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E O EkeMonday, February 17, 2014
eoeke@aol.com


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WHY SOME RELIGIOUS LEADERS ARE DANGEROUS TO SECULAR DEMOCRACIES

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once again have reason to raise concerns about the utterances and conduct of some religious leaders in Nigeria. Few months ago, I raised concern about the utterances of Sheik Gumi and I am afraid, once more, I have reasons to do it again. This is not because I have anything personally against Sheik Gumi. I have never met him and do not care very much what he believes and teach as long they are not being used to pursue sectarian Islamic agenda for Nigeria, undermine the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians and emergence of viable secular democracy in the country. I am concerned because I have seen the long term effects of such comments in the attitude of followers and the country they inhabit. It was exactly the way Ayatollah Khomeini started. They start as religious leaders, but deep down, they are men who want political power to rule in a theocracy, which is why they are dangerous to democracy, individual liberty, tolerance, diversity and equality.

In one of his latest interview to a Sahara reporter after Obasanjo published his letter to President Jonathan, Sheik Gumi made some comments which deserve further scrutiny. I do not believe in the veneration of men who ascribe to themselves more knowledge and understand of metaphysical concepts and the transidence, for the simple reason that such men do not encourage reason and independent thought, which are the foundations of enlightenment.

According to Sheik Gumi, there was corruption during Obasanjo’s time and there is corruption in Jonathan’s time, but Obasanjo was not doing corruption to divide Nigeria. He, Obasanjo, was doing corruption help himself and his friend’. This is how he differentiated Obasanjo from Jonathan and justified his support of Obasanjo. He is a cleric who looked at two corrupt leaders who have impoverished their country and justified one because of what he thinks is the motive for their crime. The question, which Sheik Gumi provided answer is, when is corruption not corruption, and according to the sheik, it is when a leader is doing it to help himself and his friends. This comment gives insight into the minds of those who occupy respectable positions in Nigeria and why nothing seems to work in Nigeria.

How can a cleric who believes that a leader who stole state fund to build a Mosque, church or better the lots of his friends is not really bad, condemn such a leader and support the attempt to bring him to justice? It is minds like this that keep Nigerian ignorant, corrupt, intolerant and religiously and ethnically prejudiced. How can any objective minded and sincere person look at Obasanjo and Jonathan and make such comment, if not that he believes that Obasanjo would enable him achieve his hidden objectives. How can anyone look at the two and even think Obasanjo is better than Jonathan. How can worse be better than bad? Of course this is what happens when people are biased and blinded by selfish agenda.

The pious sheik added, ‘Nobody will rule us again with rigged election’, a warning that if Jonathan wins again, that there will be more trouble. He has also declared that northern Nigeria Christians are no fit to be president of Nigeria and he would prefer a Yoruba Muslim. Step by step, men like Sheik Gumi, are making religion a very important part of Nigerian politics and by so doing, deepening the sectarian divide that will make continued existence of Nigeria as a united country impossible. I remember similar threats being made before the last election and true to type; Nigeria has been ungovernable to a considerable extent. This is why such utterances should be taken seriously. These are men who can easily find religious justification for the annihilation of others because of religious differences in the same way they rationalise and justify corruption of those they believe are on their side. Their understanding of God is mixed with a strong justification for violence, inequality, and intolerance of differences. They justify with their religion anything they believe is the best interest of their religion or ethnic group. They seek a homogenous state where all are compelled to do whatever they believe is the will of God and arrogate to themselves the right to punish those who they deem are breaking the law of god. This is what makes such men dangerous. Their follower do not see them as dangerous men but as men of God who wants all to obey God, oblivious of the fact that they are men who must have their way for lasting peace to reign. We cannot continue to treat such men and what they represent with kids gloves. They pronounce death to those who oppose them and should be held accountable for their comments.

These are the people who shape the thinking of majority of Muslims in Nigeria. Many like him in the north seem to be posturing against Jonathan running in 2015. The tactics is to intimidate Jonathan not to run in 2015 so that a northerner Muslim Yoruba Muslim can once again occupy their ‘rightful’ place. This is evidence of the arrogance with which some people continue to approach the Nigerian union and this can only lead to the breakup of the union if it continues. I did not support Jonathan because I did not think he was the best candidate at the time of the election. I do not think that he has done very well, especially regarding addressing corruption in Nigeria and dealing with religious extremism and insecurity. However, he is not worse than Obasanjo, if the truth must be told. He has been far less authoritarian than Obasanjo and in democratic dividends that amounts to much. I cannot compare Jonathan’s corruption with that of Obasanjo, as I am not preview to the facts.

