|Barr. Olajide Sonny Onasanya||Friday, November 29, 2002|
MISS WORLD CONTEST, THE AFTERMATH AND NIGERIA
his must not go without a comment of some sort focusing on the implications of the intention to stage the contest in Nigeria, the build -up to it, the riots, the cancellation of the contest in Nigeria and its aftermath effect for all parties concerned.
Miss World Contest-In Nigeria
Nigeria won the last Contest via Darego and as such by normal practice the winner is billed to host the next contest. Nigeria duly accepted to host the contest accordingly. Some have argued that the fact that Nigeria won the contest does not mean we area capable of holding it or is it mandatory that it should(Bola Tinubu).
My point here is: If you are not going to be committed to something as country, do not take it on. And if you are committed to it, there must be evidence as such by all parasatals of the Government since the competition is carried out in the country's name regardless of the sponsors. At the meeting accepting to host the contest, those concerned should have considered the implications of the size of the contest and the benefits of holding it weighed against the benefits of not holding it. In deciding to accept to hold it, they should have considered from the onset the appropriate venue in line with the present circumstances in relation to the Sharia law, its connection to the contest and the environment in which it is being practiced. They should have also considered what it means to Nigerians, its relevance as a whole and the benefits therein in line with the present situation in Nigeria.
My question therefore is was Nigeria ready to host a contest of that latitude? Let us together consider whether we are?: Is a country where its highest population are uneducated and live in poverty ready? Is a country where corruption is out of control ready? Is a country where there are several fundamental and basic political and religious issues to attend to ready? Is a country where everything to do with the contest had to be flown in ready? Is a country where the development/un-development of a country can be determined by a provincial and illiterate group who believe that only violence can get them their way ready? Is a country where its youth can and are ready to vent their hate and poverty ready? Is a country with chronic unemployment and imbalance in the distribution of wealth ready? Is a country that is so barbaric that they purport to stone adulterers to death ready? Is a country that needs to seek out how they intend to live together ready?. I will leave you to answer......
Suddenly, the Sharia situation in Nigeria in relation to Amina Lawal's conviction by a Sharia court and the sentencing of the same by stoning was tied into the contest when some participants decided to boycott the competition in protest with the Sharia judgement and in the process condemning the Islamic principles and indeed the religion for its action etc.
My point here is: the build-up had shown an element of negativity with the organisers being warned with threats and petitions not to hold the contest in Nigeria. This threats came as a result of Muslims cherished ideals being rubbished internationally since the beauty pageant condemned deeply held religious issues over Sharia Law and the Amina Lawal saga. Had they reacted to this positively by avoiding the venue many lives would have been saved. In fact the contest should not have been linked to the Amina Lawal Saga and its related Sharia law implications in the first place. They should have kept out of it completely!!!
The press from both the international community and the Local community had a field day reporting all the related boycotts and continued denouncing the Islamic principles therein. This carried on up to the time the contestants arrived and eventually up to when "This day magazine" made its analogy mentioning the prophet Mohammed in an opinion related article by one of its writers. This Statement was then circulated among the Muslim community..
My Point here is: there is what is called freedom of speech guaranteed by the Human right convention and enshrined in the Nigerian constitution and basically flourishes better under a democratic setting that some Nigerians are not used to. Also that a report in a newspaper will always spark up riots or warrant the death sentence of a writer is a notion to be eradicated. Further I see no serious problem in someone making an insensitive comment about a religion and a prophet and then realising the mistake and apologising not once but twice. An article was printed in the papers attacking a particular attitude of the Muslims in Nigeria towards the beauty contest etc the retaliation if any should come in the same form and fight backs should be with words not guns and cutlasses!. Using Journalism (irresponsible journalism as they claim) as the sole reason for the riots is a fallacy, since the article was merely the spark that exploded the resentment created by the attitudes of the contestants to the Sharia judgement on Amina Lawal. There was no way the Muslim fanatics would let it go unchallenged, they needed a face saving solution and freedom of speech/journalism/journalists were the scapegoats.
The Moslems reaction to the circulated statement was violence against Christians in Kaduna and the burning of the This day office in the same vicinity, with killings of several innocent people.
My point here: Islamic religion is preached as that of peace and tolerance, what happened? Tolerance of varying religious beliefs should be both ways. Why shouldn't non-Muslims have the right to do things during Ramadan, no one is forcing the Muslims to attend Miss world competition, they need not even talk about it. Further how does one justify these barbaric killings by the radical Muslims in Kaduna during Ramadan period? Further, whilst the world's major religion might have had a bloody past, they have for most part stopped acting as if they were still in the Middle Ages. Any religion that preaches violence and is non- accommodating to the views of others is not fit to be called a religion. Pray tell, is there any form of western activity or thought that does not cause "affront" to Muslims? Religion is personal and if you judge someone else's action to be impious then you may consciously refrain from taking part.
