Since the Bush administration launched her retaliatory attack on Afghanistan, after gathering loads of intelligence on Moslems alleged to be affiliated to Islamic fundamentalist, Osama Bin Laden, the entire Islamic world has become unsettled.
In Nigeria, a supposedly secular country, both the attack of September 11 and the subsequent events, including the bombardment of Afghanistan, elicited somewhat strange responses. Although millions of Nigerians joined other people around the world to mourn the huge loss of lives and property occasioned by the terrorist attack, some Nigerians in Zamfara State chose to jubilate.
As America began the shelling of alleged terrorist camps inside the Taliban-led Afghanistan, some Moslem elements in Kano started a protest while similar elements in Minna took to the streets. These protests soon moved from being just a peaceful reaction to the Nigerian government’s support for American reprisal attack to becoming a major attack on innocent Christians who were thousands of miles away from America.
Although President Bush has consistently maintained that his country led coalition attack on Afghanistan was not an attack on Islam, the Moslem elements in Nigeria, who are believed to be associates of those that had earlier stirred the country’s political waters at the very return of democratic rule in Nigeria, preferred to display their displeasure to The Obasanjo administration’s support for the reprisal attack by re-igniting the embers of religious intolerance and setting Kano ablaze.
While this important section of Nigeria was aflame, while churches and mosques were being set on fire and hundreds of Nigerians were being killed, the Nigerian leader, President Obasanjo, was in far away France.
Our president was actually attending an event of UNESCO, a United Nations agency set up to provide for the education of world children-among whom were supposed to be the six Nigeria G.C.E. candidates killed in the Kano crossfire. Curiously, Obasanjo’s first reported reaction to the catastrophe in his country was that it was nothing to worry about. “I don’t worry” he reportedly told Reuters in Paris.
I think Obasanjo has a lot to worry about. By this statement, I echo the voices of thousands of Nigerians here in America and perhaps several others in Nigeria and other places. To be sure, our President, truth be told, should really worry.
President Obasanjo, rather than sweeping the Kano incident under the carpet of “domestic terrorism,” should be worried about the effect of that event on the country’s stability and thus jettison the dishonest camouflage of religious neutrality of the Nigerian state for a more realistic toga that can help sustain the nation’s nascent democracy.
It seems enough has already been said about the appropriateness or otherwise of Obasanjo’s decision to even leave for France to attend the UNESCO conference In the first instance. Not enough has however been said about the Obasanjo administration’s antiquated methods of responding to and handling crisis.
Those that have been following the political events in Nigeria since the inception of the present administration can easily trace the riots in Kano to the introduction of the Sharia Islamic code in parts of country.
Nigerians here in America, both Christians and Moslems, are of a joint consensus that there was no overt reason whatsoever for the bombing in Afghanistan to have led to killing of Christians in far away Kano and are now more than ever before pissed with Obasanjo’s obvious dishonesty in tackling the sharia issue.
If we are to agree with our globe-trotting president that the Kano riot was a case of “domestic terrorism,” we should also have the moral and patriotic expectation that our president should be worried; not only for the completion of his tenure or his ambition for a second term but essentially for the stability of democracy in our country.
Again, I speak not just as a Nigerian, but also as an international journalist in touch with Nigerian and international events; in touch with our people as well as foreign analysts of the Nigerian political process before and since the rulership of president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Can it be totally impossible to link the sudden but systematic introduction of Sharia in almost half of Nigeria to Moslem elements that have the support of certain Islamic fundamentalist groups like the one led by Osama Bin Laden? Is it not possible that the recent event in Kano was another evidence of the preparedness of certain elements receiving foreign support to scuttle Nigeria’s nascent democracy?
Just a fortnight ago in Washington D.C., just a few blocks away from the Nigerian Embassy here, a Biafran house was opened, the Biafran flag was hoisted and the Biafran national anthem was jubilantly sang by hundreds of Nigerians from another section of the country. Yet, the Nigerian president says “I don’t worry”.
Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State, who boldly introduced Sharia in his state while Obasanjo looked on passively must now be smiling as the events in America, Afghanistan and Kano successfully bring back to life that brazen attempt to islamise Nigeria. The opening of Biafra House in Washington D.C. is obviously the response of some Igbo people to what Sharia is causing and may cause.
Nigerians here in America and I guess elsewhere are interested in the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. We are interested in the growth and development of the nation not only along the lines of G.S.M.cellular phones availability, but in terms of improved standard of living. We are interested in the honest and decisive tackling of the Sharia issue as well as genuine execution of the anti-curruption crusade.
President Obasanjo’s inability to provide these things; his administration’s continued inability to put in place a legal reform that will make seemingly sacred cows like Babangida, Buhari and Abubarkar to come before a Truth Commission as done in civilized nations and his continued aversion to a genuine National Conference more than what he describe as “domestic terrorism” pose greater dangers to the sustenance of democracy in our great country.