“Don’t waste your time with explanations. People only hear what they want to hear.” Paulo Coelho
This, sadly, may pass for an explanation. Certain things are not worthy of one’s attention let alone a response, and these were pointed out in some private messages to me over my stance in the debates stirred up by the anti-child bride campaigns. In my column last Friday (Rumble in the North, August 2, 2013), I blamed Ahmed Yarima’s shariah, an insidious political stunt, for highlighting our religious differences, especially in my place where religion and fanatical practice of it was not a social aberration until 1999. “Highlighted”, that was my word. But a dishonest scholar of misquotation, obsessed with a passion to represent the indefensible, replaced my word with “initiated.” Doesn’t matter to him that I had previously written on the intolerance of our Salafi brothers. This sophisticated illiteracy is not only lazy but a measure of how intellectual indolence and hypocrisy have dominated the scholarships of these tribal warlords who see themselves as advocates of a people or region. The duty of an advocate is to explain, not to distort or exhibit elemental ignorance simply to bamboozle their audience.
In our interactions on social media, certain contributors correctly expressed my views. What has shariah got to do with non-Muslims when it’s not imposed on them, someone asked. It tasks citizens with voting for governors who will perpetuate or discontinue the legacies of sharia, and this means divisions among the electorates, and this means Muslims will no longer vote for non-Muslims and vice versa, and this, yes this, highlights our differences. I grew up in a Minna where religion did not succeed in dividing voters. I grew up in a Minna where Peter Sarki, a Christian, was elected Council Chairman, where religion did not stop the Nupe people of Niger state from electing Jerry Gana as lawmaker, and where ethnicity did not stop the larger ethnic groups of Niger state from electing Musa Inuwa, a man from the minority Kambari ethnic group, as governor. All before 1999, all before the imposition of shariah into our conscience by a gang of politically insecure Muslims who manipulate our gullibility, our lack of ability to see through frauds wrapped in religious garments, for the purpose of conveniently abusing public office and trust. The psyche of our people has now been programmed to stop any intrusion of a candidate who is not “one of us”!
I have been sensitive to this dreadful transformation of a once harmonious Niger state to one of polarised indigenes. As a Muslim, I should be excited about this, this supposed jihad for the elevation of the Muslim, only that this risky politics threatens my conscience and safety. This risky politics, I had seen in action in Jos. I lived in Nasarawa Gwong quarter of Jos for some years, with Christian neighbours and friends, and none was suspicious of the other, despite efforts of minor extremists, until this politics permanently tore them apart. Today there is no SINGLE Christian in Nasarawa Gwong, just as there is no more Muslims in Christian-dominated Anguwan Rukuba quarter. This is what politics does to us, it destroys our humanity and reduces the man who practises a different religion, or belongs to a different ethnic group, to an animal whose elimination is seen as a triumph over evil.
I had seen the effects and wrecks of religious antagonisms, and I actually felt like a dead-man walking on the day I mistakenly visited Anguwan Rukuba, unaware of the order of segregations in the new Jos. I was afraid of being seen there by old friends, you don’t know what this meant. I felt like a stranger in my own country. This version of Nigeria was invented by politicians whose interest is to scam people with the things that dazzle them: money, religion, and ethnicity. If you can’t trust politicians with public funds, and they make it clear that we dare not, doing so with our religions is a walk into a hellish hypocrisy!
My stance against child bride is unshaken; leaving an insecure girl to any man in this patriarchal society has no guarantee for her empowerment, educational and economic, and thus I consider it a disservice to Islam. Of what relevance are street beggars and educationally primitive Muslims to Islam? This is a century for which we must be in the frontlines of every invention to secure and represent the interests of Islam. Let’s stop blackmailing those who risk their sanity by pointing out the shames of our dangerously indoctrinated brothers. Columnist Adamu Adamu’s criticisms of prominent Muslim scholars as agents of polarisation are realities to which I testify. Nobody should blackmail this man, at least not with a resort to forcing membership of a sect on him. If membership of Shia disqualifies a Muslim as ambassador of Islam, then the Muslim world has lost Britain’s Mehdi Hasan, who’s perhaps the most prominent defender of Islam in recent time. Medhi is not a religious scholar, but he’s far more intelligent and knowledgeable than the so-called scholars I know. And of the sham Yarima intended to create, the same Medhi argues, “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to identify a Muslim-majority nation that could plausibly be identified as a modern, viable and legitimate ‘Islamic state‘” and that “contrary to popular Muslim opinion, there is not a shred of theological, historical or empirical evidence to support the existence of such an entity.” I wish that northern Nigeria realises its mistake on time. The world is not waiting for us to crawl out of this hard shell of religious and cultural ignorance. It is on the move.
Thankfully, my last words to fellow Muslims were brilliantly expressed in a private mail from a friend. This excerpt is of importance to many of us who love our people, as ethnicities, as religions who yet wish to point a way forward and a way out of the present mire:
“I am not oblivious of how heated the polity has gotten in recent times. On-going debates have shown just how wired our people are hence my previous message to you. I am now aware — more than ever before — that the work that is cut out for us is enormous and even though it is one that must be done (and insha Allah we would do our part) we must adopt methodologies that have the potential to achieve the greatest benefit. I am convinced that an ‘us-versus-them’ approach will only engender animosity and cause us to be estranged to the same folks that we seek to influence. I would therefore recommend a change of tact. To do this, there has to be a fundamental realization that what we profess is Islam, but even within Islam there is the progressive Islam, which I belong to. Hence, I would indulge you to consider this: Is there a way one can promote Progressive Islam that is culturally acceptable to our people? By this, one would be able to promote the accommodation of modernity and critical thinking in Islam. This is necessary for just one reason; if we must bring change to northern Nigeria, and by implication Nigeria as a whole, then we cannot afford to become estranged to our community. The work is enormous, several years of deprivation and faulty of education (both formal and societal) have rendered our people desolate, deflated, abused and devoid of critical thinking abilities. I know that. And I also know that there will always be gifted fellows among a generation who have been blessed with critical thinking abilities — and would as a result be derided and regarded as narcissistic by their immediate community (history is replete with many of such examples). This is the group that you belong to. You shouldn’t be discouraged though. I share similar issues. I however know that a certain wisdom will require that we find novel ways to communicate change even in the most violent of atmospheres. We have to find such a way.”
This is the task set before me. I thank all the Muslims of like mind, and the Christians as well, all Nigerian people, who recognising the dangers of polarisation, have seen my call to action as something essential to be done. Our task is set out for us, our will must be strong even as our compassion for contrary arguments must remain a loving one—to convince our brothers and sisters out of the ruinous, trickle down “conservatism” hoodwinked on us by a dubious elite. I’ll leave you with the usual prayer: May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (09/08/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)