‘The Cloaked One’: Religion Has Been The Victim All Along
How to break Boko Haram (1) published on 29 Jan and 18 Feb 15 editions of the DESERT HERALD and LEADERSHIP newspapers respectively was a general advice to the Federal Government over its primary responsibility in the on-going counter insurgency operations.
By ABDULQADIR ABUBAKAR M. GUMI
Delightfully, it made the front page headlines of the leadership publication of 18 Feb 15, the same day President Barack Obama of USA also aired similar views on the ideological narrations towards fighting religious extremism. The World Muslim League, picking from President Obama, hosted a sudden 3 day conference on the novel approach on 5 Mar 15. This edition was however a little digression from the first edition. Guided though, by democratic principles it seeks to reiterate the need for checks and balances without which projections and sharing of responsibilities may not be equitable.
Apart from the roles of the legislative bodies and the Judiciary, herein all treated as Federal Government, the Muslim community has its obligatory roles to compliment efforts to put things back to order. The Muslims were hitherto designated as the main complainants/victims of the insurgency and by extension the entire Northern Nigeria which formed the battle ground. It is therefore erroneous for the Northern establishments to rely fully on the Government or the National Assembly for all initiatives needed to prosecute the BH insurgency. They should bear in mind that no federal body is structured to either project the North, faith, regional based entity or targeted situations. The North being directly devastated by the Insurgency, as ground zero, needs to design its peculiar defense mechanisms common or suitable to its heritage. This would fill in survival gaps or at the least improve its disposition as to compel the constituted Federal structure to be alive to its responsibilities whenever its social fabrics are trespassed in the BH situation. The attitude to wait for an election year before action would amount to accepting the kind of casualties and losses realized within the period for the democracy we have chosen for ourselves.
The law expects every victim, complainant, indigene, domicile or citizen to defend himself through complaint and preserving records. They are also to sustain cooperation with those assigned with responsibility to secure citizens as a public duty. Apathy and total reliance on government structures for all obligations, checks and balances turns silly a critique as to deserve no ears of a serious responder. The law itself, after all does not rise up to the indolent. It behooves on ‘the Cloaked one’ the waiting to be fed, the victim, every Muslim, group of Muslims and Christians of the North who insist that the situation must change to come out and isolate himself/themselves from the violent ideology that sets itself on war path with fellow countrymen. Just like any meaningful effort, this cannot be achieved except by harnessing concerned energies into one direction that leaves no room for the enemy to exploit. Therefore, in the search for solutions, there is the need to first identify common denominators that bind groups and heritages that held the past. Other areas to identify include primary and secondary causes of rifts that were over blown, latent and apparent dividing lines, foreign or extenuating influences and a fashion that prioritize one direction over another.
It is heart-warming for Muslims that the Quran dedicated a chapter for “the Cloaked one”, which respectfully composed its comment to include the people of the Book (to) Arise and warn, And magnify your Lord, And purify your garments, And keep away from idols, And give not a thing in order to have more, And be patient for the sake of your Lord. And we have set none but angels as guardians of the Fire. And fixed their number only as trial for the disbelievers, and that the people of the book will be strengthened and the believers may increase in faith and until no doubt remains with the people of the book and the believers, even though those yet with disease in their minds and those wont to turn away will still say ‘what does Allah mean by this example’? That way Allah leads astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And none except your Lord knows the hosts of troops that belong to him” (verses 2 to 8 and 31, Chapter 74).
One must at this juncture commend the leading traditional institutions, the clergy and the general public who in groups and Individual basis murdered sleep to foster peace messages across all divides in the land. The success of the last presidential and general elections, is probably the greatest manifestation of the Nigerian zeal ever to overcome daunting and threatening challenges. It is no doubt the greatest beacon the North will make to the South to please join this success and save the common and inseparable destiny under very peaceful and progressive circumstances. Indeed the nited Nigeriaaceful and progressivesuccess story had been achieved by the crossbreed and across divide campaign mobilizations that took place long before the elections proper making the Change an unstoppable movement that knew no bounds.
