A Professor of the History of Ideas, Dahiru Yahya of Bayero University, Kano has called on the Nigerian government to emulate the Shi’a community in effecting National reconciliation, especially in their intra and interfaith relationships.
He made this call while speaking some weeks back as a Guest Speaker at the 8th Annual Sallah Feast, organized by the Resource Forum, held in Katsina.
The full text of his paper follows:
For any nation to progress national reconciliation is necessary. Ours is a fractured nation with too much bad blood between the government and the people. There is too much inexcusable bloodshed in the polity. The vast of majority of Nigerians are not satisfied with the state of the nation. There are many who feel the need to structure the country in a way that the state could address their fears and aspirations more properly. The Shiah have grievances. They feel the state imprison and kill them summarily because of their beliefs and because they refuse to join the state in its corrupt practices and simply because their attitude does not agree with the subservient Arab policy of Nigeria. Government can address these problems without resorting to unnecessary bloodshed and effect a national reconciliation. Coercion is no longer a valid method for addressing national problems. It never solves the problems; it only confounded them. Coercion must give way to dialogue, discussions and settlement.
The Nigerian State
Nigeria is a blessed country with vast human and natural resources and an estimated population of 140 million. Nigeria is a friendly country of diverse communities with different languages they speak, developed cultures they cherish and elegant traditions they value. They subscribe to many religious persuasions, but live in harmony with each other and interact peacefully. They mix tremendously. They continuously intermarry across tribes, races, religions and climes. That is another source of national strength. As an independent sovereign state, Nigeria is only fifty-seven years old. It is now one hundred and thirteen years since it came under British hegemony and one hundred and three years since it became one corporate state under British rule. However, their interaction as diverse communities was centuries old. Nigeria is a great a nation-state built on sound social harmony, expanding internal economic interdependence and well founded desire for freedom of expression, justice in governance and conscience. They are a great liberal society with tremendous capacity for tolerance and patience.
The greatest shortcoming of Nigeria is unimaginative leadership, which is most often corrupt, self-centred and oppressive. Shaykh Uthmān Dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, an African state that spanned most of the present northwestern, northeastern and north central states, described the political and socio-economic states be had vanquished to establish the Caliphate. Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio also warned us against ideological blindness. In the Fulani poem, Accane’en, Garba Sa’idu told us in Studies in the History of Sokoto Caliphate edited by Y. B. Usman that the Shaykh particularly warned us against following the corrupted Islam emerging out from Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. He said the Koran and the Prophet were sufficient to us.
In 1806 that is 211 years ago, Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio wrote a treatise on governance and called it, Reason for the Necessity of Flight for the Citizens. I quote some sections from it.
“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a Nation is to give preference to one particular tribe over another, or to show favor to one group of persons over another, and to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near. A leader (king) was asked, after he had lost his position (kingship), ‘What brought your rule to an end?’ He replied by ‘being intransigent in my views and by neglecting to seek advice.'”
Other practices destructive to a regime (reign) are arrogance and conceit, which take away virtues. There are six qualities, which cannot be tolerated in a ruler – envy, breach of promise, sharpness of temper, miserliness and cowardice… A state can endure (kingdom) can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice… One of the qualities commendable both for leaders (princes) and others is learning [ilm]…The best thing in a ruler, in particular, and the people in general, is to associate with learning, yearning to listen to it and holding the bearers of knowledge in great respect this is the surest way for a ruler to be loved by his subjects (citizens).
On the other hand, if the leader (ruler) is devoid of learning he follows his whims and caprices and leads his people astray like a riding beast with no halter driving off the road and may spoil everything it passes over it. [like driving a vehicle without breaks]… For a leader has to set himself to be in touch with peoples nature, to settle their disputes and to understand their administration. All these need outstanding learning, keen insight and extensive study. How would he get on if he has not made the necessary preparation and made himself ready for these matters?
Other leaders do not lack those who oppose them, point out their shortcomings and hold contrary views. That help a leader to train himself and learn where the right path lies. A leader, on the other hand who does not encounter these things because of his high position cuts himself off from all that, since the people who associate with are those who glorify his status, conceal his drawbacks and praise him for what he does not have. Thomas Hodgkin, The Nigerian Perspectives, 1975, Pp.249-250
After 1806, Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio wrote another work under the title of The Difference between a “Good” and a “Bad” Government. Thomas Hodgkin, The Nigerian Perspectives, 1975, P. 250
“one of the ways of their government is the building of their sovereignty upon three things: the peoples lives, their honour (human rights) and their possessions. Whomever they want to kill or exile (imprison) or violate his honour (rights) or devour his property they do so in pursuit of their desire, without any right in the law.”
Ground Plan for National Reconciliation:
The first step is for government to recognize the following:
1. The need arises of a clear reassessment of its public standing and the actions of its coercive forces in juxtaposition with the Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio’s description of the pre-jihad socio-economic and political life is clear. The Nigerian state today is worse in terms of its human records than the state of affairs more than two hundred years ago.
