The solecism in the editorial of ThisDay Newspaper of Nigeria, titled “”The world at their feet.” is blimp, brobdingnagian, colossal, elephantine, enormous, gargantuan, giant, gross, herculean, huge, humongous, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monstrous, mungo, prodigious, stupendous, big mother, super-colossal, titanic, behemothic, tremendous, vast, whaling, ample, barn door, brimming, bulky, moby, bull, capacious, preposterous, imbecilic, considerable, foolish, copious, extensive, cyclopean, fat, commodious, full, super-duper, heavyweight, hulking, husky, immense, jumbo, king sized, oversize, packed, ponderous, enormous, prodigious, roomy, sizable, daft, spacious, strapping, stuffed, chock-full, substantial, thundering, vast, whopper, voluminous, walloping, monster, whopping, barn door, mountainous, super, titanic, vast, very very, very large faux pas. In simple terms, I consider it idiotic, asinine, batty, crazy, daffy, dull, heavy duty, dumb, burly, dumdum, fatuous, foolhardy, gorked, half-witted, crowded, hare-brained, harebrained, awash, imbecile, inane, dingaling, insane, jackass, jerk off, lunatic, moronic, senseless, silly, squirrelly, thick-witted, unintelligent, absurd, cracked, crazy, daft, deranged, foolish, harebrained, loony, mentally incompetent, moronic, nuts, nutty, odd, potty, preposterous, silly, stupid, wacky, ape, batty, hefty, berserk, deranged, bonkers, cracked, crazed, cuckoo, daft, delirious, flipped, demented, dingy, dippy, erratic, flaky, flipped out, freaked out, haywire, insane, kooky, lunatic, barmy, mad, maniacal, inappropriate, nutty, potty, screw loose, fruity, screwy, unbalanced, inane, moonstruck, unglued, imprudent, unzipped, whacko, absurd, bizarre, touched, cockeyed, derisory, loony, eccentric, fatuous, unhinged, foolhardy, goofy, psycho, half-baked, ill-conceived, screwball, impracticable, insane, ludicrous, nonsensical, odd, outrageous, weird, peculiar, nuts, potty, balmy, puerile, quixotic, ridiculous, mental, senseless, short-sighted, irresponsible, strange, unworkable, wacky, and wild. I trust by now, you know where I stand on the issues raised in the editorial.
But, let us step aside and take an intrepid view of the reactions to the article and accordingly avoid a prism that discolours a sincere brokerage for peace and tolerance. The reaction to the purported blasphemy has been rather interesting: The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has reacted; the publisher of the Newspaper has apologised but interestingly has not retracted its editorial contents nor taken measures of symbolic reprimand of the writer of the editorial; the newspaper has apologised for the ‘paragraph’ that offended our Muslim brothers and sisters, whilst it parades its Brownies as an employer of Muslims. Furthermore the newspaper percolates an excuse as to how the ‘error in the article’ could not be avoided and thereby ‘technology’ is a cover-up for its recklessness.
I am unable to make the link of absolution in parading senior staffers of the newspaper as Muslims; the barren venture adds nothing to the alleviation of recklessness of the newspaper. The publisher should make an overture of granting the writer of the article a sabbatical leave as a measure to placate those calling for his blood.
Apart from the Federal Government, the publisher, editor and journalist who wrote the article now walk in the valley of death for this ‘error’; some of the aggrieved adherents of Islam have declared unrest and disorder over an issue raised in the newspaper; Kaduna has become a tinderbox for violence; Governor Ahmed Makarfi has enjoined others in suing for peace; the mosques have adjudged the articles as blasphemous and Muslims have been advised to avoid patronising the newspaper title; there is also a ‘fatwa’ decreed on the editor and the publisher; the spiritual Head of Muslims, Alhadji Muhammadu Maccido, infused a coruscating appeal to adherents of the Islamic faith to stop the riot and allow the authorities to address their grievances. He said: “The issue of blasphemy would be looked into by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Jamatu Nasir Islam (JNI); he further advises: “We are now in the sacred month of Ramadan, which is to be observed with peace and dedication.
What is crucial in the posture of the Sultan of Sokoto is the advice that adherents of Islam must not allow the purveyors of rife to use the sacred month of Ramadan to ferment trouble; peace must be the essence of this period. At his intervention, he inferred that it is “a great transgression” to meet the indiscretion of ThisDay Newspaper with an unholy response.
