Monday, 28 January 2013

(44): Fighting attitudinal poverty in Northern Nigeria (III)

The issues discussed about Malam Bahaushe are not new, nor are they unique to him. In fact one thing that surprises me a lot is when you meet Hausa people from countries other than Nigeria; they have different approach to life. But let us focus on how to find some practical solutions to this unending problem.
As one prominent Islamic scholar told me, if Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) can change the Arabs, the problem of Malam Bahaushe is minor, it only requires strong leadership. Leadership is a key ingredient to success. By leadership, we should not restrict ourselves to traditional and public office holders. But leadership at the basic level. Starting from the household, this is something that we take for granted. Immediately after marriage, once the honeymoon period is over, the husband and wife become strangers to each other. After working hours, instead of coming home to be with the family, people dissipate their energy at the Majalisa and return home at bed time. The intellectual development of the family is not an issue. How does the one who doesn’t provide basic leadership at the family level, make an impact at the societal level?
Equally when we think of the solution, people think of grand ideas that may require time to implement. So the first basic step is from the family, when you get married, you need to make a decision on what sort of life you would want to live, what is your role in the process, what is the role of your wife and the larger family? Making this critical decision is important. Your children need to see the values of hard work, self- esteem and respect for knowledge in you.
Must likely if you are reading this piece, you have reached an educational level beyond secondary school, perhaps a degree. This life is practical, do not just sit and lament about the deteriorating condition of Malam Bahaushe when you are perhaps the only graduate in your household. You have a responsibility to help your brothers and sisters to acquire the same educational qualification or even higher. Create time to give them lesson, invite your friends to contribute no matter how little, that is how change starts.
The next idea is for people in every family to think of establishing a Family Development Fund. In this age where education has become so expensive, the qualities of schools deteriorating by the day, and privileged individuals becoming more individualistic, people have to devise new means of educating their children. Each member of the family should dedicate a percentage of his earnings and contribute to the fund.
Think of it this way, if three or four brothers and sisters will establish this fund immediately after marriage  before they even start having children, by the time their children reach school age whether at six or seven years, they have already spent seven years contributing to the fund. Of course doing this requires a lot of discipline, especially in our culture where some people from the larger extended family can ask you to purchase  ragon suna (sheep sacrificed as part of the naming ceremony) or  buy kayan daki (furnishing the house of a bride) for his daughter.
About five years ago on a visit to Nigeria, a friend who manages a private hospital in Kano showed me an example of how people transfer their responsibility to others. A Local Government Chairman has opened a file in his hospital for people from his Local Government to be treated, and the Local Government would settle the bills, our friend wants to make follow-up to ensure the bills were payed, so he asked if we can branch at the house of the Local Government Chairman, on arrival at the premises, the house was over-crowded, you might think Jumu’a prayer had just finished except that it was night time.
After a brief conversation over the phone, the Local Government Chairman apologized to our friend that he will be unable to see him, because if he dared open the door, it will be chaotic as the entire people outside were waiting for him; unfortunately they were there to seek personal favour rather than discuss the needs of their community.
As a community, we also need to think critically about the role of Masajid (mosques) in our lives, they should be community centres as they were during the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). For the Hausa people, that is the most respected institution, and to make an impact on their life, our Imams should be empowered to understand their time, so that the Mosques will become centres of learning, entrepreneurship and  skill transfer.  
16th Rabi al Awwal 1434
28 January 2013

Monday, 21 January 2013

(43): Fighting attitudinal poverty in Northern Nigeria (II)

Understanding this problem requires a lot of study and brainstorming, interestingly attempts have been made in the past to either explain or lament on the problem of Malam Bahaushe (literally translated as the Hausa man). This can be seen from numerous works like the poem composed by Malam Saadu Zungur in which he  hypthesised that ‘as long as the Hausa man is engaged in  begging, and his cap remains dirty, he will continue to live a shameful life’.

The student of Malam Saadu Zungur and the radical Kano politician, Malam Aminu Kano has spent his entire life trying to educate the people from the North about self-respect and living a dignified life. In fact one can hasten to say that the achievement of Malam Aminu Kano in politics is not politics itself, but using politics to teach the average Northerner to have self-esteem in order to emancipate himself from the bondage of poverty and perpetual servitude.
Anthony Kirk-Green’s theory on Malam Bashaushe which tries to explain the core values of the Hausa man, Professor Abdalla Uba  Adamu’s synthesis of the same thesis, the works of Professor Aliyu Dauda  on the same subject, Dr Aliyu Tilde’s Malam B, Malam Bala Muhammad’s numerous articles on Malam Bahaushe in his weekly column, and even some of the programmes conducted during Adaidatu Sahu as well as Dr Salisu Shehu’s Gyara Kayanka  points to the fact that the attitude of Malam Bahaushe is  in need of serious reform.
But here is a point to think about. The same Hausa man that today becomes a problem to his community has experienced a glorious past. Five hundred years ago and beyond, he has developed a trade route that passes through the depth and breadth of the African continent, he passes from one location to another throughout West Africa, down to North Africa in what constitute todays Libya, Algeria and Morrocco. He has embraced new inventions from the merchants that come to Hausaland from different parts of the world and fortified his culture, politics and the economy.

Global historical figures like Shaikh Uthman Ibn Fodio, his brother Abdullahi, his son Muhammadu Bello, and his indefatigable daughter, Asmau bint Fodio were products of the same geographical location called Northern Nigeria. These were not ordinary figures. They were unique individuals who excelled in politics, military adventure and most important of all scholarship. Hugh Clapperton, the British envoy who met Sultan Muhammadu Bello was speechless in his description of the Amirul Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithfuls) because of the intellectual prowess the latter has exhibited during their encounter.
In recent history, the Likes of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Bukar Dip Charima, Aminu Kano, Murtala Muhammad, Waziri Junaidu and Yusufu Bala Usman did not descend from Jupiter. So what went wrong? There are of course historical factors like colonialism, particularly how it disenfranchises a large section of the Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and other tribes in Northern Nigeria and parts of Western Nigeria from full economic participation, first because of resistance to ‘western education’, and second because the colonial government was not keen in promoting ‘western education’.
There are potential economic reasons as well, like the discovery of oil which discourages agricultural production, and people leave their villages in search of easy money, this though, is not restricted to Northern Nigeria, it is in fact a Nigerian problem or societies that have access to easy resources. You see, as you go through this essay, pause for a while and ask yourself this question, who are the leading people in the community of Malam Bahaushe that serve as role models? whose life style he cherishes, whose children he would want his own children to emulate, and whose achievements provide a talking point in the Majalisa (meeting points where peers sit and spend time together).

Without much thinking, you may likely suggest the traditional rulers whether at the local or regional level, the Islamic scholars who serve as the reference point on almost everything,  and the businessmen who support the economy. At the risk of making a swift statement, I will suggest that the combination of both historical and economic factors in today’s Nigeria has sent the traditional rulers and the Islamic scholars out of job. But that is not where the problem is. The issue is, with the exception of few, this class of important people who serve as a pillar of the society have developed an attitude that is built in seeking favour rather than hard work. Do you expect the ordinary man to be any different?
So in our society today, the attitude of seeking excessive favour which cuts across the elites and the common man has developed into a culture which needs to be eradicated if we are to fight poverty. Before I left Ogun State during my NYSC, I met an elderly Igbo man, who stopped me on the road on recognizing that I was from Northern Nigeria because of the way I dressed. “Young man” he said, “where are you from”, I said, Kano. He paused for a while and said “ I used to live in Kano in the 1960s; most of the industries were built with my labour, back then when a Hausa man serves as your witness, is like God serving as your witness, but I understand that you too have changed…” , sadly our people have changed, they can even lie just to acquire some privileges.
Join me next week by the grace of God for practical steps on how to fight attitudinal poverty.

8th Rabi’ al Auwal, 1434
20th January, 2013

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

(42): Fighting attitudinal poverty in Northern Nigeria (I)

In the last few days newspapers in Nigeria published figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics on poverty in Nigeria. The data, not surprisingly,  indicated that Northern Nigeria is the hub of poverty in the country compared to other regions. This is partly true to some extent. But on the other hand, Northern Nigeria is not poor, but people have poor attitude to poverty. In a section of the country that has almost two third of the population, an arable land for agricultural production, people have no reason to be poor, unfortunately they are, and will continue to be so unless we put our heads together to fight attitudinal poverty.
About ten years ago, then on the National Youth Service Corp, I always remember some incidents that opened my eyes on how the strength of character and progressive attitude can help a person to achieve his goals and by extension fight poverty. While in the NYSC camp, a young boy around 11 years old called Tajuddeen comes to the NYSC camp to help the Corp members in case they need certain errands. Tajuddeen identified our room, and would come every morning and every afternoon to help wash our plates, and each one of us normally gave him 3-5 Naira, few days later in the Orientation Camp, Tajuddeen would come as early as the time for Fajr (dawn prayer) or immediately after the prayer, to ask if there is any help he could render.
One day I called this young boy and asked him how much he made from the service he was offering? He said at least thirty Naira on every occasion he attends to us. I then asked him what he does with the money. “I live with my aunty, and when I took the money to her for the first time, she asked me to come every day and help you, she is the one who wakes me up early in the morning to come here, she is saving the money to help pay my school fees as I will start junior secondary school very soon”. At the age of 12 Tajuddeen understands the value of education, he knows that his family are poor, but he is not ready to live in poverty, he has an objective to pursue, and he is giving his contribution within the confines of his ability.
After the NYSC camp, I was posted to Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority in Abeokuta, to work in the public relations unit of the organisation. Ogun-Osun was close to Federal College of Education Osiele, some of the corp members we worked with were posted to the College, in fact I found some people from Zaria already teaching at the College, and we frequently visit them. One day I needed to take a passport-size photograph, I noticed there was a popular photographer in the premises of the College. When I arrived at the spot where he normally works, the man was not on duty. I asked about him. “Oh, he  has registered for a PhD in Power and Machine at the University of Ife, so whenever he has classes or appointment with his supervisor, he doesn’t come”, I was told.
I was more than impressed, later I was told that this man couldn’t find employment after his graduation, he decided to become a photographer, and he used his earnings from that business to acquire a master’s degree, and then registered for a PhD. He doesn’t care about submitting his curriculum vitae to government ministries. His logic was after the PhD he might be qualified to be employed by a University, Polytechnic or a college of Education. Just like Tajuddeen, the attitude of the photographer has helped him to advance his career, and fight poverty.
The story does not end there. I was travelling back to Kano from Lagos; I noticed something peculiar in the middle of the road. Two different groups were engaged in business, the first group were beggars, the second group were some youths waiting for people to come out from the nearby market, the market was muddy, so they  wash people's legs after the dust and all the dirty things that affected their legs and clothes. The beggars speak the same language as I do; they have young kids with them learning the same trade instead of going to school. My heart bled with anger. I am certainly not worried by the statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics which basically was more interested in the material quantification of poverty. But I am certainly disturbed by the attitude that causes the material poverty.

