and sustained in one form or another in all class societies. The economic class with the upper hand, conditions this thought in the weak through a variety of means. The worst variety being religion. It then rules, manipulate and totally control the people. The aim, being principally to de-revolutionise them and destroy their critical mindset. Again, when the poor accept, without resistance, this definition of them by a ruling class, they suffer from oppressive consciousness. In Criminology, studies have shown that when a person or a group of persons, fails to resist a negative stigma, through peaceful or violent means, over a period of time, the stigma sticks.

Having been conditioned by the ruling class, the downtrodden feels he can neither change his destiny nor seeks to liberate himself from pity. He solicits, all his life, for pity from those, who in the first instance put him in that state. Where it involves a group, it becomes a kind of dangerous collective illusion and a variation of false consciousness. In sociology and philosophy, as theorised by Jean-Paul Sartre, it is seemingly called the theory of bad faith. It is therefore a theory of bad faith for an individual or a group of individuals to say it has no choice. The most stupid and vexatious variant used in the Nigerian context is: “I am sorry, my hands are tied.” Tied by who? By a chimp? It is this type of odious thinking that seemingly gives rise to Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man {1991}: A kind of zombie, who reasons one way and is devoid of alternative thought.

With the recent Jos riots and others in the North, like the Zangon Kataf massacre {992} in Kaduna State and the Maitatsine mayhem of the 1980s, there is a need for the progressive intellectuals in the North to really sit up and begin to re-educate and conscientized the Talakawas and the Almajiris in their midst. With the exception of the late Dr. Bala Usman {Historian}, late Dr. Bala Mohammed {political Scientist} and Prof. Attahiru Jega, I am yet to really come to grasps with what the contemporary progressives in the North are doing to woo the above two categories, who are system-dispossessed and economically disadvantaged, to their own side in the struggle to emancipate the Northern region, and perhaps by extension, Nigeria.

So far, in our chequered history, it is quite clear that all Northern soldiers are pro-establishment and reactionary. I cannot point to any serving or retired Northern soldier who is progressive and ideologically disposed. With the exception of Rtd Col. Dangiwa Abubakar Umar who is more of a compassionate and conservative humanist rather than a genuine radical, the rest are all revenge specialists and ruthless reactionaries. They are subservient to Northern tradition and an elitist, exclusivist, political cabal. The plight of the Almajiri and the Talakawa in that region does not prick their innermost conscience. They do not see it as a social stigma and a cause worth fighting and eradicating in the North. The Northern soldiers are very good in the theory and practice of revenge. That their region is one of the most backward in the world does not touch their human spirit.

And that is why comparatively, for 48 years, the plight and material conditions of these people have not improved. That the Almajiri and the Talakawa still live in dire conditions shows that all former Heads of State of Northern extraction who have had ample opportunity to redeem that region, had failed woefully. And that the Almajiri and the Talakawa, have not taken it upon themselves as a social responsibility to liberate themselves from shackles of poverty, backwardness and obscurantism, should be objectively seen as a thing of great concern for the progressives and revolutionary thinkers alike.

Massive indoctrination and public enlightenment should do the trick. You don’t do it ones and then go to sleep, because the oppressors are watching. “Agitation and propaganda” or “Agitprop” does not mean, agitate and relax. The mass agitation of the mind, mobilization, indoctrination and enlightenment must come in a patterned series of ideological bombardment. The progressives in the North should know that we are fighting a class war in Nigeria, even though the ruling class has succeeded or thinks it has succeeded in reducing the fight to tribe, ethnicity, religion and region. Aided and supported along that thought, is a mass media, whose ownership and control is class distinct.

The Northern progressives should also know, that with globalisation, the fight to liberate the poor has since entered a new phase. The modus operandi has therefore got to change. Anyone who still harbours the thinking and thought systems of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, is living in ‘past participles’. The world has left such a person behind. We can learn from our history to plan and move on, but we cannot continue to live as if we are living in the past.

If in the North, most still think they are “born to rule” and that the Igbo are born to be traders and business people while the Yoruba are born to be administrators, then you are still suffering from the thought systems of the past and living in a fool’s paradise. If you think that your enemies are still the Igbo, who only own shops and pay taxes into your state coffer which helps to beef up your internally generated revenue and, who neither crave nor hold political positions in your state, then you are suffering from the most acute form of oppressive consciousness. You have got to be liberated from such poisonous thoughts being dangled like carrots, at the least provocation, by your Northern oppressors.

The way and manner the ruling class in the North ably supported by one of the most archaic traditional institutions in the world, mobilised the Talakawas and the almajiris, planned and carefully coordinated the dastardly killing of Dr. Bala Mohammed on July 10, 1981, clearly showed that the Northern progressives are not liaising and coordinating properly with their pauperised masses. How can a man who has been fighting for the liberation of the poor in the north be killed by a section of the poor? Of course Bala’s house, the day, he was killed, was surrounded by the poor, so why was he not protected in a mass action by the poor?

In his wife’s essay headed: “The Assassination Of My Husband,” published in the book of a collection of essays titled: Political Repression and Assassination – A Tribute to the Late Dr. Bala Mohammad {1983} edited by Asikpo Essien-Ibok, Najiatu Bala Mohammad gave graphic details of the grisly way her husband was killed. His limbs were chopped off and gasoline poured on him. Again, as she pointed out, the security agents, employed and paid by us to protect lives and property, were seen watching. Will Nigeria ever grow up? I think I am beginning to buy Bode Eluyera’s thoughts on way forward for that country. For God’s sake, what sort of country is Nigeria? Are we a reversed people?

