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Aikin Gayya: Kano’s self-help initiative going extinct

A community-based self-help initiative popularly known as “aikin gayya” has for decades been a practice in communities in Kano State, usually carried out with the aim…

A community-based self-help initiative popularly known as “aikin gayya” has for decades been a practice in communities in Kano State, usually carried out with the aim of sanitising the nooks and crannies of the community.

With Aikin gayya, almost every male member of each household who has reached adulthood come together within an area called unguwa to participate in making a task easier voluntarily. 

The participants target areas that are dirty and congested drains.

The rich or the affluent in the community will help in providing equipment such as shovels and spades to aid the exercise.

The women will cook for the men working outside with food items volunteered and provided by individuals.

The practice has to a large extent fostered mutual and greater bonds and molded relationships.

However, in recent times Daily Trust observed that the practice of aikin gayya is going extinct regardless of its importance to the well-being of each and every member of society.

Aikin gayya at a weedy cemetary


Our reporters engaged members of some communities on the issue.

Ibrahim Rabiu, a resident of Wudil, said, “This is because years past people were united and living in peace. We ate together, survived and struggled together irrespective of our differences or family classes. We worked together for the betterment of our society and ensured a hygienic environment was achieved.

“We mobilised ourselves, collaborated and come together for self-help community activities from time to time such as clearing of drains, cemeteries and what have you. We used to do that alongside even the kids of the rich people in our communities. 

“Those who are rich among us would cook a lot of food, bring water and other drinks enough to satisfy every one of us. For those who still remember, some traditional songs and enchantments were played to motivate those at work.

“But unfortunately, now the spirit of togetherness has disappeared because people have relocated and moved to cities and other places. Nobody cares about society, everyone now is thinking about himself.”

Also speaking on the development, Kabiru Waliyi (49), another resident of Wudil, wondered how good virtues were lost or abandoned within a very short period.

Waliyi said, “I wonder so many times what happened that within a very short period everything has changed. When we were kids, there was nothing like parenthood specification; everyone was a child of everyone. We were all treated equally without any biases, especially we that came from a poor backgrounds. 

“The point I’m trying to make is that life was very simple, wonderful and excited in those days because of the unity, peace and harmony among people. 

“I can remember how every rainy season we used to come together to fetch unwanted substances and clear our drains to allow water to flow. Even when there were potholes, we came together to ensure we filled up those potholes, unlike now that everyone is living a life centred on his own selfishness without any consideration for the society we live in. 

“People have changed, especially looking at the reality of matters in the country, people are trying to survive without food to eat, how can they partake in any community group activity? Even the government is not helping because most of the rich people in the community who used to help have already changed their settlements because of insecurity and so many other reasons. I think these are some of the reasons why everything has disappeared.” 

Ahmad Lawal (44) of Janbulo area of Kano Metropolis told one of our reporters that back then when he was around 15 years, some of his friends who were also his neighbours normally found time to clean gutters and clear their street and also do away with trash. 

He added that they did this whenever the street was dirty, and also when the gutters were becoming clogged.

Lawal said, “We stopped cleaning around when our numbers kept decreasing from those who relocated to new areas to those who got jobs in different towns and new neighbours moved in who mostly did not acknowledge our effort nor offered to help around. 

“However, I still clear our gutter once in a while whenever l am free.”

Hajiya Zainab Nuraddeen from Kundila area of the metropolis said she had never taken part in aikin gayya, but that she recalled some people, mostly men, clearing gutters and packing trash bags and trash lying around. 

Hajiya Zainab said, “I do not think the government knew about their effort, but as for us that lived in the areas, we normally gave them whatever we had; be it money, food, clothes, detergents and so on. 

“During those days, there were not many cases of malaria, typhoid, cholera or other illnesses due to the neat environment we created for ourselves.”

Lamenting on the decline, Adamu Hamza and Emmanuel Lukas attributed the development to laziness which they believe has eaten up youths who should be the drivers of the initiative, while noting that the elderly are also not helping matters.

Hamza said, “You see, we the youths will not like something like this nowadays; and to say the truth, the elders are not even doing anything about it.

“It is today that you will wake up and see an elderly person clearing the drainage from his house while his son is in there sleeping or doing nothing.

“Seriously, something needs to be done. The rich no longer care and the government also should do something to encourage this initiative and not to allow it to go down the line just like that.”

Speaking on the development and how the government is trying to keep the initiative alive, the Kano State Commissioner for Environment, Dr Kabiru Ibrahim Getso, said the government was doing its best to identify with communities on the issue.

Dr Getso said, “Self-help groups are indeed important to the community and environment in terms of health. At the Ministry of Environment, we have an emergency committee that oversees our monthly sanitation exercise and other functions.

“We recently held a one-week initiative called ‘Keep Kano Clean’ where we carried out the activity with these self-help groups. The government really identifies with them.”

He added that the ministry recently sat with them for the purpose of encouraging the good and historic initiative.

Dr Getso said, “Last month we sat with them because we want to empower them. We asked them to go into their communities and bring out disturbing places and let us know so that we can support them.

“Currently, we have bought shovels, wheelbarrows, fork shovels, rakes, cutlasses, hand socks, nose masks, boots and other equipment, distributed to them to aid in smooth exercises. 100 groups from Kano metropolis have already been given this equipment. 

“From our part in the government, we really identify and work hand in hand with them because we know how important they are.”

Salim Umar Ibrahim, Aina’u Adamu Bello & Usman Bello Balarabe, Kano

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