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The cleric who must face the hangman's noose

Why should a man be killed for speaking out his mind on a controversy? Why must the opinion of some in society be imposed on others? Why in religious matters must some make themselves the ultimate opinion?

By Tunde Akande

If nothing miraculous happens within the next thirty days, Abduljabar Nasiru Kabara will be a dead man. The cleric in Kano will be hanged by the noose of the hangman. He was found guilty of having blasphemed the prophet of the Islamic religion, Mohammed (Saw). A Kano Sharia court found him guilty as charged. Not even his death will save his books and the tapes of the messages he preached in his lifetime, the Sharia trial judge has ordered the destruction of those books and tapes. Also, the two mosques from where the cleric preached his messages must be confiscated and destroyed. What a total annihilation! When such jackboot justice is meted out to a victim, society sees at play the usual bold force of oppressors to wipe out their victims. They respect no law; they are a law unto themselves and would not allow anything of their enemy to remain. In the eyes of his oppressors, there will be no trace of Abdujabar Nasiru after his death. Usually, it is a false theory because the ideas of such men have a way of living. A clear example is that of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Prophet Mohammed (Saw) is another good example.

The plea of cleric Abdujabbar Nasiru Kabara’s lawyer appointed for him by the court for leniency was rejected from an unusual quarter; from the cleric himself who claimed he was being persecuted. He was ready to die a heroic death and therefore he urged his followers not to worry because he will die in righteousness. That is the depth of his conviction. It is unlikely that the convicted cleric will appeal but it is definite that he will be killed, killed by a system that hates him, a system that is so rigid and inhumane, a system that is full of hypocrisies, a system that stands condemned among civilized men and women. Why should a man be killed for speaking out his mind on a controversy? Why must the opinion of some in society be imposed on others? Why in religious matters must some make themselves the ultimate opinion? Why must your theology be seen to be superior to mine? Many who have been so martyred in religion down the centuries have been found later to hold the correct view which was not popular in their time. In a country that guarantees freedom of speech and the freedom to hold an opinion and to disseminate it, why must one man’s opinion be scuttled because it counters the popular opinion? Why must a citizen be held to blaspheme another man who died many centuries ago? Why must the dead judge the living? Why must everybody be forced to go to heaven or hell the same way?

In the law under which Abduljabar was convicted to be killed, it was said no man should blaspheme any of the prophets. The Koran, the holy book of Muslims recognized more than Mohammed (Saw)as a prophet. Moses, Dauda/ David, Abraham, Jesus, etc are also recognized as prophets and must not be blasphemed. How many times diverse peoples in the North of Nigeria have blasphemed Jesus? and nobody has been brought to book. The case of Deborah Sunday, a young student at the College of Education in Sokoto is a very recent example. For daring to claim to it was Jesus that helped her pass an exam that many failed, she was declared to be irreligious, swooped upon, and killed by fellow students. Until today, many months after, not a single person has been arrested by the police and brought to justice. Not a single person has been arraigned in the Sharia court and charged with blasphemy. What those who killed Deborah did amounts to blasphemy of Jesus and since he also is one of the prophets of the Koran, the killers ought to face blasphemy charges. By rejecting the testimony of Deborah, they blasphemed Jesus of Deborah. What all these point to is that the Sharia law in Nigeria has become an instrument of oppression of the opposition. It has become a political weapon to keep under the voice of dissent. Somebody surely fear the gathering Abduljabar was convincing and felt his own power and influence were whittling down the power of the majority and therefore decided to take out the cleric.

What happened, therefore, is not that the court and government of Kano state tried Abduljabar for blasphemy, but that they selectively judged him, they muzzled his opinion on religion. If the killers of Deborah could be spared, Abduljabar should also be spared. The right of Deborah to free speech and to practice her religion of choice was taken away by some thugs and criminals and poor Deborah was left defenceless by agents of the state to which her parents pay taxes. Until the law of Nigeria is harmonized, the country will not know peace and cannot stay together. There must not be one law for the North and another law for the South. There must not be one law for the fanatics and another for the enslaved. The law must not serve the haters against the hated. The cause of the Boko Haram insurgency is something close to the Aduljabbar case. Mohammed Yussuf, the progenitor of Boko Haram was a fiery preacher who was preaching fiery messages against the corrupt political class. He was able to gather a large mass of poor Nigerians who saw sense in what he preached and believed him. He was arrested by the military who handed him over to the police who killed him without trial on the orders of the power that be then. That oppression has a cost and still costing Nigerian taxpayers trillions of naira in the purchase of military equipment to fight off the insurgency that resulted, in stealing by the military establishment that turn the war into a cash cow and in internally displaced persons in hundreds of thousands and in untold deaths and rape and human miseries.

Nigeria will not know peace under these injustices and where there is no peace, we must forget development and unity. The other time in Ilorin, a group of Muslims gathered to harass and possibly kill off a young lady who was practicing her religion of Olosun, a local deity. Their grouse was that Ilorin was a Muslim town, a holy land in their own terms and therefore they will not allow Olosun worship which they termed idolatry. You will wonder at their crass ignorance. Ilorin is a Yoruba town where the founders knew nothing but these deities and worshipped them. Islam arrived later when Fulani conquered Ilorin. So how did Ilorin become a Muslim town where other religions must not be, where the Olosuns who were the original religion of the land must be exterminated in preference from a religion that came from Saudi Arabia? Unfortunately, the police took sides with these ignorant Muslim clerics in Ilorin, but the lady reportedly fought back with her juju which the police feared, and they returned her paraphernalia.

There must be religious freedom in Nigeria. Sharia must give way to the supremacy of the laws commonly made by the representatives of Nigerians. The Muslims, as General Emeka Ojukwu of the Biafra fame said, must bring whatever laws they want to the common assembly of the people for debate. If they passed the crucible of public debate and are passed by the representatives of the people of Nigeria, they become the law for all Nigerians to obey. But if they don’t, they become inapplicable in the nation. That is how the nation will be built that all Nigerians will admire and love. Sharia must be expunged from our constitution because it has become an instrument for oppression and for political vendetta, cleric Abdujabbar Nasiru Kabara must be set free because he has offended nobody, and the killers of Deborah Sunday must be fished out and tried under the laws of the nation. The Kwara police must fight behind the Olosuns to practice their religion without let or hindrance.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos

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