Her name, Deborah Samuel Yakubu Garba, exposes Nigeria’s inevitable culture mix that finds Christianity robustly rubbing shoulders with Islam deep and intertwined into the faint past that cannot be figured out by the best historical microscope. A combination of Deborah Samuel Yakubu presupposes that the young lady had Moslem in her ancestry, and this beats the schemes of the dubious designs by religious bigots and extremists to tear the people apart. The ugly characters that played the chimpanzee, baboon, and elephant, in beating Deborah, the 200-level Economics student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, student to death last Thursday, have been a setback for Nigeria. That beastly beating, similar to how hunters prey on and surround a lion to pound it to death in order to return from the forest with an outstanding prize, shows how barbaric, animistic and inhuman some Nigerians are in this age.
The impression that mobs have the liberty to take another person’s life at the sound of ‘blasphemy’ is fraudulent.
As one who escaped Deborah’s fate of death in 1990 during the Allied Forces invasion of Iraq, I could relate to how an innocent person could be given a satanic tag and murdered like a dog. Muslim students on our campus protested the invasion of Iraq by the United States-led Allied Forces. Not being able to decipher their mindset, I marveled at the MSS’s action, because the bombardment took place thousands of miles away from Kano – in the Middle East. But, by evening, a Muslim who was privy to a deadly conspiracy desperately traced me to a meeting to give me a sealed secret that shook me beyond explanation – the Muslim students had put my name on the list of Christian students to be attacked the next day because I was an executive member of the Nigerian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (NIFES).
My source forced me to escape from campus that night. Yes, he was an Angel of God. The next day, the campus was turned upside down with smokes of fire and brimstone, as some irate Muslim students went on the rampage, destroying the institution’s properties, attacking Christians, and cursing Americans, Zionists, and Christians, for attacking a land of Islam. Those who carried out this mindless and destructive protest in the 1990s are now adults or, to put it appropriately, elders. The fact that about 30 years after, youths at Shehu Shagari College of Education have repeated the madness demonstrates that the warped teachings that fertilize mob killings in the name of God are being transmitted from generation to generation, without any form of credible refinement. This is really sad.
As governments of northern states look away when jungle justice is visited on Christians, so are the killers encouraged to repeat their evil acts in a reckless manner that shows impunity that goes with complacency for justice.
Every other year, some unreported, Christians are murdered in cold blood, their property destroyed, and their future wasted on account of unverified accusations of blasphemy. In September last year, for instance, one Shuaibu Yohana, who was pastor of New Life for all Nations Church in Misau Sumaila Local Government Area of Kano state, was mobbed to death. His offense? Pastor Yohanna prevented youths in the community from killing a new convert to his church member who hails from Misau town, in jungle justice. The pastor had taken the young man to the police for safety. A kind action to save a man from unnecessary death earned Pastor Yohanna painful death at the hands of the mob. The police and authorities dropped the ball; justice has not been meted out to Yohana’s killers, in spite of the fact that they could be traced among the people of Misau. As governments of northern states look away when jungle justice is visited on Christians, so are the killers encouraged to repeat their evil acts in a reckless manner that shows impunity that goes with complacency for justice.
We have been made to accept that all it takes to shed the blood of an enemy is to scream the word ‘blasphemy’ at the top of one’s voice. Without producing credible evidence, and without subjecting the accusation to any scrutiny, any Muslim in the vicinity where such an alarm is raised has the moral authority to stone the unfortunate victim to death. This happens only in Nigeria. In Saudi Arabia where Shariah is the kernel of the judicial system, anyone accused of blasphemy is made to face judges, well-learned in Islamic Jurisprudence, who would thoroughly and dispassionately examine the evidence against the defendant, before passing a judgment. The impression that mobs have the liberty to take another person’s life at the sound of ‘blasphemy’ is fraudulent, though Nigerians have lived with it for decades now. In Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and other frontline Islamic states, mob action on account of unsubstantiated blasphemy is not practiced. Why is the situation different in some northern states?
To curb the warped mindset that killing Christians in service to God is not rocket science; it’s simply to take control of the nature and ramifications of knowledge transmitted by Islamic clerics.
Christians have continued to be mowed down for blasphemy because the political authorities in northern Nigeria and even at the federal level have deliberately allowed it to be so in order to be politically correct with the half-educated population that vote blindly during elections. To curb the warped mindset that killing Christians in service to God is not rocket science; it’s simply to take control of the nature and ramifications of knowledge transmitted by Islamic clerics. And it does not take a century to do so. In several Islamic countries, like Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Qatar, Islamic clerics are not permitted to teach poisonous doctrines that can instigate the people against others. Deliberately, these governments have curbed extremist teachings, certifying religious preachers and teachers, and anyone found to have strayed from the guidelines is made to face the bitter music. In Nigeria, the opposite is the case. Since 2003 when some northern states converted to Shariah, Islamic clerics have been given a wide space to preach violence and hatred, giving birth to Boko Haram, Ansaru, the Islamic States of West African Province (ISWAP), bandits, and mobs that slaughter innocent persons at the whistle of ‘blasphemy.’
Many Muslims have voiced it out to high heavens that the kind of barbaric act that took place in Sokoto last week was strange to Islam. Though it has been repeated every year for more than fifty years now, the Muslim political elite who become presidents, ministers, governors, commissioners, parliamentarians, and hold other exalted and influential executive positions have not lifted a finger to alter this frequent violence that contaminates the perception of Islam. Either for fear of being targeted or as an absolute disregard for the plight of Christian victims, they have maintained their cold silence and moved on, to allow those who have courage in evil to demonstrate a sense of triumph for the faith when Christians are slaughtered. In the 21st century, it is shameful that a professor takes pride in a beastly act like the shedding of the innocent blood of Deborah, and advocating more of such acts.
Thirdly, Muslim groups in tertiary institutions must be brought under control; most of them have become alternative authority in our higher institutions, making our colleges of education, polytechnics and universities the hotbed of religious fanaticism.
For everyone who does not want the blood of Deborah Samuel Yakubu to be shed in vain, there are two things to embark upon. We must insist that a thorough investigation is carried out into the dubious bloodshed, especially as videos in circulation provide the opportunity for security operatives to arrest the faces that participated in the killing. The excuse that it was a mere mob action is unacceptable. The faces in the videos must be made to face the investigative panel and subsequently a trial to ensure justice prevails. In addition, all northern states must audit the Islamic schools in their territory to identify those who transmit hatred, violence, and errors to young minds. They must be flushed out of the religious education system. Thirdly, Muslim groups in tertiary institutions must be brought under control; most of them have become an alternative authority in our higher institutions, making our colleges of education, polytechnics, and universities the hotbed of religious fanaticism. This trend encouraged by the 1979 Iranian Revolution that brought to power an Islamic regime is deeply entrenched. Most of them preach division, hatred, and violence without restraint, and the authorities of these higher institutions, for fear of being targeted, would not raise their voice against such groups. We cannot continue to endure such groups; they must be made to fall in line or denied accreditation to operate on our campuses. It is an open secret that many Nigerian young Muslims become radicalized at our tertiary institutions. No nation makes progress in this manner.
To ensure Deborah’s death is not in vain, Sokoto State Government must not be sentimental or fearful in applying the law for murder. Also, northern state governments must enact fearless laws that discourage or punish reckless bloodshed.
Theophilus Abbah could be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and on Twitter, at @theophilusa