|Abel Alalade||Tuesday, November 26, 2002|
New York, NY, USA
NIGERIA: THE UNRULY NATION
have to admit it; writing about Nigeria and events in the country has been quite frustrating and uninspiring due to the numerous unspeakable anomalies and unsavory incidents being reported daily about the country, her unruly citizens, and the key political players. The motivation to contribute to many ongoing dialogues on Nigeria has been virtually non-existent for me in recent weeks. In all honesty, Nigeria is on the brink of an inevitable disintegration, and frankly speaking, that is what I think will solve the numerous problems that have plagued it and rendered it a land of no tomorrow. My prayer though is to see a change for the better in my homeland. So, although still frustrated, my determination to contribute my quota towards the enthronement of justice, tolerance and honesty in Nigeria has given me the boost I desperately needed to sit in front of my computer screen, and once again, voice my opinion about the happenings in Nigeria.
A couple of weeks ago, it was an American friend of mine who called me over the telephone to inform me of a piece of news item he stumbled upon while perusing the Nigerian World web address I introduced to him a while back. You see, this friend of mine, even though an American, has developed a keen interest in Nigerian matters. He even plans to travel to Nigeria with me when next I visit, so he frequents sites on the Internet that carry African news, especially, news about Nigeria. My friend informed me of the latest scandals rocking the legislative arm of government in Nigeria, especially the Senate and House of Reps. He found it hard to comprehend, in his wildest imagination, that the situation in Nigeria has actually degenerated to the magnitude of the allegations and counter-allegations of bribery and corruption being labeled against the principal characters in the upper and lower chambers of the Nigerian Congress.
While I took no pride in doing so, there was no other way to explain it to a non-Nigerian than to cover my face and wish I never had to tell him like I did, but I had to calm my friend down. So, I informed him that in our part of the world, nothing is impossible, and that, indeed, what he read on the Internet was actually just a tip of the iceberg, considering what actually transpires within the political class in Nigeria. I further prepared him to expect more shocking revelations of alarming proportions to surface more often as times go on, especially as election year draws closer, since every single player in the current dispensation is gunning for re-election, and is prepared to do everything the Nigerian way to retain their plum offices in 2003.
I was just ruminating on whether to squeeze some time out of my busy schedule to write about the disgraceful acts of our politicians when the Miss World pageant riots of the past week caught my attention. Then I wondered; what is wrong with this nation called Nigeria? Is this nation cursed or what? Why, instead of looking for ways out of the impasse the nation has drifted, and waking out the comatose state its economy has slipped, the heartless fanatics and murderers in the North keep damaging without repairs, whatever fragile reputation that still remains for Nigeria and Nigerians in the eye of the world? Why do these people really belong in the same country with the rest of us? Why can't we just go our separate ways and let whoever wants to practice Sharia Laws to the letters, without any interference from the 'unbelievers' or 'infidels' (like they like to call non-Muslims) practice their Sharia to the fullest? Why can't the lame-duck National Assembly members that were sent to Abuja to lead Nigeria see any sense in the rational and justifiable calls for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference at this critical juncture to allow the parties with stakes in the Nigerian nation to discuss the future of the nation? How can we ever trust this corrupt, inept, and visionless group of people that populate the Senate and House of Reps to lead Nigeria aright when all they do in Abuja is steal money in broad daylight? How can Nigeria survive when religious hate and intolerance is allowed to fly high?
While many might not realize it yet, what happened with the aborted Miss World Pageant is an indication of how successful these fanatics from the North have been in broadcasting to the rest of the world that Nigeria is, indeed, an Islamic nation. As we were just recovering from the shame brought on Nigeria by the widely watched exposť done on Amina Lawal and the other victims of the Nigerian Sharia Courts by Oprah Winfrey the other time, then there came the Miss World carnage in the North. Once again, the world's attention was called to Nigeria, and millions more saw Nigeria in its crudest and cruelest, but real state. The abandoned streets of an already terribly impoverished city of Kaduna were brought into the world's leaving rooms to see and judge with the utmost sense of indignation. Everywhere the newsmen's camera covered looked like places inhabited by lunatics confined into a dungeon for ages. Yet, the ruins and decays that we call one of our major cities (which need to be nurtured and patched so it would eventually turn to things of value from which life can regenerate, like it is inclined to do if all hope is not lost), were rendered even more desolate by the barbaric acts of some lunatics among us in our society. Things have degenerated into such a state of delirium in Nigeria such that, as people are still struggling to make ends meet, what remains things of hope and beauty in their midst, such as churches and successful businesses that serve their everyday needs, are the things they target for destruction, whenever the killer instincts inside the screwed-up heads of the fanatics spark.
I used to wonder what has gone wrong with Nigeria that has rendered the country so primitive and backward moving. Now I know a whole lot is wrong, and that this is just a precursor to many more things to come into the open any moment from now. The problem with the actions of the Islamic fundamentalists in the North, who are behind all these mayhems is that, to the rest of the world, their actions represent the general sentiment of Nigerians as a whole. Bad news sell, and in this day of internet and satellite revolutions, all that the rest of the world hear as it happens in Nigeria has always been bad news. At a time when the country could least afford to get any negative publicity, these madmen from the North have succeeded in doing yet another irreparable damage to a struggling nation desperately in need of foreign investments. It's even insulting that they attempt to justify their demented acts of hooliganism by citing an article in ThisDay as the reason for their madness. This stupid child's play has to be stopped once and for all and the madness arrested decisively in the North if anyone in positions of authority ever wishes Nigeria well. If this sort of nonsense is not eradicated in Nigeria as quickly as possible before it rolls out of control, then Nigeria will soon burn with no room left for repairs.
