Sharia law and the religious factor in a secular state like Nigeria
Islam versus Christianity in Nigeria and the Perennial Pogrom and Acrimony: a Panacea
Research Paper (postgraduate) 2010 82 Pages
The first quarter of the year 2000 saw the birth of the hard-line implementation of the Sharia in Nigeria beginning with Zamfara State. The tone of the spontaneous controversy that followed in the heels of such moves by the politicians from these states of the Federation exposed a lot of things: first the impression hitherto created within and outside Nigeria is that Northern Nigeria is Muslim while southern Nigeria is Christian. This is hardly the case. Christianity has made deep inroads in the northern parts of Nigeria while all the expensive investments of Islam in the South are not yielding much fruits. If not that a Yoruba King betrayed his people by allowing the Jihadists to infiltrate into the South-West during the 18th Century Othman Dan Fodio's Islamisation wars, the southern part of Nigeria would have been 100 percent free from Islam. Notwithstanding this fact Islam in the South-West of Nigeria hast remained a minority religion among the Yorubas who prefer religious complementarity and syncretism.A situation that has made the northern moslems to see their own version of Islam as manageable.
So while Christianity is holding the South and equally spreading rapidly in the Middle Belt and the North, Islam observes that the little population of converts it has in the South are either those from the East(the Aja-okuta- mamu -omis) who are only answering Moslems just to acquire some benefits or the South-Westerners(the Ofe-mmanu-mmanus) who are good at co-habiting with all versions of beliefs.
In order to satisfy their Arabian sponsors, and to ensure a continued inflow of Arabian crude-oil money, from the highly angry Middle-Eastern Backers that they are fully in control of the northern parts of Nigeria, a section of the northern Nigerian religious leaders adopted a well calculated Maneuver by trying to introduce the Sharia Law in the North. This strategy unfortunately backfired. A proof that that the North and the Middle-Belt Nigeria is not controlled by Islam.
The opposition that the Muslim hardliners encountered even in the core northern states in their bid to introduces a full-blown sharia was so intense that they made shocking headlines in the Dailies. Opinion leaders throughout the federation were united in calling for caution and forbearance as the Newspapers indicated. The refrains were audibly clear:Nigeria as a State has a constitution which cuts across all racial and religious barriers. Why then another constitution? In a state where there is a mixed-up of people from Christianity, Islam and African Traditional religion. Only a common law can guide the different groups. With the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. the British Colonialists fused the two sections of the geo-polity into one entity called Nigeria. Before independence in 1960 both Muslims and Christians entered into a pact to be governed by the Federal Constitution. Granted that some aspects of the Sharia such as marriage laws etc. were accommodated in that dispensation, the other code of Islamic Jurisprudence was jettisoned far away from the Common Law of the land.
Again the politicians were elected by the electorate to govern the land politically in a secular state. Every thing about religion was to be private. The priests and Imams were to handle religious issues and occupy themselves with divine worship and religious observances? If any of them happens to be appointed in the Government, he is to execute the assignment in a secular way. Nigerian politicians are never known to be very pious to the extent of intruding into peoples religious privacy. More so the Law of the Land stipulates Freedom of Worship as a guiding principle. There was thus a general apprehension among Nigerians who have never known their politicians for such religiosity. In fact Chief C.C. Onoh still maintains till date that the members of the state and Federal legislatures are 419ers (i.e. cheats). In fact Nigerians may be religious but no Nigerian is pious. The general Situation of Life in the country proves this fact. Who can believe it for example that such a rich nation cannot provide a 24 hour electricity for its citizens.
