Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Before I Die...

book review

I confess this is a title of a book written some 22 years ago by Chief Arthur Nwankwo when he had an altercation with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and felt that his life was under threat.

I picked this title for this piece since I was threatened with annihilation by unknown gunmen/hoodlums in the garb of members of the Jama'atu ahlus Sunnah lid Da'awati wal Jihad popularly known as Boko Haram.

On the night (around 7.30 to 8pm) of Thursday, the 18th of October, 2012, rampaging hoodlums wielding guns scaled the walls of my house in Potiskum and threatened my family to open the door or get shot. When the door was opened by my wife, a blessed and gentle soul, they rushed in and molested my household and asked for my where about.

On being told I was not in town, they said I was lucky for if I were around they would have killed me. To prove that their threat was not a fluke, they, all thanks to He who gives and taketh life, brought out my family and set the house on fire. Nothing was salvaged as the house was completely razed.

Now, some things baffle me. Those hoodlums claimed to be members of Jama'atu ahlus Sunnah lid Da'awati wal Jihad but were they? I doubt and for so many strong reasons.

This group has as its cardinal objective "the establishment of an Islamic society". What I know is that anybody not grounded in Islamic knowledge comprising of Qur'an, traditions, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, etc. cannot be at the vanguard of Islamic reformation not to talk of revolution.

And from my little knowledge, from what I am able to gather from a book called Ta'alim Muta ta'alim Tariqatut Ta'alim (Teaching the knowledge seeker [student] ways of getting knowledge), I know one CANNOT successfully be a revolutionary (Islamic, anyway) without being ta'arifu bilLah wa Ta'arifuz zaman (knowledgeable of Allah and current times [affairs]).

I want to believe Imam Shakau and at least his immediate associates are well grounded in Islamic knowledge and therefore know the history of all Islamic revolutions and revolutionaries, at least in black Africa, and their methods.

I also want to believe that with knowledge of the times, they know that killing Hassan Gimba will in no way give mileage to their objectives because Hassan Gimba, who has never worked in Government either in an elective or appointive capacity, can in no way impede their march.

I want to believe they know Islamic history therefore they know that burning my house also cannot be an act of Islam nor can it in anyway help their cause because the system does not even know me or my house. In any case, what was unislamic about my house?

How can I or my house be in the way of a jihadist? Remove me and my house and then you are guaranteed an "Islamic Republic"? I do not want to believe that anybody who knows Islam and ancient and contemporary history will have such a mindset: wasting his energy and resources on what will ultimately not be of benefit to him and his dreams.

So that most likely leaves Shakau and his people out.

The next set is the criminal Boko Haram peopled by hoodlums always high on drugs. Being malcontents, they are at pains to see one seemingly (or assumedly) contented so they must destroy one. A lot of good men have lost their lives in their hands. Women have been widowed and children orphaned while parents' wishes to be buried by their children shattered.

These hoodlums kill and steal money, gold, handsets, laptops, etc. from their victims in the name jihad!

Now, like every good Muslim, despite my failings and imperfections, I believe life is sacred and given by Allah (SWT). He gave me my life without consultations with anybody and He will take it at His appointed time and by the means He decreed without consultations with anybody.

He alone knows when and how and no powers anywhere, save Him, can harm a strand of my hair anytime, anywhere. If anything happens to me, therefore, it must only be by His leave, to whom all Glory and Praise belongs.

However, like any concerned observer in present day Nigeria, I wonder what happened that led to such deterioration in morals and character that youths have no qualms in killing, maiming and arson; that people can take lives of others without the fear of God; that authority no longer commands respect and chaos and anarchy rear their heads whenever they wish!

I believe there is a failure in leadership and therefore a huge disconnect between the leaders and the followers. No citizen would want to take up arms against the state if he knew that hard work pays and merit is appreciated. What do you call a system whereby you toil from dawn to dusk but go home broken while someone takes home unaccounted millions daily just because he is an appointee or an "elected" official?

Before I die, I will ensure that my voice is heard where corruption is rooted and wallowing in comfort and I will lend my voice to ensure that those elected or appointed to serve do so at a minimal cost. Before I die, I will fight to see that public servants and top Government officials and their families attend the same schools and hospitals here as ours. Why should you be in charge of public schools or hospitals while you patronise those outside? Why should you care if they functioned?

If I die, I will want my family to remember a husband, a father, a son, a brother and a grandfather, who loved and cared for them, with nostalgia and my friends, associates and leaders to feel the loss of an honest and loyal fellow; my subordinates a friend and a mentor. I intend to leave them all an enduring and lasting legacy, insha Allah.

I have to do what I mentioned above and more for Allah's sake and since the Creator can call me at anytime, all these, seemingly daunting tasks, have to be done Before I Die.

Gimba wrote from Potiskum, Yobe State.

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