The Nigerian Security Agencies (The Police.. etc)
The demonstrators from my contacts had a field day without immediate and substantial intervention by the police. In fact the police had been warned by various new papers or by all indications were in the know-how that some sort of violent reaction might follow after the Jumat prayers in Abuja . There is no evidence to date that a police re-enforcement to these sensitive sites were ordered to accommodate such possibility. The rioters therefore hit the streets set for criminal activities including murder, knowing that the possibility that they would get away with it was on the high side and that could be said about the general culture today in Nigeria of criminals or potential criminals......"the fact that they are more likely to get away with committing any crime anywhere in Nigeria"...is the norm.
Miss World contest Cancellation:
The contest was then cancelled in Nigeria due to the violence that erupted and which tied the cause to the contest been held in Nigeria and the statement by This day.
My point here : While it might have not been wise to choose Nigeria, the organisers should have stuck by it and find means of managing the situation. In the first place the part of Nigeria where the riot is being staged is an historic hotspot for such activity, it does not reflect the entire sentiment and emotion of the Nigerian people. Moving the contest out of Nigeria might have a short-run benefit but its over weighed by its long term irreparable damage to both Nigeria and the contest/its organisers as a whole especially in line with numerous call for the competition to be scrapped totally as it is seen to have outlived its value and glamour.
Further, Nigeria is a secular country and I do not think one religion should dictate what happens in the country, violent Islamic people in Nigeria need to understand that there are other people on this planet who do not necessarily have the same beliefs as them and that if anybody offends them in anyway violence is not the answer. And that they should understand that the whole world cannot go by their rule.
It is not the obligation of one religious group to police those around them. Thus, the uneducated religious fanatics acting in a violent manner is bad enough but the educated religious fanatic defending such ignorant action is disgraceful. Giving in to their demands in this manner(By leaving and the slightest opportunity) is tantamount to appeasement and if history serves me right it is not a long term solution to our religious problems or any problem for that matter where a group of terrorist are appeased. Above all on the part of the organisers and the West as a whole, their sudden cancellation and move to London can be questioned as some already opined that they were never happy to see the contest held in Nigeria and jumped at any excuse to leave. Well, here in London they cannot find a venue to hold the contest!!!
In conclusion, the riots are systematic of a deeper tension within Nigeria rather than one based solely on the beauty contest. The continued ongoing many monetary scams is reflective of a country whose political and social structures are meeting the needs of a few but selected elites. Further some Northern Muslim radicals and enemies of progress and survival of democracy in Nigeria are using the pageant and comments of a journalist to slaughter innocent people set up to achieve their own hidden agenda.
To the President of Nigeria and his team, all that flying around in the name of improving the Nigerian image has yielded no visible returns as the whole world both the ones visited and not visited by your honourable selves has seen Nigeria for what we really are. It shows there is no gain in the long run to travel around world leaving behind an unorganised country, full with uneducated indigenes, religious fanatics, corrupt Govt officials from the top downward not forgetting the Anyim's and N'abba's and expect wonders when you invite visitors of such calibre involving the whole world to fit in place amongst these hoodlums.
It also shows that the so called corrupt elites and leaders who think they can amass all this money illegally and expect total tranquillity when spending and showing-off in the same environment with the deprived have another thing coming....it's only a matter of time before these hoodlums catch up with them, only this time we might call it a necessary revolution to purge the entire Nigerian society of their type.......
The Nigerian Government and its people need to bring corruption under control (By purging itself of all these corrupt Govt officials by any means necessary) and re-direct spending(from the hands of these embezzlers, corrupt Govt officials, 419's etc) towards educating the entire country.
With Education and opportunity to work their way out of poverty people will see that there are better ways to improve their lives than turning into religious fanaticism and its resulting violence. Those religious leaders that prey on the vulnerable due to their naivete and lack of good education and incite them directly or indirectly to turn to violence for their own political gains or whatever should be de-frocked and jailed.
I end by saying may the almighty comfort the bereaved and bring healing to the hurt and wisdom to those charged with the responsibility (either by accident or design) of leading the country. In close I would say by way of encouragement that all is not lost but its time for some home truth and time for nation building with limited interference from the so called international community and the Red cross who had no business but to report all the down side of the events in Nigeria whilst the Red cross with nothing better to do spent its time counting dead bodies!!!