So the sudden moves by politicians who were scoring zero in governing their respective States to divert peoples' attention to Sharia and religiosity made people to believe that the Muslim politicians must surely be up to something. May be it could be part of the usual tactic to rent jobless and innocent youths to disrupt the smooth running of the Land once their selfish interests are not met. The suspicious was fuelled by the fact that for over three decades that Muslims and Northerners have been controlli]ng the Government, none of the Muslim presidents, governors or legislators has ever raised the issue of Sharia law. Why now that a Christian president is on seat at the presidency. More questions are being asked: Are the perennial religious riots in the North a sign of Frustration that Christianity is making in-roads in the North? Who are the leaders who are behind those children and youths burning and vandalizing property and businesses? Why are the killings only directed at the Christians and the Southerners? Why are certain Christian Sects in the Country very fundamentalist? Why do these groups of Christians not mind their business and do their worship under their own roof and among their own members? When they already know that religious issues are usually very sensitive and volatile in Nigeria, why do these fundamentalist Christians and Muslims not be prudent with their proselytization? Many Nigerians are beginning to ask these fundamentalist Christians and Muslims if it is by force coercion, threats, sorcery, magic, war or by living-by-example and good-neighborliness that one could win a new member? Which genuine God would ask his children to kill, shed blood and vandalize and be rewarded with Heaven or Paradise. Which genuine God would ask his children to go about constituting human and environmental hazards: Noise, laud-speakers, Traffic-jam, Pollution, verbal aggression, voodoo, extortion, occultism, Psyching, indoctrination, hate-sermon, Discrimination, etc. so as to win Paradise? Fundamentalism in Islam has pushed Nigeria to produce her own international terrorist who went on board the United States bound airline with the mission to blow it up, the so called Unterhosen Suizid- Bomber(Boxers shot suicide bomber). Thank God that he never succeeded. His father, a wealthy Nigerian Banker was reported to have said he suspected that his son was getting out of control and he alerted the US embassy and the Nigerian security apparatus but nothing concrete was done until the young man brought that international shame to Nigeria. This is how by sin of omission the religious ,traditional and political leaders pretend not to know, or look the other way why religious bigotry, tribalism, ritual murders and religious riots, genocide and vandalism thrive in their domains and in their backyards.
CHAPTER ONE THE MOOD OF THE NIGERIAN NATION
The National Dailies did capture the mood of the nation best sharia Riots: 304 slaughtered in Aba, Owerri (P.M. News March 1, 2000)
-Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto others drop Sharia.
The razing craze for the adoption of the Islamic legal system. Sharia might have suffered a set back, as states which adopted the system have decided to return to the status quo ante. By restricting its application to the letters of the penal code (ThePunch Newspaper).
-Afenifere Condemns Riots.
The Pan-Yoruba Socio- cultural group, Afenifere, has condemned the violence and destruction of lives and property in Kaduna state and other towns, following the introduction of Sharia Law in some Northern states. Afenifere, in a press release endorsed by its leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, indicated that Nigerians should bear in mind that wherever there is religious Conflict, such as in Lebanon, the consequences have always been disastrous- The Punch.
-Curfew in Abia as Rioting Hits Umuahia.
A dusk -to- dawn curfew was slammed on Abia state yesterday by the government to stem the violence that flared on Monday, in apparent retaliation of last week’s killings in Kaduna State.
Umuhia, the State Capital, had late on Monday witnessed the rioting which erupted earlier that day in Aba, leaving some persons dead and property destroyed. - The Guardian Newspaper.
- Senate grants Obansanjo Emergency Powers
The Senate yesterday woke up from its slumber with a resolution to grant President Olusegun Obasanjo powers to declare state of emergency in any troubled part of the country, in accordance with the provision of the constitution. - The Concord.
- Exodus hits Kano
No fewer than 50,000 non-natives and non-Muslims from the middle Belt and Southern part of the country have left Kano as tension over the recent bloody Sharia riot in Kaduna continued to mount in the ancient city. Reports yesterday also indicated growing tension in Adamawa and Kwara States as well as the Federal Capital Abuja where there were stampede and confusion following rumors of a spill over of the Kaduna riots to the areas.
-Police disrupt Eastern Youths’ Meeting.
A contingent of combat-ready policemen led by the Enugu Area Commander. Mr. F.O. Ihechere yesterday stormed the Cinema Hall of Hotel Presidential Enugu and stopped a meeting of Eastern Nigeria nationalities organized by the Igbo Youth movement (IYM). The meeting was convened by the movement to examine the Kaduna riots which claimed the lives of scores of people of the east. - The Champion Newspapers.
- 23 babies delivered at refugee campus.
Twenty-three babies have been delivered in the past one week at the refugee camps of victims of the Kaduna religious violence located at 44 Military Barracks in the city. The mothers and their babies are doing well, according to the authorities of the barracks who admitted, though, that sanitation conditions at the refugee camps were deteriorating. - The Vanguard Newspapers
- P.D.P. Plans Bill for National Guard.
