Fatima Hamzat must have woken up on the wrong side of bed that dreadful Sunday morning. She was sore, but just like the myriad of wives in purdah, in the predominantly Muslim region of Northern Nigeria, she wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone but her husband and children, a very limited audience to vent her ire.
She made her way slowly from the minuscule bedroom she shared with three other wives of Alhaji Hamzat, through the deserted hut. At this time, every other occupant of the house would be gone. Alhaji would definitely be at the cattle market, trying to saddle an unsuspecting customer or two with the scrawny things he called cows-the drought had not done them justice. As for her mates, they would be trying hard to cajole the water starved soil to bring forth produce so they wouldn’t have to rely only on the largesse of the government representative from Abuja, whose patience with the half starved, half clothed and half dead throng that trooped to his country home every Friday was already running thin.
Mtcheew, she hissed as she caught her foot against a piece of wood left lying carelessly.
Fatima thought of her children. Musa, Alooma and Ciroma. They were barely able to walk when they had been sent to the Koran School around the corner. All morning, they memorized copious verses of scripture, and in the afternoon, under the scorching sun, they joined the other myriads of children to beg for alms from house to house. A perfect arrangement for their Alfa, who didnt have to work, but relied on the earnings of these little ones to feed themselves and their household. Almajirhi, they were called.
Fatima silently went through the motions of her daily existence. Washing, cooking, bathing… whatever she had to do to get through the day. There would be many more days like this to coming. She would be there, waiting, an eternal victim trapped in the meaningless workings of a futile existence…
This is the fate of millions of women in Northern Nigeria. The plight of Almajirhi is even more pitiful. Census figures put the numbers of these children at a little over a million. Formal education to this group is nonexistent. The numbers swell daily, and these children are condemned-even before they are born- to a life of ignorance and poverty, a ready tool for the vices of crime. It is out of this hopeless ones that the scourge of boko haram gets its eager recruits.
All this in a country where the senators representing these people take on average $100,000 a month in salary and constituency allowances, which never have the desired effect of improving the socio economic status of the hapless masses.