Monday, 22 April 2013

(55): Retired, un-tired, expired

Permanent secretaries, directors in the civil service, military generals, judges, school teachers, professors, journalists and many more are on the endless list of people who retire from active professional career every year, many of them un-tired due to good health, yet the society forces them to expire because we undervalue the significance of their contribution.
Retirement in our countries has become one of the biggest sources of frustration. After serving thirty to fourty years, after investing his youthfulness without learning a single tip on how to live a private life, after sacrificing substantial part of his earnings and savings with the pension board; indeed at the time he gathered all the experience needed by the younger generation, he is suddenly required to retire into the world of uncertainty.
The focus of this discourse is not necessarily about retirement itself, but how our society neglects the experience of the retiree. The hero of yesterday has suddenly become the toy of grand- children. He has suddenly become the story of the expired specie whose service is only required to supervise naming and wedding ceremonies, sleep in the house until mid-day, find time to visit fellow retirees in the evening to share their frustration, and remain endlessly waiting for the realization of his pension. His past contribution is ignored, his present ability dismissed, his potential under-estimated and his contribution to the society never appreciated. If he is the honest variety who doesn’t steal from public funds, the same society he dedicated himself to serve frowns at him for being ‘stupid’, within a year of leaving service, the gentleman whose signature approved projects, whose order send shivers in the office, has become a spectator.
But there are so many services that our retirees can offer, in fact they could do a better job than many of the neophytes our society tends to trust, yet they continuously disappoint. I recall in the mid-1990s, when the Kano State Government came up with a policy for establishing model primary schools in key areas of the State. The headmasters were selected from the pool of experienced retirees who served in various capacities in the State. They were given the resources and the support to pursue their duties. Within short time they recruited the best teachers, created an excellent atmosphere of learning and teaching, and because they were elderly, old enough to be the fathers of some of the teachers, the respect the teachers had for them produced a culture of discipline and forthrightness. Within short period these schools excelled, parents started transferring their kids from the most expensive private schools into these public schools. But this was possible because at the time the potential of these retired individuals was recognized, and they were never allowed to expire, they were hired to transfer their skills where they are needed.
Recently, I was searching for a school for my daughter, I went to one school which I found extremely amazing, the staff looking very neat and disciplined, everything that you could see was functioning well, no teachers in the staff room chatting while classes were on course, a highly multi-cultural environment with the serenity that a child would love to learn. After a brief discussion with the school head teacher, we exchanged our business cards, few minutes afterwards I looked at the business card, the school head teacher was a retired army General. He never allowed himself to expire, he still has the energy to contribute to the society, and you could clearly see that in the organization of the school.
My heart quickly switched from one thought to another. Just imagine, if the position of councilors in our local governments is reserved for the retirees who worked in different sectors of the economy, and I wouldn’t mind that.  Just imagine, if retirees will be engaged to become headmasters as was once done in Kano State. Just imagine if the permanent secretaries, the SSGs, the senators, the generals, the school principals who retire annually, would be re-engaged even if on part time basis to work in certain sectors of the economy, perhaps that will help improve some of the social services no matter how little. Yes I am only imagining, but there is no harm in trial.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

(54): Kayan daki and marital stability in Hausaland (III)

