One Shameful Saturday in FCT…

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Elections. As soon as the news came to me that the 16th of March, which was set aside for the FCT council elections, would be observed under strict curfew, I packed my things. I needed to be away from the soullessness of Abuja city, to resist the temptations to visit my friends, who were the only evidences that point to the existence of humanity in this headquarters of political thievery. I figured out that my friend’s at Gwagwalada may offer me desired quiet, away from the “unAfrican” bustles of the city, to add a word or two to an ongoing book project.

The night had grown thicker when I arrived, but the atmosphere did not scare me as expected of an election eve. I had barely settled down to enjoy a conversation with my host, when it occurred to me that underneath the darkness was an ongoing marshalling for electoral frauds; in the houses around us were foot soldiers of various political parties, doing what ought to be done whispering. They were debating how to buy votes the next day.

They did not fail in their bid. Since I was not eligible to vote in this part of the country, fate chose me to play an unofficial observer, which I took up on the clock of eight that ominous morning. The electoral officers were being awaited; I joined some men on a wooden bench. And the first words that stirred up my interest were, “How much them give you?” I looked on to the quizzed, a man in his late twenties or early thirties, just as he replied in Hausa, “Dari biyu.” Two hundred naira! He beamed as though he had just received the most priceless thing in his life. I didn’t know which political party was so generous to them; 200 naira would buy them a drink and snacks, sure. That is the worth of a Nigerian voter!

Gwagwalada Council was one of the two seats occupied by ANPP, and the party’s resistance of cleverer PDP’s ways would assure us that our vow to end PDP’s reigns of corruption come 2015 is not an illusion. So I was shocked to learn that all the parties were competitors in that sinful generosity. The politicians exploited our poverty and naiveté; their knowledge of our cheap integrity was at play as they marshalled any existing forms of financial inducements the devil himself had not discovered to insult us.

How can we end evil through evil? What defines a party is not just the quality of its members, but the rigidity and practicability and honesty of its ideologies. A party that advocates for anti-corruption crusades must be true to its words in allowing the law to measure the sins of the James Iboris in its fold. But where a president granted pardon to this present democracy’s Queen of Corruption, a title also earned through corruption of gender, the call for change becomes a necessity as trust is shredded to its tiniest speck. That anti-people move from a president who is already a living antithesis of the office he occupies increased our yearnings for humiliation of the party that produced him. But the fantasy left the cradle of my conviction as soon as irregularities began to happen under my eyes. In the open, without fear, without shame, without integrity… These were some of the people with whom, on the social media, we analysed and predicted the end of this modern Africa’s most disastrous fraternity of politicians. The things I witnessed contradicted the reports that FCT polls were the “most peaceful” witnessed in Nigeria – as if “peace” is another word for “fairness”. There were irregularities. There was a report, in Gwagwalada, of a Ward Returning Officer intercepted by thugs. The thugs reportedly seized and destroyed the ballot boxes in his possession. And when I inquired from a friend who ought to be in the know, he gave that journalists were given fifty thousand naira each to show blind eyes to the incident. Concerned authorities should go investigate this. The ballot papers should have serial numbers.

At the end of the elections, PDP which only had four of the six councils in FCT won a fifth council, with its effort to have Gwagwalada stopped by only 94 votes deficit of ANPP’s 11596 votes. Their new acquisition, Kwali Council, was taken with a margin that portends misfortunes for the proposed alliance of the opposition parties. Beating an incumbent chairman, worst still by a PDP candidate, 12, 809 to 7538 votes explains the political indolence that infected not only the losing ANPP camp, but the entire parties interested in neutralising President Goodluck Jonathan’s party. It may be intelligent to say that the FCT polls were lessons to the opposition parties, but their inability to reach a consensus, especially where the other parties only offered certified spoilers, is an electoral sin. In Abaji Council, ACN’s candidate lost with 832 votes short of PDP’s 8933 votes – simple consensus among the opposition parties in Bwari and other councils may have made this the other way.

And the social media demographics were shamed. The Facebooking and Tweeting and Pinging and Blogging citizens were exposed as nothing but firsthand political nullities. Let’s face this reality; in Abuja Municipal Area Council which had the highest concentration of Smartphone owners, the turnout of voters was, until the elections, what I would consider a civic no-no. A polling unit along Gimbiya Street, Area 11, received just 29 voters out of registered 2419 voters expected. The absentees were in their bedrooms, with their battery-draining Blackberry phones and iSomething gadgets fixed in sockets, chatting as an evil people prepared to destroy their destiny. Again. And 2015 is just two years away. May God save us from us!

 Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (29/03/2013; page 2)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

The Intelligence of Religious Robots

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There is nothing as torturous, in both academic and literary exercises, as interpreting plain sentences to literate people. Such tortures are not as a result of the energy one burns in the process, but in realising that a people who ought to be tasked with educating the one-dimensional followers of a misunderstood religion are actually the dangers beckoning immediate attention—and salvation! My last week’s column, “Allah is also African”, was, perhaps deliberately, read upside down by those whose brilliance picked out that I refer to Allah as a “dark-skinned being.” That’s what they got from the symbolism!

The comparison of Salafism and Sufism was simply to show us the good neighbours between the two groups. My arguments were a clear and direct condemnation of African Salafists’ campaigns of ultraconservatism, which has given birth to evils already growing fangs that will in maturity bite and consume the black race in one fatal swallow. African Salafism, by its definition and emphasis of outward semblances of “purity”, has already set us on uninterrupted path of social misery. On the other hand, Sufists were more obsessed with their “saints” than with the wrong ways of their non-Muslim neighbours, which may definitely be because luring converts takes more than disdainful sermons and bombs—it takes the burden of personal example. This is the kernel of my comparison.

Moving on, in the Qur’an, just as in the Bible, there are verses that inspire terrorism when put to service by the skewed interpretations of literalists.

Where the Qur’an has:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Q9:29)”

The Bible has:

“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.  (1 Samuel 15:3) – King James Version (KJV)”

Both were decrees from God Himself. Both happened in a certain historical and social context each of which dates not decades but centuries and millennia past. But a curator of evil may cite and twist these verses to justify his bloodlust today. This has been why I am unhappy enough to rage. That a thinking people actually see Twenty-first Century as First or Sixth Century which was replete with territorial dominations and conquests makes me challenge the relevance of our psychiatrists.

While I do not have issues with evangelism, I think the missionaries must respect the heterogeneous societies they visit. Absolute conservatism can only be instituted in a mono-cultural and mono-religious state. This logic betrays the pretend Shariah legal system that some governments of northern Nigerian states introduced. Their Shariah was a mock of Islam, because the corps tasked with penalising the masses was not vested with powers to chop off a thieving governor’s wrists as they would be in truly theocratic Islamic State—hence the mockery. I don’t think that my conservative brothers understand that trick of our politicians was but a brazen attempt to gag and oppress the suffering masses.

And whenever some of us challenge this bastardisation of Islam, a group screams that logic and science must never be used in assessing religion. This group functions like robots. They are designed and programmed to pander to a one-dimensional task, where illogicality is worn in the name of adherence. Among the robots’ shortcomings, I repeat here, is their inability to tell the culture of the Arabs from Islam. There is nothing wrong in dressing like a Bedouin for matters of style or even simple admiration, but wrapping turbans over your nostrils in a dustless African city just to exaggerate your practice of Prophet Muhammad’s lifestyle clues psychiatric and personality issues more than anything. The Arabs cover their nostrils because of dust motes, which is so because they live in the heart of the desert! There’s nothing wrong with that dress code, only that you romanticise it as the way of Islam. Another exhibition of Africa’s inferiority was by a friend who named his child “Hurairah”, after a cat-loving companion of Prophet Muhammad known by the nickname “Abu Hurairah” (Father of the Kittens). The Arab’s real name was Abdurrahman—Servant of the Gracious—which is a beautiful name. My friend hates cats, yet his pursuit of advanced Arabism caused him that disgrace of naming a child after the nickname of a cat-lover while not being able to stand cats! Can we imagine what mental burdens such a name places on a child?

The early Muslims never boarded a plane to Hajj, they never prayed in air-conditioned mosques and never did the muezzins call to prayers through microphones and loudspeakers. Now, dear Mr. Conservative–Muslim-of-the-Salafist-Orientation, if you were true to your campaigns against innovation, how did you come about accepting these as norms in Islam—what happened to using camels or trekking to Mecca for hajj? Why not kick against muezzins using microphones? And air-conditioners, why not declare them haram as well, or find some authority to state your beloved Bedouins used these as well? Islam was introduced during reigns of the Eastern Empires, when happenings in Rome and Persia decided the fortune of any nation in the Middle East. Islam unified the Arabs who had been a cluster of unfriendly tribes, and together the new friends fought for the new faiths, suffered defeats here and triumphed there until the collapse of the ancient empires. These agitations and defence of territories and sovereignties meant the early Muslims were on constant alerts for, and attacks of, the predatory empires. That’s the context of these verses I quoted earlier.

