Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail- email@example.com
Mercy O Merciful!
On my prim soul in agony
A woeful reverie called today
And a heavenly gentle sleep I saw
Carry you far away
O what can in Fate's eye be
Of what a vision false and I
Sullen as a dead tree leaf
With only a soul, a mere wee
Soul inactive in a shallow sea?
A godless soul would die as dregs
In my scathing pitiless pain
Were I not that drop of foggy milk
Then into a fetus lump and I
In your warm glorious grave
Was shaped with bones and flesh
And when first I breathed on earth
I made for fear a twofold wail
From strange meddling force, my tender
Spirit afloat and your genial soul
Unbosomed boundless spring of hearty love
A mighty soul and weak fleshy mould
No teeth to sneer or bite a fool
No fist to fight or hold a foe
No eye nor ear nor nose to feel
Not even a tongue to taste or abuse
O a mighty soul and mere weak flesh
As tiny tot, I had my weak vim
All from that sacred teat, your sweet self
Stood a non-pareil single backer
And gave me your warm wings to perch
And smothered my tender crying-lips
With soft soothing and motherly kisses
With angelic songs, lulling and soothing
You carried me out with extra care
Under the azure village sky to feel
The breathing breeze of my home
And watch the beautiful gentle dance
Of the beautiful star-dogged moon
At twelve my boyish aching joy grew
When for welfare, you went outland
And did duly dispatch fat boon
And came weekly to look at us
Beholden to you I took dauntless
Impulse in search of knowledge
For your uncountable benefactions
To learn how to serve and repay
Afield for over three square years
To here where I was flung by lot
Here where I cannot choose nor say
Here where I am painted and called
By many sorts of filthy nicks
And no-cause curses for I have
Left my home-my dear dear home
I am Sammaarah and Zoul
They curse me Ibn Wiskhi and Zift
More painful Kusummak, they say
O lost have I my motherly pride
Lost have I my fatherly thews
Lost have I my physical shape
More lost have I my dialect's brogue
Nothing my meager purse can hold
Feel I light-headed, my heart bleeds
Lonesome and strange, I am belittled
When sick, when hungry or sad
When in dearth, in agony or fear
Where are those motherly cares, who asks?
My whole inward, my whole self
Ploughs through these harrowing conditions
With great difficulty
How many times have I shed tears?
In spirit, how many times my fair
Weakened heart has thawed in sadness
For solace home-idylls, your sweet lays
(Slow and steady wins the race
Patience and decency wins success
Life is hope and hope is life...)
Have been fine lullabies
To you alone have I turned many times
And wept calmly to chasten my eyes
That they may see and read and learn
The best of what will be my sword
Never had passed a day and kept away
That memory of filial care from me
Better had I trod the deepest sea
And get me drown with unforeseen smile
And share my carcass sleazy and vile
To feast the sharks and cats of the sea
Than make a cant of your worthy She
If this mind should willfully a day
Swim across a distressful thought
Or ring a bell of faithlessness
In you mother, however slim
My end as vowed sordid and grim
Days shall come, surely days shall come
When I will reap - God be You Great
The ripe fruits of these crawling toils
These thorns of life
Then your sterling son shall I be
So let linger the crushing pain
Of assured decline
Tarry O inevitable end! Until
A toast of joy you taste, O dear mum
From that unforgettable tempestuous travail
But do not cast me off your mind
For all I plead to live unharmed
In a nest in your bosom broad
With the coming on board of Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar to Nigeria's leadership, the ratio in gender consideration for the first time in the history of the country has balanced. Two men to one woman is a good ratio, and it should be a base of comparison between the leadership of the male and that of the female at the end of this administration. This development is a good omen to the government of President Goodluck Jonathan if the opportunity can be utilized to the best for the interest of the citizenry and enthronement of democracy and the rule of law.
The executive and the legislative arms of Nigeria's government have never been entrusted to Nigerian women politicians. The first female Speaker of the lower Chamber of the National Assembly, Hon. Patricia Etteh, which was then the highest elective position for the Nigerian women, was conspicuously set up and removed by the same people who are now facing the nemesis. How God works should caution human beings of not just looking at their feet but imagining the pregnancy in tomorrow.
Aloma's appointment is another outstanding achievement by President Goodluck Jonathan because, assuredly, there were a lot of interests against her emergency as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). The President, who has shown clear disposition to the empowerment of Nigerian women and the recognition and promotion of the excellence in them, withstood all the pressure and made a history as the first Nigerian president to appoint a first female CJN. More women (at least 35% of the executive members) are in his government. The oil cartel is being fought for the first time and oil industry is up for repositioning to enhance the nation's economy.
On July 30, 2012, President Jonathan sent a letter of Aloma's appointment to the Senate for confirmation in conformity with Section 231 Sub-section (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. The letter read, "I have the honour to forward the nomination of Honourable Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, CON, CFR for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria. These appointments have been necessitated by the impending retirement from service of Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, Chief Justice of Nigeria and Hon. Justice F.F. Tabai," he said.
A woman ordained to excel and triumph, the political profile of Justice Aloma is great. Born on November 20, 1944, she attended St. George Primary School, Zaria and St. Bartholomew's School, Wusasa, Zaria, Kaduna State, Rossholme School for Girls, East Brent, Somerset, England, Reading Technical College, Reading, Berkshire, England and Gibson and Weldon College of Law, England. She was called to the English Bar in Absentia in November, 1966 and to the Nigerian Bar in July 1967. She began her career as Pupil State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Northern Nigeria, 1967,Office of the Legal Draftsman, Interim Common Services Agency, Magistrate Grade I, North Eastern State Government, 1971, Chief Registrar, Kano State Government Judiciary, 1973, Judge of the High Court of Kano State, 1977-1987, Justice of the Court of Appeal, 1987-1993 and Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, 1993-2005.
She was was the first woman on the bench and the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court. She was also the first woman to be appointed into the Appeal Court. In 2000, she served in the Court of Appeal and ranked third in seniority behind his predecessor, Justice Dahiru Musdapher and the President of the Court of Appeal. In 2005, she was confirmed as Supreme Court Justice and was much later joined by Justices Olufunlola Adeyeye and Mary Odili.
She is the 13 indigenous CJNs Nigeria had produced. The past CJN's included justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, who retired in 2011. Others are, Adetokunbo Ademola 1958–1972, Teslim Olawale Elias, 1972–1975, Darnley Arthur Alexander, 1975–1979, Atanda Fatai Williams, 1979–1983, George Sodeinde Sowemimo, 1983–1985, Ayo Gabriel Irikefe, 1985–1987, Mohammed Bello, 1987–1995, Muhammad Lawal Uwais, 1995–2006, Salihu Moddibo Alfa Belgore, 2006–2007, Idris Legbo Kutigi, 2007–2009, Aloysius Ignatius Kastina-Alu 2009 -2011 and Justice Dahiru Musdahper 2011-2012.
Forces for and against her emergency stood stark. This had been the greatest force. A woman heading the judiciary! The odd forces had haunted her from the early parts of her service. She was said to be senior to the immediate past CJN, Dahiru Musdapher, in the old Kano State judiciary, having joined service some six months before the retired CJN, though younger in age, but was sidelined when it was time to appoint the Chief Judge of the state.