What if the contended article that supposedly sparked off the murder spree mentioned Mohammed, so what? Whatever happened to the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, and our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression in Nigeria? If these unruly fanatics felt so offended by whatever was written about Prophet Mohammed, couldn't they have gone to the court of law, like it is done in the civilized world of decent human beings, instead of taking the law into their own hands? Couldn't they have forced the publisher and writer of the article to retract their opinion if the court found it offensive to Muslims instead of resorting to violence like a pack of wild-dogs roaming the Kalahari Game Reserve? Aren't we supposed to be human beings, and why do some continue to act like animals with brutal killer instincts and no inclinations toward rational decision-making and amicable conflict resolution? For how long will sensible people in Nigeria stand by the side and allow the sadistic few to tarnish the image of our nation like they've been doing? Where are the truly peaceful Muslims in Nigeria, and what are they saying as their brothers-in-faith in the North are railroading Nigeria in the path of religious war, where there can be no victors but numerous vanquishes?
So ludicrous is the claim by these bloodthirsty Islamic fundamentalists (who are best called terrorists), that the reference made to Muhammad in the disputed article was what fuelled their acts of terrorism. If the newspaper publication was the cause of their destruction, why didn't they stop with the destruction of the buildings that housed the newspaper? Why did they go as far as burning churches and burning alive, innocent Nigerians whose only sin is being Christians and of other ethnic groups? The information sold to the rest of the Islamic world is equally offensive to the rest of us Nigerians who are not Muslims. What gets emphasized in the Islamic communities overseas as a way of winning sympathy and support among the brotherhood is that, Abuja is an Islamic city, and the hosting of a beauty pageant in any part of the North is against the adopted Sharia code. What they are trying to say is that Nigeria is, indeed to be regarded as an Islamic state, and what we all see in Abuja as our nation's new capital is, in fact, being broadcast among Northerners as an Islamic city, meant for Muslims only. Do the rest of us even know what the name Abuja means in the Hausa language? Can the merit to their claim be in the meaning?
Many of us in Nigeria erroneously assumed that Abuja is a neutral place like Lagos once was, belonging to all of us. Little did we know that the agenda of our northern Muslim fellow-countrymen and women is far from that assumption! It seems the resources from oil revenues tapped from the South to lavishly develop Abuja and make it a sprawling city were just used to help the North develop some false sense of arrogance and pomposity that makes them think that whatever the North dictates is what the rest of Nigeria must embrace. This is why they think since the North is predominantly Muslims, and Sharia laws have been successfully introduced with the spineless government of Obasanjo unable to summon enough courage to challenge its constitutionality, then Abuja should also be declared an Islamic city. This is why they cannot allow the Miss World beauty contest to take place in Abuja or anywhere else in Nigeria, an Islamic country and full member of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), an organization that is the bedrock for the production and sponsorship of international terrorists organizations.
President Obasanjo's attempt to blame the terrorists attacks that occurred in Kaduna and Bauchi, as well as Abuja as the fault of the Western media's coverage of the shameful events taking place in northern Nigeria under the guise of Sharia is diversionary, at best. The fault is his government's for its failure to categorically declare Sharia unconstitutional, and at loggerheads with Nigeria's constitution. He caters to the whims and caprices of the North still, despite the facade he likes to put up as an independent-minded leader who is not being tele-guided by any section or interest groups in Nigeria. Little wonder then that people like Rimi can open their mouth and make such an inflammatory and insensitive claim that the North has ruled Nigeria for 38 out of 42 years since independence based on merit. One wonders where the North derives the merit from, and what parameter they used to standardize the criteria for awarding so much merit to the North of all places, entitling the region to so many years at the elm of the Nigerian state affairs. What also remains of such merit, as well as what that merit has achieved for Nigeria in the hands of the North remains elusive. If Rimi fully understands the meaning of merit and can convincingly link it with how the North has used it to benefit Nigeria, maybe then I will agree with his claim. If that is what Northern leaders employ to bamboozle their multitude of illiterate comrades in the North, he of all people should know the rest of the nation is too sophisticated for such childish pep talk.
Our society has become so decayed, the news is dominated by scandals at every facet of life. We have actually grown accustomed to it such that it does not move an average Nigeria that much any longer, whenever a news headline carries information of grand theft and treasury looting at the highest levels of our government. Because Nigerians have been inundated with unending news of corruption from the time many of us were born, especially after independence, the people's psyche has been bruised in such a way that it's hard for many Nigerians to see ways of making honest living, due to the type of society they were acculturated into. This situation has been compounded further by too many years of corruption-ridden military dictatorship.
The solution to the problem of religious intolerance and hate crimes in Nigeria is for the Obasanjo government to take very drastic and decisively punitive action by carrying out sweeping arrests of those Imams who preach hate and violence, and incite their followers to take up arms against other Nigerians whenever there is any disagreement. These religious hate preachers abound in the many mosques across Nigeria and should be held and kept permanently incommunicado if religious bigotry is to be a thing of the past. They, along with those who took part in the killing and destruction of properties under the guise of religion should be jailed for life and made to forfeit all their belongings to compensate the victims and their families. A strong anti-hate crime policy needs to be in place in Nigeria and enforced to the fullest extent of the law to serve as a deterrent to religious hooliganism and crime that these fanatics want to make us see as normal behaviors in Nigeria. Then and only then will peace ever reign in Nigeria.