The robots who hate commonsense also scream that everybody must convert to Islam. As a Muslim I won’t pretend that I don’t like to see my friends practising my faith. But how can you BULLY a man with brains, eyes, ears and a mouth into accepting a new faith in this enlightened age? Will you go so far as killing him for this? Does that make sense? This is the illogic of those, including our best and brightest who have been seduced by Arabist Salafism and the opposite, LOGIC and REASON, are what’s required to tell stupidity apart from religion. The Sufi never made this error of illogic rote hence my publicly siding with their Thought—they are closer to the Prophet than any of these robotics. In other news, pray for Kano State; whoever “claims responsibility” for the bomb that killed those innocent citizens, do know that ultraconservative robot intellectuals interposed a religious illogic, Salafi-based, which programmed the person who drove that bomb-laden vehicle. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (22/03/2013; p. 2)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

 

Allah is also African

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You know me, I do not blaspheme. I only struggle to weave thoughts around the commonest sense without offending thinking minds. The desire to ask the people of this country to see the bigger picture grows anytime we turn a deep thought in our minds. I may be like Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz who, on being told of fellow novelist Salman Rushdie’s portrayals of Islamic history in his infamous “Satanic Verses”, said: “I found the insults in it unacceptable. Rushdie insults even the women of the Prophet! Now, I can argue with ideas, but what should I do with insults? Insults are the business of the court.” You see? Ideas. But these days, great ideas are lost in the textbooks of stereotypes written by narcissistic scholars and thinkers. 

Confession: I have a case with the African Salafis—that group of Islamic bigots to whom everything out of their definition of Islam is haram. Forbidden. Of the sects, groups, sub-groups, schools and movements that disturb the foundations of Islam, especially the dangerous schism between the Sufis and the Salafis that dominated West Africa, I will befriend a million Sufis before I welcome a Salafi into my world. Allah says, “There is no compulsion in religion (Qur’an 2:256)” and on the strength of this verse, I am always forced to challenge our bigoted brothers to a duel on their literal interpretation of the Qur’an. Interpretations of religious books without acknowledging the context in which cited verses were revealed are the worst forms of terrorism. The intellectual terrorism of the literalists may be at its brightest blaze when they interpret verses from, say, Surah At-Taubah. Our literalists would reference “Kill the mushriqeens [pagans, polytheists, kuffar] where ever you find them (Qur’an 9:5)” whenever they set their eyes on the idols of Africa’s “religions”. 

I say, come off it. Africa and the African are concepts older than Abrahamic religions and, for this, attempts to wipe them out are delusions; Political impossibility. This takes us to the Malian iconoclasts to whom the “paganism” of indigenous Sufis is a cause for war, and back to Nigeria where ideologically hollow insurgents kill, apparently for fun! They do not even know that warfare is no longer a form of evangelism, it was never really one. The Black race must resist being the foot soldiers of racial and territorial domination campaigns between Western imperialists and Arab expansionists.

Science teaches us that Africa had existed for millions of years (millions!) before the prophets of Abrahamic religions emerged to the Jews and the Arabs. History books show that Jesus came to the Jews about half a century before Prophet Muhammad happened to the Arabs. The believers felt that the messages brought to humanity by Christianity and Islam were meant for the entire world, thus the propagations and resistances and warfare. The cassock-wearing missioners and turbaned traders came to Africa, but have Black Africans really embraced the teachings of these religions? Our ignorance could not let us do so. Many of us did not know anything about the histories of these religions aside from the Canterbury tales we learnt at Qur’anic schools. This is why an uninformed Muslim would flare up on seeing a non-Muslim fondling a Bible written in Arabic. Uninformed Muslim thinks that Arabic is Islam. Uninformed Muslim takes up the culture of the Arabs in his rush to piety. Uninformed Muslim has been told by an actually uninformed mullah that associations with non-Muslims are outlawed. Uninformed Muslim wants everyone to practise his religion unmindful of the reality that his brothers kill in the name of the same religion. Coercion and warfare, they don’t know, are not forms of evangelism. Uninformed Muslim must realise that his brothers have set a task before him: that of telling the world that the extremism exhibited by his brothers is actually a sub-clinical mental disorder which has no room in Islam. 

If Allah had wanted you to be Arab, he would have created you in Yemen. You were first of all Black, before you were Muslim. But your ignorance of this makes you an unwitting lab rat of Arab imperialism. Our obsession with skewed fundamentalism leads us to blasphemy. Blasphemy is when you challenge the creations of Allah, when you preach that your own race is a mistake. That is what you do any moment you attack, kill, or bomb just because the features on your soil are not the same with those on the soils of Arabia. Our diversity, instead of being bullied into one, should be exploited into a prism of inter-religious, inter-racial, inter-cultural, inter-everything harmony.

