|Samuel Onipede, Ph.D.||Sunday, November 24, 2002|
EXTREMISM AND IRRESPONSIBILITY VERSUS ISIOMA DANIEL
he events that have been taking place in Nigeria since this current administration's inception call for sober reflection and in-depth examination of our collective cohabitation. There is no government that can adequately and effectively function in the face of daily ethno-religious conflagration that threatens to consume the very existence of the foundation of that country. Nigeria as unlucky as it is either by acts of omission or commission from the former colonial power by ingenuously bringing together peoples of different cultural, religious and ideological backgrounds and coupled with display of gross intolerance and mutual hate, alongside desperate attitudes for political positions especially in the wake of the ongoing Ethnic jingoism and threats of secessions from various major Ethnic groups in the aspiration for political domination over others, it is left to be seen how Nigeria can survive it all.
To the average Nigerian who knows and understands the underlying course of these instability and almost daily unrest, the division or separation of the geographical expression called Nigeria is the ultimate solution to get off the hook of the consequences we all face as a result of the disgraceful and shameful acts of some uneducated and fanatical vagabonds otherwise called Almajiris in the North of the country, whose actions have brought us all into global focus albeit negatively as a Nation of Religious instability and Ethnic irredentism with attendant insecurity to lives and properties and which subsequently is unqualified for international investments.
Also, an average Nigerian knows that this current unrest has more to do with politics than religion. The political desperadoes currently in circulation in the country are prepared to go to any length to make rubbish of anything Obasanjo might claim, as achievements by constantly causing chaos and instability, these desperadoes are the instigators of the Almajiris who could neither read nor afford a copy of Newspaper. They are too busy trying to survive rather than spending that valuable time of survival browsing through national dailies in search of what is written on prophet Mohammed let alone Isioma Daniel's write-ups.
The exposure of the so-called offensive clause or phrase was the result of the mischief-makers who saw potential opportunities in fighting the current administration and I dare anyone to prove me otherwise. These political mischief-makers were the one responsible for mobilizing the Almajiris who in turn saw opportunities to earn few Nairas but gullible and irrational enough to have analyzed the inequality of the rewards to the potential cost to their own lives in the process. The mischief makers saw the opportunity to make money through the political desperadoes who are bent on bringing the nation to it's knee to justify their calls for government change and impeachment, thus the engine of chaos was oiled and set in motion.
Beauty pageant has been held in various developed world with success and no reports of religious uprising, Nigeria as a secular nation of various religious believes also has the right to choose to hold it on it's soil, especially when one of her own is the currently reigning miss World. Aside from the positive global attention it is capable of generating for the country, it would also have served as a great opportunity to generate the much-needed foreign exchange as well as give a big boost to our under-developed tourist industries. Nigeria would have had the chance of inclusion in the prestigious membership of the Beauty contest hosts.
At this time in the sorry history of our country, in the year 2002 AD, when technology has become the bedrock of global aspiration and when the entire world is fighting to rid the globe of terrorism and religious extremism and bigotry, our own Muslims seem to be embracing the self-destructive and shameful culture. Ironically, the culprits are the most downtrodden, the most uneducated and the most poor of the poorest Nigerian or Northern masses who have chosen to embrace violence, murder, arson and destruction as pastimes anytime the opportunity presents itself in the slightest. They go about destroying Christian churches, hacking down the innocents and creating more ghettos of their subclass communities, wrecking havocs on their poor colleagues and by extension tarnishing the more the image of the place called Nigeria.
It is hard to believe that a publication made in Lagos could be capable of causing such chaos and destructions, however one thing that continues to baffle me and probably any other mortal like me is the idea of going to the mosque to pray to God but only to come out of that holy place of worship to put on toga of Satan and start killing the innocents. I wonder if the holy book Al'Quran recommends that or if the purpose of going inside the mosque in the first place is to ask for God's blessing as they are about to go and unleash terror on his creations. Several scriptures and I believe including Al'Quran advise against taking lives of others including one's because only God (Allah) gives life and only he can take it, no one is given this prerogative of killing on behalf of God or his chosen prophets, are these holy prophets not capable of defending and fighting for themselves? If these holy prophets do not consider lives sacred and believe that decisions on individual's life is subject to God's (Allah's) wish, are they not far more capable of causing havocs that the combined world nuclear arsenals are incapable of.
In the case of Isioma Daniel whose article in the last week edition of THIS DAY has allegedly been generating much heat that has resulted into the cancellation of the World Beauty Pageant in Nigeria and relocation to London and the way the Federal government has been handling this unfortunate situation leave much to be desired. This case shows clearly how our leaders attach much more importance to their selfish political interests than the constitutional rights of their citizens. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria adequately and unequivocally guarantees freedom of speech, association, ownership, and freedom to life. Isioma by writing what she wrote exercised her constitutional right to free speech, I understand that though free speech may be curtailed and not cross over to slander, this article to me does not constitute slander in any way and it is the duty of any responsible government to have called these fanatics to order and deal with them decisively as earlier promised alongside their ignoble sponsors.