It is said that she was then asked to transfer her service to the Court of Appeal where she served for 17 years. Unfortunately even while qualified, but still being a woman, she was allegedly kept at the Court of Appeal as one president emerged after the other in that court. And to seal any possibility of heading that court, her promotion to the Supreme Court was engineered. There were even alleged moves to make her the full time Chief Justice of the Republic of Gambia. But God had heard her cry and encouraged President Jonathan to fight off the forces and insist on her merit and competence.
She is described as a trailblazer in her career and one who has risen to this pinnacle in the judiciary on account of her brilliance, resilience and hard work. Mr. President himself summed up her fate and qualities saying, "There is the hand of destiny in the life of this distinguished jurist. From the records she was the first female lawyer of the Northern extraction, the first female high court judge from the North, first female second in command Kano State judiciary, the first Nigerian female jurist to be elevated to the Court of Appeal where she served for over 17 years at the appellate court. Her lordship's achievement is an inspiration to all citizens especially womanhood not only in Nigeria but also in Africa and the rest of the world".
"The Honourable CJN now joins an eminent and exclusive list of achievers recognized throughout the world as beacon of hope in this century,'' Mr. President believes.
Since her appointment by the President, reactions have been pouring in as to whether she is capable or not. What is paramount is that the country needs concerted efforts by the three arms of government. It is never impossible for any arm of government to prove its integrity and discharge its duties according to the constitution. The executive and the legislative arms are headed by men. Now that the judiciary is headed by a female for the first time, it is a challenge for both genders.
Some Nigerian patriots, including the writer has advocated for a Nigerian vice president. Let us see how the proverb that what a man can do a woman can do it even better works in Nigeria with this development. So, this is a very heavy task that has been placed on the shoulders of Justice Aloma. She must tell the world that Nigerian women have come of age. Not minding her marital status, she is now a leader of a complete arm of the nation's leadership, and by extension the most herculean because it the last hope of every Nigerian.
Even as the new CJN has been favoured by Mr. President, it should not be a base for her to subject the office – the people's real office - to the dictate of other two arms. Although there are believed to be a lot of rots in the judiciary which demand the employment of judicial officers with wealth of experience in criminal jurisprudence and terrorism to preside over the courts, she should base her own appointments on merit and ensure that she fulfills her promise of cleansing the system.
Cleansing an already established system in Nigeria is not just as easy as reeling out measures to do it. Can she step on the toes of them who have aided corruption and indiscipline in the management of the nation's affairs? Rhetoric and oratory are the mostly employed in solving Nigeria's problem. Practically, none of both yields positive results. Can there be any change? Can our judiciary really become a house of incorruptible judges and justices?
There have been serious complaints of delayed trials particularly in cases of corruption, terrorism and other matters of serious concern. Many citizens have been behind the bars for very minor reasons while others have been moving freely on the streets in Nigeria and abroad, yet with very serious punishable offences.
Such uncountable complaints have forced many Nigerians to seek the creation of special courts or designation of special judges to handle them with the required experience and speed. As the CJN seems to have opted for the second choice of designating special judges, she has to ensure that the judges to be appointed into such positions are incorruptible. But as a woman, will the men judges obey her orders? Will they not conspire against her in that enviable appointment?
Her promise of reforming the judiciary as made clear during her confirmation by the Senate is a heavy burden. If the reformation of the Nigerian judiciary can be possible under a woman, then in the next few years, the women should take over the National Assembly leadership. If they can reform the legislative arms, then Nigerians will resolve to give them the backing for the first Nigerian president. This is the beginning, nay, the testing beginning!
The judiciary needs to be independent so as to ensure that only the people of the people are in power. If that is assured, then the national development and survival are come by. Can the new CJN ensure timely justice delivery and reform the nearly rotten system?
Worried by the recent controversies over air transport arising from the recent Dana plane crash, the clampdown on terrorist activities internationally and the indiscriminate way unknown Tour Operators conduct Umrah activities during Ramadan without recourse to the federal constituted authorities, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) in conjunction with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) gathered with all concerned stakeholders to find solutions to all related matters in the interest of the nation and Nigerian pilgrims.
The one-day meeting which was held at the NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja had in attendance the leadership of NAHCON, the Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold O. Demuren, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Aviation Matters, Capt. Shehu U. Iyal OON, representative of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator (Barr) Ibrahim Musa, Chairman of NAHCON Security Committee, Alhaji Balarabe M. Rano, Licensed Tour Operators, Chief Executives of Air Carriers, Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), National Association of Nigeria Travels Agents (NANTA), aviation experts and resource persons.
The meeting was critical in its deliberations and brainstorming session, as it discussed the growing number of Nigerians who embark on the lesser pilgrimage – Umrah – to Makkah during the month of Ramadan and the strategy that must be instituted to ensure their safety.
Umrah, the discussants threw up, has grown to be so significant in Nigeria. The number of pilgrims for this yearly holy journeys was in the past not captured, neither by NAHCON because a lot of illegal operators conducted the business nor by the NCAA and other relevant authorities because many of the pilgrims had no defined knowledge of who were the legitimate organizers.
Some people believed that the number of Umrah pilgrims used to be more than that of Hajj because Umrah is not a time-specific, place-specific and manner-specific exercise. Throughout the month of Ramadan, and especially the last ten days of Ramadan, thousands of Nigerian Muslims join their counterparts from across the world to observe fasting, iftar and tarawih (night prayers) in the Holy Ka'abah in Makkah or Prophet Muhammad's Mosque in Madinah.
This year, with Ramadan just few days away, there was a revelation that the number of expectant Umrah pilgrims who had secured their entry visas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was over 60,000. The issuance of Umrah visas had not stopped, though it was basically secured through Tour Operators. Based on that fact that the pilgrim population was high, it was a consensus that the business should no longer be allowed to be conducted freely by inexperienced, unlicensed and incapable tour companies.
The Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold O. Demuren, was as blunt as he is always known. "There will be zero tolerance on any things that is capable of causing insecurity during the Umrah operations. We must ensure safety for the air carriers and security for the pilgrims," he repeated many times.
To achieve this, according to the NCAA boss, there will be total security screening for all the pilgrims before boarding with due respect to their privacy in terms of religious and health backgrounds. To that effect, male security personnel will screen the male pilgrims while the female will screen the female.
He said there will be continuous safety checks on the airworthiness of all aircrafts used in the operations. To that effect, no aircraft will be allowed to move passengers from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia without being certified airworthy by all the relevant aviation regulatory agencies particularly the NCAA, even as he revealed that about 20 signatories were required to certify the worthiness of an aircraft before flying.
While noting that airlines must ensure enough rest period for their crew teams as internationally established, he related the powers of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), adding that only Tour Operators approved and licensed by the Commission will be allowed to participate in Umrah operations in line with the extant regulations of NAHCON Act 2006. Hence, NCAA will not deal with any company not cleared by NAHCON.
Asserting that the age of aircraft was not important in ascertaining its airworthiness, he identified three things that differentiated the aviation industry in Nigeria from other developed nations: they have enough time to plan; they have a lot of money and they are ready to die for the cause they believe in.
On his own part, the Commissioner in charge of operations in the Commission, Barr. Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad MON, enumerated the guidelines for Umrah operations, as laid down by the NAHCON Act 2006.