However, with the gang up against him and the utterances of people like Sheik Gumi, many people who would have never supported Jonathan may begin to be sympathetic to his position and further dividing Nigeria along ethnic and religious fault lines. In fact, the more people like Sheik Gumi attack Jonathan and support Obasanjo, the more Christians and southerners who do not support Jonathan are more likely to support him because of the sectarian gang up against him. People like Sheik Gumi can only succeed in hasting the breakup of Nigeria along sectarian lines, if they do not stop their selfish and divisive politics.

Many people may now support Jonathan, if he is ready to address the issue of corruption, security and crime rates, cost of government, health for all Nigerians, mass education for all, clean pipe borne water for all, and good housing for all. It is clear to intelligent Nigerians that Obasanjo is on an errand for the north to return help return power to them and that he has been recruited to do a hatchet job. He may also have a need to return to the good books of the north, after the fiasco of Umaru Yar Ardu and the emergence of Jonathan. It is therefore not surprising that the good Sheik who had in the past condemned Obasanjo’s corruption, is now seeking to excuse it to focus the attention on their common enemy. This is reckless sectarian politics and it can only lead to disintegration of Nigeria if carried out to its logical conclusion.

In the words of the Kaduna-based cleric, Mr Obasanjo has washed his hands off innocent blood, by speaking up against the lapses of the incumbent government’. In order to ensure the removal of Jonathan, he is prepared to arrogate to himself, the right and power to forgive Obasanjo the sins that stained his hands red. This is the logic of those who provide guidance to a significant proportion of northerners and Muslims in Nigeria. How can any reasonable person make such illogical statement? How can a man wash his hands of innocent blood by saying that he is better than another person who has done some of the things he did? It is such irrational utterance by religious and ethnic leaders that confuse and radicalise gullible young people, who see in suicide bombing and terrorist atrocities a way to ‘paradise’. Who is Sheik Gumi to absolve Obasanjo of the innocent blood he claims he has in his hands? This is simply mind bugling. I almost give up on Nigeria.

Obasanjo alleged that Jonathan’s government is masterminding terrorist activities carried out by Boko Haran and Nigeria continues to wonder those behind this murderous religious extremist terrorist group. Nigerians should open their eyes and see that Boko Haram is operating exactly like the Taliban. It has clerics who claim to be moderate, but who actually support them and hope that they will win and introduce Islamic state. Nigeria will be fighting an intractable religious war for years, unless it builds a non- religious and none ethnic multi ethic secular democracy. The attempt by religious extremists to impose Islam on the whole country will be the last straw. Maybe, it is time for Nigerian to consider seriously the option of the south and north going their separate ways, so that those who are drunk on Islam can establish their Islamic paradise in north Nigeria, while the rest of Nigeria live their lives in peace and prepare to end in hell. I think people should be allowed to go to hell, if they have chosen to and no one has any right to drag them to heaven or kill them

It is this type of rationalisation of evil that is destroying Nigeria. Sheik Gumi declared that because of Obasanjo’s letter, which has not been substantiated that he has forgiven Obasanjo. What an errant ignorant nonsense. Nigerians should embrace knowledge to understand how men like Gummi shape the society by their utterances and biased assessment of events. I expect that Sheik Gumi should know better that an allegation is an allegation, until proven and that the accused should be given opportunity to defend themselves against the evidence of the person accusing them. I thought this is part of Islamic juripondence, which he claims to subscribe. Maybe it does not apply if the accused is an infidel.

Nigerians in positions of responsibilities are playing dangerous politics with the future of the country and I am shouting myself hoarse and it seems no one is listening. North Nigeria has an Islamic agenda for Nigeria and its foot soldiers Boko Haram believes that the - "Qur'an is Above Nigerian Constitution". Their spokesman has said in Hausa language program that “the country would not have peace until there is 100 per cent implementation of Sharia law in the country as enshrined in the holy Quran as well as immediate release of all our members who were detained and in the custody of security agencies for no just cause”. They have also said to the federal government of Nigeria that they want total Sharia or no peace in Nigeria. and many people are still asking what the government should do . How can one negotiate with those who must have their way or death? Who can share a country with such people? All these threats were made in Hausa language.

From the WikiLeaks cable in which the Buhari team told American Embassy officials that they had no confidence in the Northern Traditional rulers in general, while naming the Sultan of Sokoto and the emir of Kano specifically as people who had tried to corrupt the judiciary, we know that of all northern leaders, Buhari is the closest to Boko Haram and they respect him.

Their aim is an Islamic republic and they intervene in the national politics anytime they think it will help them achieve their aim. It is no secret that the hard core Islamic sect of which Sheik Gumi is one, do not accept the rule of any other person except someone who is Muslim and that they only endure such leadership until they can change it. No one can share a country with people like this. Maybe, it is time for Nigeria to think of braking up Nigeria in peace so that the likes of Sheik Gumi can have their Islamic republic and stop killing and shedding innocent blood in and propagating hatred of other in the name of a loving God.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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