Now We Have A Weeping President!

by Tokunbo Awoshakin

President Obasanjo of Nigeria says he hopes Amina, the woman sentenced to be stoned to death in Nigeria under the obnoxious Sharia law is not killed. And if killed? He will weep for her. Haba! Now we have a weeping president. Instead of doing something to correct a judicial action that is hurling Nigeria which claims to be a secular state back into the medieval times, he wants to weep.

Here is my take on this “weeping matter”. If President Obasanjo really wants to weep, he should be doing that now before Amina is stoned to death for the country is making a one hundred and eighty degrees turn to how it was during Abacha’s regime when protests in foreign lands and boycotts were the order of the day.

During the week, the Nigerian Ambassador to America, Prof Jubril Aminu probably wept in his office in Washington D.C. as a group of 25 women from the National Organization of Women (NOW) marched in front of the Nigerian Embassy chancery in downtown Washington chanting: “Stoning women is barbaric. Follow the law and not the Cleric.” And: “Ho, Ho! Hey, Hey! Religious extremists go home and pray!”

The American women activists demonstrated outside the Nigerian Embassy August 29, calling for an end to the quasi-judicial practice of stoning women to death for adultery.

According to our investigations, the main objective of the protesters was to bring attention to the plight of Amina Lawal, a Muslim woman who was sentenced to death by stoning last March by the Sharia (Islamic) court in Katsina State that found her guilty of adultery.

The NOW members also carried signs for passing motorists to see traveling along busy 16th Street saying: “Nigeria, stop stoning women” and “Rocks are for gardens, not to hurt women.”

If you think it is no big deal, that after-all there are protests every time in Washington D.C., you should check this out. First, NOW is the largest advocacy organization for women’s issues in the United States. Its 500,000 dues-paying members operate chapters in all 50 states focusing on the humane and equal treatment of women under the law.

The organisation is ably led by Kim Gandy who is a long-time activist. Gandy has served NOW at the local, state and national levels since 1973, including three years as Louisiana NOW President. She was elected to the NOW National Board in 1982 and held the position of Mid-South Regional Director for four years before being elected to national office.

In the legislative arena, Gandy served on the drafting committees for two groundbreaking federal laws: the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which gave women the right to a jury trial and monetary damages in cases of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which has dramatically decreased the daily violence at abortion clinics.

Prior to taking on a national post at NOW, Gandy had been active in women’s rights in Louisiana for more than a decade, using her skills as an organizer and an attorney to advance issues of importance to women.

Speaking shortly after the protest march she told the press that the reason for the protest was because they wanted to draw increased attention to what’s happening in Nigeria on the scheduled or planned stoning of this woman [Lawal]; but in addition, the treatment of other women in parts of Nigeria under the Sharia law.

She lambasted the The Nigerian government for paying lip service to human rights by saying it denounces [this aspect of Sharia law] but refuses to take any positive action to prevent the same kind of horrific treatment of women.

According to her, the protest is not only directed at the Obasanjo government to take action rather than “weep”, but also to prod the U.S. government and State Department to press the government of Nigeria” to end the stoning of women.

NOW was not the only organisation represented. “Take Action,” another feminist organization whose members appeared at front of the Nigerian Embassy released a statement saying Amina’s sentencing which is under appeal “is part of an alarming trend in Nigeria” where Sharia law has spread to a number of mainly Northern states.

According to the “Take Action,” press release, “the introduction of Islamic holy law has created tensions between Christians and Islamic populations. At least two riots have broken out over the threat of introducing Sharia, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 people.”

Meanwhile, in apparent reaction to the demonstrations, the Nigerian Embassy in Washington D.C. posted a new statement reminding the Americans: “Malama Amina Lawal has three levels of Courts of Appeal before the final determination of her case,” adding, “furthermore, the Federal Government has, through the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, announced it will facilitate her lawyer’s arguments at the appellate courts.”

Sharia…that same thing that president Obasanjo cannot or will not deal with may be part of what will pull the rug from under his feet. It is not enough that our embassy in Washington D.C. is again under siege by protesters. It is not enough that our singular global achievement, winning the Miss world Beauty Contest is now being rubbed in the mud by threats of boycott as we prepare to host it in November. And so Mr. Obasanjo wants to weep!

Remember that the States Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2001,” prepared by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, released last March also touched on Sharia’s failings. It noted: “The implementation of an expanded version of Sharia law in 12 Northern states continued, which challenged constitutional protections for religious freedom and occasionally sparked ethno-religious violence.”

If Amina is killed, President Obasanjo says he would weep. If that happens and all he does is weep, I am sure Nigerians and the whole world will not forget that Obasanjo wept but it would not be remembered the same way Christians remember that Jesus wept. President Obasanjo should know by now that Nigerians are not easily deceived by crocodile tears.

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1 comment

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