Two True Stories From Pakistan

Adeola Aderounmu

There was once a liberal governor in Pakistan in the state of Punjab.

He wanted peace to reign in his domain and he wanted to promote the spirit of tolerance. He wanted to promote the right of children and women. He did his best.

One day a woman was sentenced to death, charged with speaking blasphemy against the holy prophet of Islam. But before she would be killed the governor decided to do a private investigation into the allegation and the judicial process.

He discovered that the woman was falsely accused. She is a Christian and one of the 2% of the followers of Christ who are scattered among 180m people.

The governor went on air to make a statement that he has found out that the woman was falsely accused and that the case against her may be dropped.

In addition he also said that he will be looking into either adjusting the law that allows people to be sentenced to death for blasphemy or have it removed altogether.

In the midst of this religious imbroglio the governor made a visit outside of his territory. He went to Islamabad. Then as he was about to enter his car to return to his hotel room he was shot 29 times by one of his personal security aides. He died.

The man who shot him was charged to court. As the trial was about to begin, thousands of Pakistani made their way to the court yard to praise the murderer. They throw roses and beautiful flowers at him.

They praised him for killing the governor of Punjab. Many of them mentioned that they would have done the same if they had the opportunity to kill anyone speaking blasphemy against Islam and its prophets.

There was also a young girl who was not born a Christian. Somehow she met with the Christian faith, became a Christian and decided to attend a bible college. She was very shy but studious and for two years she studied the scriptures and became versed.

One day she travelled back to her roots to help people who have been displaced by flood. As she helped them she spoke about The Christ.

People asked her many questions and she provided answers to all of their questions.

Some men did not like what the young woman was up to so they threatened her. They would kill her if she continues to spread the word about Christ.

She called her bible teacher who told her to leave the zone and report back to the district where she has attended bible school. She obeyed.

However as she rode on the back seat of a bicycle to the train station, unknown to her, an ambush has been laid. She was shot at; she sustained injuries on her legs but was lucky to have escaped the murder attempt.

In pain she got to Lahore and was treated. She is alive to tell the story.

She didn’t want her bible teacher to visit the remote place in the south of Pakistan where she has worked as a volunteer and shot. The man of God wanted to make a police report and to see if they can start a judicial process to seek justice.

In the words of the young woman “I have forgiven those who tried to kill me because they don’t know what they are doing”.

These stories touch my heart and they remind me of the recurrent killings in parts of Nigeria especially in the Northern Province. Some of the religious and or tribal killings do not make the news. When they do, they are no longer headlines. In short they have become part of our existence.

We now accept that it is “ok” that innocent people be murdered in certain parts of Nigeria. Life has become meaningless and lawlessness is now an acceptable pattern to us. Or how many perpetrators have been arrested in Jos, Bauchi and Borno?

Just to let sleeping dogs lie, I try to refrain from discussing or writing about religious matters either in Nigeria or elsewhere. It’s too sensitive. People get stirred up when religion is debated or reported in a certain way. It’s puzzling because of rigid opinions.

Yet it is so unbelievable how evil has spread in the minds of people representing all the religious groups around the world.

Around 1992/93 I wrote an essay for an English course at the University of Lagos. It was titled Religion and Morality. I argued that religion from a moral point of view has helped to shape the world. That argument probably belongs to the dustbin now.

No doubts I can now add that religion has also changed the world order forever. Intolerance based on religion (along with social injustice) has come to stay as a parameter that has ensured that the world is totally unsafe for all.

Religion has ensured that peace is elusive to humanity.

I wrote down these stories after listening to a preacher from Pakistan. The stories are real.


Is Northern Nigeria A Failed Region?

Adeola Aderounmu.

There have been reported clashes in Bauchi State in Northern Nigeria. A non-conformist Islamic group had been on the rampage and clashed with security agents.

No doubts there have been ominous signs from Northern Nigeria since Mr. Obasanjo allowed the creation of Sharia States in Nigeria. Nigeria is a secular country and the emergence of Sharia in Northern Nigeria is a confirmation that there had been plans in the past to make Nigeria an Islamic country. Tyrants and dictators like (late Murtala Mohammed) and Mohammudu Buhari have been alleged in the past to have tried to make Nigeria a muslim country. How true are those stories?

The presently sick illegal president Umaru Yar Adua was one of those who instituted Sharia in Northern Nigeria. He was then the governor of Katsina State.

They may want to convince us that Sharia State has nothing to do with the constant violence in the North but that will be hard to prove as well. The fact that they allowed religion to blur their sense of reasoning is a catalyst to the emergence and spread of extremism in Northern Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is like a failed region in Nigeria. However that does not also take away the fact that the Nigeria’s central government is a total failure in itself. Saddled with extreme corruption and ineptitude the various governments since independence have failed to tackle infrastructure and social well being of the populace. Look around you, almost everything is bad and rotten.

Government officials have stolen and looted while neglecting the ideals of real democratic governance. The Military regimes in Nigeria added to the woes of a country that should have been the giant of Africa but which instead have become a global laughing stock. Countries like Togo, Benin and Ghana are doing much better than Nigeria in terms of infrastructure and social welfare. Nigeria is rich but the people are living in extreme poverty because a few people continue to steal and make themselves richer and richer.

Northern Nigeria where most of the rulers come from is by far the worst hit. They lack basic education and family planning is not in their dictionary. Many children are un-catered for, and they are ready tools in the hands of the fanatics. A people without education surely are destined to perish and this is what has been happening when security agents confront the religious fanatics in Northern Nigeria.

My major concern has always been for the Christians or atheists in Northern Nigeria. They are usually brutally murdered or executed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Seriously I don’t know how southerners live in the north when they could be killed at any time!

I am not implying that southerners should vacate northern Nigeria. My emphasis rather is on addressing the roots of the matter. First is, if Nigeria wants to continue as one nation, then the abrogation or abolition of sharia is non-negotiable. We cannot live in a country with two laws, it will not work. Never!

Secondly is the fact that policy makers or administrators in Northern Nigeria needs to wake up to answer their call duty. They are there to educate and emancipate the people but over the centuries the privileged people in the north have ensured that opportunities for education are limited and restricted. Even if I am wrong still there is something in the north that makes education non-attractive. Many of the people are not only poor but they are also ignorant. This is probably a political device to ensure that the general population can be manipulated especially during national elections. So far this has worked.

Therefore if anyone thinks that the end has been heard of religious uprisings in northern Nigeria, he/she should get his head checked. There are fundamental issues that if not address the problems will pass on from one generation to another and forever more.

The whole of Nigeria must revert back to secularity and there must be one law, one constitution. The persistence of sharia is an aid to extremism and double standards. The absence of education or the restriction of it especially in the north is a chronic disease that will continue to push this nation to the precipice. The ineptitude of Nigerian politicians is a colossal cankerworm that may ultimately lead to disintegration. Making it non-violent will be an uphill task.

Meanwhile isn’t it time for the people of Nigeria to wake up, ask for political justice, social justice, equality, freedom of speech and expression and the dividends of true democracy? It’s been 10 years of maladministration by seriously incompetent men and women. Change must come, but we must demand it and take necessary actions to see that it happens.

Nigeria is now labelled a potentially terrorist nation and here we are battling religious violence, again in Northern Nigeria. I’m getting tired. Where do we go from here?