ABUBAKAR Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram group, left home to become an almajiri in Maiduguri, where he met Mohammed Yusuf and became radicalised.
This is according to Falmata Abubakar, Shekau’s mother, who spoke to the Voice of America in their hometown, Shekau, Yobe State.
Falmata also said she does not know whether her son is still alive or dead as she has not set eyes on her since he started following Yusuf.
Mohammed Yusuf was the founder of Boko Haram. Initially the group were not as dangerous as it is now, rather it was a radical Islamic sect that believed western education is against the tenets of Islam.
However, after the extrajudicial killing of Yusuf by the Nigerian police in 2009, Boko Haram became extremely dangerous. The sect has killed more than 100,000 persons and displace over two million, according to the Borno State Government.
“Since Shekau met with Mohammed Yusuf, I didn’t see him again,” the VOA quoted Falmata as saying.
“Yes, he’s my son and every mother loves her son, but we have different characters,” she added.
Asked whether she knew the possible whereabouts of Shekau, she said: “I don’t now if he’s alive or dead. I don’t know. It’s only God who knows. For 15 years I haven’t seen him.
“He brought a lot of problem to many people. Where can I meet him to tell him that these things he is doing is very bad? He brought many problems to many people.”
Nevertheless, Falmata says she will never curse her son, even though he has decided to follow a different path.
“He just took his own character and went away. This is not the character I gave him. I don’t know what this type of behavior is. It’s only God who knows,” she said, adding that “I am praying to God to show him the good way”.
The almajiri system of education is a major social and educational challenge in Northern Nigeria till today.
Young boys are usually sent off by their parents to distant cities or towns where they are attached to a teacher who teaches them to memorise the entire Koran. A teacher is usually in charge of dozens, and sometimes, hundreds of boys, who after their studies roam the streets in tattered clothes, begging for alms and food.
In April 2010, then President Goodluck Jonathan launched a programme aimed at revamping the almajiri system of education by constructing modern classrooms and employing better qualified teachers in order to combine both western and Islamic education in its curricula.
Speaking about the programme during an international summit in 2017, Jonathan said he was convinced that “without providing education to these children, the country would be fated to spend more money in fighting insecurity”.
“It was obvious that Boko Haram terrorists were exploiting these innocent children in the northern part of the country and using them as canon fodders to destabilize the country,” he added.
Sadly, many of the almajiri schools that were constructed then, are now in ruins.