The need for the establishment of a National Guard re-surfaced again yesterday when the people’s Democratic Party (PDP) said it was set to send a bill to the National Assembly for its establishment. The Guard, the PDP said, is intended to stop the quick exposure of the Army in Civil Operations. Mr. Gbenga Olawepo, Deputy National Secretary of the P.D.P. disclosed this yesterday
- This Day Newspaper.
Culled from P.M. News
Wed. March 1, 2000.
The above headline news from major newspapers throughout the Federation must send shock-waves running down ones spinal Cord. Crises upon crises. Katakata! Wahala! Gbuo-gbuo-gbuo and Bo-bo-bo (killings, mayhem and bloodshed). So far we have noted that in every situation of violence and warfare women and children are usually the most adversely affected. The women as mothers are those to carry the children to safety while the men fight the battle. Many a time the men go into hiding to evade being conscripted into the army or to avoid the enemies, thereby leaving the mothers exposed to all the mental agony and physical suffering of carrying the children and the family property to safety. From the experiences of the civil war which book: THE DEA TH OF BIAFRA 1968( Enugu: Snaap Press,2000) I was privileged to translate from the French into English, one could see gory pictures of miserable malnourished (kwasiorkored) women and children.
But what we have seen so far in the Sharia Riots and Mayhem are but the smoke. The fire is might be in the pipeline. Unless the tension in the Northern States over the Sharia is doused we must surely see the fire. It would be a matter of time. The questions we must posit are: what are the women doing to bring peace? All the brains behind the Sharia crises are married men; what do their wives tell them at home? Women and mothers, many a time, just to maintain their husband and source of gains collude with them in perpetrating evil. But they would be the people to suffer the trauma when Nemesis comes. What do we learn from the case of Abacha, Idi-Amin,Mobutu Sese Seko and other African despots and their wives?
At this joincture one must be asking: what is this Sharia all about?
CHAPTER TWO THE SHARIA
The Shari’ah literally means THE PATH: but technically it stands for the law of Islam. According to Ishmael Farugi, Sharia has for 14 centuries been the quintessence of Islam and the most powerful educator, civilizer and disciplinarian of hundreds of millions of Muslim masses - the Ummah, Islamic Law is founded on the principle of: Tooth for Tooth’. A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear and a tooth for a tooth, for other injuries, equitable retaliation” (Quran 5:47; 42:21). To be a true Muslim, according to the hardliners is to live one’s life according to the regulations of the Koran. These Muslims readily cite Koran 4:65, 4:105, 5:47; 48:50 and 5:51 to back up their position. Many Muslim scholars believe that the Harshness of Islamic laws which the modern society detests, and describes as primitive, barbaric and anti-social are deterrents against crime and evil in the society. These scholars are of the view that Western Laws and Jurisprudence are a failure and too loose as to effect a positive change in the society. They cite the crime rate in most Western Societies as an example: Western children and youths are said to be rotten and lazy; officially adult age for future responsibilities is pegged at 18 but Euro- American children are making babies as early as 10 years as well as going into marriage without family responsibility. The so-called underaged tend to be more experts in erotic and criminal life than the adults. Unwanted fetuses and babies are aborted or born and thrown into refuse bins. They commit all grievous crimes while hiding under the immunity of immaturity. People commit sadistic and sacrileges crimes only to be left free on excuse of depressive illnesses. When at all they are indicted, the prison term is decoration. Those who commit murder receive very little sentence while those who are severely punished are the ones who commit phony crimes. The Westerners on the other hand are quick to asset that such punishments as amputation of legs and arms or fingers for such misdemeanors and delinquencies as stealing are better left for the stone age and not for the 3rd millennium. They add that adults marrying under-aged girls into marriage is primitive and leads to versico vaginal fistula in most Muslim countries. Though the Muslims argue that it is better that they are officially and legally going into marriage before sexual trafficking even if they may marry more than one wife or marry very young wives but the West claims to be practising monogamy while indirectly they are polygamists: one wife at home and uncountable in the streets. The western so-called under-aged children are mobile brothel and are all secretly or openly married .