Much has still not been done on the dogma that created the plat form for recruitment of Nigerian citizens against their own Country. Some forms of system failures, ignorance, shock and corruption among others have evaded the Judicial and legislative exploits that would have defined the Nation`s position, locate and isolate the strange creed and its foreign roots. Apart from the use of force in defeating the enemy, forums that would formulate a counter narrative against the enemy was either not made or failed to involve major stake holders for the fight to be potent. These stakeholders include the bar, bench, university academia, traditional institutions, Sharia jurists, Muslim and Christian Clergy and the victims. Rooting out a manifestation cloaked in Muslim garb without distinguishing it from majority of Muslim orthodox or traditional teachings will only leave Muslims generally hanging as accused persons. The situation is worsened by the fact that many of the BH suspects had been in and out of police or prosecutor’s charges and arraignments but left off the hook for one reason or the other. The situation that will end BH without an exoneration of the majority Muslim narrations will only rest the suspicion on Muslims for another day. Meanwhile, the license to continue taunting those who take their religion seriously as fanatics and potential terrorists will continue unabated. Basic ideological and common narratives tested and known to all must therefore be rehearsed together again and as well rekindle the joints that ensured peaceful divides, tolerance and preservation of national goals in the past. These joints must have been weakened or washed away by some inadvertence to have allowed the kind of deterioration sweeping through the foundations of our century old union.
OVERVIEW OF NIGERIAN LOCAL CONTENT / RELEVANCE OF LOCAL ISLAMIC SCHOLARSHIP
It deserves to mention that local Islamic scholarship as practiced in Northern Nigeria did not bear any extreme views. It has remained the greatest asset for the Government and indeed anyone who was genuinely interested in defeating the BH group. Truly, the BH raised the extant apathy predisposition of its followers on western education to the level of abomination. The fact however that most of Muslim North that attained advancement in western education did it under difficult circumstances should have excused the hard approach on the BH group or its factions that were earlier open to dialogue. The constraint to go beyond just their ideology in order to identify the root cause of the violence and its consequent insurgent manifestation is only reasonable. Furthermore, since BH grew to be branded with substantial success, discourse on the ideology in contrast to the majority position would become a starting fairness to all Nigerians. It is necessary to debunk the BH sources of authority, define its roots, diminish the multiplying effect and at the same time purify the orthodox narrations that must remain intact even when BH dogma is long gone.
LOCAL CONTENT AND THE WORLDWIDE ORTHODOX
Local content and the brand of Islamic theology and history must be purified by our traditional institutions as recently; Nigerians abroad are increasingly reported to be involved in extremism and terrorist groups. This is against the prevailing urge to relate same to foreign cultures that emanated in the guise of Islam. Many ideas of these foreign cultures are of doubtful origin. Many already are clearly on the run or being chased across the globe by real and phobia forces that can be blind to separation of real from the unreal or true reflection from absurd. Suicide as indicated elsewhere is never known to traditional Islamic societies. If it now turns out as an art of warfare, it must first be attributed to societies where suicide itself is a known phenomenon. It is therefore logical, in identifying the root of suicide attacks to first rule out the preponderance of self or hurriedly made scholars. They are mostly likely the new converts, drug addicts, terminally ill, ignorant, apologists and psychologically afflicted persons. These set who in probable circumstances possess the preponderance for both suicide as well as seeking for martyrdom and at the same time try to find solace in attributing it to Islamic ideology must first be ruled out. The orthodox Muslim nations and societies must be the last as their methods and disposition never comprehend it in the first place. Aspects of Islamic theology could be drawn by anyone and attributed to a plausible link between seeking for martyrdom in Jihad and suicide but this can never be credible as an Islamic source unless such interpretation is known to have gained acceptance or preponderance in typical or traditional Islamic societies. When the persecution of Muslims became extreme, the Prophet SAW did not authorize fighting in built up area (Mecca) but instead opted for migrations. In Madina, the Muslims were in defense while the Meccans were in attack disposition for the battle of Badr, the first Muslim holy war. The Prophet SAW chose the plains of Badr for his defensive position instead of remaining in Madina for the Meccans to attack contrary to what the BH have done in Maiduguri. It is rather interesting to note that the Meccans were in the ratio of 3 to 1 with the Muslim force during the battle. This same ratio is being used now by our conventional forces order of battle in attack and defense dispositions inherited from the British Military. It becomes great disservice for anyone to attribute terrorism to Islam when the same Islam sources as defined in its holy wars contributed to the standardization of the order of battle adopted worldwide. The Muslims will have to retrace their Islamic root above any international or universal accepted laws, orders, conventions and practices to be able to protect the image of Islam from being excommunicated by multiple terrorist activities.
