Dele EdoborMonday, November 25, 2002
London, UK


aduna in particular and the North in general, have carved for themselves an unenviable and shameful reputation of being the most religiously violent part in Nigeria in recent time. Surprisingly enough, they seem to bask in this, as it is demonstrated time after time through the incessant killing of one another all in the name of faith in a religion. Based on the foregoing, I believe there should be nothing new to write about the Kaduna riots. Therefore the present mayhem in the city and its environs as reported should not be a thing of concern to any progressively minded person who has something more tangible to do with his/her time. But humanity requires us to commiserate with families of the dead, because in a situation like this, those usually affected are the innocent ones. It is rather saddening to note that inaction by authority concerned in the past on situation of this semblance is what has undoubtedly, led to repeats.

However, the present riots become something of interest when one considers the build-up to the bloodbath. Additionally, it gets more annoying when one begin to analyse what people now believe led to the religious uprising (but this probably applies to those who have not been able to read the handwriting on the wall before now). Probably, what might qualify the riot as a subject of discourse is the simple fact that there may have been those who felt disappointed by the decision of the organisers of the beauty pageant to move the occasion to London. But to some few ones it was waiting to happen. Remember there is a logical reason to why you know what you know.

We suffer for lack of knowledge.

Proverbially, it is often said that a bird on the tree preparing to fly, sometimes adduce the stone hurled at it by its attacker as the reason why it flew regardless of the fact that it was ready to take off. It is on record as it has been widely reported by some Nigerian dailies and few news media worldwide that the moved Miss World competition has been under serious antagonisms and criticisms from both home and abroad the moment it was decided to be hosted by Nigeria. First on the list of the antagonists are some Islamic fundamentalists who even threatened fire and brimstone that the event will never see the light of the day while they live. Second is the issue of the stoning of Amina Lawal to death in accordance to the ruling of a sharia court. To even drive home these salient points some contestants such as those from Costa Rica, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa and Panama have already withdrawn from the competition. It then follow that the cry by some people that one Nigerian daily This Day Newspaper and her feature writer have ignited the religious riot is a case of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

We suffer for lack of knowledge.

Furthermore, aside the blame being hinged on this Newspaper and her feature writer what I find amusing again is the reactions of some individuals. First let me attempt to start here with Miss World publicist herself Miss Stella Din. In part of her reactions she said and I quote "We regret these incidents, but this is not the fault of Miss World. It is the result of irresponsible journalism". Government also reverberated Miss Din opinion in a statement when they reportedly said, "without doubt (the article) exceeded the bounds of responsible journalism". There is one particular issue in this instance and that is what is responsible and irresponsible journalism?

Definitely, this shouldn't be a time for buck passing but it becomes necessary to clear the misty air on these phrases so that some of us in the business of writing might not commit the same "blunder" in future. First and foremost, Miss din comes into the picture because from the sound of her name she probably may have come from one of the advanced countries of the world. To this effect, let me put a rhetorical question to her. In the real world of democratic setting, could it be said that what Miss Isioma Daniel wrote crossed the line? It is well indicative that Miss Din's reaction was that of someone who got frustrated merely because the rioters looked for an excuse to perpetrate their plans and they got one in Miss Isioma and her employers.

Baffling enough, I have racked my brain to understand where what This Day Newspaper published "exceeded responsible journalism" or practised "Irresponsible journalism" (although the two phrases carry the same message but with different "courier") all to no avail. As a matter of fact I need the help of some experienced and conscientious journalists here. My understanding of the supposedly article that have caused much furore is that of a writer who expressed a personal opinion. In any civilised Society, when one feel aggrieved by certain opinion, such person(s) is free to seek redress through the proper avenue. If it is true that This Day Newspaper printed an apology and a retraction after the publication what then could still be the problem if ours is a society governed by the law? Government's comment is nothing to write home about because the report wasn't clear on the arm of government responsible for the statement. Nevertheless, be it state Or federal it does not make any difference as they made the situation degenerate into this state of lawlessness either through a policy they formulated or for their inability to curb excesses. Take for example what offences have This Day Newspaper and Miss Isioma Daniel committed that should warrant their arrest by State security Service. Is this not a case of chasing shadow rather than substance? The real culprits are killing freely while the people to expose them are being intimidated.

We suffer for lack of knowledge

Mr Femi Kuti (yes the popular late afrobeat king's son) surprise me next with his comment. However, on sifting his comment, I deduced that he had an important point but may have contradicted himself probably because he had the interview in a hurry. He was quoted to have said in a BBC World Service's Newshour programme that "The people involved in that (the riot) have my total support and I will even encourage them from wherever I am on stage". Then he added, "Why do we have the sharia law? We have enough problems". What Femi seems to be mixing up here is that the reason for the riot in the first place is because of religious intolerance and not economic problems. So for him to have said he will support the rioters is to say he supports religious intolerance.

The basis of the current crisis is lack of tolerance. Even if one's religion is against certain practices the simple thing is not to get involved. To a religious fanatic, what This Day Newspaper published could have been seen as blasphemous but it is not enough to start killing one another if one is really genuine in his/her religious practice. What any genuinely religious person should do is to pray for a "sinful" person for knowledge as he/she may have written in ignorance. Religion shouldn't practice violence but peace.

We suffer for lack of Knowledge.

For those who think the hosting would have promoted nothing but promiscuity they should pause first and digest what some of the contestants said. Miss Republic of China was reported to have praised the "warmth of your people". I guess she has a different opinion now. Natalia Peralta who is Miss Colombia said and I quote " I don't think there is any other place in the world that the environment and the people would continuously wish to be homely like Nigeria". I am very sure that was before "some of my fellow country men went mad". One of them thinks a single visit is not enough to explore the rich treasures in Nigeria and thought she would have to come back again. It is quite obvious that she would have changed her mind after the recent happenings. Contrary to the negative impressions in certain circles, the hosting would have promoted tourism. However, we will have to do better than what is happening at present to make those who witnessed us killing ourselves come back or encourage friends to visit our country again.

We suffer for lack of knowledge.

Incisively, the present happenings should serve as a lesson to the federal government. It is high time the country under the leadership of President Obasanjo decided the fate of the country. The only place where the recent ugly events could take place without much ado is an Islamic state. However, with the threat of some Islamic fundamentalists coming to pass it leaves more to be desired if our country is not a de facto Islamic state already, even though it has not been made official yet. This brings us to the much talked about sovereign national conference. This has become necessary because if certain individuals cannot tolerate their fellow country men all in the name of religion then they may as well officially decide what they want on the dialogue table. Nigeria being a multi religious state should not be witnessing religious riots. Let us look around us, even countries with higher percentage of Muslims in their population do not kill themselves the way we do in Nigeria. Some of my Muslim friends have even had causes to ask me what the problem is with Nigeria that we keep killing ourselves on any flimsy excuse(s).

In the past what we used to hear during religious riots was the Muslims burning churches and killing Christians but with the Christians now burning mosques and fighting back it portends nothing but greater danger. Let us carve a way for a better future and a lasting peace now or ours may soon be a society of once upon a time.

We suffer for lack of knowledge.