He said the ultimate aims and objectives of regulating Umrah was to ensure that pilgrims got the value for their money during their journeys which NAHCON was established to ensure compliance. He sought the enhanced cooperation of NCAA especially in the areas of ensuring that only airports certified by NCAA would be used for airlift of Umrah pilgrims, even while protecting the rights of the air carriers in Saudi Arabia.
To bring sanity to the system, he said, NAHCON can grant operational permits to smaller companies, which would only operate as agents to duly licensed Tour Operators. By this, an agent will be entitled to work for only one licensed Tour Operator both of which must sign a binding agreement to be supervised by the NAHCON.
He urged the Tour Operators to ensure proper education, sensitization and orientation of their pilgrims especially on operational and security matters, and to develop an e-ticketing system in such a way that approved air carriers by NAHCON would be made to indicate date of return on pilgrims' tickets.
On their parts, NANTA and AHOUN expressed support and cooperation with NAHCON for the various policies and efforts aimed at uplifting the standard in the Umrah and Hajj industry in Nigeria.
Both bodies appealed to NAHCON to always come to their aid in adjudication of legal matters with Saudi service providers and cases arising from their operations. They made an appeal to the Federal Government to intervene on scheduled air carriers who have indiscriminately hiked their fares in anticipation of the Umrah and Hajj operations. To this, the NCAA boss promised to investigate.
At the end of the meeting, participants called on the Federal Government not to scrap the NAHCON or subjugate it under any Ministry, but rather to support the Commission in view of the achievements it has recorded especially in the areas of bringing sanity to Hajj management and the conduct of Umrah operations in Nigeria.
Ramadan is the month the Muslims in the whole world fast from dawn to dust. It is the best amongst all the Islamic lunar months because of the plenty of gifts and spiritual abundance it offers those who reflect and utilize it amongst the Muslims. Fasting has its significant aims and objectives which ultimately narrow down to the attainment of piety. Other attainments of the month are pity, love, tolerance, broadmindedness, forbearance, bravery and endurance.
Piety has been summed up by our blessed Caliph Aliyu Abi Talib: The Fear of the Al-Mighty; To work in accordance to the dictates of the Revealed Book (the Holy Qur'an); To be contented with the little you have; And to be ever prepared for the Day of the Journey (Death).
This obligation was not only prescribed by Allah on the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), but on the nations before Prophet Muhammad. But probably, they observed the fast in different ways and periods.
Ramadan, is therefore, the month of Allah's limitless mercy and abundance on the Muslim Ummah. It is the month of love and fear of Allah; the month of Taqwa (self-consciousness and self-restraint), the month of direct entry into Paradise and protection from the Hell for those who work for it and the month in which the compete divine constitution – the Holy Qur'an – was sent down by the Lord of the Worlds to guide all the creatures of the Worlds to the right path till the Day of Judgment. Too many good attributes to this month, but to crown it all, Ramadan is the only month that was mentioned in the Holy Qur'an by its name because of its unequalled blessings within its few days of mercy, forgiveness as well as total salvation and spiritual elevation.
How can a Muslim achieve all these bounties in this holy month? Simple! We should intensify our obedience to the Sovereignty of Allah and pray for Allah's blessings on Prophet Muhammad and his household; We must establish the five compulsory prayers and intensify efforts in observing the supplementary – nafilah and tarawih; We must pay our zakat and intensify efforts in giving out sadaqat; we must fast these few days of Ramadan with faith and consciousness; and we must compete in doing good deeds, warding off evils and getting ever ready for the day we will depart this transit on earth.
If we survey properly the books of Islamic history, we will find that Ramadan was always the month of great achievements for the Muslims, the month when the Prophet or his noble companions plotted out their future personal affairs and those of the Islamic society. Of personal matters, though they were keen worshippers at all times, they intensified their relationship with Allah (SWT) to maintain it afterward. They developed the interest of fasting after Ramadan. They accepted the fact that the greatest worldly affair was just to fill the stomach. Once it was filled all times, the brain was bent to strain or stray sometimes. They looked at the future as one of the nearest things to man.
Taking Ramadan as example of an existence which soon after it is expected the end begins to approach, they believed that today must be properly utilized for tomorrow, if ever it will come. Of the society, it was the period each Muslim struggled to aid the Muslim brothers and sisters who are in need. They provided for the poor neighbours, gave out wears even before Eid, helped the youths to marry, and settled cases between the husband and wife and other related family matters. Before breaking fast, they moved from place to place looking for a faster whom they would give something to breakfast. They, by doing so, inculcated in the minds of the poor and needy the real sense of belonging to the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) whose foundation is basically built upon cooperation for good and piety, never on evil ventures and spreading of enmity.
In Ramadan was revealed the Holy Qur'an which is the constitution – the only constitution –suitable for mankind with all its races, ethics and diversities. In Ramadan was the greatest battle like Badr between Islam and disbelief (kufr) which the Muslims with the blessings of Ramadan itself triumphed over their adversaries. There had never been an end to the conflicts between the truth and falsehood. The Truth, being so patient and focused, always prevails. And Ramadan comes as a boost to the truth.
From the good past days, Ramadan had never been conceived as instrumental to sloth and failure. Normal activities of a Muslim continue. Remembering Allah is at all times and can be done silently on the way to work places. Recitation, memorization and learning of the Holy Qur'an which are strongly recommended while fasting can be planned out and done at leisure times even in offices or work centers as long as it will not inconvenience your work mates. Doing good both by words and deeds should be the motive of a Muslim throughout his life especially during this month.
In our present society, Muslims are – Allah knows best – the most blessed people despite the foes of Islam refuse to accept it .This position bestowed on Muslims by Allah did not become from nothing. It is because of the cordial relationship between Allah – the Creator and Owner of everything in existence – and the Muslims. Despite all shortcomings on the part of the Muslims, at least Ramadan and prayers still have their impacts on the lives of the majority. It is yet regrettable that zakat is hardly given out by the deserving to the deserved.
This year, Ramadan is coming in a very critical time in the religious-political struggle of Nigeria. There is considerable tension in the country. It should be noted that Satan himself always finds man's unawareness as time to cause confusion and deter man and humanity from any noble course. Muslims must use Ramadan to reassess their affinity with Allah, reorganize themselves and the unity of the Ummah and the entire nation. The elite must realize that the underlings among the Muslims are trust under them. The safety of their lives and meager belongings in our shaky society fully lies in their hands.
Every Muslim should strive to support the truth. Let not the pursuit of this worldly ends led by money cow our leaders from the noble course which Islam preaches and which Ramadan comes yearly to remind and accentuate. They should use this blessed month to solicit Allah's intervention in our general problems which is basically disunity, avarice and to an extent, arrogance. Let our elite use this golden time to call for unity and focus. It is normal that we may differ in opinions, but it is not normal when we see ourselves as not brothers and sisters in Islam. It is easy to proclaim unity with free tongues, but daily occurrences unveil the reality. Every Muslim should know that until we agree to unite, our plights will remain to pull us back.
United we stand in Islam, divided we fall out of Islam. Our religion is peace and humanity. The Holy Qur'an has clearly stated that nothing can satisfy a non-believer save joining disbelief. It is thus upon a Muslim to deal with modern disbelief with extra-caution, yet with straight forwardness, simplicity while cooperation should exist among the diversity of people and religions in Nigeria.
