by Umaru Maina Kidaffa
The issue of religion has become what we say in Hausa “kashi a wuya” meaning “bone in the throat” to the development, unity and progress of this country. Nigeria, a diversified country across several ethnicities and 3 major religious groups is peculiar and stands out. But at this point the unity of Nigeria is at great danger than it was even during the civil war.
By now I am sure you all must have heard about the gruesome murder of Mrs. Bridget (wife of Pastor Mike Agbahime) who was an Igbo trader based in Kano. She was killed by a mob action over alleged “blasphemy” of the prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Let us look back at a little at history of a similar incident which occurred and from which someone miraculously escaped.
The year 2000, precisely 21 February–23 May was a sad season in Kaduna, a north-western Nigerian state with almost equal representation between the Christian and Muslim populations. A religious riot broke out between both faiths due to the introduction of sharia law in the state. There were about 2000 deaths recorded.
Two years later, another crisis ensued still between both faiths because of an article about the miss world pageant scheduled to be held in Abuja in which muslims took offence and that led to over 200 casualties alongside burning of worship places.
On 9th August, 2008, a mob in Kano state beat up and killed a fifty-year-old muslim man who blasphemed Mohammed (SAW). In the same year 2008 and in the same city of Kano, rioters burned the shops and vehicles of Christian merchants after one allegedly disparaged the prophet. The year 2008 also recorded the murder of a police inspector and 2 civilians in the town of Sumaila, Kano state over distribution of pamphlets which was alleged to have slandered prophet Mohammed (SAW).
February 2006 in Gombe state, Florence Chukwu, a Christian teacher, confiscated a copy of a Quran from a pupil who was reading it during an English lesson. The incident provoked rioting by muslims and led to the death of more than 20 christians and destroyed two churches.
Also on 14 July 1999, in the village of Randali in Kebbi state, a mob beheaded Abdullahi Umaru. The mob accused Umaru of blasphemy.
The list can go on but for the sake of allowing old wounds heal let us stop here. What stirs sadness inside of me is the fact that nobody was convicted in all of the above mentioned cases.
Religion is a very sensitive topic in this part of the world and everybody tries to deal with it with diplomacy and political correctness, however this is 2016 and we really need to sort out our differences and have a defined point. What are we really? A secular country, an Islamic country, a Christian nation or a multi-religious nation? There is a dire need to really answer this question properly. While countries like Tunisia and Bangladesh with majority of population practicing one faith are trying to draw a line between state and mosque, we in Nigeria as a country are trying to further complicate our already complicated issues.
It is public knowledge that Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara’s led 8th House of Representatives are considering a constitutional amendment which will grant the sharia courts jurisdiction to include QISAS and HUDUD which basically means power to try criminal cases such as blasphemy, adultery, change of faith and will attract corporal punishments such as public flogging, stoning to death and beheading. The sponsor of the bill Hon. Abdullahi Salame, representing Gwadabawa/Illela federal constituency of Sokoto state in his defence said the bill was introduced to protect Christians in the north and I seriously find that defence to be laughable. That amendment in its ordinary form is either to legalise beheading for blasphemy and the likes or to confirm the worse, subtly Islamise Nigeria.
The murder of Mrs. Bridget is happening at a time that the ethnic group she belongs to (IGBO) are clamouring for their own country (BIAFRA) and this poses a threat to the unity of this nation. The agitators of Biafra are getting more and more reasons to continue the struggle for an independent country and it is high time the responsible government of President Buhari arrest this ticking time bomb and apply all available measures in averting any separation. This will be done firstly by a public trial of all the culprits of Mrs Bridget’s murder and not a secret trial like the case of abducted child bride Ese Oruru and her alleged abductor Yunusa. This I believe will serve as a lesson to others nursing such inhuman extremism as the bible confirms “rebuke in public so others will learn and desist from evil” and in same manner the quran also encourages public punishments.
Let me state unequivocally without any form of ambiguity that the mob action against Mrs. Bridget is unislamic as this action was seen to be condemned by a wide range of muslims. In the same vein, I wish to remind my muslim friends about the life of the prophet (SAW) in the holy quran who was constantly attacked by a particular woman. The day she didn’t attack him, he asked about her and learnt she was ill and immediately paid her a visit. That act made the woman to accept Islam. Judgement is for Allah, He is the most merciful and most gracious.
In conclusion, it is long overdue that religion in our dear nation is properly defined and regulated because loss of lives on religious basis seems to be on the rise than any other factor. Governor El-Rufai’s executive bill on religious regulation should be restructured and adopted by all Nigerian states to address the lingering religious clashes. Let us imbibe unity and respect for one another’s faith as a nation, let us learn our differences and increase tolerance and accommodation towards one another. Lastly let us leave jungle justice to be a thing of the past and revert to the rule of law. LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!!!