Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai has blamed the current crisis rocking the Almajiri system in Nigeria on the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to build on the programme initiated by the previous administration to reform the system. Yakassai, in an exclusive chat with Sunday Telegraph, recalled that the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration launched a programme geared towards transforming the old Koranic schools into model schools where the Almajiri will have access to both Islamic and Western education, but lamented that Buhari discarded the programme.
The elder statesman, who is a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former Liaison Officer to President Shehu Shagari during the Second Republic, expressed disappointment that despite the huge resources invested by the Jonathan administration on the programme designed to take the Almajirai off the streets; the present administration never cared to build on it. He said that the Almajirai was not a new thing but was as old as Islam, except that it had been integrated with Western education in other countries such as Saudi Arabia, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to him, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the defunct Northern Region, had plans to reform the Almajiri system in Nigeria before his demise.
Yakassai said successive political leaders from the North failed to build on Ahmadu Bello’s vision. “The Premier of the defunct Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello started something along this line but unfortunately, he was killed and even the region was divided into pieces. So the new people are not aware of the history and could not continue from where he stopped.
“Even President Jonathan, who is not a northerner and is not a Muslim, revived what the Sardauna was trying to do by building some model Almajiri schools. He started from Sokoto but his intention was to do it all over the North. Unfortunately, he did not get a second term. “The most unfortunate thing is that Buhari, who is a northerner and ought to have continued with the programme Jonathan started, abandoned it.
“Our challenge in Nigeria is that people seek public offices not to solve national problems, otherwise we could have handled the problem a long time ago. I think that one day we will get somebody who will continue with it,” he said. Yakassai also accused the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) of taking up the challenge rather late and at the wrong time, arguing that they should not have started in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The decision to relocate them was not bad in itself but it required a lot of preparations. You have to know them. You have to know where they come from.
They came from different places but because Kano is a commercial centre and because of the economic activities there people come from far and near to live in Kano. “In my opinion, they could have suspended the operations until the pandemic is over, but they didn’t consider it that way,” he said. He denied reports that the Almajirai were facing an identity crisis, insisting that every Almajiri has parents who are Nigerians and reside in their respective homes in towns and villages across the country.