Naija and the Alamajiri’s Wind

November 29, 2017 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Carsten ten Brink photo



Fatimah Bakare-Dickson


During the third week of the twelfth month, it blew so hard, the wave whistle, you could tell on your feet, hands and face. The skin turned to scales and the feet like a broken fingernail. We all covered our hair from the harsh glare of dusty wind. The weather spared no one, even the green grass changed to rust.

In this harsh weather, I was out early in the morning for the naming of my neighbor’s son.

The women in the community gathered around the field burning firewood, mounting heavy pots and cooking for the well-wishers. From afar you could perceive the two Shinkafa and Miya Toshe. No one could resist such a wonderful meal.

Our firewood burned like images of hell that we see in church papers, maybe my exaggeration but it was the perfect fire for big pots that contained two gallons of water.

I spotted an image from afar, about the size of three rulers or 30 centimeters long, it was in the dust mixed with the smoke of the firewood. As it approached I could see a dangling bowl by the left tied to the arm of a shredded cloth and the right hand had a nylon that looks like a leather glove under the other arm, to protect him from the cold I suppose.

It was a shaking object as it approached, the two arms were underneath each other and maybe slightly breakdancing because of the weather. My heart melted as I bewildered this image.

Like they always say, the eye of a woman is the doorway to her heart. At close range I realized he was a young lad of about 8 years old. His face was wrinkled and his cheeks cracked like fingernail scratches. A penny could fit in the middle of his lower lips, they were cracked with dried blood. I could see his bruised face covered with dust. He had about five layers of clothes on, each oversized, dirty, shredded and his legs bare. His body was covered in dust and he had a pitiful look.

My interpretation of his look I believe was pathetic, but he was calm. If I could read his mind, he was born like this boy, the reason we are all gathered. He grew up like a normal child, he had dreams when he was three years old or at age four even at age five we all had a childhood fantasy of what our older self would look like. I wondered what happened on the day of his naming, was there a feast like this one we are having now or was he born homeless.

I keep wondering where he went wrong. Even society could not give him a good cloth to put on but rags.


He had parents, how much they love him I can’t tell, but I believe I cannot love him better than his parents who sent him to a boarding school, a Muhammediyah boarding school under the supervision of a Mallam. We all call them Almajiri, simply being one who migrates from the luxury of his home to other places or even to a popular teacher in the quest for Islamic knowledge, this making him a pupil.

Alongside other pupils they are supervised by a learned man called Mallam. The followers of the Holy Prophet of Islam are the Muhammediya and the initiator of this boy’s faith.

His Mallam gave him the cloth he was wearing I believe. Lost in my thoughts the little Almajiri boy walked closely to me and gave me an innocent smile. Further walking towards me and in a calm voice he greeted, Sannu, meaning Hello, his smile was of hope and contentment.

As he smiled at me, blood dropped from his broken lips which he quickly cleaned with the arm of his shredded cloth.

So many questions on my mind to ask him, but he is only a child so I need to be careful so as not to infringe on the right of his Mallam. And suddenly he let the cat out by asking first. He spoke in Hausa, the Language of Northern Nigeria, What ceremony is this? Naming I replied.

Then he smiled with his mouth squeezed so as not to further break his lips. A closer look at him I noticed he had a bright eyeball and a very full eyelash covered in dust.

Then he stretched his bowl toward my direction which I think was rude but he meant to say he was hungry. I can understand how it works especially with the homeless people. The place of merry making is an avenue for good food not even leftovers. You get yourself fed first then look for leftovers that can be taken home. Things like this happen once in a while.


I gently ask him of his parents, his reply I seem not to get at first but later I imagined it over again. He stretched forth his left hand and placed the right back hand on the left palm and in a shaking voice, I can’t remember where they are but Mallam said they are in Ilayla, a village close to Niger Republic.

It was written all over him and I clearly saw his life’s struggle and wondered how he came to be in such distress. Perhaps he was born expecting the kiss of mercy, he was born out of passion and he quickly progressed like a normal child, he was born like the reason we all gathered, he was born full of hope and aspiration, to rule and dominate the world but Instead he got the opposite of mercy; you can call it callous if you wish but the world is not just for the weak Almajiri boy. How frustrating to watch the world pass you by knowing it will never be your turn.

His outstretched hands asked for money and old rags to put on. There is no mother to put the old rags together just like Dolly Parton says in her music coat of many colors.

Hardened by circumstances and surrounded by systemic failed system.

Almajiri, an age long tradition, little boys treading life path wherever it leads choked with thorns, scales turmoil and weed. Facing the evil days with courage, hope and anguish. They are broken by the same faith they proclaim.





Fatimah Bakare-Dickson

Fatimah Dickson is a Bachelor of Film Art Graduate, she is a homemaker, and a documentation affectionado, involved in civic discuss across gender and children issues. She runs REEL DOCUMENTARIES, a not-for-profit outfit that utilizes the media in promoting change amongst women and children, and can be reached on 234 8034740500, [email protected]

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