Fighting attitudinal poverty in Northern Nigeria (III), By Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

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 also 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 go straight to Majalisa, waste all their energy 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 might require time to implement. So the first basic step is from the family. As a married person, you need to make decision regarding what sort of life you want to live, what your role is in the process, what your wife’s and the larger family’s roles are. 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 lessons, 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 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 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 a practical example of how people transfer their responsibility to others. A local government chairman had opened a file in his hospital for people from his local government to be treated, while the Local Government settles the bills. Our friend decided to follow up to ensure the bills were settled, so he asked me to accompany him to the house of the Local Government Chairman. On arrival at the premises, the house was so overcrowded that you might think Jumu’a prayer had just been completed, except that it was nighttime.

After a brief conversation over the phone, the local government chairman apologized to our friend that he would not be able to see him, because if he dared open the door of his apartment, there would be chaos as the entire people outside were waiting for him. Unfortunately they were all 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 Masjid (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 place and roles in society, so that the Mosques would become centres of learning, entrepreneurship and  skill transfer.

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