Bukar Abba Ibrahim: When Sharia Law Is Without Sharia Faith, By Majeed Dahiru

…less than two decades after the pronouncement of Sharia law in most part of Northern Nigeria, the advocates and leaders of the Sharia movement have fallen short of their own publicly professed religious standards. Some Sharia law advocates are complicit in corrupt practices that have degenerated to economic and financial crimes…

One of the greatest tragedies of Nigeria’s corporate existence as a nation state is the widespread and pervasive but negative religious tendencies of many citizens. This tragedy is a major disincentive for the social progress, growth and development of Africa’s most populous country. Some consequences of negative religiosity, which is often characterised by excessive symbolism devoid of spiritualism, is that it breeds hate, immorality and division. Negative religiosity is preaching precisely that you don’t intend to practice. Unfortunately for Nigeria, the ruling class has found a useful ally in institutions of negative religiosity that endorse their misrule, immorality and corrupt practices because they are mutually beneficial to each other’s selfish interests, but to the detriment of public interests.

A clear illustration of this scenario is exemplified in the recent revelation of the unknown side of Bukar Abba Ibrahim, a senator of the federal republic and former governor of Yobe State, as a fun loving lothario; a sharp contrast to his public image of a religious conservative figure, whose most memorable legacy in public service was the declaration of the Sharia law as the legal code in his state. For a man who introduced a religious law that prohibits the free mixing of members of the opposite sexes, the graphic images of him barely clad in company of two young women at a location that appears to be a seedy guest house, the red line between sincerity and hypocrisy has been crossed by Bukar Ibrahim.

Interestingly, he neither denied the obscene engagement nor was he soberly repentant about it. “It is none of your business” he tells all those who are bothered about his immoral conduct. His arrogant defiance and the disturbing silence from his constituency, which ordinarily should have been at the head of the condemnation of his immoral conduct, having been compelled by him to live according to the Sharia legal code, are clear indications of a society that is deeply decadent and wallowing in a rare form of negative religious hypnosis. More curious is the non-reaction of his wife, who is also Nigeria’s minister of state for foreign affairs. Not a whimper has been heard from her since the incidence. Husband and wife have since carried on with their public lives as if nothing unusual has happened. They are right, because there is nothing unusual in Nigeria’s ruling elite publicly preaching what they don’t intend to practice in private.

The ruling class in Nigeria, particularly in the conservative Muslim North, has often insisted on the non-separation of religion and state affairs. Working hand in gloves with the religious institutions, the Northern political establishment has taken advantage of the people’s deep religious inclination, as the only way of life they have known for centuries before the dawn of modern Nigeria, by arresting their collective development in exchange for tokenistic and symbolic religious gestures, such as witnessed in the politically motivated pronouncement of the Sharia legal code in some Northern states in 2001. Tragically, the actions of Sharia pronouncing Northern governors, led to an upheaval on a scale never seen before in peace time Nigeria. Kaduna, the capital and cultural headquarters of the old Northern Region went up in flames as pre-emptive agitations for and against the pronouncement of Sharia law in the State pitched Muslims against non-Muslims in a bloody clash recording heavy casualties, and dividing the ancient city into ethno-religiously segregated communities in the process. Thanks to these pretentious religious potentates, Kaduna has lost its innocence, which has not been regained ever since.

The implication of this situation on the corporate existence of Nigeria is that it greatly undermines unity, peace and security, because a large section of the populace has been indoctrinated to see fellow citizens of other religious faiths as infidels, enemies and vicious competitors for resources.

While stoking the fire of religious intolerance in a multi-religious/secular Nigeria, by always advocating for a separate law of Sharia for Muslims, as done by leading figures of the Northern religious-political establishment, contributing to the rise of and attempt by the Boko Haram insurgent group to forcefully achieve the same, little did the ordinary people concerned realise the insincerity in the heart of their leaders, as seen in the conduct of Bukar Ibrahim and his peers. Bukar Ibrahim and other leaders of the North also contributed to the entrenched Almajiri scourge that has become a burden to the rest of Nigeria, through their stubborn insistence on withering down the universal educational curricula, which they have mischievously characterised as western education, and mixing this “Islamic” education, whilst fueling the fears of the adulteration of the religious life of their people. The effect of this negative religiosity on the people is manifested clearly in the reality of the fact that Northern Nigeria is the poorest and least developed part of Nigeria, which is also one of the least of the world’s less developing countries. The implication of this situation on the corporate existence of Nigeria is that it greatly undermines unity, peace and security, because a large section of the populace has been indoctrinated to see fellow citizens of other religious faiths as infidels, enemies and vicious competitors for resources.

Interestingly, less than two decades after the pronouncement of Sharia law in most part of Northern Nigeria, the advocates and leaders of the Sharia movement have fallen short of their own publicly professed religious standards. Some Sharia law advocates are complicit in corrupt practices that have degenerated to economic and financial crimes, which have further pressed the already depressed poor of the society into further poverty. Some even steal food, clothing and medicine meant for internally displaced people as a direct result of the fire of Boko Haram insurgency they helped stoke in the first instance.

Ahmed Sani Yerima, a senator of the federal republic, former governor of Zamfara State and the champion in chief of the “Sharia” declaration in the North, is today standing trial for the diversion of public funds estimated to be over four billion naira. As a federal lawmaker, Ahmed Yerima is notorious for defending his right to consummate his multiple marriages with his numerous child-brides, using religion as strong tool of blackmailing his vocal critics into silence. The current governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, while quoting copiously from both the Holy Quran and Hadith, once attributed the ravaging epidemic of meningitis on his people to divine retribution for their excessive fornication, only for the same fellow to be indicted by the EFCC for diverting over five hundred millions naira of public funds, accruable to his poverty and disease ravaged state from the Paris Club refund, to the building of a massive private hotel complex (a haven for fornication) in the “infidel” city of Lagos. Attahiru Baffarawa, a former governor of Sokoto State, and a prominent Muslim leader, is standing trial for allegedly receiving billions of naira as a prayer contractor to the federal government (for divine intervention) in the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The open advocacy for Sharia law by political and religious leaders, without first imbibing Sharia faith in their hearts is empty, deceptive and has proven to be nothing more than a tool of political dominance and, in some cases, a special purpose vehicle for the blackmail of non-Muslim Nigeria…

Recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, the supreme leader of Nigerian Muslims and a strong advocate of Sharia law in Nigeria, His Eminence Saad Abubakar III was seen attending his daughter’s graduation from a university in the United Kingdom, a secular society that is far from being governed by Sharia law and whose educational curricula is not mixed with “Islamic” education. On the strength of his advocacy, one would have expected the Sarkin Muslumi to send his children to Nigerian institutions, where on the strength of his recommendations, Western education curricula is mixed with Islamic education, or to an ultra conservative religious institution somewhere in the Middle-East or North Africa. Or are his children not supposed to “benefit” from a system that millions of Talakawa children are “benefiting” from?

The open advocacy for Sharia law by political and religious leaders, without first imbibing Sharia faith in their hearts is empty, deceptive and has proven to be nothing more than a tool of political dominance and, in some cases, a special purpose vehicle for the blackmail of non-Muslim Nigeria in the process of law-making and the general administration of the country.

Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com.

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