In recent years an addition has been made to kayan daki, while traditionally, it is the groom who provides the pre-wedding gift known as lefe, now the family of the bride also makes similar provision. The reason for that is the fear that the bride would be seen as coming from a poor family such that she would have to rely on the clothes provided by the husband in the first years of marriage. These are unnecessary burdens that people create for themselves, which in turn hurts the stability of marriage. After the wedding is over, only the partners would be left to look after themselves, so why complicate matters. This is where our mothers and sisters will play an important role. They need to shift their attention from competition between the families of  both the bride and the groom, and understand that as long as the two parties were married based on love, understanding  and above all consider marriage as an  act of worship, the question of Gori  (mockery) should not arise.
Changing this culture is not the responsibility of one person, one family or a community. Each and every one should make his own contribution no matter how little. For this reason I will propose the following suggestions. Some of these suggestions will certainly clash with established norms and traditions of the marriage institution in Hausaland, but they are worth trying.
The first is to overturn the culture of kayan daki from the family of the bride, and make it the responsibility of the groom. It should simply be an extended part of the sadaki (dowry). It sometimes defies logic that the man who should bear responsibility for the upkeep of the family should spend less when it comes to the provision of basic necessities required for the marriage. For instance, the husband spends 250 thousand Naira to acquire an accommodation, and possibly another 250 to 500 thousand Naira for the lefe, while the family of the bride spends over 1 million Naira to furnish the house. Beyond that they have to spend substantial amount to prepare for gara (the post wedding gift).  Certainly there is need for cultural change.
Secondly, another way to help in addressing the challenges posed by kayan daki is through the process of renting accommodation. This I have seen in some cultures has drastically reduced the burden of kayan daki on both sides. Building fully furnished accommodation by landlords will significantly address the problem of kayan daki. Of course the price of rent will go up, but once the rent is paid, the newly wedded couples have a ready-made accommodation to transfer to without any difficulty. To avoid landlords taking advantage of this situation, states can establish a commission that regulates the cost of rent between those that are fully furnished and ones that are not furnished.
The third suggestion has to do with orientation, which is almost lacking completely in Hausaland. As done in some cultures including the Malays of Malaysia. The Imams that conduct the solemnization of marriage should be conducting seminars and workshops on marriage. The intending couples should be trained on their responsibilities, the right of the husband on the wife, and the right of the wife on the husband, dealing with in-laws, neighbors, friends and all those that could contribute in the stability or the deterioration of the marriage should be taught. Before the couples get married, it should be a condition that they produce a certificate confirming the attendance of such workshops.
After the marriage, a certificate should be issued by the Mosque or the Imam who solemnized the marriage. If there are specific conditions on the marriage, they should be written clearly on the certificate. In recent years we have seen clashes between families who made an agreement that the girl will continue with her education after marriage, but immediately after the marriage, the husband reneges on the promise. There are cases where the couple agreed that the woman will not work, but once the marriage is conducted, she insists on finding a job. Writing these agreements on the marriage certificate could help address these challenges. After all marriage is a contract.
 The certificate should be signed by the couples as well as the witnesses. It is amazing that in Hausaland, beyond the gathering of people on the wedding day, most people cannot produce evidence that they are married. People begin to realize this when traveling to countries requiring marriage certificate, or applying for visa that demands evidence of marriage, and then the couple would realize that none exists. They quickly rush to the high court for an affidavit, when they have been married for ten years or so. Should the couple decide to divorce;  na sake ki ( I divorce you), in the darkness of the room should be out rightly rejected. It should be made a condition that the couples should go back to the Imam or the mosque to pronounce the divorce, in the presence of witnesses who signed the certificate of marriage, and another certificate be issued confirming the divorce. Perhaps this could help in regulating the frequency of divorce by irresponsible husbands who lack dattako (uprightness, reliability) karamci (generosity), kawaici (reticence), mutunci (respectfulness) as discussed at the beginning of this series etc.


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

(53): Kayan daki and marital stability in Hausaland (II)

Almost every parent, community leaders, and those who are mindful of their society, are aware of social issues like this. We know them; we talk about them, but hardly our knowledge of such issues goes beyond gossip. The problem is turning the society up-side-down, the pressure has grown so much, it is alleged that in some areas in Hausaland, people borrow kayan daki for a small period, after the ceremony is over, and the guests have returned to their destinations, everything would be returned to the real owner. This problem cannot be attributed to a single individual, nor is it possible to make swift generalisation on how we reached such sorry state. But we can suggest some of the reasons.
The first reason I will argue is abandoning the true teachings of religion. In Islam the key criteria for the selection of spouse have been made very clear. From the side of the man, the key requirements which the potential bride and her family should look for are true commitment to religion and the soundness of character, as reported from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and failure to do so will result in calamities befalling the society. He equally suggested that a woman can be married because of her beauty, family background, wealth, and commitment to the religion (which includes soundness of character, and clear sense of responsibility), and the latter is recommended by the Prophet over all other qualities. But our society chose to depart. Both parties pay attention to the wealth rather than the soundness of character, and we end up decorating the house with kayan daki, while the character of the spouses is in need of moral decoration.
This leads to the second potential reason, excessive materialism. It is natural and common for people to aim at living a decent life free from the hassles of modern society. We shouldn’t deny people to aspire for the best. However when the search for decent life over steps the limit of decency, then that becomes a problem. It is a pity that an able bodied man, bestowed with numerous abilities would have to build his life entirely on the favours of in-.laws. Should Malam Saadu Zungur, the revolutionary Hausa poet, teacher and radical politician witness this, perhaps he has to rewrite the classic ‘Bahaushe mai ban Haushi’, a poem that recently became viral in social networking sites due to the lesson it contains.
Thirdly, one of the great mistakes being made, is leaving the institution of marriage to be managed either by ‘illiterates’, or allowing the intending spouses to drive themselves alone, when in reality they need guidance from more matured and enlightened members of the community. The learned ones including the imam, only joins when the flight is ready for take-off. From ‘Na gani ina so’ (proposal), down to the wedding, the process is managed by those whose interest is to impress the society, rather than the stability of the marriage itself.
Elite miscalculation can be described as the fourth reason that could potentially explain the mishap the marriage institution is facing. In the past few decades, some of our elites, of course some of them with good intention, tried to support the spouses of their daughters by helping them get good jobs, providing financial assistance, some even employing them in their personal businesses. However some do it without restrain.
They want their daughter(s) to enjoy the same comfort made available by her parents. Kayan daki assumed disproportionate dimension, such that the girls are almost traded to the husband. People began to misuse this gesture on the pretext that ‘mata sun yi yawa’, therefore the father has to take this extra step if somebody is to live with his daughter and genuinely look after her. The young spouses are not allowed to grow together, to understand the struggle of life and find ways to solve it; to realize that marriage is a partnership where each of the two parties has to make sacrifice for the other.
That marriage is a lifetime opportunity to grow, love, respect and live within the confines of the resources available to the parties. In fact the mere fact that you agree to get married, it means you are qualified to shoulder the responsibility of looking after a human being, in this case, the woman who is ready to sacrifice living with her parents, relatives and well-wishers, to come and live with you ‘for life’, yet the modern husband, wants to transfer her upkeep to her parents; more surprisingly the parents are willing partners in this game.
The fifth reason is political corruption. Politics in our country has become a business. The penniless chap, roaming on the street could become tomorrow’s millionaire because he is either a politician or the house boy of a political office holder. The girls are watching, neither are their parents ready to be uninterested observers.
To be continued…