There is one last thing, there is one simple yet complex question to which answers have never ever been proffered: Why do you want someone to convert to your religion? “Because it is the only Path!” I hear you scream. But, dear evangelist, if your God does not send money down from the sky, it is unwise to label nonbelievers fools. This, and not your spiritual complexity, is the mindset of an uninitiated person. The faith of a man is like a balloon, so evangelism must be tender and genuine. If handled without care, it bursts. This is 21st century, the internet has given everyone access to the truths, propagandas and falsehoods of every belief, tradition and culture. The surest way to convince a man about God and His promises for eternal bliss is by practising what you preach. The world may be at crossroads like the character Mathieu, but it has reached the Age of Reason (pun, this!) – apologies to author Jean-Paul Sartre. May God save us from us.

Big Man’s Burdens

Don’t be rich. Except if you want to spend most of your life piggybacking on depression. Truth is, poverty is a criminal form of sainthood. The poor are always right, even where they also cheat to survive. So, sometimes, for the sake of tributes in which kind adjectives are generously used, being poor is, after all, not a heavy cross. But know, o smiler, that to be poor in this part of the world is worse than being a fasting chef in McDonald. This is why the gluttony of the Nigerian Big Man is celebrated.

Big Man is not entirely disliked. He is a student of Prophet Solomon from whom he’s learned so many things. He doesn’t pretend to be Solomon though; his outward devotion to God is a mastered trick. He womanises and drinks expensive wines. He knows that he is a product of an evil system. His money either comes from being a member of the political elite or from being a beneficiary of political booties or opportunisms. The political elite are the most interesting class. The men, when elected, use taxpayers’ monies as though they are ancestral inheritances. And, out of office, they build mosques and churches with stolen money for which they are celebrated by the cheated society. That’s what smart Big Men do. While a former leader maintains his relevance through religious philanthropy, the wannabe politician who has only benefited from contracts awarded through corrupt processes prepares his prospects with carefully projected stunts. He pays journalists a million naira to cover the public presentation of a N500, 000 “project”. These tricks happen especially as the election year approaches!

Philanthropies are the reasons the Big Man syndrome is still alive and well. Whoever hurts or disparages a man who has built a mosque or church knows that his ticket to hell is already stamped. It is un-African to confront a “giver”. Power comes from Allah. It is the Grace of Jesus. And of course it is the Creator who rigs elections and gives Big Man the wisdom to embezzle public funds. So, you see, Big Man laughs whenever he reads your incoherent rants predicting Nigerian “springs”. Touch Alhaji X, Chief Y and Otunba Z and see what happens to your wretched life. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Big Man doesn’t sleep. His life is a circuit of fears. On one side, he panics whenever his bankers begin to wear false smiles. “Honourable, I’m sorry my bank can’t afford that amount,” he imagines. Pity. On the other side, he knows what awaits him among those battalions of poverty-humbled supporters who paint his photographs on their weatherworn houses to earn a wad from his largess. He knows that the photographs may disappear when the money giving is finished. He is not a fool. So he will visit his political opponent in dead of night to strike out a deal. “I’ll let you win this election, you can rig it,” he would say, for which the partner would nod with a certain assurance to reciprocate through a streak of contracts when he is “elected”. All Big Men are friends and family pursuing the same ends.

And if you think that salvation may come with the eclipse of this generation of Big Men, then you need to come with me to a Shisha Lounge at Asokoro. You may pass out on discovering the population of Big Man’s children in various ivy-league schools, and Euro-America’s mega elite schools. Their expenditure at those headquarters of intellectual capitalism can endow a new Harvard on Africa’s plundered soil. Wallahi, I don’t exaggerate. My friendship with Big Man’s children has given me an insight into the extent of our hopelessness. While the poor man’s child struggles through strikes and the torture of unmotivated lecturers to earn a substandard education, Big Man’s child is already a ghost worker at an important MDA. The histories of my friends are shared in confidences, but know that they are enough to stir up your hypertension. Some of them are overseas mainly as “business contacts” of their fathers. Like a forward pawn destined for the Eight Square in chess. What does that mean? They’re overseas to represent business interests to which the parents post money as payments for certain consultancy services or contracts. Do I need to spell out M-O-N-E-Y L-A-U-N-D-E-R-I-N-G?

The wisdom with which Big Man manipulates his people inspires a generation of paupers to also break their ancestral curse. This is the reason for the mad rush to riches. This is why corruption is blown out of quantifiable proportions. Corruption has since gone out of the borders of redemption. It’s now our culture. The Big Man syndrome is a likable criminality. A pauper who manages to build one or two bungalows now goes about parading himself as “Business tycoon” or “international businessman” to match the reputation of Aliko Dangote. It’s chic to be Big! A wannabe Big Man once told me that he was into shipping. I’d already started massaging his ego with an undeserved “Sir”, to cement our future together, before I discovered that he was just an ordinary store keeper at, erm, well, somewhere around Apapa Wharf! May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Blueprint Newspapers (page 2; March 8, 2013)