The duty of guarding the Islamic faith, ethics and morals is not only on the elite. Every Muslim should be vigilant and hardworking. They should pray for the collective prosperity of the Ummah. The mature but unmarried should be aided. The unemployed should be strategically employed. The poor and needy should be provided for. It is really on eyesore to find most of the beggars on the streets being Muslims. Do we want to believe that other religions in this country have no poor and needy? Something should be done. Let the great souls of the wealthy in the Islamic nations, individually and collectively extend the abundance of Allah on them to arrest the situation. May Allah be with us in all and touch those might souls?
Ramadan is the month when the soul of a Muslim is connected to the heaven and man. What will be one's gain to witness Ramadan without any change in his life? Will you read the Qur'an? Will you worship Allah sincerely? Will you develop the habit to give out from what you have? Will you conquer your heart whims and caprices? And will you pray for the safety, peace, unity and progress of our nation – Nigeria? If you have and will, you are really in Ramadan. If you have and will, then you truly know whom you are – A believer in Allah!
Ramadan is the month of vigilance. Every Muslim should look at what will benefit his brothers and sisters in Islam. Muslims should protect the interest of one another disregarding tribe and class. The Muslim minority needs to be reached and aided because there is nothing most painful than the heart being tormented by words and implications. The Muslim minority undergoes psychological torture and physical denials. The holy month comes for us to plan for our future. How do we plan?
i) Intensify da'awa programmes of tolerance and peace in the states where Muslims are in minority.
ii) Build worship places in villages even where Muslims are few. There are villages that have no mosque to pray.
iii) Arrest the poor conditions of the Muslim beggars by engaging them in creative art works which will benefit the nation in general and prevent them from going into the streets for begging. Islam surely disproves the act. But some of them are truly forced.
iv) Use this month to train the Muslim child on the ethics and morals of Islam. The Muslim child should be encouraged to start fasting from an early age so that it would have become part of the child at maturity.
v) Hold Qur'an competitions for homes, streets, areas, zones, states even individually. The Muslim minority should be encouraged to memorize too.
vi) Our noble imams should intensify the call for national unity and security as we know that the supplications of a fasting Muslim is never returned unanswered especially when they are for the general good and prosperity.
vii) Organize a yearly massive marriage (nikah) programme for the unable ones like it is done in Kano.
viii) Establish a mini "Baitul-Zakah" to regulate the zakat or donations from local and International donors.
May Allah make this Ramadan one of the best in our lives and reward all good-doing, peace-loving and Ummah-caring Muslims.
Farewell to the thermal yore
Some whereat things did follow
Man, my pioneers sang fluently
What gives man power to rise
Farewell great ancestors due
Realms of songs have I imbibed
So sweet, soothing and pricking
And would be gross to deny
Thou art Wisdom, fast Socrates
Though Utopia lay on leaves
And Aristotle, so mildly brave
Charged the perils of degrade
Adieu Chaucer for thy lays
May I just a day be let
To wend to Canterbury
So to look at Bath's deaf wife
Spencer's Prothalamion's great
Of tales pressing and fearful
With fair bids that sweet Thames run
Till Master ends his music
Drayton, thou kissed and parted
Yet wished to return from death
While Marlowe had summoned
The fair swains to sing and dance
William, William, O William
Art thou with only a brain!
My compendium of thy hail
Sonnets flew smooth through thy pen
God has heard thy painful cry
Hymnodist Donne - Whole Minstrel
And being 'indifferent' here
Seems to curb our pains and joys
Paradise was lost, Milton
And sin-bred did debar man
Of his simply happiest life
Was it not again realized?
Finitude can't comprehend
The Great, all have endeavoured
And a love-happy minute
Relieves our fear, O Dryden!
Brave Alexander don Pope
May I have entrée to say
Thy thrilling notes reached the sky
And heavenly joys inspired
Thou art worth all words can say
For thou has real the table turned
That singers can first play thought
Than mere prosody and rhyme
Nature in thee and reverse
And thy child was thy father
Man's solitude draws him near
To God, love and live Nature
The opiate-induced Taylor
Thou wise Ancient Mariner
Turned, saw Abyssinian maid
Play piano on Abora
Allan, thou feared 'Nevermore'
And was coveted for love
Between you and Annabel
Who laid in peace by sea side
Drink life to the lees, Alfred
And chase lore like sinking star
And a lot is wrought by Calls
Than Reason can comprehend
Things have fallen far apart
Anarchy has marred this land
All, old and young have traversed
Thy art well done, O stern Yeats!
Eliot - Master of the art
Hollow men art we today
Impatient, hard in life chase
Yet fear a handful of dust
All bridges are falling now
So long live Ladies of Rock
And Speare's wit demeaned as rags
And the Thunder's speech reversed
O Pepper, true all lie bare
Casualties of peace-less-ness!
And oppressors and oppressed
Have a day sure to recall
And Wole, the big lore headed
In telephone conversation
Apartheid even out of sight
How severe thou art in art!
Okara, I hear with thee
The call of the River Nun
Even as mine river does call
To still crested waves of life
The crowding stony faces
Of man, O Leopold Senghor!
Haunts, scares the humane, albeit
But our heroes never die
Haven't we always been the last
As we rush-rush, dear Kwesi
To remove peace from our homes
In search of queer betrayals?
To ye all I hold a hail
Whether ye ain't said in this
It's not neglect but this sheet
Compiles all thou rich ages
Reason, Romantic are spurs
More of thought and love divine
The fountains have I well tapped
But claim no golden instinct
To say one is wrong is wrong
Except one plus one is one
But when eyes are used to think
These have I weighed and taken
Ye live when human transit
And inspire as long lives man
For all we do with intent
Dwell after our flesh manures
Whatever happens in Nigeria, the military should NEVER allow religious sentiments or extremism to infiltrate the barracks. Soldiers and security personnel are such as physical security from God for mankind on earth. That is why they should never allow religion to play a decisive role in their operations. If that is allowed, then the country is finished. May God forbid!
This is not to discourage the freedom of religion among Nigerians. Though there has been a latent struggle of supremacy between Muslims and Christians in the security outfits, that tendency should not be displayed during operations for the interest of the entire nation. An unconfirmed report that a soldier was betrayed by his co-soldiers on religious grounds during the recent Kaduna reprisal attacks on innocent citizens does not signal well for the Nigerian military. The said soldier who was of an opposite religion among the many soldiers was identified, caught, tied up and murdered in cold blood in the presence of his colleagues. A quite horrific betrayal!
A critical analysis of all the happenings in Nigeria shows that religion has been a readily destructive tool employed by people who have found how extremist some Nigerians are to matters of religion. Go to places of work. Go to even markets. Go to schools. Nigerians mock their fellow citizens. "These Boko Haram people", is severally used to mock innocent Muslim faithfuls. Words such as "nyamiri" and "arne" should cease to be part of the lexicon in the barracks because they are used to jeer fellow citizens. And nearly every violence in Nigeria is intertwined into one religion or the other.
Many qualified citizens have been denied admission and recruitment into the security outfits on religious grounds in the areas where a religion is in minority. Nigerians now carried religious tags in search of jobs. It is commonplace the intrigues in securing a slot in the NDA for instance. And so it is in most government agencies. That is a task the security chief must overcome to give all Nigerians the true sense of belonging.