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

(52): Kayan daki and marital stability in Hausaland (I)

Our discourse will today focus on culture. Before delving deeply into the topic of marital stability let me start by explaining what Kayan daki means. In modern terms, the phrase simply refers to a fully furnished accommodation. In traditional Hausa society when a person gets married, his father normally allocates a room in his house where the spouses could live together. The room is normally furnished by the family of the bride. This is what is literally referred to as kaya (items) and daki (room).
In modern times the culture of Kayan daki has achieved a new height, instead of a room; the groom normally rents, or builds a house, and allocates a section for the bride. The allocated section is what is normally equipped by the family of the newly wedded bride. Marriage is normally a give-and-take relationship, right from the courtship, to the betrothal and the solemnisation of the marriage. Normally the man proposes, the woman accepts. The family of the man request for the formalization of the relationship, the family of the woman approves; and representatives of the two families meet together to tie the knot. Some of the responsibilities are shared, others shouldered by either of the parties.
In a traditional sense the entire process is defined by some cultural codes known as dattako (uprightness, reliability) karamci (generosity), kawaici (reticence), mutunci (respectfulness) etc. These important cultural codes, most of which have a religious root are important in ensuring marital stability. In an ideal situation, when the relationship goes awry, either the husband or the wife remembers that it is out of character for a person of his or her family background to exhibit the opposite of these cultural codes. This helps to soft-pedal, reconcile and move on with life without the knowledge of a third party.
One of the key gestures that signify these cultural codes, especially from the family of the bride is the provision of kayan daki. Depending on ability, some families can furnish the entire house of the would be bride. But this culture has undergone various transformations to the extent that it is threatening the institution of marriage in Hausa society. Both sides have contributed in the deteriorating nature of this culture.
From the side of the groom, an acronym emerged known as auren jari (matrimonial investment). Apart from furnishing the house, the family of the bride also supplies what is called gara (wedding present). Traditionally the gara comprises of sufficient food items that would last the new family for a calendar year. It is part of the courtesy and generosity to support the husband to look after his family until he has become economically rooted to look after his family, and also take away from him the pressure of shopping on daily basis.
Of course the family of the groom does have their own share of contribution. They pay the bride price, support the husband to find an accommodation, and give the pre-wedding gift; in modern times the pre-wedding gift comprises of large boxes containing clothes, jewelries, shoes and other cosmetics, that the bride would need.
The concept of auren Jari, became the talking point among some youths. When planning for marriage, auren jari became an important consideration. About five years ago, while discussing with a controversial former minister, he lamented how the culture of auren jari has become such a burden to the Hausa society. Some of the youths, go to the extent of seeking a second wife based on this principle, if they succeeded, the first wife would be treated like an outcast, simply because she did not come from a family that can support his economic needs. Parents were put under pressure to ensure that they supply sufficient   kayan daki so that the new husband will respect their daughter.
From the part of the girls, they become so enticed by the luxury provided for them by their parents, that they too add to the pressure so that their friends would not laugh at them for failing to comply with the new vogue in town. For those who are not economically buoyant, they became indebted for years trying to settle the bills they have incurred, and in some unfortunate situations, their daughter had already been divorced. The investment did no pay the desired dividends. The husband who divorced the wife will now shift his attention to another family, because he is rest assured, they would make similar provisions for him. The question to be asked is whom should we blame, and what is the solution to this catch 22 situation? Join me next week God Willing for an update.

2:00 pm