“Ayaga” as he is commonly called, is a popular beggar in Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto. He hails from a village called, “Angwa le le mai daji” a hamlet in the local government area of Wamakko, Sokoto State. His age is unknown for his health condition deprives him of successful speech/growth but looks to be in his teenage. His style of begging has rubbed off so much on students of UDUS, that he has become a somewhat celebrity. He is always found within the University not minding the distance between his home and her, Emelife Uc reports.

Ayaga in his usual way of greeting students.

Mubarak Kasimu otherwise known as “Ayaga” – an eponym he earned for a speech defect he suffers, limiting him to the capability of uttering only three sounds, /a/, /ja/ and /ga/ is a child beggar in Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto.

He is distinct for his begging style which characterizes an almost unrelenting plea for assistance from students. He trails them with his bent left arm outstretched, and while at it screams, ‘ayaga’ at the top of his voice as if to say, “Whatever your reason be, you must help”, this however is welcomed sometimes by a positive reception from students of UDUS and other times, a hostile one.

Ayaga’s home: Angwa lele mai daji lies behind Dundaye, the village that hosts Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto and is quite a distance from the University, but he somehow manages to be in school everyday, and would still manage to return home.

In a conversation with a child hawker within the premises of the school or yaro/yarinya as they’re generally called in UDUS, who simply gave her name as Rafiyatu, she expressed her wonder as to how Mubarak manages to be in school at all times not minding the distance. In her words:

“Ayaga lives in Angwa lele mai daji. A far away village from the school. But every evening, I see him leave the school, and see him again the following Morning.” She narrated in thick Hausa.

Rafiyatu went further to say that she has on few occasions though seen bike men take him home.

“I’ve seen him on a bike once or twice. But most the time, he walks.”

Mubarak Kasimu has also been seen by students of Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto taking the school’s bus, sometimes heading out of the University, other times into.

Chukwukaodinaka Esther Onyinye, a 200l student of Pharmacy, who has once taken a bus into the University with Mubarak, shared that she was shocked the Afternoon she turned and found him sitting right behind her, quiet and peaceful.

“The people who sat beside me kept laughing and looking backwards. So I turned to see what was so funny, and found Ayaga instead. I was shocked. He was looking so calm and peaceful.”

She went on to relay that if not for his facial features and reputation, he could’ve been easily mistaken for a student.

“One would’ve thought him a student too, but of course his reputation precedes him. Then there is the drool and all those other things.” She relayed.

Another student who requested to be tagged anonymous, told this reporter that he has once shared a bus ride with Ayaga, and even went ahead to pay for him.

This student got into the bus first and sat at the left end of the back seat, closest to the window. Ayaga was right behind him limping to the seat he had left vacant and no one seemed to have cared, save for some students whose faces had the same surprise look his had, but he didn’t want to pass as judgemental, he shared, so he restored his looks back to a normal one. Ayaga limped all the way to the back, to where he sat and peered at him till he shifted, then he sat, uttered those discordant sounds of his to his face, like an attempt to say ‘Thank you!’ and when the conductor came to the student demanding for his fare, he paid for his and Ayaga’s.

“I don’t know why, but I just did.” He explained.

While students do not really know what he does in town, Musa – another child hawker who hawks groundnuts, posits that Ayaga extends his begging beyond the walls of the University.

“Ayaga begs everywhere. In school, out of school, in his village, everywhere. Sometimes I wonder how he does it.”

This belief is backed up by the testimony of Gabriel Ochiba, a 300l student of Zoology, UDUS whose shock could not be overemphasized when he saw Ayaga begging right outside his house at Magama Hudu Area of Sokoto State.

“I was with a couple of friends in my area, when we heard the farmiliar sounds Ayaga makes. I turned to see who it was, and there he was standing with that plate of his. He even recognized me and approached to give me a handshake. And this was past 7 in the evening.”

What is most shocking about Ayaga’s character and inspires a great wonder, is how he copes with walking the nook and cranny of the University, not minding his health condition.


Ayaga seeking for alms in a lecture hall.

Ayaga exhibits symptoms of a nuerological disorder called, “Cerebral palsy.” According to medical statistics, Cerebral palsy or simply ‘CP’ is a common neurological disorder with over 100 thousand cases per year in Nigeria. Ages affected by CP are from 0-40.

It is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.