There are four areas of this rather unfortunate development that are curious and in the same areas; I shall proffer my own contribution to ensue peace in our nation. Firstly, no one in the face of the ‘fatwa’ has defended the rights of the writer of the article. Let us borrow a leaf from the experience of Salman Rushdie; even though the example may be distinguished because of the variable of the western culture input in Rushdie’s situation, the authority in Rushdie instructs overwhelmingly in the current situation. In as much as many reasonable people in our country accept that the writer may have overstepped the boundaries of his bigotry or recklessness, it ought to be granted that there are rights in our Constitution that empowers Isioma Daniel. These are rights that the intelligentsia of a nation defends and it is no surprise that the dearth of support for Daniel also indicates a lack of intelligentsia in our country. If at all, this class exists, then it is failing the society that it ought to defend.
Generally, the intelligentsia would by now have come together in a fraternity against the traditionalists that seem to have the upper hand in this situation. The famine of intelligentsia portends in itself a danger for our society. When society cannot find pukka cerebration against the antics of traditionalists; the society in itself has become barren. This may be true for our nation.
It is preposterous for me to seek membership of the intelligentsia. However, in the face of its barrenness and the necessitousness to count as one who believes in the rights of Isioma, I wish to stand square shoulder with this journalist who has enraged the traditionalists and I do so, in the face of the wrath from those who have inflamed this ‘error’. My vantage position is based on the divine wisdom of the Sultan of Sokoto, who as the guardian of Islam has demonstrated that the imbibing message of Ramadan is contrary to the position of the traditionalists.
Secondly, the bigotry in the position of the traditionalists is as wrong and reckless as the position of Isioma’s article; the divine words of the Sultan clearly indicate this. The Sultan demonstrates good counsel and wisdom required in this situation. His intervention lays emphasis on procedure, law and Order, obedience to authorities and beyond all of those, the need for Muslims to shun the ugly reaction that is inimical to the spirit of Ramadan. Yet, when the position of the traditionalists is analysed, they neglected NSCIA and JNI; denying the two bodies that adjudicate on matters of the recklessness of Isioma, its appropriate jurisdiction. Accordingly, the traditionalists are as insensitive who at a sacred time refuse to subject themselves to Islamic rules and testaments. They begin to perpetrate themselves as infidels.
The traditionalists have shown their hands and progressives who rely on NSCIA and JNI must resist them from taking us as captives of their whims. If the traditionalists would declare an ukase of death at Ramadan, when forgiveness, atonement and purity of the soul are most important, then the Sultan has taken a much-preferred noble route and he symbolises the good virtues of his faith. The traditionalists need the wisdom of Allah, the merciful; just as much as Isioma.
Thirdly, the Federal Government has failed woefully in its handling of this matter. Let us be clear that it is the responsibility of our government to show that there is still solace for an erring citizen. In the face of appeasing the traditionalists, our government chose to condemn the newspaper in what it terms as ‘reckless journalism’; that in itself may be one aspect of the position the government needs to hold. But, it should equally be as vociferous in defending the rights of Isioma as stated in our Constitution. After all, the Federal Government is the guardian of the same constitution. It should for now at taxpayers’ expense, provide a safe house for Isioma and ensure the journalist does not come to the harm intended by the traditionalists. Every citizen needs the assurance that in a time as trying as this, the might and protection of the Federal Government would protect the citizen who has not committed a crime against the State.
Another facet of this posture is the duty owed to Isioma by the Federal Government of Nigeria. After all, as a taxpayer, it is within the citizen’s rights to have tax Naira spent to assure safety and protection. Tax is paid as an insurance policy against the trepidations faced by the Editor, staff and Publisher of ThisDay; even, if our government cannot account for our taxes, it may as well be symbolic in its handling of this matter rather than the current grouch position. The Federal Government needs to revisit and jettison its current policy, if at all there is one, of handling this unfortunate saga.
Lastly, ThisDay newspaper finds itself in this position because of its impassive, insensitive and lazy editor. The editor should be fired. It is gross to blame ‘technology’ on the so-called ‘error’. In fact, the implausible spin provided by the newspaper is an anathema to its motto: ‘In pursuit of truth and reason.’ It is enough for the newspaper to say as it has, that they editorial simply got it wrong. What is unacceptable is the palliation that the newspaper offers in order to absolve itself. It is understandable that the newspaper is attempting all ploys to placate the adherents of Islam; nonetheless, it is a true account of the lazy and somnolent tendency of its editor coupled with a sincere remorse that is now required to abate further troubles. Isioma should not be sacrificed when the buck stops with the Editor.
In closing, this is another episode in our history, which must not be allowed to pass into ignominy. We must endeavour to study its effects, handling and record a swift resolution, so that we may be wiser if the same were to happen in the future. The advantage in so doing, would accord us a peaceful co-existence based on the wisdom of the Sultan of Sokoto, to whom in deference, I say, may you live long and may Allah, the merciful continue to give you wisdom, good health and prosperity. Amin.