By Bolanle Bolawole
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While Christendom was yet to get over the unfortunate demise of gospel singer, Osinachi Nwachuku, a worse disaster in the bestial and horrendous killing of Deborah Yakubu, a Christian lady and student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, took place. She was beaten, stoned, and then burnt alive allegedly for what her murderers and those consenting to it – and who will see to it that those responsible for this heinous crime are never brought to justice – called the sin of blasphemy. I am sure you know this is not the first, the second or third or even tenth or twentieth of such dastardly act in the North by irate mobs and they have never been brought to justice. On occasions they have invaded police stations to seize their victims right under the nose of the law and they have had their way. They have perpetrated their vicious, callous, and inhuman acts in broad daylight, marching triumphantly in the streets unchallenged, unmolested, unrestrained and, wait for it, saluted and eulogised for what they have done! I am sure you know that the same thing has already begun to happen with the horrendous murder of Deborah. The authorities have kept mute. The elites and political leaders of the Muslim will acquiesce in the bestiality of their mob – some in their silence while others will even be audacious enough to openly defend the mob action ostensibly in the name of the Islamic religion and Allah.
One Mullah has already been quoted as saying that there is a red line that Islam and Allah would not allow anyone to cross. Once you do, instant bestial justice of the juggle! But Nigeria is not a jungle; this is a country under law and no one is allowed by the law that binds all of us together to gift themselves the luxury to constitute themselves into the law. No extra-judicial killing is allowed under our laws. No one or mob has the right to take the life of a citizen except under the prescribed format laid down by law. An accused person is deemed innocent until he or she has been given fair hearing under the law and is found guilty and sentenced appropriately. Such an accused also has the right of appeal to superior courts of competent jurisdiction. After all the appropriate tiers of court have had their say and the accused has had his or her day in court, as they say, the convict still has the right to appeal for clemency to the political authorities. We have seen the political authorities exercise the prerogative of mercy again and again. We saw the president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, exercise it recently in the case of some prisoners whom he granted clemency.
It is trite that no one may be the accuser and the judge in his own cause. You cannot be the accuser, the prosecutor and the executor at one and the same time. If you think someone has run foul of the law, the appropriate thing is to run the person through the whole gamut of the law- and not for you to take the law into your own hands. But, like we had earlier sad, many Muslims in Nigeria as well as in many places in the Islamic world believe in, and still practice, what is called honour killing; they still kill in the name of Islam, in the name of Muhammed and in the Allah. I dare to say that a large number of Muslims – not only in the North but all over the country – see nothing wrong with honour killing. They may not say so openly but secretly and silently, they endorse it. Only very few Muslims speak out against honour killing and only a few still do more that speak! To stop the bestial act of honour killing, those who engage in it must be brought to book. Once they escape with it again and again, it becomes a norm and an acceptable way of behaviour.
I dare to say also that honour killing has become a way of life and a normal thing to do in some parts of the North. We may now decide that we want to change the narrative but not play the ostrich and deny that it is un-Islamic, such-and-such the Prophet preached against it, ad nauseam. If so, how many perpetrators have they brought to book? Will the present murderers who callously offended our sensibilities be brought to book? Is it not in this same country that a serving Minister – and one in a sensitive post for that matter – confessed that he not only rejoice(d) to see those he called infidels (interpreted, Christians inclusive) killed but that he also sponsored it and defended the foot soldiers he employed in the act? Will such a person sit quietly and allow the murderers of Deborah face the music? We have a long way to go in Nigeria!
When we say that illiteracy is the problem, are the killers of Deborah illiterates? No, they are not! They are students of an institution of higher learning; meaning that illiteracy is not necessarily the problem and literacy is not assuredly the solution. We have cases upon cases of educated, learned, and highly-placed persons who are religious bigots and fundamentalists sanctioning, even promoting, the bestial act of honour killing. If we say ethnicity is the problem, the question to ask is whether all those who killed Deborah were members of the same ethnic group. Were they all Fulani or were they all Hausa? Were there other ethnic groups in the North among them? The problems are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. If it is ignorance, then, the educated will not be seen supporting honour killing. If it is ethnic, then, there will be no commonality of purpose amongst the oppressed and oppressor ethnicities for them to so act in unison. If it is religion, how come that the vast numbers that do not know their right hand from the left on religious issues are usually the ones in the fore-front of assaulting our sensibilities on such matters?
I have said it before and it bears repeating here again that we must stop living in denial but must accept we have a problem needing a solution: We must jettison honour killing. Honour killing was practiced in bible times but today’s Christians appear to have consciously and decisively moved away from it. Numbers 25: 1 – 13 says: “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. 4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel. 5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. 6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. 10 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: 13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel”
Is the above not a clear-cut case of honour killing or killing for God, which God reportedly rejoiced in? But in the Book of Judges chapter 6, Joash the father of Gideon, refused to let his son die for the sin of “blasphemy” that he was accused of by the people to have committed against their god, Baal. Let Baal, their god, fight for himself, he told the mob that had gathered to demand for the head of Gideon, hence Gideon became known as Jerubbaal (meaning, ”Let Baal fight for itself”). So, let no one think that only Muslims or Islam practiced honour killing but it is now time for everyone to move away from it. God can fight for Himself. In fact, rather than fight for God, it is God that is more capable and better able to fight our battles while we keep our peace. A multi-pronged approach is needed to tackle this problem. One is education. The level of illiteracy in the North keeps going up and the gap between it and the other parts of the country keeps widening. We must ask the leaders of the North why this is so. Have they kept it so deliberately? Why and what for? Is the problem beyond them? If so, they should seek help. Literate people are better prone to rational thinking but education alone will not solve the problem.
Indoctrination for social, political, and economic reasons contribute a lot to the Islamic fundamentalist viewpoints that propel archaic ideas and belief systems that sustain bestial acts like honour killing. Conscious efforts have to be made to de-radicalize people whose minds are closed to new thoughts and ideas and who are still marooned in propositions of the Dark Ages. This is where much of the problem lies. Those who preach honour killing must be weaned off it. Those who live off fundamentalist views must be persuaded to let go of them. They must be discouraged through policies and actions systematically plotted and doggedly and consistently pursued by the authorities. Those whose source of political power lies in the manipulation of religion must be made to understand that, this way, they serve god and not God and should desist. Some people’s source of economic power, their pot of soup, so to say, is their adroit, even if cynical, manipulation of religion. Weaning them of it and getting them into productive means of earning a living becomes imperative. Impunity rules where crimes are left unpunished and that has been one reason the country is at the verge of collapse today. Those who should rescue us are the very ones driving us to the edge of the precipice. It then boils down to the question of who bells the cat!