18 January 2013

Nigeria: Hail to the Sultan!

Photo: Leadership
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar


This is in reference to the bold and responsible observation made by His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar{III} at the Northern Governors' Peace and Reconciliation Committee meeting held recently in Kaduna, where he rightly blamed the crises ravaging the region on the northerners themselves. Though some observers have voiced a similar opinion; it is actually the absence of such a frank statement from personalities of his status that has often undermined the chance for identifying and addressing the actual causes of the region's mess. I pray that, with the Sultan's statement, the era of the largely ambiguous and inconsistent statements released every now and then by the region's elite as regards the causes and possible solutions to the region's crises, will soon come to an end.

It is quite unfortunate that, ever since the escalation of the current wave of religious extremism and violent insurgency in northern Nigeria, the absence of a clear stand from the region's top religious and political elites has effectively paved the way for some social commentators, who, out of sheer prejudice, mislead the public over the causes of such crisis. Their vague and sometimes apologetic stands towards this crisis under the pretext of so-called kishin Arewa, have confused the average northerners and left them wondering what exactly the causes of this mess are.

Instead of admitting the bitter truth that, most of our crises are self-inflected, they keep beating around the bush and struggling desperately to find scapegoats to blame. For instance, they blame the emergence of religious insurgency in the region on a foreign conspiracy hell bent on destabilizing the region and the country in general, or blame it on the federal government itself. By the way, I don't necessarily rule out the possible involvement of some external factors or perhaps even an internal or foreign conspiracy in creating and/or manipulating some of the causes of this crisis, yet the major causes emanate from our actions and inactions, only that many of us simply don't want to admit it.

Anyway, they also blame it on poverty, a notion they are particularly fond of promoting in the apparent bid to involve as many parties as possible to share their responsibility. Incidentally, in as much as I believe that poverty is of course responsible for many social problems particularly nowadays, when financial wellbeing does not only determine the quality or otherwise of one's lifestyle but also greatly determines his ability to hold on to his moral and religious values and principles, I nonetheless believe that its (i.e. poverty) role in causing Islamic religious extremism in Nigeria and elsewhere is unnecessarily exaggerated.

Poverty could of course instigate violence in the form of armed robbery, kidnapping and even revolution for instance, yet it hardly if at all leads to violent religious extremism. Moreover, there is no any scientific, exhaustive and objective research that establishes any link between poverty and violent religious extremism. As matter of fact, in many instances, the opposite is always the case. After all, in northern Nigeria, just as it is the case elsewhere within the country and around the world, the most economically deprived people are actually the most peaceful also.

By the way, when I say "the most economically deprived," I refer to those real poverty-stricken people barely surviving in remote areas where there is hardly if at all any sign of affluence in sight, not the urban paupers who might have migrated from rural areas for no reasonable reason, abandoning their livelihood in pursuit of easy wealth. The former and despite their nightmarish living or rather surviving conditions, are generally contented and peaceful anyway, whereas the later can go to any extent, including hiding under religious pretexts, in their struggle for relevance in nowadays increasingly materialistic world particularly in urban areas.

Yet, even when the perpetrators of such heinous acts of violence admit their responsibility, such social commentators seek to either cast doubt on its authenticity or deny it altogether. Consequently they confuse the average people, who, having little or no other option, absorb such prejudiced views. This explains why so many people across the region, including many presumably enlightened people, are living in a total or at least partial denial. Needless to say also, this attitude diverts attention from the fundamental issues that need to be thoroughly addressed in order to solve particularly the security crisis ravaging the region.

By the way, admittedly under the influence of shock that gripped me in the wake of the worst ever bomb attacks on Kano that hit the state earlier last year, I harshly castigated such commentators in a piece entitled "Soft-core Boko Haramists" {Daily Trust, January 27, 2012}, where I highlighted their effectively apologetic approach to the armed insurgency.

After all, contrary to their illusion that they are serving the north's interests, such commentators are actually giving excuses on a platter of gold to the region's largely incompetent and corrupt elite to cover up their failure and/or justify their indifference towards the region's crisis. This explains why the politicians have turned the issues into mere tools for their political struggle against one another, where they trade politically motivated accusations, with those on the opposition side blaming it on the incumbents' actions or inactions, while the incumbents on the other hand accuse the opposition of simply taking advantage of the crisis to score cheap political goals.

In any case, there is no better time to admit that it's not a shame to confess that there is an urgent need for a total attitudinal and fundamental re-orientation in almost all aspect of life in the region. Social commentators should utilize their access to various mass media sources to promote the need for the active participation of all stakeholders including Muslim clerics, who, by virtue of their vast Islamic knowledge, should confront such dangerous ideological phenomenon through sustained public enlightenment campaigns, and encourage direct and unconditional intellectual dialogue between them and some representatives of such insurgents preferably away from the public.

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