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Future bomb


Beyond Hauwa’u Sulaiman’s 16 children

HAUWA’U Sulaiman, the 34-year-old housewife of No. 70 Alfadarai Street in Zaria, Kaduna State, who gave birth to quadruplets on June 5, at the Gambo Sawaba General Hospital, Zaria, immediately reminded me of the case of a German woman, Annegret Raunigk, who also gave birth to quadruplets at a Berlin hospital in May, 2015. One common denominator between the two women is that they had both given birth to 13 children each, before the arrival of their quadruplets.

Annegret said her decision to have more babies was influenced by her youngest child, a nine-year-old girl who kept pestering her for a junior brother or sister.

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Future bomb

Beyond Hauwa’u Sulaiman’s 16 children

June 21, 2020FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInWhatsAppEmail

Tunji Adegboyega

HAUWA’U Sulaiman, the 34-year-old housewife of No. 70 Alfadarai Street in Zaria, Kaduna State, who gave birth to quadruplets on June 5, at the Gambo Sawaba General Hospital, Zaria, immediately reminded me of the case of a German woman, Annegret Raunigk, who also gave birth to quadruplets at a Berlin hospital in May, 2015. One common denominator between the two women is that they had both given birth to 13 children each, before the arrival of their quadruplets.

Annegret said her decision to have more babies was influenced by her youngest child, a nine-year-old girl who kept pestering her for a junior brother or sister.

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I  sympathise with the Sulaiman family over the death of the only male among the quadruplets, as well as join other well-wishers to celebrate the arrival of their latest bundle of joy. Indeed, there is every cause to felicitate with them: we heard the voice of the mother as well as the newborns; the father too did not run away upon hearing that his wife had given birth to quadruplets. Alhamdulillah.

But beyond this are the obvious implications of this development for us all as Nigerians. We would be deceiving ourselves if we close our eyes to this because we are all going to pay for what today looks like something to celebrate. We are already paying dearly for such things that we merely dismissed as cultural beliefs in the past. It beggars belief that, in this age and times, some people still don’t know that you can make love without making babies.

This particular case calls for sober reflection, especially given the circumstances of the babies’ births and the boasting by those concerned that it is in their gene to give birth to twins, triplets and quadruplets. So, Hauwa’u has only done the expected. The husband and father of the 16 children is a driver. Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in being a driver. It is a responsible means of livelihood. But when a driver now begins to boast that he has 16 children in our kind of economy, the rest of the society has to show concern because they are the ones that would bear the brunt in the future.

Mohammed eventually confirmed my worst fears as to how he has been coping with 13 children before the arrival of the quadruplets. He said it was his elder brother that has been assisting him with the children’s upkeep. It was clear someone or some people must have been saddled with the responsibility of catering to the needs of the children because, even if he is a driver in an oil company, his salary cannot sustain such a huge family. Now that he has told us his brother is the beast of burden for his own bundle of joy, how are we sure that the brother would be willing to continue carrying the load forever?

Has Mohamed asked himself the question of what happens in the event that something happens to his brother’s economy? Then he is doomed. Which ought not be so. Why should he catch cold just because his elder brother sneezes? As a matter of fact, this is the reason many outsiders weep louder than the bereaved when the unexpected happens.

All of these may be beyond Mohammed’s ken, though.

This is particularly so because he appears far gone in this conditioning cultural belief that children are gifts from God and people should go ahead to have as many as they are fecund to have. His elated mother, Saudatu Haruna, lends credence to this assertion when she said the birth of the quadruplets did not come as a surprise to them, and attributed it to inheritance. It is obvious this family does not think there is any need for family planning, even if they have heard about it. At the end of the day most of Mohammed’s children would end up becoming Almajiris. This is neither a prayer nor a wish. The result of similar carefree approach to birth control in the past is already reverberating in the northern part of the country, and is cascading down south, unfortunately.

