By Udeme Nana
They are not non-indigenes- they are neither tall nor lanky like some Hausa-Fulanis from the Northern parts of the country.They are neither Muslims nor animists.Their dentition does not betray them as people who engage in an intercourse with kolanut every minute. No, they do not carry small plastic plates around and do not turn out in dirty danshiki.They do not look unkempt and are not illiterates.
They are able-bodied, some tall, fair and handsome while others are dark-complexioned, stocky and look hard. Some are graduates from tertiary institutions and are not products of polygamous harems.They are not invalids. Definitely not disabled. They are well-built, with strong limbs, two good legs, two hands, two bright eyes to see, noses to smell, ears to hear and tongues to speak.They have brains and can think.
In Onna, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Oron, Ini, Ikono and in almost all other localities, these crop of youths would gather at funeral services, marriage venues, outside wedding reception halls, at political and socio-cultural events to stalk their victims. They are the almajiris of Akwa Ibom, made in Akwa Ibom by Akwa Ibom during and after the uncommon era. It wasn’t this columnist.
The student’s group of these almajiris can also be found around the gates of institutions of higher learning like the Obio Akpa Campus of the State University.The church environment is not left out from this business by our own almajiris.
Their targets are mostly people they estimate to be Very Important Persons, high profile politicians and top corporate executives.
They operate by setting up on seeing any tinted, gleaming SUV glide into a venue and they rush into unsolicited cheer, a song and then a dance to massage the ego of the big person. In most cases, they succeed, smile away and celebrate but in few instances when they draw blank which they unanimously agree is a bad market they move away, dejected, feeling frustrated, uttering invectives, curses in disappointment. That is what happens from one prospect to another until the dust of depatures settle after public events.
This time-bomb of youths in their prime turned public beggars is completely not in our genes.The typical Akwa Ibom person was both self-respecting royalty and intensely dignified, hardworking, self-driven republican. Not lazy. Not public beggars. Not praise-singers for tokens of money.The typical able-bodied Akwa Ibom person loved his farm work in a season like this and was not given to cluster around under the scorching sun to beg for money from fellow men.What a transformation!
In the North where it is deeply rooted, it was a term for children who left their homes in search of Islamic education and upbringing.They were managed by Mallams, Quranic teachers but their population increased disproportionately as a result of a polygamous system and freedom to breed as many children as possible.
This culture which creeped into Akwa Ibom in the past decade shows that something snapped. Values changed. Society embraced and promoted false values. Industries died. Jobs dried up, and most of the youths even lost interest in work. Most of them lack cognate skills and they hate to be told to learn trades or acquire productive skills.
A population such as this is a keg of gun powder waiting to be ignited by any crisis.That is why the North burns each time there is a crisis because their almajiris are ready and willing hands in the employ of political patrons.
This is not an ideal that should be celebrated, patronised or glossed over in these parts. These youths should be quarantined, not as victims of coronavirus but for refinement of their sensibilities and training.
So far, our various social orientation and re-orientation agencies and commissions have been clueless, reactive and lame; getting these set of youths off the grounds of special events should be a job and securing loans for them to enable them go into start-ups would be a nice and sustainable breakthrough.
Let’s not live with these almajiris because it is quite embarrassing and completely out of place.
Dr. Nana is a Chief lecturer in Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua