By Tonnie Anele
Continuing from where I stopped last time, it is clear that Mubarak Bala has paid a hefty price for his nonconformist beliefs. For instance, in 2014 he was taken by force to a psychiatric facility in Kano and kept for eighteen days. While there, he was drugged and subjected to vicious human rights abuses.
Fortunately, Bala remains undaunted and steadfast in his core humanist atheistic convictions. As a secular humanist, he insists that the abandonment of superstitious religious fairytales and adoption of reason and scientific attitude is the only way to ensure human flourishing and wellbeing.
His valiant refusal to be intimidated by hardcore Muslims deserves the support of all right-thinking individuals who understand that the path to self-actualisation is laid on the bedrock of freedom of thought, especially the right to hold controversial nonconformist views despite the dangers, societal pressures, threats, and harassment. Bala is still in detention awaiting trial for blasphemy. But what is blasphemy?
The concept of blasphemy in Islam is a salad bowl of punishable utterances and conducts considered un-Islamic or anti-Islam by muslims. According to Wikipedia, the Holy Quran does not explicitly prescribe any earthly punishment for blasphemy, and in relation to allegation of mocking Allah or any of the prophets recognised in Islam (particularly Muhammad), it advocates a non-violent response if the person involved is not a muslim (Quran 4: 140).
Nevertheless, a variety of punishments, including execution, has been instituted in Islamic jurisprudence or sharia law that draws its inspiration from the Hadith containing utterances and activities attributed to Prophet Muhammad, which is second to the Holy Quran as the principal source of Islamic law. Over the years actual prosecution and punishment for blasphemy varies from one jurisdiction to another. In Nigeria, particularly with regard to northern states that operate Islamic law, a sharia court may treat blasphemy as deserving of several punishments up to, and including death penalty.
It is surprising that lawyers are the ones who started the persecution of Bala because they are expected to be familiar with relevant sections of the amended 1999 constitution cited earlier which guarantee every Nigerian freedom of expression and of belief, which also entails freedom of unbelief. Again, as we pointed out a moment ago the Holy Qoran, Islam’s apex scripture does not prescribe any earthly sanction for blasphemy.
It follows that persecution of Bala (or anyone for that matter) on allegation of blasphemy is contrary to the fundamental laws of the country and Islamic revealed scripture. Mubarak Bala should be released immediately. His continued detention is a flagrant violation of his fundamental human right to freedom of expression and belief.
Moving on to other matters, something extremely dangerous is happening now which portends great danger to Nigerians, namely, the movement of thousands of Fulani young men from the north and neighbouring muslim-dominated countries loaded in lorries and trailers like cattle into southern Nigeria, particularly at this time of lockdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Videos that have since gone viral contain scenes of security operatives and law enforcement agencies intercepting the vehicles, including Dangote trucks. And no one knows for sure how many of this potential Fulani fighters have infiltrated the south. Now, this ominous influx of Fulani youths into southern Nigeria has been attributed to the recent decision by northern governors to send almajiris back to their home states. But this explanation is untenable.
To begin with, a significant proportion of typical almajiris are young children, including girls. However, the people pouring into the south are overwhelmingly young men of fighting age. Again, if northern politicians behind all this really intended to send almajiris back to their home states, and obviously no southern state has the almajiri culture, it means that the decision is probably motivated by sinister motives, namely, to have enough foot soldiers in the south in case war breaks out or to alter the demographic configuration of southern Nigeria to favour the Fulani, in the long run.
Or has the almajiri become some sort of federal allocation to be distributed to every state? It is disturbing that, as at the moment of writing the federal government has not taken any concrete measure to stop the illicit dumping of undereducated, unemployed and, probably, coronavirus-infected Fulani youths on the south. Perhaps, as some people have observed, the unfolding scenario or process is part of the nomadic Fulani grand plan since Uthman Dan Dodio’s jihads of the nineteenth century to dip the Holy Quran into the Atlantic, reiterated shortly after independence by Sir Ahmadu Bello.
Similarly, the overwhelming Muslim-Fulani domination of key positions at the federal level since 2015, especially the security architecture, gives credence to the suspicion in certain quarters that the dominant faction of the northern establishment is using Buhari’s administration to execute its Fulanisation and Islamisation project in Nigeria. This would sound uncharitable or outlandish to a typical buharimaniac, but let us look at the facts.
After news had filtered out that President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a Muslim from Kwara State as his Chief of Staff (CoS) to replace the late Abba Kyari, Buhari’s nepotism has reared its ugly head once again. As Reno Omokri, an aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan asked, is Nigeria now under the Muslim Brotherhood? Presently, the Presidency, National Assembly, the Supreme Court, defence, army, police, NSA, DSS, EFCC, and several other critical agencies of the federal government are headed by northern Muslim men.
Yet, non-muslim buharimaniacs from the south do not see anything wrong with Buhari appointing another northern Muslim to a key position in his government. First, they argue that Prof. Gambari’s impressive academic credentials and professional experience make him suitable for the job. But in essays that have gone viral on social media, Ambassador Dapo Fafowora and others have questioned seriously the personal integrity and character of Gambari.
Second, is the claim that the new CoS is Yoruba simply because his full name contains ‘Agboola,’ which probability reflects the Yoruba origin of his mother. In any case, a name does not always signify accurately where a person comes from. For instance, Prof. Chike Obi, the legendary mathematician at the University of Lagos, gave his children Yoruba and Fulani names. Does that make his children Yoruba or Fulani? Certainly not. Besides, Prof. Gambari belongs to the Fulani ruling house of the emirate in Kwara state.
Therefore, it is strange to claim that he is Yoruba. Third, we are told that the office of CoS is so sensitive that it must be reserved for a very trusted person, someone the President can trust with his life. This argument, like the one President Buhari used in 2015 to justify his nepotic appointments, does not hold water at all.
The federal character provision in the 1999 constitution makes it clear that federal appointments must be done in such a manner that there is no preponderance of one ethnic group, region or religion, which means that the ethnic nationalities and religions in the country should be fairly represented to foster the feeling of belonging and unity among Nigerians.
President Buhari has serially violated the federal character principle. And considering our chequered history of war and inter ethnic and religious tensions, including the centrifugal tendencies that have worsened in the last five years, clearly he has committed a serious misconduct by populating his administration in critical areas with northern Muslims.
In addition, a President that pharisaically preaches the trite gospel of “One Nigeria” and canvassed for and received votes during elections from all over the country but trusts only those from his ethnic group and religion is not the kind of leader we need at this uncertain critical period. Instead, Reasonable Nigerians prefer a President that can see the entire country as his constituency and works hard to be fair and just to all.
So, President Muhammadu Buhari has failed woefully on this score. With the appointment of Prof. Gambari he has shown once again appalling insensitivity to the legitimate complaints of marginalisation by the south, especially south-east, which is part of the country that generates over eighty-per cent of federal revenue.
An average Igbo person knows that the increasing popularity and acceptance in Igboland of Nnamdi Kanu’s relentless agitation for self-determination is largely due to the condescending I-don’t-care attitude of Buhari to the concerns and aspirations of Igbo people. There is no need to pretend about this. Some argue that the President has the constitutional right or prerogative to appoint only members of his village or fellow muslims so long as they can perform.
To be concluded.