To be continued (insha Allah)

2nd Rabi Al Auwal, 1434
14th January, 2013

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

(41): Poverty alleviation, good governance and conflict resolution (II)

The next paper was presented by Dr Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. Dr Kukah presented his paper via a recorded message as he was unable to attend the meeting physically. His presentation focused on poverty alleviation, faith and intolerance.

As contained in the communique of the conference produced by Dr Musa Aliyu and Malam Sulaiman Baba, Dr Kukah  “explained that diversity should be seen as an advantage to the society as it enhances growth, although in Northern Nigeria the reverse is the case due to the failure to manage it well in view of the crises the region faces. He therefore advocated respect for human dignity as opposed to simply tolerating each other and significant boost to governments’ poverty alleviation policies.  He also urged the Diaspora communities to, in addition to financially lending support, contribute ideas towards tackling the challenges and elevate the status of the country internationally”.
The last speaker was Dr Abdullahi Shehu who presented a paper that focuses on the role of diaspora in addressing good governance and poverty alleviation, as summarized in the communique, Dr Shehu “ lamented the poor living conditions of the people even when compared to smaller and much poorer African countries. Poverty, he posited, could result in anarchy and possibly snowball to violence or terrorism and therefore must be tackled head on. He also emphasized the need for good and accountable leadership in the country, which he said is a prerequisite for peace and security. To the NMFUK he advised the organization to continue in its bid to support the people back home in various ways with even further commitment”.
Before the end of the conference a documentary, produced by Bluebandit Films, was shown to the participants on the projects undertaken by the Nigeria Muslim Forum, UK; the orphan sponsorship scheme, the healthcare outreach programme, the disaster relief and Zakat collection and distribution. Of course organizing conferences by Nigerians to look at the problems of the country and suggest ways of addressing them is not a new thing. What however make the NMFUK winter conference different is that it was built on a platform that is action oriented. Already the Forum is sponsoring the education of orphans at the cost of 6250 Naira per month to cover the cost of education, medicine, clothing and feeding, the sponsorship comes from individual donors who take care of an orphan and interestingly some of the sponsors are not even Nigerians. Secondly the conference was built on a successful healthcare outreach programme for rural dwellers, with one successfully conducted in Kibiya, and as I am writing another health care project is being concluded in Anka Local Government of Zamfara State.  The Forum intends to acquire a mobile clinic in the future to help facilitate the outreach programme to every part of Nigeria.
The last one year had been very productive with so many accomplishments recorded, but truth be told when you look at the potential of the members of NMFUK, more could be achieved. This is a Forum that produced so many accomplished talents including professors, consultants, engineers etc.  While the charity status of the Forum was a game changer, more effort should be tailored towards sustaining the current momentum. By Allah’s mercy the organization is blessed with very hardworking and visionary individuals, and they need the support of every one to succeed.
In the last one year, I learnt something very important. For you to succeed, you need to be ambitious even though ambition alone is not enough to guarantee success. I also learnt that in leadership, there is nothing more important than working and being surrounded by people who have similar vision even if you differ on the process of how to deliver on the vision; as long as you meant well, the road will become smooth along the line even if it appears to be rough at the beginning of the journey. It is also clear that you can have the best ideas, as many people do, but those ideas will mean nothing if you do not do the basic preparation that will lay the foundation to uplift those ideas to a greater height.
For me personally, I couldn’t be more grateful for the support I received while serving as the President (Amir) of Nigeria Muslim Forum, UK. It was an organization that offered me the rare opportunity to serve it twice in the last seven years, and I thank Allah (SWT) for his bounties. It is now time to step back  so that other people can have the opportunity to build further on what we have started collectively. I wish my successor, Malam Sani Muazu Makarfi, the new chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr Abdulahi Shehu  and the entire team a successful tenure as they work to strengthen this young, but great charity.

11: 35pm