SEEKING FOR MARTYRDOM IN ISLAM
The prophet’s companions have desired and sometimes prayed to be martyred but will always reserve the cause of death to other than self-help. The closest self-help established is in offering a confession to an offence the punishment of which is capital before a court or a constituted authority. The Sharia too makes confessions permissible just like the practices of ‘guilty or not guilty’ obtained in the English courts. But however, it left it as an act not to be celebrated. Indeed a woman companion (RA) who turned up with the confession for adultery before the Prophet SAW was sent off three times but compelled herself to return with the same confession before the effecting sentence. This delay tested her calm and calculated willingness to martyrdom for about three years. The Sharia accepts her as a martyr but she is not celebrated for the Muslim who is encouraged by the Quran to live to find forgiveness, to be shy to conceal wrong done the while stringent burden of proof lay against any witness who comes forward to testify which is at a heavy cost, should it fall anything short of the prescription. Compare the Islamic concept with the rash calculation of the BH when they decide on their kind of martyrdom even with the assumption that suicide is not an innovation to Islam. The irony however is that while the BH were able to manufacture a constituted authority that defined their rash judicial undertakings within Nigerian territory the use of the Nigerian courts has remained at minimal throughout the long period of the counter insurgency.
TRADITIONAL APATHY TOWARDS WESTERN EDUCATION
The northern establishments have largely overcome the long drawn apathy towards western education. The BH menace is therefore, uncalled for being parasitic and impersonator to Islamic ideology before the glaring public view. Besides it has also trespassed on the sound carriage given to Islam by earlier Nigerian Muslim judges, scholars, leaders and opinion/policy molders over time. Is it anywhere hidden in Muslim North that apathy towards Western education was only surmounted overtime by elders and patriotic leadership. They have used both subtle and rough campaigns to enable the mix and grading to secure for the North the leading role in the polity we have today. My grandfather had to explain to elders that Arabic letters were more in number and that it would not take my father one week to learn all the English letters. It was after that they conceded on the latter to be released to schools (Where I Stand page15). How then should it elude us in the first place, that northern efforts deserve commendation within the century that it has sacrificed its Muslim and Arabic background in order to measure up to the Nigerian realities unfolded by colonial union of Northern and Southern Protectorates? Why should it surprise anyone that some meager group or left over Muslims of the North are yet to be comfortable with western education when the entire Muslim North hesitated at various times and degrees to accept same for a way of life. It is an obvious pride that the Muslim North evolved through painstaking management of its cherished Islamic and Arabic heritage as to have, within the century, maintained itself and still yet attained even greater measure of an equal and equitable partner in our pre and post-colonial development. Has anyone outside the northern establishment invested so much as to be disappointed with its drive to catch up with the rest of Nigeria in terms of accepting the reality and values of western education? The views of Great Britain, Nigeria’s former colonial master will be most interesting here. Why is it that condemnations are more than commendations as to have denied Muslims and the North minimal tolerance, discourse, idea based or even judicial management of the BH menace under the established constitutional structures and in conjunction with the academia. After all, it is on record that Sheikh Jaafar Adam (of blessed memory) alerted the Government and anyone who cared to listen then that late Muhammad Yusuf was up to some dangerous games in very good time. Adam promptly expunged the local content of Nigerian Islamic Scholarship from the BH dogma. But yet, no one will listen to him, neither strengthen nor mobilize him among others to formulate counter peaceful narratives against the group. Consequently, even when Jaafar Adam was mowed down, it could not trigger a suspicion or reaction to use the Clergy as the counter narrative solution against the BH group. Instead more and more Clergy continued to fall until fear gripped the flock as to jettison any other solution outside of waiting for the military resolve.
VITAL SELECTION OF FUTURE CLERGY ROLES
With more than a decade of Clergy silence, would the environment now, not be ripe for easier BH recruitment or its diversion to another phase in waiting? Fresh worries must be assessed and reassessed before the menace can be foreclosed. The foreign content should also be carefully noted as it is also doubtful if any local Islamic scholarship took part in the molding of Faruq Umar Mutallab, the Detroit Airline attempted bomber. The boy like many of his peers schooled abroad for the greater part of their adult life. It is natural that the local scholarship is sulking over what has become of one of its pupils simply because he was not well grounded before the foreign exposure. How much of our custodians of the orthodox Islamic traditions and our local content going to remain opinion molders in post BH era, remains a question. The answer would determine the road to success considering the inadequacy in its management and the damage already done to Muslims confidence and security since then. The beginning of the solution for now may only start at the point in which the insurgency is defeated by the military and the new leadership is up to the light and wherewithal to build upon both the successes and manifest failures that are left behind. The clergy are obvious molders of opinion among the populace but a properly organized structure must be in place to put them to their calling. Apart from running mosques and churches, they could be supported or subsidized to run schools duly accredited with syllabi screened by foremost scholars from among themselves. They could also be encouraged to partake in policy formulation, juridical and arbitration roles among others to be put together by a ministry or parastatal on religious affairs.
RELIGION`S UNIVERSALITY AND SECULAR DOMINANCE UNIVERSALITY, RELIGION AND OTHER CREEDS
Christianity and Islam have both survived chequered immemorial heritage for 2015 and 1436 years respectively. This fact stands out against any modern and amateurish narration as to threaten their existence. Apart from the super religions, how many African tribes or ethnic groups will bury a corpse of one of them whose death is ascribed to suicide which has become the primary means of distinguishing the modern day terrorist operations? Yet, these Africans over the time have welcomed, lived with and converted to both super religions out of piety, passion and on their own volition. Uncountable converts are known to have lost traces of their ethnic origins, mother tongues and identities by affiliating elsewhere unperturbed simply on account of conversion to either of the two universal Religions. Which other association be it religion, nation, country, state, tribe, region, company, ethnic affiliations or even extra territorial, space or cyberspace put together is so designed as to admit converts and allow them to grow and be recognized to have access to its pinnacle and alters/pulpit based on sheer performance and merit. In all probability acceptable thoughts, definitions of terms and universal usages that have knit the world and international order together were and still are borrowed from the divine scriptures and heritage of the Universal religions. Take the Devine scriptures out and you have a world that cannot agree on simple basic terms as ‘ responsible, reasonable, good, nice, tolerable, fair or their opposites’ etc and consequently even on the principles of equity, good conscience, rule of law, freedom, equality, principles and directives of states policies. Take simply the hand shake between two persons and you will find it to have canonical and scriptural roots. Clearly however the secular world will adopt it and refuse to ascribe it to the religions. On the other hand, the austere disposition of religions will not object to secular theft of its brands since they promote virtues under all circumstances. Secularism stealthily then dominates the space it did not reap and then some other creed, ideology or academic personality will claim ownership of what has already been of Devine and immemorial roots. This notion goes for so many proverbs, adage and established sayings that are attributable to other than their Devine origins and yet no due or apologies are reserved or at all admitted. How much do we ascribe the modern day concepts of freedom, equality, liberty and justice diligently to their religious roots even in passing as to earn the blessings of the Lord that we all seek for help. Methinks secularism seeks to sweep all universal religions to private domains and lockers without any one defining its own encroachment limits as if it is fair on it to set rights and limits for its own self. Secularism and the secular space must own up to the much it has stolen from the religions as to be worthy of self-standing and survival in its own right? This standard should go with all other creeds and dogmas that creep in along or under the secular space shadow.
SECULARISM AND THE WINDOW FOR OBNOXIOUS PERFORMANCES
It is radical irony that the moment secularity attains higher grounds of moral dominance, other creeds creep in to enjoy freedom and liberty that was completely knocked out earlier by religious propagations unperturbed. The same obnoxious performances that are tribal, cultist, animist, juju and African cultural performances that could not rear their heads when religion was supreme only reappear when secularity has driven religion aground. The fear in the case of modern day terrorism, however, is the want of a villain to hang when no one is there to speak for religion. Religion becomes the victim when it is otherwise the ultimate solution to all vices. It is then called names and attributed to forms of behavior only known to animists in the past. The slaughtering of a human being as practice attributable to Islam is similar to suicide attributable to Jihad. Cannibalism, rape, use of civilian population for shield, infants and women as cannon fodder has only been sourced from outside of the Quran and Prophetic traditions. How unfair then, that the practices known to animists and pagans abhorrence to which endeared many to Islam and Christianity, are now attributed to Islam in official quarters unperturbed. The responsibility for the rebranding of Islam with pagan practices can only be lodged on those who refuse to allow Muslim stakeholders to have free hand in the counter narrations utilized by the operation against the BH itself. It is then understandable why both Muslims and Christians will be the main victims and yet they are accusing each other of complicity to the blossoming survival of vices such as ethnicity and tribalism. Others are cult and fetish practices that include ironically the cutting and mowing of human beings and body parts for rituals and obnoxious illicit gains. Coincidentally a caption just appeared on my ‘sms alert box “I have eaten faeces for eight years”-Man confesses’ (http://news.ng.airtellive.com/….)