2. Murder is the worst corruption. The present regime is murderous according to official records. The President must show remorse for the loss of lives, violation of human rights and the destruction of Shiah collective and private properties in the manner he condemns less outrageous terrorism and disasters in foreign countries. The Shiah are law-abiding citizens. They are dedicated workers at all levels of governance and at the private sector. They attended recognized Nigerian educational institutions. They hold Nigerian passports and pay their taxes. They respect the state, but look down upon its corrupt leaders. The Shiah are the ideal citizens of Nigeria.
3. The President should take measures to address the present deplorable situation of the Shiah followers legally and administratively especially the widows, the orphans and other bereaved citizens that the official massacre has created. State persecution and oppression do not destroy ideas and therefore did not deter the Shiah from growing in Nigeria nor does it dampen their enthusiasm.
4. Government should study truthfully what Shiah faith stands for with a view to understanding them. It should also study the history of Shiah struggle and their standing in history. The Shiah ideology is built on knowledge, struggle and love. Government should take note of Kofi Anans acclaim of Shiah ideology. Government should respect the views of Nelson Mandela on the role of Shiah principle in the triumph of his struggle for the liberation of South Africa. They may recall the worthy recommendation of Mahatma Gandhi of Shiah ideas for national progress. Many people contemplate the assessment of Shiah faith by the great European minds. Irans rise from degradation to the high moral, scientific and technological standing it had achieved under Shiah guidance is conspicuous and worthy of emulation by Third World states. It is significant to note that Professor M. A. Alhajj said in Studies in the History of Sokoto Caliphate edited by Y. B. Usman that Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio used extensively Shi‘ah sentiments to mobilize the mass of the people in the jihad that contributed immensely to the foundation of the Nigerian nation.
5. Government must reassess and retrain the intelligence community in Nigeria from the highest level in view of the high level of ignorance and illiteracy in the public statements and private talks of its personnel on issues about which they know very little. They are not even aware of the recent history of Shiah, which they call “Khomenism” and cannot see its impact on world order and Third World countries, especially.
6. Government may decide emphatically to uphold the rule of law in Nigeria. Government should empower public institutions to obey court orders in line with the traditions in the United States America, that great liberal state, rather than wait for executive order agreeing with court. According Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai, the Nigerian executive knows more than the Nigerian Judiciary and, therefore, is not bound to obey it.
7. Government must reassess its foreign policy to reflect NATIONAL and African interests. The present tilt towards Arab-Islamic axis only encourages terrorism. Everyone knows the Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, are the worst and only sponsors of terrorism in the world. The USA Secretary of State ascertains this recently. Boko Haram is the ideological child of Saudi Arabia.
8. Government must look into the activities of Wahhabi, Salafi, Izala and Boko Haram terrorists and corrupt elements in Nigerian state institutions who constitute serious danger to national security and national discipline. On the other hand, government should watch the sources of the finances of such elements especially in the military very carefully.
9. Government should encourage inter- and intra-religious interactions between different religious communities in the SHIAH STYLE. It will encourage mutual understanding and trust and strong bases for social understanding and religious harmony.
10. Governments and politicians should stop conniving with any religious group to plunder public finances. It is disgraceful that government kept mute on the siphoning of public funds during election widely reported in the media, which the religious originations acknowledge with pride…
The Demands of the Shiah
* They demand the protection of the law. Their desire is an independent, sovereign, secular state with a respected existing constitution under God and a non-violated rule of law where human lives are sacred, human rights [including especially our God given freedom of choice] are sacrosanct and private and public properties are protected by law and by the action of the state.
* They demand full compensation according to law for all their losses in lives, human rights and properties.
* They demand respect for their rationality. The Shiah, as the compact core of the Islamic Faith, is the juridical School of the Ahl al-Bayt. They know that the Prophet Muhammad was the first to establish a secular constitution under which Jews, Christians and Muslims agreed to live peacefully together and cooperated on equal basis for mutual protection. That was the Constitution of Medina. One rational person can brand the Shiah as the enemy of state; they are its protectors.
* They demand respect for their sense of humanity. Imam Ali was the first leader in history to institute the Brotherhood of Man separate from the Brotherhood of Faith. Islamic Movement of Nigeria pursued aptly that principle by extending its hands of friendship to Christian communities, which accept warmly.
* They demand respect for their peaceful sacrifice. Imam Husain was the first man in the history of human struggle to institute perpetual struggle against a corrupt state with no more than moral power in order to establish justice in governance and a corruption free society. THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF NIGERIA AVOIDS ALL CARROTS FROM THE STATE, RECEIVES THE STICK ALL THE TIME AND REMAINS PEACEFUL.
* They demand respect for their resilience. Their oppressors have the coercive apparatus and power, but Shiah has the TIME. Shiah has never been eliminated by the most powerful forces throughout its history from the seventh century. It is triumphant today against forces that are more powerful that ever.
* They demand respect for their resourfulness. The Nigerian state can draw benefits from Shiah ideology in terms of social harmony and religious utility. The Shiah never begs in the street or steals in the office or cheats in the market.
* They demand the right to speak and the right to be heard.
Professor Dahiru Yahya, BA (Hons) ABU, PhD, Birmingham, FHSN
Bayero University, Kano.