Most of the security problems in the country as of today have religious undertone. There is need to enforce enhanced moral instructions in the nation's security. The military is a well-established institution that is well respected because of its maintenance of high level of discipline and loyalty to constituted authority. They have defended the nation's integrity and democracy. They have assisted the police in maintaining law and order.
These Nigerians have proved patriotism and need not to preach religious bigotry amongst themselves. They should, therefore, focus on effective and efficient enforcement of democratic governance for peace, stability and development of the country. They cannot afford to mortgage their togetherness, respect for law, discipline and national interest for religion. If this dangerous trend is not checkmated, the effect of insecurity in the nation could be more devastating when the civilians are completely undone.
During the recent crisis in Kaduna, it was reported of how some Muslims and Christians saved their counterparts without regards to religion. NEMA's Search and Rescue teams received members of the Christian faithful who took refuge in some Muslim homes just as it evacuated some Muslims that were harboured by their Christian neighbours. It was also reported in Port Harcourt where followers of both religions marched against religious violence.
The highest echelon of government should practically display religious indifference in their dealings to move the country forward. By so doing, the insurgence by Boko Haram, kidnappings by the misled citizens, militancy, massive corruption and bribery scandals could be mitigated. Boko Haram has created confusion and threats to the nation unity. But as many strongly believe, it will be over when it will be over.
In his national issue discourse number 346 titled, "The Christian Answer to Boko Haram", Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde, held that the circle of cowardice among the Nigerian elites in facing the reality can continue forever except Nigerians find a way to cancel the negatives and arrive at a positive digit. The fact is that retaliation could only serve as a deterrent for a short while. It often produces a vicious cycle of violence. Christians in some communities carry out war crimes against Muslims. Boko Haram says it retaliates but under the hidden tactic of bombings. Then Christians retaliate in areas they too think Muslims are weak. Both do it against innocent citizens, against places of worship, against God, though purportedly in the name of God.
Christian leaders and opinion shapers have appealed to Muslim leaders to use their weight to restrain Boko Haram. But sincerely, which citizen would restrain any Nigerian that carries arms today? There is none. In the same vein, I have heard many Berom leaders saying that their youths are beyond their control. When some chiefs of Niger Delta tried to stop its militants from terrorist activities in the mid-nineties, the youths accused them of complicity and murdered them. Right now, Nigeria has a high deficit of willing martyrs among its leaders.
The truth, he says, is that when it comes to violence, the answer lies with the law and nothing else. The law it is that can cancel those negatives. It is the instrument that stripped all citizens of the right to possess firearms... Muslims, as I have maintained, should, in the absence of any interest to bring the criminals that have been perpetrating crimes against them to justice locally, refer the matter to the International Court of Justice. They must be prepared to walk the ladder to its top. Armed with hard evidence like the ones we mentioned earlier, it is inconceivable that they will not be offered justice there. So the question of their retaliation is cancelled, ab initio.
Christians on their part must also resort to the law and support it. They must ensure that the law enforcement agencies that they control have risen to the challenge. They must also be patient with them until they succeed without complicating matters through retaliation. And Nigerians would remain together long after the guns of Boko Haram and those of Christian fanatics are put to silence.
Legislators in Akwa Ibom and Delta state Houses of Assembly have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to identify the sponsors of the Boko Haram sect and deal with them accordingly. In a resolution at a joint session of the Assemblies presided over by the Akwa Ibom Speaker, Rt. Hon. Samuel Ikon and his Delta State counterpart, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, the lawmakers said the call became necessary to protect the corporate existence of the country.
In her column of Wednesday, June 20, 2012, Hannatu Musawa, under a title "They don't really care about us", argued that towards the end of 2011, the presidency announced that he knew who the sponsors of the Boko Haram offensive were and that some were in government. "But till this day, we have not seen those people exposed and brought to full justice. Instead, the one man who the world has identified to have been instrumental in igniting the initial conflict with the original Boko Haram, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, appears to enjoy a sort of presidential protection", she claimed.
Sharon Faliya Cham in his article, "As the Church slept...The Trilogy", expressed a firm conviction that the problem bedeviling the church today in Nigeria is rooted in the church's neglect of the first teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Matthew chapter 5 verse 9 which says, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." She believes it has come to full display in Nigeria. "This Scripture is a loud call to the church to be a just and firm arbitrator on all matters of dispute on earth, be it on the economy, education, land disputes, marriage, trade disputes and political disputes.
Ed Silvoso, great man of God and sound teacher of the purpose of the church, in his book titled, Transformation, said, "We usually do not approach the world as peacemakers. Quite the contrary, we tend to preach a gospel of condemnation. However, every time we bring an end to a hostile situation in the world by accessing the power of God, whether that situation be sickness, problems in marriage, oppression, systemic poverty, or financial challenges in the workplace, we are recognized as peacemakers, because that is what peacemakers do – they put an end to hostilities." When I read this passage it occurred to me as if Ed Silvoso did an in-depth study of the church in Nigeria. The failure of the church to act as an unbiased peacemaker was very glaring in the 2011 general elections where a greater portion of the church took sides, even at a time of great political dispute over the zoning arrangement", she posited.
Cham asserts that he who sows love will reap love, and in the same manner he sows hostility will reap hostility. According to her, it is a divine law and there is no way God can shut His eyes and ears or take away His hands from the fulfillment of His own laws. That is why the quest for peace, she said, is much more than prayers to God for peace, rather it should be worked for. "The Bible says faith without works is dead. So praying for peace without working for peace is vain and dead; it becomes a mere exercise in futility. Christians in Nigeria are well known for praying for peace, but almost absent on the field of ensuring justice without which there cannot be peace."
Pause and think about it. Nigeria – the most populous black nation on earth and the economic stronghold of Africa – in search for peace! Every time, there is one crisis or the other – each strongly interwoven into the political string of the nation. Count them since Independence on October 1, 1960. Military coups. Biafra war. Niger Delta insurgency. Religious misunderstandings and killings. Electoral violence. Plane crashes. Corruption. Boko Haram. What more!
I want Nigerians to pause and ponder over this. “Those who may feel that the problems of the oil producing areas are not in their backyard and feel a safe distance from the oil communities should be reminded that Nigeria is an entity moving in one direction. Decay in one part will ultimately affect the rest of the nation. The fate of the mineral producing communities should be a concern for all. The Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, admonishing Nigerians and especially the leaders to feel for the oil producing communities in the country. That is part of where Nigeria’s problem started.
Some military coups were bloody and Nigerians were killed. Biafra civil war claimed lives and properties of Nigerians in the Southeast (the Igbo nation). During the Niger Delta crises, a handsome number of Nigerians were eliminated (the Niger Delta people). In most of the religious misunderstandings that often stage Muslims and Christians at opposition or war part, heads had rolled and hard-earned properties had been set ablaze. Mostly during and after each general election, violence erupted and claimed lives of the unsuspecting electorates. Planes crashes have taken its share in unnecessarily reducing Nigeria’s enviable population. Corruption has been an all-round killer of the masses. Now it is the unfortunate Boko Haram.
As if a vicious circle, the Igbo nation had really tasted serious human losses. Niger Delta had taken its own of the national pains. Have the Southwesterners taken theirs? But the north is undergoing its own reform for a united, stronger and economically competitive nation. When the Sardauna spoke at the time oil was first struck in Nigeria in commercial quantity, he might have been seen as speaking in parables. Now the drama is yet unfolding. Boko Haram is the security challenge of Nigeria today. What have Nigerians done in search for peace?
