When you open the newspapers these days or log on to the internet, you are assaulted by a variety of information, and the old cliche: “the good, the bad and the ugly” wears a more dramatic toga.
I did not want to believe it when the story broke that a man bought a dog and named it “Buhari”. Not only that, he inscribed the name on the sides of the dog for all to see.
According to the story, this man, named as Joe Fortemose Chinakwe, lives in a neighbourhood in Sango Ota in Ogun State dominated by Arewa Muslim Northern Nigerians and their foreign kinsmen. Predictably, one of his neighbours took offence and complained to the police that, as his father’s name was “Alhaji Buhari”, he found Chinakwe’s act offensive and provocative.
When questioned by the Police, Chinakwe reportedly said he named his dog “Buhari” because he was an ardent admirer of President Muhammadu Buhari who, he claimed, was a strong man and fearless leader.
He wanted his dog to emulate the President in its duties as his guard dog! All efforts made by Chinakwe and his friends to secure his bail were aborted.
His offended neighbour and his crowd of Arewa Muslim brothers threatened, before the Police, to kill him if he was let off the hook. He was eventually charged to court for acting in a manner liable to cause a breach of the peace, and granted bail. While this story trended like a wildfire, many people were angry with the Police for detaining the man. Some wondered aloud what offence he would possibly be charged for.
They said the Police was abusing his human rights. After all, the dog was his property, and he had the right to name it whatever he liked. And so on. Some Igbo groups even waded in, giving the Police an ultimatum to release Chinakwe, whom they saw as being persecuted. Well, I see it differently. To me, Chinakwe, out of ignorance, mischief or naivete, was playing with fire. He is lucky that the fire did not burn him. When you live among Arewa Muslims, you must be extra careful what you do or say. It is more so if you are Igbo or a person with what appears like Igbo identity. It is like a box of matches on a box of tinder.
What you may consider a harmless prank or remark can easily lead to loss of lives and property because the other side feels their religious sensibilities provoked beyond bearable limits.
A young Igbo man who lived in Pandogari, Niger State two months ago went on his Facebook to make comments which some Muslim youths considered “blasphemous” of their prophet.
Four people (including the “offender”) were killed and churches razed. The recent killings of two Christian women – an Igbo in Kano and a Yoruba in an Abuja suburb by Muslims who felt offended by what in other circumstances would be considered mere nothing – are still fresh. In the three cases cited here, the Muslims were the aggressors over “offences” that should have been reported to the police.
But in the Ota incident, the obviously provoked Muslims remained lawful and reported the case to the Police. Chinakwe was totally wrong on all counts for what he did. He turned logic on its head by claiming he named the dog after President Buhari because of his admiration for the retired General. In Igboland, if you admire someone so much, you name your child after him. If Chinakwe has no child nothing stops him from adopting “Buhari” as his nickname. I know of many “Ziks” and “Awos” (though no “Obasanjos”, even among his kinsmen).
Naming your dog after a human being is a sign of your utter contempt for that person. Even at that, you do so at your own risk because the law recognises provocation as valid plea when violent consequences take place. Chinakwe should have known that President Buhari has a lot of fanatical followers (though their numbers have dramatically shrunk in the past year due to poor performance).
They murdered innocent people after the 2011 elections, and they were poised to do much worse if former President Goodluck Jonathan did not concede victory to him last year.
I do not think that Muslims regard dogs highly, and I doubt if they (or anyone) would clap for anyone who associates their names with dogs. Some people love dogs, but I have yet to see anyone who named their dogs after their fathers or mothers! Beyond that, fancy what would have happened if Chinakwe had carried out his tomfoolery in Kano or, indeed, any part of the Muslim North! He could easily have been killed.
Not only that, other innocent Igbos could also have been targeted. The irony is that this Chinakwe, who is said to be from Delta State, might be among those who claim they are not Igbos. But it does not stop those who claim their “Igboness” from being visited with the consequences of the actions of those who say they are not. When Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu led his coup and murdered Northern leaders, it was the entire Igbo race that suffered the pogroms in the North, the Civil War defeat and the post-war marginalisation which has lasted for more than 46 years. Those who are clapping for Chinakwe probably have not though of this.
I want to thank the Nigeria Police for holding on to Chinakwe when the case was brought to them, though the officer who brutalised him in custody on ethnic sentiments must be brought to book. I regard that detention as “protective custody”.
The Police was Chinakwe’s friend. He should face his prosecution with a “church mind” and thank God that he found himself in the hands of the right kind of Muslims.
It would have been a different story. Buhari is my President, not my dog. You can (like me) criticise the President but don’t abuse him (or anyone). It is worng – and dangerous!