But how far can we blame the people for this ignorance? More than anything else, it is the region’s political leaders that should carry the can. All over the world, culture is dynamic. When people stick to a particular idea in the name of culture, and are seemingly not ready to let go of such idea, and the political leaders too pretend such idea is good in so far as the people are not complaining about it, chances are the elites are profiteering from such an idea or belief. This is what is happening in the north today. The elites are now concerned because they and their own over-pampered children cannot sleep with their two eyes closed. It is the kind of result you get when, over time, what started as a good idea became bastardised and prostituted without even a whimper from those who should be concerned.

We are told Almajiri started as a good idea. But the northern political elite pretended not to know that   the ‘’new  Almajiri” (permit me to call it that) has deviated from the original concept, even as more and more of the children who should be under the care of imams started ending up on the streets begging for alms to keep body and soul together.

Fecundity is good, but that is when matched  by fecundity of the pocket. The truth of the matter is that no one is ready to play host to people without skills; indeed, the more such people begin to invade a place, the more the suspicion that they only want to export what they know best beyond their region – terrorism. Even in the northern states, it is to your tents, oh Almajiris. Northern states are beginning to repatriate Almajiris to their states of origin. If people who are supposed to understand the culture are themselves sending back to their respective states the Almajiris in their domains, how then can anyone question those who don’t understand what that culture is all about if they do that? Apparently, some of the northern political elites have now genuinely realised that the days of the obnoxious practice are numbered and they want to put an end to it. So, there is no way they can continue to tolerate Almajiris from states whose political leaders are still living in the past and are therefore not ready to make the necessary investment to solve the problem.

But the earlier these northern elites living in the past woke up to face reality, the better. In the southwestern part of the country, for instance, it is a settled truism that a child that you do not train (educate) today will end up destroying the legacy you built. People who are denied access to education can never know the value. They will continue to wallop in their blissful ignorance. The protests that we are witnessing today in several parts of the north had been foretold by some of us about three decades ago. The point is; a system that keeps such a vast majority of the people as in the north down is unsustainable; it is a time bomb that will explode at any time. How can the political elite in the north explain to the so-called Almajiris that there is any difference between their own (the elites’) children and the children of the talakawas? The Almajiris may be stark illiterate but they know that they and their elites’ children have only one head each, they all have two eyes, two ears, two hands, two legs each, and so forth. So, how come they should be perpetually satisfied picking the crumbs falling from the tables of the elite?

Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the immediate past Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said the obvious truth at the birthday party of Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State. Sanusi at the occasion analysed the ineptitude of the Northern ruling elites. He lambasted, in a no-holds-barred indictment, the elites for failing to improve the welfare of their people. According to Sanusi, “If the north didn’t change, it will destroy itself. The country is moving on. If we don’t listen, there would be a day, when a Constitutional amendment that addresses these issues of quota system and federal character” will be made. It couldn’t have been better said. Coming from a northern aristocrat, a dynamic and progressive elite that is not impervious to change, or deaf to the calls of the present, obedient only to those of the past, would have listened. But, given the criticisms that trailed Sanusi’s honest advice to people of his own class, it is obvious that some of these elites still think this unsustainable arrangement in the country would continue forever.

Sanusi is well read; he is urbane and he is also a student of history. There is no way the rest of the country would continue to watch while the hard-earned resources that should have been used to better the lot of the entire country would be continually wasted trying to build and rebuild infrastructure destroyed (and would several times be dstroyed) by angry youths in a part of the country. The point is that these youths are beginning to see, despite their being illiterates, that their lives could have been better if successive leaders in their region had not squandered resources that should have been spent to make them the complete human beings that God created them to be.

Because of her kind of environment, Annegret may be correct to believe that everyone should be able to live the life they want to, and unperturbed about what other people thought about her decision to have more children after having 13, but not so Hauwa’u Sulaiman and her co-travellers here in Nigeria, because what they do today has implications for the rest of us tomorrow.

Credit: The Nation

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