Mr Kenechukwu Che Ibeneme, a psychologist defines it as, “A motor disorder of the brain that causes impairment in walking, speech and all other areas of psychomotor functioning – eye-mus­cle coordination, e.t.c.”

“One diagnosed with cerebral palsy may drool (expel saliva from the mouth) too.” He added.

Yusuf Ayama, a 400l student of Medicine Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto who has a keen interest in neurosurgery and an adept knowledge as well, in conversation with this reporter narrowed down physical features of Ayaga to symptoms of this neurological disorder. Features like his baring teeth, bloated lips and drool expulsion he tagged an upper motor neurone lesion (cranial nerves), his bent left toe that causes him to limp – a spinal cord compression or injury. Other features like his speech defect and lack of muscle coordination, he tagged ataxia. Extended readings prove that cerebral palsy is one of the major causes of ataxia.

Yusuf Ayama further added that for a proper diagnosis to be made, the patient (Ayaga) has to be examined by a neurosurgeon.

“I can’t say exactly what is wrong with him. But from what you’ve described, those are the symptoms of a neurological disorder, thus for a proper diagnosis, the patient has to be examined by a neurosurgeon.” Yusuf Ayama, 400l Medicine.

In a bid to arrive at a near diagnosis, this reporter also reached out to Kenechukwu Che Ibeneme, a B.Sc holder in Psychology. It is he who posits that from the symptoms mentioned and markings on the photos of Ayaga shared with him, that Cerebral Palsy is the closest educated guess (hypothesis). He however added that since Ayaga can move on his own without a wheelchair or support, it is a mild form.

“Since he doesn’t require carrying around, and isn’t in a wheelchair, I’d say it’s a mild form of cerebral palsy.”


Cerebral Palsy is caused by a damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth. Cerebral Palsy is not heritable. It could result from complications at, or prior to, childbirth. According to Mr. Kenechukwu Che Ibeneme, brain injuries after birth seldom leads to it, and therefore makes it congenital.

“Brain injury caused after birth rarely leads to this kind of disability, so it’s probably congenital (from birth).” He explained.

He went on to say that the mother of the patient’s lifestyle could also be a contributing factor. And CP just like its sister disorder: Down syndrome does not have a direct explanation as to the exact cause(s). In his words:

“The mother’s lifestyle could be a contributing factor, and accidents and certain medications (possibly) could lead to it. The events that culminate in cerebral palsy are not completely understood. In Down syndrome, for example, inexplicable occurrences happen when an extra 21st chromosome is produced, resulting in 47 instead of 46 chromosomes. Which is to say that abnormalities like these, do not have exact explanations as to why they occur.” He explained.


Cerebral Palsy like most neurological disorders has no cure. It can only be managed. Kenechukwu Che Ibeneme sheds more light on how that can be done:

“First, they need daily care and assistance. They may not be able to feed themselves and/or perform other self-keeping practices properly, and as such requires assistance. Sharp objects or anything that could cause injury should be kept far away from them for obvious reasons.”

He concluded by adding that Cerebral Palsy is not degenerative.

“Cerebral Palsy doesn’t worsen. It is not degenerative.  It can last for an entire lifetime. If you have noticed marked changes in the disability then it is not cerebral palsy.”


Before this compilation, a survey of some students of Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto opinions on Ayaga’s medical condition was carried out, and most the feedback gotten by this reporter credited mental retardation or what is now called intellectual disability.

However, this is what WebMD – a Medical blog – has to say about intellectual disability.

“A child is considered intellectually disabled if he or she has deficits in both IQ and adaptive behaviors. If only one or the other is present, the child is not considered intellectually disabled.”

Adaptive behavior refers to behavior that enables a person (usually used in the context of children) to get along in his or her environment with relative success
and least conflict with others.

While Ayaga may arguably have deficits in his intellectual functioning (IQ) for obvious reasons, his adaptive behavior can be said to be second to none. He has not only endured the pain that comes from his deformity, but has invested in it and made it a business strategy.

Moreover, patients of Cerebral Palsy are often times mistaken for intellectual disables because of how funny they sometimes act, credit to their lack of absolute control over their facial and limb muscles.
Kenechukwu Che Ibeneme puts it this way:
“He probably acts funny because he lacks control over his facial muscles and limb muscles, resulting in contorted movements.”

Students of UDUS and Ayaga, Friends? Or Foes?

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