COMMONALITY AND RESPECT: AN IMMEMORIAL HERITAGE OF ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
Islam and Christianity are two of a kind that have survived and blossomed across land and oceans with ease of appeal to mankind. Thought distinct in some aspects of beliefs, the two are strange bedfellows that share the most common of values, heritage, definitions, heroes and concepts from times immemorial. They have established partnership/neighborhoods in history and territorial space around the World to the exclusion of other religions. Hardly are they concerned with each other however except in the claims for true beliefs, virtue and virtuousness. They seem to only beg to differ in terms of who is more sincere and virtuous than the other. They struggle for exclusivity against each other making parallel claims over similar shades of virtues, definitions and all charitable interpretation to realities they look forward to in either form, trace, concept or context. Islam and Christianity beg to be more austere than the other and compete in denial of spine to the world while adhering to the fact that the end of matters reside not in this world but in the hereafter. They differ on the personality of Jesus for example but struggle over who reveres him more. Same struggle exist for Mother Mary, the heavens, the same set of prophets, their history and exalted life patterns etc. The axis of deliverance is also along similar direction until no other religion can claim to be closer and tolerant to any of the two beyond what they stand for to each other.
CONCEPT OF IDENTITY OF THE COMMON ENEMY
Islam and Christianity both concur in the belief of a common enemy. The irony is that they hardly have a dividing line in their concept of this common enemy, the Devil. Their entire struggle is on how to defeat, overcome, evade or surmount the Devil. Their illusiveness, capacity and the zeal to make a turnabout any time the Devil is seen or realized to be on the lead is near equal. This zeal defines the painstaking character of their followers to any course of action, no matter the cost or sacrifice toward self-purification from perceived Devil and his deceptions. This asset underscores their ability to recognize each other as an asset in spite of their differences. The Devil himself of course, can only be illusive to both Islam and Christianity at the same time because they concur on the concept of his identity and method. He is therefore at his most elusive moment when the two are fighting each other instead of climbing over each other to locate and diminish him. The duo in all seem identical in the manner they make a turnabout on recognition that the Devil is on the lead and this makes them reliably unpredictable whenever they are glaring on a wrong, doubtful or fraudulent path.
WORLD ORDER A PRODUCT OF RELIGIOUS VALUES
Islam and Christianity define most of the present world order, laws, conventions, court processes and procedures, universal administrative standards, basic human relations and reasonably acceptable conducts. It would seem that the same austere disposition of no self-praise is responsible to the theft of their indelible concepts by secularism and other dogmas unperturbed. Additionally, together with the outright refusal to acknowledge that the sources of all good are from the Devine scriptures. We should be able to own up to the Religious roots and foundations of all sound universal principles that have been accepted as the World Order today. These range from international conventions, accepted cultural practices, Laws and treaties, principles and best practices of diplomacy to neighborhood interrelationships etc. I bet that is part of what we beg to foretell by our opening and closing prayers to events and occasions with little show of realism though. We should then own up to our laws and the British common law as basically canon that is by and large comparable and complimentary to the Sharia law as it exists in Nigeria, Pakistan and the Sudan etc. It is believed that such recognition will enable the right atmosphere for religious security, national harmony and appropriate dues to secularity as well, whatever/ wherever it means. The prayers we also resort to in our times of adversity will also have greater meaning and deliverance having given religion its communal dues. Strange dogmas, their sources and realism especially where they adopt and claim or copy sources rooted in the universal religions must be isolated to deny them except where they reaped for peace and the world order to reign. On the aggregate also, if religions have survived for immemorial past, nothing else should compete with it in terms of space and value as to deny it its own existence.