In the hard search for peace and stability, two major security chiefs, the National Security Adviser to the President and the Minister of Defence have been relieved of their appointments. Although SaharaReporters posted a story indicating that a secret army report allegedly indicted some security chiefs during the Niger Delta insurgency, it is quite unarguable that the present visible greatest challenge for Nigeria is insecurity and these two chiefs whose responsibilities were primarily to restore peace proved otherwise.
Other security chiefs in the country are Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Police Affairs Minister and Inspector-General of Police (IGP). The Acting Inspector General of Police is new. Otherwise, there would be no justification for leaving him unrelieved. His predecessor had proved unsafe to safeguard Nigerians. So, the new National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), should coordinate all the security apparatuses in the country and quickly swoop into action to forestall further insurgency and rebellion against constituted authorities in Nigeria.
Believed to be a scion of the Sokoto caliphate and cousin to the Sultan of Sokoto, Dasuki served as ADC to the former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. He should thus be familiar with the security set-up and administration in the country.
However, many of us amongst men of the pen and masses have been thrilled by the twist in search for peace and stability, the passionate acknowledgements, confessions, proposals and solutions made by many Nigerians including those in authorities on the Boko Haram insurgency. Nearly all responsible citizens of the nation have made their stand very clear.
President Goodluck Jonathan has not only expressed his sadness over the ugly happenings and made call for God’s intervention to restore peace in the nation, he has initiated a new strategy by the shake-up in the security circle. “I have the hope that God will intervene in the situation in Nigeria and heal the nation”, he said, while soliciting the support and prayers of every Nigerian for the peace of the nation and for the success of his administration.
In his address to the people of Kaduna state on the crisis that recently rocked the state, Kaduna governor, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa appealed to Imams and pastors to admonish their adherents on the need to ensure peaceful coexistence and tolerance for one another and to be our brother’s keepers, while also advising the people to shun rumour mongering and ignore mischievous texts messages that are meant to cause further chaos in the state.
“Members of the security agencies, who are on top of the situation, have been placed on red alert to avert any semblance of the breach of peace. We wish to assure all and sundry that we are working round the clock for early and full restoration of peace and normalcy in the state. We require the cooperation and support of all in this direction,” Yakowa averred.
National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, argues that it was clear that the present government cannot tackle the Boko Haram alone, saying, “The government should not shy away from inviting peace loving political and community leaders to brainstorm. Nigeria is sliding and we must act now. Our country is going through a trying period. We must all join hands to say no to religious violence. No religion can eliminate the other.”
National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, is full of hope that Nigeria will overcome the situation. “We survived the civil war. We survived the military dictatorship and we have over the years overcome several challenges which would have brought a weaker country to its knees. Nigeria will remain strong and united until this too passes.”
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, says, “Our country is at a very difficult situation and there is enough blame passed around but I have said it over again that President Goodluck Jonathan may not be responsible for the problems but today, he is holding the Nigerian nation and that key has been entrusted to him."
Bishop Kukah describes the situation in the north as pathetic for which everyone should work towards bringing a lasting solution to it. ‘‘I am ashamed about what happened in Zaria and Kaduna recently. We need to be brutally sincere to ourselves; running and looking for water is not the solution. Without finding the cause of the problem, we cannot quench the fire. We have to ask ourselves: how did we get here? What is happening now does not reflect who we are, whether as Christians or Moslems,” he said. ‘‘If we have a country where Christians are talking to themselves while Moslems are talking to themselves, it won’t work. I look forward to a time when Christians will talk on behalf of Moslems and Moslems will talk on behalf of Christians. I make bold to say, about 90 per cent of Nigerians are not happy because members of the political class have not been able to deliver on the promises they made.’’
The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) alleges that most of the ugly incidents are part of a ploy to destabilize the region by whittling down its economy and setting its people against one another. NSGF Chairman and Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu through his Chief Press Secretary, Malam Danladi Ndayebo believes that given the level of sophistication involved in the activities of the perpetrators of the bombings, it is easy to conclude that some oblique forces are behind the violence in the North and not Boko Haram alone as widely believed
“If progress must be made, security agencies must deal decisively with all those arrested in connection with terrorist acts, particularly bombing of churches and schools claimed by Boko Haram, to serve as deterrent to others”, NSGF proffered.
Secretary General of Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI), Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu is much worried of the mishandling of the crisis. “The pervasive way security upheavals are being handled in Nigeria needs serious introspection. While calling on the security agencies to curtail the violence, we call on them to be guided by the rules of engagement of the military by not using excessive force on the citizenry. Equally, the security should make public the arrests of non-Muslims disguising as Muslims to perpetrate the dastardly acts of bombings and the motives behind such.”
The President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor is also much worried over the management of crisis by the presidency as conflicting signals about strategy and approaches are ditched out by officials at the highest levels of government.
Oritsejafor through his Special Assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Kenny Ashaka, calls on the president to introduce an element of surprise by acting contrary to form because what emerges now, according to him, is the picture of a president who has been held hostage by conflicting intrigues woven around the matter of Boko Haram.
A former Kaduna state governor, Senator Ahmad Muhammad Makarfi, is not happy. “First of all, the bombings that have been happening are condemnable. One cannot rationalize the number of lives of human beings that has been eliminated, the properties destroyed and lack of peace created generally that is threatening the survival of majority of citizens. All of these are things that are very sad and I do not think any individual will support it under whatever guise. Also, the action and manner in which the ordinary souls of individuals are eliminated are things we should condemn. What happened in the first instance should not justify another individual who may even be running away for his or her life. We should not react by visiting further violence on innocent souls.”
Former minister of defence and secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, calls for a central, responsible and committed leadership to salvage the north from its very precarious situation. “It is an attempt to acknowledge that the north is on fire, and that the north must redeem itself. One must not go outside the northern region to look for the reasons why we are in this problem. We must admit that there is a failure in the north and it is the responsibility of the northerners to redeem themselves and do the right thing with a view to making sure that they remain relevant in the nation Nigeria.”
There is a “breakdown at local governance” in the north. But according to him, what has gone wrong in respect of the past history of the north has gone wrong, but that was not a hopeless case that should disunite the north. Rather, northerners should be strongly united.
Chairman, Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF), Hon. Mohammed Kumaila blamed the security crisis in the north on disunity, poverty, unemployment and increasing illiteracy in the region, and regretted a situation where nearly every facet of the socio-economic life points to a failing northern society. “Northerners must rise up to the challenge to heal the north of the wounds caused by the many years of ethnic and religious disagreements and conflicts and emerge as a robust, reliable and equal partner within the Nigerian state”.
A women’s right activist and medical doctor, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne blames the northern governors as she describes them as emperors who are not touched by the plight of the poor northerners but continue to demand for more funds from the federal government from which they feed fat. “They are playing politics with our predicament,” she alleged.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba said the present violence in the north is being orchestrated to make the region what some elements want it to be. “Some personalities handling high positions have disappointed us as far as the north is concerned, although I am not pointing an accusing finger, but the problem in the north has deepened since my speakership time. Some of us did the best we could, but, unfortunately, nothing came out of our best,” he said.
