I was the first to notice junior was stealing in the house. That day while i was doing his laundry because he was too young to do it himself i noticed something in his pocket. Confused and bewildered i became after seeing the huge amount of money he was in possession of. Junior, I called and he rushed out towards where i was helping him with his laundry as though he were being pursued. At the sight of the money in my hand he already knew why he was called. ‘brother mummy gave it to me’ he said afraid of his own words. I became short of words for a while. You mean mummy gave you this before traveling? A ten year old boy with five hundred naira note? Who knows if it was more than that, i sigh. Even though i didn’t believe him i didn’t tell anyone because dad could be volatile with anger. All i did was to warn him not to touch any money hence forth. That was how the case died until a week later when mum returned from their bank’s AGM at lagos. Mum was a banker and all efforts to make her quit her job by dad became fruitless. Dad hates the fact that she had no time for her house, her home, children and better put her family. It was a hot afternoon that saturday that everything unveiled itself. Mum didn’t not go to her so called saturday office that weekend and she was counting the money the meeting she usually attends entrusted to her. Out of suprise she shouted my name and i rushed into her room in response. Mum what is wrong? And the next thing was a terrible slap on my back. Where is the remaining one thousand five hundred naira? Where is it? Confused and fumbled at my own self because of the false accusation i smiled. Junior come in here i said as he stood by the door staring directly into my eyes. All effort to make him confess failed and mum didn’t believe me either. As days continue turning to months and months into years, junior’s stealing granted to next level. Yet i was the one to be blame for all of it. Years later i sat under the tree and saw junior coming back from school i knew something bad had occured. He was expelled from school after being caught severally stealing his mates items. And all i said to mum was i was still the one stealing those things he is sent off because of. Parent don’t groom another junior for us, for junior is now a local government chairman and the state money is not safe with him. Happy independence day Nigeria.
Seeing these indigent lads gives me nothing but depression. To keep body and soul together I had opted to perpetually navigate my ears to the sound of their drum beats to tranquil myself from the turmoil portrayed by these lads.The so called recession has dreadfully hiked the number of these boys. Trotted in a single file along Jos-Abuja express road, beating their fragmented plates, gawking at the sky intently begging to cater for themselves and their masters. The name Almajiri sounds mammoth but it’s meaning was unfathomable to me at first.
Almajiri as the lads are frequently referred to spring forth from Arabic word Al-Mahaajirun, which precisely means (a migrant). Fadan karshi, a Southern part of Kaduna where I sojourn is predominantly dominated by these Almajiri Boys.
At about 9.am on Wednesday, I stepped out of a friend’s hummer Jeep fully kitted on my NYSC regalia. It was one of those days we flaunt our military uniform for admiration and to stylishly solicit for people’s help especially for a lift. With only #300 on me I was waiting for a vehicle to covey me to gwantu for CDS. Was flagging down any car possible. As I stood with unwavering optimism, my attention was driven away by a pitiable sight. ISMAIL, a famous Almajiri Boy deserted under a scorching sun, piercing into his pores. Weeping uncontrollably with his tattered duds, in-sensuous hair and cracked lips filled with blood stain alluring flies like abattoir where Shanu (Cows) are being slaughtered. Flies fed vigorously on the fresh wound at his right arm and his broken plate which serves as an identity for any almajiri. As I stood lost in thought, he jilted me with his pity-beckoning voice. So shallow a voice like a suckling scrambling for the mother’s breast. ”Corper, don Allah taimake ni ba da kowa” (please help me I have no one).
I Looked at him with much disdain clothed with a little bit of sympathy. How do I go to Gwantu if I treat him with my transport fare? Pressing that I needed to thumb print for the month of January, even though December allowee hasn’t popped-out. An act we are accustomed to. Immediately I shook both of my hands inside the khaki pocket in search of my wallet, just like a dream I was rounded up by these lads. the tempo of drum beat has gone atrocious as they plodded towards me with frowned faces like a hungry lion looking for a prey to devour. they are being compelled by their empty belly and licking pouches that has vowed never to retain anything valuable nor gratifying. I already had unhealthy disdain for their parents and their so called Mallams behind this unlawful act with the sole aim of enriching themselves and at the same time denying these lads their right in the society as well as decent and sound upbringing propelling them to litter the road, endangering their lives and causing heavy traffic every seconds for the Travellers. Invaded with these thoughts in the mist of confusion as to whom to offer help to like MMM. Obviously, like the MMM ponze scheme, I have been merged with the ALMAJIRI’S by the turbulence that betide us which has transposed the language of many even the snug Nigerians. Just like a soldier sent to the war front without arms. The boys have been unleashed to the street neglected, metamorphosed to beggars from background. Undeniably, the essence of the Almajiri has been defeated. Weeping bitterly for the sake of survival, he deserves to live. A voice whispered to my ears, thrown to the ground by a whirlwind from an unknown source, my hands got injured amidst this scene. The boys in their impoverished state took the saddle upon themselves to raise me up from the dust. The cry of the poor lad sank deep inside my heart, stood up like a statue of New York. Gave them #50 out of the #300 which was almost torn into pieces by these boys out of excitement. Rest the poor Almajiri boy on my shoulder in an attempt to cross, we were both knocked down at the middle of the road by a motorcycle and the lad swayed from my shoulder. Found myself later at the hospital bed but the abused, neglected Almajiri boy “Ismail” gave up the ghost. My community development service was done on that hospital bed. Ward 2A, room 15. Will live to remember that fateful day in the course of my service year. My heart wept for Ismail, the Almajiri boy.