NATURAL ANTIDOTE TOWARDS EACH OTHER
The duo of Christianity and Islam have not only come a long way but would seem to have evolved as natural anti dote for the survival of each other in times of distress. This conclusion may not be farfetched from their identical definition and outlook on the Devil called Shaitan or Lucipher. The Prophet Muhammad SAW asked Muslims who could not bear the Meccan Pagan persecutions as an interim measure to first migrate to Habasha in present day Ethiopia and to seek for protection from a sincere Christian King Najjashi and this turned out successfully. Again a tradition related that when the Christians fasted on the Ash day, and Prophet Muhammad SAW was informed, he said Muslims were the most deserving of fasting on that day but that they should add another day of fasting in order to contrast with the Christian way. The choice of Christianity as a responsible neighbor to Islam and Muslims is therefore, by Devine decrees. The Quran has distinguished Christianity as most (Surah 5.82) sympathetic and devoid of arrogance thereby being closest to Islam no matter the challenge of one against the other and in many verses described Christians in the best of light. The Quran concedes that there are good and bad of either, just as the good in either are also hard to come by. The Muslim is enjoined to fulfill all rightful obligations towards the Christian the same way the Christian is expected to fulfill all righteousness towards the Muslim. Chapter 5 verse 47 enjoins Muslims in their day to day relationships” to ensure that ‘the people of Injeel (the Bible) live and judge according to what has been enjoined there in” as a foundation for mutual coexistence. ”Chapter 5 Verse 5 made lawful to Muslims the Christian food which he has prepared for himself. It has also decreed marriage to Christian women provided the marriage fulfils all righteousness, dowry is paid, the relationship is not built upon extra marital intimacy or taking of advantage without due recognition and acceptance of her parents. The venue for the marriage to Christian women can only therefore be at her parents abode. Thus by divine revelations, the Christian is there for a Muslim and vice versa.
PAGAN COMMUNITIES AS MUTUAL GRAZING GROUND
The Northern Nigerian experience is a clear testimony that Islam and Christianity had a latent understanding that pagan conversion to either religion was the acceptable minimum. They seemed soft with each other on conversion space over time to the extent that each feels as good with the conversion of an outsider or a pagan to either. Muslims and Christians seemed to have peacefully succeeded in turning the pagan areas as grazing grounds for converts and any conversion to one is bringing home a faithful closer to either. Together, the relationship transmuted to what became Indirect Rule with the bayiah (Islamic allegiances) to rulers residing in the traditional institutions while mundane loyalty, also distinguishable under the Sharia, went to the British colonialists. To date the Baiyah remains a formal allegiance to the traditional institutions while citizen allegiance constitutionally rests with the Government of the day discharged through voting, polls and election rights. The British clearly could not tolerate animist and pagan attributes and for that they employed direct rule for Christianity to occupy all administrative and mundane space in the Southern Nigeria. The British had no moral authority then to deny Islam flourishing in the North being equally a universal religion with the two coming a long way from time immemorial. It therefore adopted the indirect rule in the North in order that it could peacefully share space with Islam and also have the leverage for its economic and commercial pursuits unhindered.
MUTUAL BENEFITS FROM CONVERSION
Conversion of one to either consequently brings a pagan and any third party closer to either Islam or Christianity. This has by congruity made grazing for converts within the same location mutually beneficial, acceptable and to the chagrin pleasure and understanding of both. This was, as earlier said, the spirit that kept the duo going in complimentary roles until they merged in places that included the pre-colonial Northern Nigeria. Similarly, they did same in Sudan and other parts of Africa, the Middle East etc within civility, mutual understanding and minimal combat. I ones asked an Islamic clergy how he felt whenever his style of preaching on radio question and answer sessions was copied or imitated by Christian preachers. He simply smiled in approval, and that it meant no harm and is for common good. It is also in that light around 1987, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, when asked on Nigerian politics said that he (a Muslim Clergy) will vote or vouch only for a Muslim candidate but that Christianity ‘was nothing’ ie not a hindrance. The import in the context of his comment using his rare English tongue was that, as a Muslim clergy, he will vote/promote a Muslim candidate in principle but that Christianity and by extension its candidates are harmless. They can have their way, are neither a problem nor a hindrance, if so conceived by the situation on the ground. Sheikh Gumi`s statement was in utter comparison to paganism and other objectionable traits that he considered as ‘something’ objectionable, worth resisting or to have to challenge among the Nigerian elites. The media quoted him then out of context and the hype it triggered never allowed a clear explanation until in 1992, whenDr I Tsiga took the matter up with Malam in his book ‘Where I Stand’. He then explained his position before his demise (pages 184). It is also in the same tone that Malam as we fondly refer to him always assessed any Christian or Muslim leader, not by his physical achievements but by religious affinity and disposition. His impression of Gowon for example was positive and considered his reign as that of a benevolent Christian. He