Christian theologians and ethicists argue that no man is a finished product. Sin is missing the mark. The person who has missed it today could improve on his performance tomorrow. Hence prisons were better called corrective homes where criminals are counseled and trained. People therefore go into such corrective homes and come out better human beings after a lot of work are done on their lives by psychologist, sociologists and counselors. A person for instance who has no brainpower but has muscular power could be helped to channel his excess energy into boxing or wrestling instead of using it for street-fighting and killing. A criminal is then understood as an intelligent and talented person but who is using the gifts for evil purposes. He could then be aided to channel these gifts for the good of the society. Take for instance an armed robber who could carry out a successful robbery operation within 20 minutes without shedding any blood. A welfare society that is out for talent-hunt could draft him into combat operations for rescuing hostages from fundamentalists’ hijackers of planes, etc. But where he is caught and his arms are chopped-off, what use is that to society. One has only succeeded in increasing the population of beggars and society burdens. The use of old-time criminals (Bakassi Boys in Abia and Anambra States) as vigilante groups is another example of the proper channeling of talents.
The next argument against Sharia -related laws is that they are discriminatory in practice, at least from what we are seeing so far in the Nigerian situation. Somebody steals a cow and he is caught and his hand is chopped off, whereas a a military chief, a politician, or a wealthy man next door has stolen billions from the state treasury and he is left scot- free. In most cases he is turbaned and given a chieftaincy title. Powerful and influential people are known to have shed a lot of blood either for ritual sacrifice, burial of certain traditional chiefs or in the elimination of their enemies and those who were obstacles to them. During the General Prayers, these are given special positions in places of honor where they are seen reciting their chaplet and praying. Again If the money is donated for the construction of a place of worship, no person questions the sources of the money. Or if he was a leader and it was clear that he was a very corrupt and despotic leader, no person, like a prophet, dares raise a voice. The Sharia Laws are therefore seen to be made for the masses and not the sacred cows. So the law in practice is simply selective in indictment and punitive measures.
The next argument against such a law is that human life is sacred and belongs to God alone. No person has right, to remove it, not even the person himself has the right to take away his own life. No shedding of blood (Ex. 20 : 13; 1 Sam 16:7; 26:9, 55:24; 59:3; Prov. 29:10)
This is the argument against Euthanasia, Death penalty or tooth-for- tooth laws. Incarceration and jailing is acceptable as a way out because it gives the criminal a moment for soul-searching and re-examination of oneself. After such a period, room should be given for training towards rehabilitation and eventual re-integration into the society. Unfortunate the so called corrective homes turn simple criminals into deadly criminals and many are released and come out worse than they were earlier on. Many do not take the western prisons serious enough because, for them, they are more comfortable than their living standard. Freedom appear to be their only loss.
Again the Law enslaves women and reduces them to mere commodity; at least this is observed from the practices seen around us. Women are kept in Purdah; when they are outside at all, they must cover their faces with veil. Worse still, when the covering is of black material, it looks terribly absurd. When one asks for the reason for such dressing, even under the hot climate of the country, one is told, it is a way of preventing adultery and fornication. They need to be covered and hidden at the backyard lest visitors or men see their face or beauty and admire them, and go after them. But then men are free to move about with girls and women admiring their handsomeness and tempting them. Men too are free to marry up to 4 wives each and enjoy them as one likes. He needs to get anyone that he likes into his house as wife just for the payment of a minimum of a quarter of a DINAR of GOLD or three DIRHAMS of silver. Though there are other three constituents for the contract of marriage: Need for marriage guardian; freedom; witnessing (to consummation); legally qualified spouses. (For the man, 4 conditions are necessary; Islam, discretion; consciousness (sanity) and manliness (not a hermaphrodite). There are also confirmatory conditions: Freedom from bondage; maturity; management of one’s own affair (independence); sound health; compatibility of spouses; The formula :(e.g. I have contracted the marriage: ‘I have given her out in marriage ’, I accept, I am pleased with it (Groom) Come what may. The dowry is so small that one can pick wives like groundnuts. And after canal knowledge of 4 wives, how sure are we that a man would stop there. This is really male Chauvinism. When at all women are to come out in the streets, separate means of transportation (buses and cabs) are marked ‘for women.’ But in spite of all these outward show of religiosity, accounts show that most of the cities in the core muslim areas have crowds of prostitutes who are heavily patronized by the muslims. Is this not HYPOCRISY?