By Gabriel Agbo
It is quite unbelievable that in this 21st century people are still talking about the repulsive and retrogressive act of killing other human beings for religious reasons. Yes, it is most unfortunate that when the rest of the world is moving on with massive infrastructural and human development, innovative and progressive laws that include expunging capital punishment from their laws, in Nigeria people are still thinking of decapitating a citizen just for singing against their religion.
Is this not disgusting and shameful? The governor of Kano State of Nigeria Abdullahi Ganduje was recently reported as saying that he would not waste any time in signing the death warrant on citizen Shariff Yahaya Aminu, a misician who was recently sentenced to death by a Shari’ah court in Kano for alleged blasphemy against the Prophet. Shariff, 22, was arrested, tried and convicted for a song he circulated through WhatsApp in March. And shockingly, the Nigerian Bar Association Kano Branch, the Sharia Council and some other sect leaders in the state are reported to be supporting this. Well, thanks for running two different legal systems in one country – one conventional and the other religious.
In as much as we do not support people deliberately disparaging other people’s faith, we also want to say that it is high time we leave all these religious bigotry and correctness to face more serious challenges of development and prosperity for our people. Why should we always spend so much time, emotions and resources on things like these when we have not finished with the very important things that would better our society?
Just listen to our governor, “The judgement has taken place and the law of the land allows the person convicted to appeal further within 30 days to the High Court and to the Appeal Court and to the Supreme court as the case may be. Should at the end of it the warrant is presented before me, I will not waste time in signing it. On the second hand, if he does not appeal within the specified period, I will not spend a minute in signing the death warrant.” My God! Look at the zeal, the energy Governor Ganduje is putting in assuring his readiness to see that citizen Shariff’s head goes off. Is he putting the same level of passion and effort in developing his state? I doubt. Maybe this condemned guy also campaigned and voted for him to become governor, hoping for a better leadership.
Look at the decaying infrastructure in Kano, the level of extreme poverty, the dwindling of the once-flourishing famous international textile market, the millions of out of school children, the ever restive uncountable youths, the very high crime rate, the lack of clean water and proper waste management, etc. What has he done about all these since assuming power? Kano with all the resources and potentials for prosperity still remains one of the most restive states in Nigeria because of the level of poverty, illiteracy and mismanagement. Now, do you still wonder why it easily ignites at every little scratch? He should do well to get busy, tackle all these infrastructural challenges and not to excitedly, anxiously be waiting to cut short the life of one of his citizens for trivial reasons.
He sure has plenty jobs to do before his tenure end. Please, he must see that this verdict is not carried out. Nigerians are really tired of wasting human and material resources in the name of religion. Religious bigotry and extremism are part of what has held the country down since independence. You are not expected to aspire to certain political offices, get certain appointments, head certain agencies, get to certain ranks or hold some military posts or get certain government patronages if you don’t belong to the preferred religion of the powers that be. Religion that should ordinary be a blessing and a tool for positive development has unfortunately become a curse to Nigeria.
As I write, the police is battling with the Shiite sect is Kaduna State. They are again demanding for the release of their leader who is being held by the authorities for some years now. Many lives have already been lost. And this Shiite problem is another bomb waiting to explode in the country. I am afraid Nigeria may not be able to survive additional insurgence on that level? The Northeast insurgence/war, herdsmen and kidnapping menaces are already bleeding and paralyzing the country.
The federal government and the appeal courts must do the needful immediately by stopping these primitive actions that will terribly stain our image before the world, especially now that we are trying to woo investors. No sane investor or tourist will want to come where people are still being amputated or decapitated for religious reasons. We commend the human right groups that have so far mounted pressure on the Kano government to drop this charge. We also call on our legislators to wake up to their responsibilities. It is high time they make laws to stop all these barbaric actions.
They must also see immediately that capital punishment is expunged from our laws. Nigeria is one the few countries that still practice this. Most countries have since discarded it. Look at the United Kingdom our former colonial masters and from where we borrowed most of our laws, they are today celebrating the 55th year of abolition of death penalty. The Abolition of Death Penalty Act was enacted in 1965 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It replaced the penalty of death with a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life. Then, the United Nations which Nigeria is a prominent member has also been pushing for this. It has variously adopted motions to totally abolish capital punishment globally.
Religion is simply believing and worshipping something that you believe exists somewhere. Most of the things we are taught in religion are history that we are all waiting to verify after this life. So, why should we fight and kill ourselves for them. Why should we kill and fight for God? Is it really worth it? There should be total religious freedom. One should be free to practice his faith the way feels and believes without hindrances except when it constitutes a nuisance to the society or impinges on other people’s rights and freedom.
It is very wrong to force people to believe what you believe or punish them because they don’t practice or worship your own way. Nigerians still remember and mourn the likes of Gidoen Akaluka and numerous others who have been gruesomely murdered or deprived of their sources of livelihood in all this senseless religious bigotry. Their blood still speaks against our land and the perpetrators. Their children and families still hope and demand for justice. Now, how do we expect prosperity and progress with all these on our hands? Please, we plead with our amiable Governor His Excellency Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and the good people of Kano not to waste another life in the name of religious or political correctness.