would praise the Gowon regime for its respect for Religion and was proud that the Armed Forces Chaplaincy was as involved with governance and decision making at the highest levels. Malam, on the other hand sounded care free towards the Gen O Obasanjo military regime because he could not place his religious inclinations (pages 205 Where I Stand). It was Incident delight one day that Col S Giwa-Amu (of blessed memory), who was then President O Obasanjo’s Aide De Camp , called me to appreciate ‘Where I Stand’ and how the book improved his perception of life like no other in the past. Accordingly he claimed to have been indisposed to his official engagement for 3 days to be able to have uninterrupted reading of the book ‘Where I Stand’ from start to finish. Even among Muslims and to his disciples, Malam maintained impressions, positive or negative, mostly, only towards those he considered religiously inclined and would remain blank and uncommitted towards anyone whose religious disposition was not grounded. This singular attribute is believed to be a propagation attitude that kept him concerned with his own business while allowing others to keep their own concerns. This is the background within which Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, with a penchant for conversion of his neighborhood to Islam became legendary. Times without number he allowed the media to broad cast the conversions mainly to teach the simplicity of non-Muslim access to Islam. It was common then that pagans were mainly discouraged by our traditional and cultural settings as to be heavily indebted before they are accepted as converts to Islam. Sometimes ram or other offerings were demanded on them as primary conditions for conversion and this is not required anywhere in Islam. The publicity attached to the congregational conversions during his Tafsir at the Sultan Bello Mosque were never meant to show case Islam ahead of Christianity as many would want to insinuate but to reaffirm the simplistic nature of conversion to Islam in order to nip unnecessary traditional servitude placed on voluntary Muslim converts. It was meant to further facilitate their integration into the Muslim community at the cheapest convenience prescribed by the Sharia.
THE INDIRECT RULE IN NORTHERN NIGERIA
The Indirect rule produced more deliberate Christians in the Northern Nigeria because the conversions also gave equal space for Islam as an alternative. The opposite existed in the South where everyone including Muslims had to conform to colonial identity to be integrated. Thus, while the Indirect rule left clear pagan communities in identified zones and with time and option to go either way, the direct rule in the South cloaked the pagan communities with the Christian garb whether or not they actually converted and lumped them all as Christians. Those yet to convert on their own volition were compelled to identify with Christianity as no other option was available for integration. The pagan communities till today are therefore believed to be more distinguishable in the North. Although the situation has created very deliberate and identifiable Christian North who are as amiable and peaceful like their Muslim brethrens, it has on the other hand also become a source of major friction when Muslims, in their usually casual disposition fail to distinguish between Christians and their pagan kith and kin since they normally would be living together in their mist. The truth is that the Christian mix with pagan communities in terms of cohabitation is more out of evangelical than tolerant disposition towards paganism. Muslim evangelism keeps the pagan at a further distance because the Islamic admission processes and recognition of converts is apparently more formal than that of Christianity. And it is in this regard that the Muslims have to be more stringent and careful in reciprocating mutual recognition to their Northern Christian brothers who live amidst the Northern pagan communities. References and propagations to pagans are easily misunderstood by Christians to feel derogated or despised when no effort is made to distinguish that the message was not primarily directed or referred at Christians and vice versa. And how much training do our clergy receive to be able to make particular preaching while distinguishing pagan from the Christian communities. These are areas of emphasis for interfaith dialogue because the desire to continue to propagate on the pagan communities is still as urgent as it has ever been in the past.
FACTORS FOR THE RESILIENCE OF NORTHERN COMMUNITIES TO FORGE ON TOGETHER
The long history of unblemished togetherness and mutual trust built earlier by our forefathers is what has kept the fragile peace in the North. These togetherness and trust are too formidable to break by simple transient mischief. It is marvelous and until recently that, the Gwari or the Fulani for instance will out of sheer instinct to accommodate others, move further away from an established habitat or domain to give way unnoticed. This could even be giving way to some developers who encroach discourteously to take over their homes. Sometimes this is done in their very consciousness but they readily offer the benefit of doubt presumably because of past indelible mutual trust that was unparalleled. Again how many times throughout the North that a passer-by, would by over speeding kill a child with his car, carry the corpse to the parents inside villages and the parents will simply collect and bury their loved ones. This they do without any charge on the passer-by and instantly let it go as an act of God and destiny to the admiration of all. This unequalled quality cuts across both the Muslim and Christian communities of Northern extraction having come a long way appreciating each other and their peaceful coexistence. What could have gone wrong to reverse such an old time harmony in just a short while of our recent history beats all imaginations.