It is most irresponsible of this administration to have condemned Isioma Daniel and especially showed such greater irresponsibility and witlessness by ordering the arrest of This Day's Editor after all we are supposedly in a democracy. Where the government should have concentrated its efforts is the Islamic clerics and Ulamas who as sermon preach violence, intolerance and extremism as the only direct route to Aljannu (Paradise). These Clerics are the real culprits and the roots of instability in Nigeria, they are the ones who direct their followers to go and wreck havocs in the name of Allah chanting Allah Akbar. They are the ones the government and its agents should have put under arrests and set up a monitoring teams in each mosque every Friday to monitor their sermons and promptly rounded-up whenever they digress in such sermons.
The position of the Federal government in this matter shows weakness and poor civil-unrest management ability. It shows the administration incapability to control its subjects and displays insensitivity in defending the constitutional rights of the citizens. Although the coming election could have been a factor here in the government position but the resultant effect of Isioma Daniel's official condemnation is the escalation of the violence and it's spread to the nation's capital, Abuja and the subsequent movement of the pageant to London. This relocation to London is the direct result of the government's poor handling of this crisis and London happens to be the beneficiary of our ineffective policies and misplaced priorities. If the administration had clamped down promptly on these war mongers and showed who really is in control, it would not have degenerated to such level that showed insecurity to the lives of the contestants of the pageant and it's resultant relocation to another country.
Another factor here is that Isioma Daniel is a woman and the contestants of the Miss World Beauty Pageant are all women, She could as well be a Feminist who saw the opportunity to accentuate the positive virtues of her gender and to which she has the right by virtue of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Nation Charter on Human Rights, both which guarantee freedom of expression. Isioma Daniel expressed herself the best way she knew and should not be crossed on what she thought is her right. I like any right thinking human being am sure she did not deliberately mean to be blasphemous, in fact she would not have contemplated the heat being currently generated by her seemingly innocent article. We should rather all learn to be tolerant and peace loving. Religions emphasize this much, tolerance and sense of forgiveness is the bedrock of most faiths, only that we choose to take laws into our hands in the name of religions especially when these faiths are imported and not our own formations. Why should we then resort to kill one another because of adopted faiths, I fail to see any sense in this.
Having said all these, I will now like to focus on the desirability of the current setup without resorting to the popular campaign for the convocation of the Sovereign Conference, where we should all sit down and review how and under what conditions we should co-habit and if we cannot co-habit go our separate ways without necessarily resorting to war. If Miss World Pageant is held or scheduled to be held in the nation's capital and some states in the South, why should some fanatics start to kill and burn in Kaduna and Abuja? Why should some people want to impose their wills and religious faiths on the others without their wills, why should we all continue to suffer setbacks as a result of some fanatics and extremists, why should some Ulamas from the North continue to pull us all back. If they choose to remain the way of Sudan and Somali, why can't the rest of us have the choice to go the way we choose to? Why should we have to continue to endure these senseless and disgraceful acts of barbarism and crudity? Isioma Daniel's article just happened to be the most needed excuse. It is not directly responsible for these senseless shows of shame. They succeeded in getting the pageant out of Nigeria, shame on them and all who sponsor them!! I regret coming from the same country as these primitive and crude Muhajideens and the administration's handling of the whole thing does not make me any more proud as a citizen of this cursed country.
President Obasanjo will live his remaining life regretting his failure to allow the popular opinion to prevail by disallowing the convocation of Sovereign National Conference, posterity will not readily forgive him, especially if his calculation of coming back for second term fails and another Northern Muslim comes in and instead of convening this conference chooses to consolidate Nigerian's membership in the OIC, my generation will not forgive Obasanjo for failing us and jeopardizing our future the more, the founding fathers will not forgive Obasanjo for his shortsightedness and political greediness if he continues to disregard this voice of wisdom by choosing the path of perdition to path of national survival in the name of political and electoral consideration. God will not take it lightly on the president if he denies us the opportunity to free ourselves from the shackles of the feudalists that have made us immobile progressively and developmentally.
I therefore use this opportunity to call on the president and the members of the National Assembly to cast aside for once their selfish political and monetary considerations by allowing for the debate of Sovereign National Conference and allow for it's successful passage and convocation. This is the only way we can wriggle free of our current political, economic and religious jams, this is the only way to economic freedom and prosperity, this is the only way we can achieve positive international respect and this is the way we can all reach our full potentials via self-sustenance as oppose to dependence on oil which only breeds greed and laziness, this is the way we can bring the best out of us all as it will trigger competition nationwide among various regions, this is the only way we can reduce and eventually eradicate political violence and do-or-die attitudes for political offices, this is the only way we can reach the height we are all aiming towards individually as regions. The failure to acquiesce to this wise counsel will be tantamount to self-destruction, continuous bondage of the people of Nigeria and continuous servitude of the poor masses. I rest my case!