The fact that a purported query – which spawned the whole saga – was issued to the Emir of Kano, who according to Rtd Col. Dangiwa Abubakar Umar, still gets two million naira from each of the 44 local governments of the state every month {88 cool million naira monthly}, clearly shows that these oppressed groups in the North are yet “to get it”. To add insult to injury, the query was not even issued by Dr. Bala Mohammed neither was it issued by his Ministry. The actual Ministry that issued it was spared in that attack. Please read the wife‘s red lips again: The Secretary to the Kano State Government, Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma, who actually signed the query given to the Emir, was not attacked. Neither was the Local Government Ministry. This is absurd, totally absurd!

Although, the then late Mallam Aminu’s PRP and Imuodu led faction were at loggerheads, both political parties’ basic push and manifestoes were meant to liberate the poor. It is quite unfortunate that the accentuation of a thin ideological difference between the two was exploited and used to kill a promising young, brilliant and articulate intellectual. Dr. Bala Mohammed, continues the wife, and this was one of the points that appealed to me: has been internationally recognized for his excellence in intelligent output because of his contributions to the world of knowledge and letters. He was in “Who is Who” in the American Universities selection of 1978”. Besides, he had occupied high academic positions as a lecturer, Head of Department and as Faculty Dean of Management and Social sciences, at Bayero University, Kano. He rejected a U.N job with all its privileges because he wanted to see to the liberation of the poor and abolition of backwardness in his Northern region. The system he’d sought to change for the better, killed him in his prime. Kai Nigeria! Haba!

The traditional institution in Nigeria is an agent of underdevelopment. They should have been uprooted and their structures converted to Department of Relics and Antiquities and handed over to our Universities. It is of no relevance in our present quest for development. In fact, the institution through overt and covert actions, aided and abetted the annulment of June 12. With the exception of the Oba of Benin, the rest notable Obas, Obis, and Emirs kaput and sold out on June 12 – simply because they wanted to keep contract channels opened. The efforts of their subjects, both old and young, who took their time to go and vote did not appeal to their morality and conscience to sought for justice.

Having said that, Nigerian progressives should see the Northern Almajiris and the Talakawas grouped into one, as a potential revolutionary force. They could, when properly mobilized and ideological tutored, be useful during revolutionary situations. I knew the active role they played during the SAP riots of the late ‘80s. They should therefore not be allowed to align with the Emirate traditional institutions as is presently being the case. The struggles of late Mallam Aminu Kano, Abubakar Rimi, Balarabe Musa, and late Mallam Sa’adu Zungur etc should be in vain if these oppressed groups are allowed to align with their exploiters, manipulators and oppressors.

At present, they are entangled in a mesh mash with their oppressors. We must help them ‘shine their eyes.’ History has shown that revolutions can spring surprises and as such, the progressives should not under-rate the potentialities in them. For example, who would have thought that the high price of ordinary bread, and the inability of the poor to buy it, could spark crisis and lead to a revolution in France in 1789, as a result of which, that country is better off today.

Nigeria will sufficiently heave a sigh of relief the day these groups will rise to resist their stigmas and confront their ruling Northern cabal. The Talakawa and their Almajiri can therefore be transformed by the sudden dictates of history. Theoretically, they may not be revolutionary conscious but they are a potential revolutionary force. The Nigerian working class may be conscious, that is if really it is, but during the actual revolution, most others develop that consciousness.

May the soul of Dr. Bala Mohammed continue to rest in peace. His death and that of many others like Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, whom the BBC described at the time of his death, as one of the three best brains from Africa in the field of Mechanical Engineering, should not weakened our quest for quality governance. Thus advanced Prof. Paulo Freire, to experts in theoretic: “To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.” I rest my case!

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Shamsuddeen Saleh November 22, 2009 - 2:02 pm

A very good and passionate article. You mentioned stark illiteracy in the attributes of “almajiri”. Just a point : If you defined literacy in terms of ability to read and write, then the majority of almajirai know how to read and write albeit in arabic language (they can even write hausa in arabic alphabets). Except of course if you defined literacy in terms of western education or attending formal school, then I concede they are not literate. One thing we should not forget is that they know they are being deprived but feel there’s nothing they can do about it. However majority of Nigerians including the working class know it and they feel that way too. So the way forward is for those of you who can do something to launch or kickstart a campaign against all those things you have pointed out, to enlightene the masses about their rights and what they can and should do to turn and rescue their country from the morass of failure.

Abdullahi Maikaka August 20, 2009 - 3:57 pm

This piece is fantastic. i come across it when i googled Almajiri, please let ginger ourselves and fight this anarchy of a thing. we are all tired WALLAHI.

lovenest nwachukwu December 31, 2008 - 9:50 am

Prince, why do you want to partner with a radical. As a prince, are you not a part of the problem the writer is trying to highlight? Abi, you be SSS?

Prince Kabir Abubakar December 27, 2008 - 1:02 am

I concor with your analysis/opinion. we may have a partnership; e-mail me please.


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