To Rabiu Kwakwaso, Governor of Kano, the Legion of Mary or Salvation Army is not different from Boko Haram. If the former uses Rosaries or Bibles and Boko Haram uses AK47 or limbs-shattering explosives to persuade sinners to their vision of faith, they are legitimately engaged in the same method. This is what he said when granting unconditional clemency to 20 members of Boko Haram in celebration of the end of 2011 Holy Month of fasting:
“As a government, we consider all Islamic and Christian religious sects the same. It is the duty of government to embrace all religious groups toward peaceful coexistence among citizens… no time did the state government ever authorize any security agency to arrest or detain any member of any religious group.” Embrace all religious groups? Even Boko Haram is a religious group not a terrorist organisation?
The governor issued the pardon four days after Boko Haram bombed the UN headquarters in Abuja leaving 25 dead and 110 injured. By January this year, the peace-loving, bomb-making religious group he embraced and released to the public killed 180 and thousands injured in his state. Swelling the scope of their khuruj, they invaded Bayero University throwing bombs and spraying bullets in their usual effort to peacefully persuade the fleeing sinners. 13 Christians students and 2 professors died.
The fallacies of false equivalence and religious tolerance have become masks with which North’s political and Islamic leaders and their southern minions like Lateef Adegbite and Ishaq Akintola disguise their extremisms and gain undeserved respectability. Guilty too is the media. For decades, when bloodbaths erupt as usual in the fiery North, they called it, “religious violence” not “Islamic violence.” The media preferred being viewed as fair, balanced and unbiased to being viewed as truthful and accurate. False equivalence removes the need to assign blame, to openly criticise and put pressure on the offenders and their sponsors. It blunts their sense of guilt and dispels responsibility. It is a species of appeasement.
Boko Haram is not much of an alien ambush on our landscape from the career terrorists of AfghPak central command; it is an unchecked evolution of what had been gaining grounds in the North for so long. It is. Disdain for life of others in the service of Islamic goals was already established by North’s political an Islamic elites. Boko Haram is merely upping the standards of what is terrible after being unsatisfied with the unbearable lightness of previous methods of bloodshed. From the 1980 Maitatsine riots which left over 4000 dead in Kano, to the 1994 jubilatory parade of Gideon Akaluka’s severed head around Kano markets because his wife allegedly desecrated the Koran, to the Danish cartoons riots that led to the death of Fr Mathew Gajere and 19 southern Christians who didn’t even know why they were been attacked, and to all the massacres that happened between these seminal events, if the perpetrators had been made to face justice without an emir, governor, or commissioner pleading for their release in the name of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence, the culture of killing with thrills of impunity wouldn’t have been so persuasive to Boko Haram.
Deputy Governor Aliyu Shinkafi should have been in jail for the fatwah on Ms Isioma Daniel, the Thisday journalist. This would have sent a clear message murder must not be decorated as respectable even when done to please Allah. Instead he rose to become the governor. Those school kids that murdered their teacher Miss Oluwatoyin Olusesan for tossing away a schoolbag containing Koran and set fire to her body shouting Allah akbar should have been in jail.
This entrenched disdain for other people’s lives made it possible for Boko Haram to say recently that the reason why they are widening their target to include media houses is that they have a name, an image and a mission but the media choose inaccurate reporting therefore making them and their jihad look like a lie. In other words, Boko Haram enjoys being viewed as killers rather than liars.
Of course this dark enjoyment parallels Lateef Adegbite’s conclusions during the opposition to the 2004 Miss World pageantry in Abuja. Eventually when sponsored riots broke out in Abuja and Kaduna leaving 219 innocents dead, thousands injured and several houses and churches razed down, Adegbite was on record to have argued that the riots should serve as a warning to the government and the organisers. If they say they don’t want a programme, they don’t want it.
They claimed they don’t want the beauty show because it is not welcomed during the holy month of fasting but the killing of 219 innocents is welcomed during the holy month. In Nigeria, there was a Boko Haram state of the mind before Boko Haram became incessantly operative in reality as a ruthlessly killing machine.
And yet Adegbite like Kwakwaso and the northern hierarchy like to cast themselves as preachers of peace and religious tolerance whereas what they are after is to ask non-Muslims to compromise with abominations. They publish condemnations after Boko Haram strikes but their statements are not actually taking on Boko Haram on the level of ideology. This is because they espouse many of the core doctrines which Boko Haram is using bombs to pursue. Take Sharia. It’s being twelve years now since Sharia packaged as an antidote to corruption and social vices was illegally launched by some extremists governors. It has failed but has enhanced sorrow tears and blood. Sharia doesn’t have a decent attitude to the progress-enhancing byzantine ambiguities which modern life specialises in dispensing. To impose it on a state will precipitate violence no matter how peace-loving you claim to be.
Also the northern hierarchy has been adverse to quality education for the Umma instead they prefer to keep intact the purity of the Sarakuna and Talakawa dichotomy. With their saraa and zakat, they convince their conscience, the status quo is just and the political calculus, fair. And yet, as coal is to fire, the almajiri and gardawa of today would be the Boko Haram suicide bombers of tomorrow. When I was in Borno there was acute shortage of Maths, English, and science teachers. Outside Maiduguri, they were virtually non-existent yet reason and scientific thinking make it difficult to believe lies of religion. There is a permanent epidemic of VVF with pregnant girls as young as twelve who supposed to be in school but were already wives. Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, the ex-governor who oversaw the introduction of Sharia law and the amputation of Buba Bello Jangebe defended his own marriage to a 13 year old girl: “As a Muslim, as I always say, I consider God's law and that of his prophet above any other law…History tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore I have not contravened any law.”
Northern Nigeria is a useless limb the rest of the country doesn’t really need. Those calling for sovereign national conference obviously want to use the occasion to amputate the diseased limb once and for all. But is this the solution? An Islamic Republic of Northern Nigeria would still be a menace not only to the Federal Republic of Southern Nigeria but to the whole world just like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia were before Al Qaeda professional terrorists moved in. What the North need is a massive campaign of secular consciousness and the domino collapse would start in earnest for a better society. Unlike other parts of Nigeria, the extractive and oppressive feudal system entrenched in the North relies on a popular religious consciousness in order to be terrible without being seen as such. At Bayero University that Boko Haram recently blighted with bombs, Aminu Kano told a story of a woman whose right hand was cut after a wrongful conviction for stealing a piece of jewellery. When the thief was finally apprehended, she said her honest reputation re-establish was what counted. As for the amputation, it was the will of Allah, she proclaimed gladly.