Chief Audu Ogbeh said he had predicted that violence would erupt in the north after the Niger Delta crisis, which was raging in the country then, would have been put to an end, but no one took his warning seriously. “There were great days in this region when the Sardauna of Sokoto had an Igbo Christian as his cook for 29 years and his personal doctor was also a Christian and he saw nothing wrong in it. Some of what we do today in the name of religion is not pleasing God,” Ogbeh said.
Chairman/CEO of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, decried the spate of killings in the northern part of the country. ‘‘The north is in turmoil; innocent people are killed and the government is clueless. The government, which is supposed to provide security, has done little or nothing to save the situation. There are things only the government can do, but we should continue to encourage ourselves. Many people have said that poverty is the main cause of the problem but I say: countries like India and Chad have worse cases but they are not on fire. We must all wake up to our responsibility and fight this cause together,’’ he said.
National Publicity Secretary, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Deji Kolawole, says that attacks by Boko Haram and the reprisal attacks on innocent Muslims represents a dangerous descent into anomie reminiscent of the horrific inter-ethnic and religious war that marked the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia. “Nigeria cannot afford to take this road to self-destruction, for when the rich make war it is the poor that suffer. We, therefore, appeal to Nigerians to exercise great restraint in the face of the constant provocation and violence perpetrated on other innocent Nigerians by terrorists under the hood of religionists whose aim is, obviously, to precipitate an ethnic cum religious war in the country. We must note that an eye for an eye would only make us all blind.”
“The government must stop viewing this problem as a regional one and indeed stop lamenting about inheriting the problem. Governments are put in place to solve problems not to join the populace in lamenting about them. We wish to serve notice to the government that we would not hesitate to call out our members starting from our Kaduna zone if government continues by its inaction to imperil the lives and limbs of Nigerians particularly those residing in the northern part of the country. We also call on traditional, political, community, and religious leaders not to stoke the embers of conflict by incendiary statements, but to be voices of reason and moderation and assist the security agencies in apprehending members of Boko Haram and stamping out this cankerworm before it becomes a malignant cancer that may spell doom for our nation,” PENGASSAN noted.
As many Nigerians who have spoken and proffered solutions to the nation’s as could be recounted, the ultimate belief is that Nigeria is undergoing a rebirth and transformation to strength and to REAL unity and progress.
For clarity, Hajj is not a religious tourism to Makkah and Madinah. Hajj is a fundamental time-specific, spot-specific, manner/condition-specific and financially tasking Islamic obligation which, instituted by a divine injunction of the Holy Qur’an and practically exemplified by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is to be fulfilled by the Muslims despite whatever challenges that may be associated with it in terms of funding, political interference, national/natural infringement or even global conspiracy.
This piece is in response to Mr. Idang Alibi’s postulations in his Daily Trust column of Thursday, June 21, 2012, where he mentioned three out of ten things that amaze him about modern Nigeria which was the third part of the series. The three things he discussed in the said publication started with the much talked about but conspicuously misconstrued (in the Nigerian context) holy pilgrimages to Makkah by the Muslim faithful and to Jerusalem by the Christians. The second was the educational backwardness of the north and the third the trooping out of Nigerians outside the country in search of medical attention.
Unarguably, there are somewhat controversial issues concerning the holy journeys to Makkah and Jerusalem every year.
It is laudable the call on Nigerian governments at all levels to control waste of public funds on religious duties. It is true that Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam, with the strict condition of ability in all ramifications attached to it. This means that pilgrimage to Makkah predates the existence of Nigeria and therefore cannot stop even if government does not pay a kobo or subsidize anything attached to hajj. A clear case to this is that the number of Nigerian Muslims who embark on the non-compulsory lesser hajj (Umrah) is five times more than those who embark on hajj despite government’s direct non-involvement in it.
In relation to Mr. Alibi’s assertions on pilgrimages from Nigeria, the Sun and Punch once quoted part of the Stephen Oronsaye Panel’s reports, which showed that the federal government expended N6.449 billion on matters relating to pilgrimages between 2007 and 2011. I was shocked by this revelation that caught the whole awareness of some responsible Nigerians. N6 BILLION ONLY IN FIVE YEARS!!! I felt it was a very ludicrous observation that a panel of such caliber of people could recommend. Is this amount up to a single percent of what the federal government and some rich states expend on things that do not benefit a percentage of Nigeria’s population? This amount, methink, has been expended largely on medical, consular and security services which are the constitutional rights on the government for the citizenry wherever they are.
And again, who says that the federal government favours only Muslim and Christian pilgrimages. Is it because the duo is openly celebrated? How many billions of Naira is yearly and secretly paid for services by pagan priests? The huge sums of money allegedly paid off by a former head of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) were just a tip in the iceberg. How many Nigerians visit the same India that Mr. Alibi mentioned and several other parts of the world for their acclaimed individual spiritual elevation and power acquisition? Is it the poor Nigerians that spend such huge amounts? It is still the officials of government apparatuses and business personalities who suck from the public funds.
Nonetheless, there are all the reasons for government to be involved in matters of religion. The federal, state and local governments and politicians should never be discouraged from channeling resources into ways that have direct benefits for Nigerians or larger segment of our society. It is believed that people who have little or no faith and those who do not believe in the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians are they who wishfully project this hypothesis that the yearly pilgrimages have no impact on our society. If Nigeria faces immorality from its citizens at such amazing level upon all efforts to ameliorate it, what would Nigeria have looked like without these highly spiritual journeys?!
However, I do not know that the federal government sponsors ordinary Nigerian pilgrims to go to the holy lands except the negligible number of officials who coordinate such large segment of Nigerians outside the country within such given periods of time. They also conduct specific duties to pray for peace, stability and progress of Nigeria and their states. Is it something not worthy of commendation? Again, many of the pilgrims, especially the first-timers to the holy lands come back to Nigeria, better exposed, informed and reformed. It has been observed that many of the every-year goers have lost the spiritual taste and reformatory derivations from the trips. But in general, the merits of these holy journeys are far more reaching than any observed demerits. Moreover, government’s non-involvement will be counter-productive against its struggle to ameliorate the country’s damaged image outside.
Performance of Hajj is now easier and much sought even with the ever increasing pricing in hajj fares? So, if government hands-off completely from the little subsidies it grants Muslims and Christians – who constitute 90% of the nation’s population – it cannot stop hajj. What it will translate to is an increase in hajj fare and Muslims will pay for the hajj seats. Politicians, or subtly put it, the rich will not stop to sponsor those allies and partners in progress whom they feel should benefit from their religious or social largesse.
Therefore, it is sufficiently evident that the call for scrapping pilgrimage commissions in Nigeria or withdrawal of subsidies from pilgrimage related-matters cannot be an issue for development for Nigeria. The establishment of the hajj commission was in response to a long search for a permanent solution to the perennial problems that bedeviled hajj operations in the past, added to the embarrassment such past failures brought to the Nigerian government. I know that the commission has on its board representatives from key government ministries: foreign Affairs, Finance, Health, aviation, interior and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). And as it is today, as many Nigerians would testify, the commission has delivered its mandate to a satisfactory level commended by the international community.
But the question in this regard is: why are some people not happy that Muslims and Christians are benefitting from governments’ subsidies in matters relating to their holy pilgrimages? Why all these attempts to explore ways to block such laudable gestures from the federal government? The leadership of Nigeria of today is as wise as Solomon. There can be no justifiable reason to stop what over 80% of the nation’s population benefit from. Religion is an integral part of human life and government should not be drifted away from it.
