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The wise Mallam

by Kazeem Olalekan

On this Passion Sunday, we are reminded what happens in 2 weeks – who could forget. And so my mind drifts to a post I made on the old version of the website on 26/01/2012 – over 5 years ago – titled: The wise Mallam. The content was valid then as it today, so I will re-post the blog here.

The Wise Mallam

If you see a snake just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes. – Ross Perot

The above has always been my mantra for as long as I could remember until I met this wise Mallam. In Nigeria, where I grew up, you see a snake; you kill it. No questions asked. So when we were in secondary school and on the farm (as was mandated by our then principal – Mr Oluyemi, God bless him); if someone shouts snake, everyone else stops whatever they were doing, get their cutlasses and run to the scene. The aim is clear: the snake must die! More often than not, the snake does.

My encounter with a snake and the response of this wise Mallam is the subject of this blog. I have pondered for a long time what this encounter meant but I feel I now know, as far as I can tell anyway. It happened when I was just about 9 or 10 years of age (give or take a few years):

I grew up in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State and we had just moved to my father’s newly built house in Oke Lantoro. At the time, the house was surrounded by ‘forest’ because the area was still relatively under-developed. Our new house was in a gated compound in the middle of no where, surrounded by overgrown herbage and trees. Because he owned the piece of land at the back of the house, he built a 4 bedroom boy’s quarters (- a common name we used to describe these buildings – something like this although not as posh!). This served as residents for builders during the construction of the house but when the house was completed housed the Mallam who lead the security team that looked after the house at night. Every house of this size had security of that nature – More of a deterrent from opportunistic thieves. We all know that real security is not something you can pay for. Nevertheless, this was a valuable way to employ the nomadic Mallams from the north of Nigeria.

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