Both the Muslim and Christian faithfuls, in pursuit of their religious obligations and spiritual uprightness, become more devoted when things get tougher in their ways.
"I am ready to mobilize Ogbunigwe from the Southeast to face them, so Boko Haram should be warned because we still have people in the East who can manufacture this Ogbunigwe. And they should be careful because by the time we mobilize MASSOB, mobilize the Odua Peoples' Congress (OPC), mobilize the militants, Boko Haram will have no place to go to," CAN Chairman and Bishop of Enugu Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, threatening fire over bombing of churches in the north.
One is not only worried about the insecurity situation in the country, but more worried of the dimensions the situation is being handled by different ethno-religious groups. On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, the Sun Newspaper carried a serious warning story from the South East Zonal wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). In that story, Christians in the Southeast have threatened to attack mosques and palaces of Islamic leaders in the South East in retaliation of incessant bombings on Christians and churches in the north by Boko Haram.
It is clear that the Christians have resolved to show solidarity to their brethren in the north who are under attacks by Boko Haram, by nursing the idea of reprisal attacks on Igbo Muslims and their worship places. A word is enough for the wise. And the nation's security agencies should please take note and act to save the country from any further destruction or ethno-religious war.
Bishop Chukwuma in the report asserted that Christian leaders might begin retaliation on the mosques and also emir palaces of northern Muslims in the South East, even while lamenting that attacks on Christians in the north every Sunday has become a weekly ritual.
Part of his words: "We cannot fold our arms and allow our churches and worshippers to be maimed for no just cause. This act of bombing by this Boko Haram is capable of causing another civil war because the Biafran war was not as severe as this and there was war against Biafra. We are, therefore, warning that this is capable of causing another civil war and we are ready for it. For me as the Southeast CAN chairman, I'm ready to lead people with Ogbunigwe (the Biafran bomb used during the civil war); this Ogbunigwe will be more severe than the Boko Haram bombs. And we want to warn them that they know that they are building mosques in the south and have Moslem communities in the south which we have been sparing, but if they don't stop, we shall begin retaliation and that will be the beginning of another civil war in Nigeria."
Continuing, "We in the southern part of Nigeria, particularly Southeast, have seen civil war and I have said this so many times, we are not afraid of war anymore; and we are ready, therefore, to go to war to defend our Christian brethrens in the north and we are saying enough is enough because it is obvious now that Boko Haram is out to deal with Christians and Christians will not keep quiet anymore."
But the Sun editorial of same day chronicled how MASSOB members have been killed by security operatives in Onitsha and other parts of the South East, affirming that the problem with MASSOB has to do with the name Biafra; that it is a non-violent organization and a more tolerable group than organizations like Movement for Niger Delta Emancipation (MEND) and the Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF), among others. While these groups are militant in nature, MASSOB is largely peaceful in its operations. Unfortunately, the spectre of what Biafra represents continues to haunt the group.
I have maintained, like many patriots, that Nigeria is a secular state with Islam and Christianity merely dominating the religious sphere of the country. Other minority religious groups including free thinkers are in existence in Nigeria. So, it is definitely a wishful thinking that threats, killings and bombings by any tiny group can break up Nigeria. Religious freedom, freedom of association and democratic liberties are enshrined in the nation's constitution. The task on all our shoulders as Nigerians is to continue to assist the Federal and State governments to change our collective fortunes to the better in a peaceful and development-driven environment.
But to be frank, since the Boko Haram insurgency began, many Nigerians and international observers have expressed different views over it. Some have viewed it as a western design to destroy Nigeria. Some say the group emerged as a result of poverty and prolonged years of underdevelopment in the north. A group believes that Boko Haram is a product of the northern political establishment set it up to fight President Goodluck Jonathan who is a Christian from the south. A fourth group says that Boko Haram started as a tool for the political establishment in the Northeast that was later abandoned as the militants of the Niger Delta.
Another group even interweaves Boko Haram into a perceived religious string of bigotry, extremism and intolerance in the north and link the group to al-Qaeda. There are those who claim that Boko Haram's anger was sparked by the extra-judicial killing of its members and especially its leader in 2009. A group also believes that Boko Haram started as a non-violent Islamic group whose aims were for an Islamic state and proper implementation of Sharia, which they peacefully preached and propagated only in their mosques and schools.
However, it is pertinent to appeal to our Christian patriots and organizations to restrain from inflammatory and incisive comments and warnings over this menace that has brought no good to any religion or ethnic group in Nigeria. Last time, it was CAN president issuing a last warning to the federal government. Now it is from South East CAN chairman who has explicitly identified his targets.
They should continue to assist the federal government in finding unbiased lasting solutions to the Boko Haram menace. They can work hand in hand with their counterpart Islamic groups like Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Jama'atu Nasril-Islam (JNI), among others which have proffered solutions to the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
In his reaction to Boko Haram, the Secretary General of NSCIA, Dr. Abdullateef Adegbite gave a twelve-point agenda prominent of which were the urgent needs to seek divine intervention and for government to aggressively address the pandemic poverty in Nigeria, meaningfully engage the youths to arrest restiveness and to introduce social security system. Adegbite believes that corruption fuels rebellion, so government should be more combative in its war against corruption without sparing any political office holder or corrupt citizen.
Reacting to the attacks on churches, the Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu frowned at the act which he described as sordid and dastard, and called on the Plateau State Government to live above board and to foretell any reprisal attacks on innocent citizens.
Recently, The Muslim Congress (TMC) in a paper to Odua Muslim-Christian Youth Dialogue Group (OMC-YDG), through its Amir Luqman Abdurraheem, called on Nigerians and especially the Muslims to distance themselves from proponents of war and to refrain from violence. He enlisted the Muslim Ummah, Christian communities, civil societies and ethnic militia to embrace peace decorum in their comments and utterances at this critical period of the nation's life.
He warned that Nigerians should not act the conspiracy scripts of the imperialists who are poised at breaking up Nigeria by 2015, as they did in Sudan and crated permanent instability in nations like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. He corroborated the common view that the bombings in Nigeria today is fuelled by poverty, unemployment, bad governance, moral and economic corruption, frustration and political manoeuvring of selfish elites, not Islam or Christianity.
One suggestion that could end this is the screening of worshippers as done for Muslims at their national worship places by even non-Muslim security personnel. Also, the government should muster the political will to expose, rebuke and prosecute any Nigerian identified to have a hand in these inhuman activities under whatever name.
June 3, just 9 days before June 12. Black June! On Sunday – a blessed worship day. Iju Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos. The Dana bird lost sight of the radar or otherwise. And fell on citizens in their homes. 159 in the Dana and many in their homes fell to DESTINY.
Those who caught the plane before the doors were closed! How death becomes inevitable that it comes when it is due. How many have slept and woke up no more! How many were down on their knees at the minaret or temple but death feared not the presence of God! How many? Tell me, O Incomprehensible Dominion, what can this mortal do to soothe thee!
Tears of the beloved have run. Days of mourning have been declared. Flags have been flown at half mast. The leadership has shown the grief. Will this really be the end of our air crashes?
Belleview and Sosoliso wastes are still in memory. How soon we forget! And how soon death comes to those who have not wronged nature.
May the sorrows of Black June go away soon.