(Published in Vol. 1 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 295 – 298; Lagos, 2003).
A reader of this column sent me a mail two weeks ago saying he had read my comments on the bombing of the United States on September 11, aside of the fact that someone had also emailed a copy to him from Japan. He wrote in from Canada. He did not quarrel with my comments which to him weighed heavily in sympathy with the United States. But he thought we in Nigeria had been so swept off by an event that took place thousands of miles away that we ignored the destruction that occurred right here at home in Jos. Much as he was unhappy at what happened in the United States, he thought that the US would react and “kill the messenger rather than listen to the message”. He was sure that the views expressed by Richard Logan addressed the issues in perspective and that, to his mind that was what I would have done.
I agree with the writer of the letter and thank him for also sending me a copy of what Logan wrote. Logan teaches psychology at the Joint Abbott College. He did himself regret that the terrible blow to America was not a thing that anyone would endorse, but he believed that time was ripe for the issues that may have led to such terrible and unthinkable reaction to be boldly discussed so that mistakes are not made in redressing the harm the terrorist bombing did to America, and to the world.
I have no difficulty, therefore, in endorsing what Logan wrote, although many are who are so shocked about what happened that they are in no mood to listen to any suggestion that every consequence must be traced to what gave rise to it. Events lead people to all sorts of conclusions, reasonable and bizarre. But it is obvious that those conclusions would not arise but for the fact that those events occurred or that someone needed something to hand their acts on.
Religion is a ready peg to hang all manners of things on. Today, it is a weapon in our hands to achieve certain ends which may have nothing to do with the way of God. So, we have transformed religions into political parties, even if we know, for instance, that the most fulfilling jihad we can engage in is that which would cure man of his internal rot.
The reason for this pontification is that we bear full responsibility for what we make of ourselves. We can be true seekers of the way to salvation, or we can be false seekers by opening ourselves to the inebriating effect of teachings little understood if at all. How much of what we were taught in Quranic schools when I was growing up have I discovered to be un-understood by those who claimed to be interpreters of the Quran and the Sunna, the Holy Book of Muslims and the way of the Holy Prophet respectively! Were they not encouraging me to commit all manner of crimes when they told me that there were certain prayers I could say which would make all offences I ever committed to be forgiven? Did they not mislead me into believing that when I said a prayer of less than three minutes, it was equivalent to reading the Quran three hundred times! Can any cat ever be a substitute for knowledge> if we really wanted to be the reflectors of truth that the Quran blares forth, would there on earth today be any evil?
The advantage that many of our people are taking of God’s word to wreak havoc will come after them in the reaping. You cannot reap rice where you sow thistle. Nor can prayers of whatever description be forgiven if what you want is to replace evil with good.
There is no religion which preaches stealing and looting. If we are Muslims, where in the Holy Book were we ever told that we should pounce on people’s goods in the market and cart them away simply because we have been too lazy to work for our own upkeep? Those who are current converts to a jihad that have no understanding of it should rethink their actions because they are sowing what they must reap.
I am always upset when I hear remarks about people from certain parts of the country being associated with begging. There is nowhere in the Quran where begging is preached. I regret every day that I had to carry a plate to ask for alms because the mallam gave the impression that that was a way ordained by the Prophet! Our leaders in the North must go back to the drawing board and refocus the way our offspring are being derailed through spiritual injunctions that have no basis in the truth. It may take years, but someone has to start this journey.
Aminu Kano took up the chalk and started to teach the people of Kano. Long before him, Othman Dan Fodio worked to bring sanity into an area where he had preached for some thirty years. How many of the books of the time have been translated for use of those we are bringing up? Must we leave our young ones in the hands of itinerant mallams who have no other thing to impart than the biases of those who taught them?
I have, through a route that may have been circuitous, tried to react to the views expressed by the gentleman who felt that I had left un-addressed the chaotic situation in Nigeria and had gone to the United States to be part of the global mourning of the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. I did sympathize with the United States and will never regret doing so. But the way some in this are being misled to fight a war they have no business being involved in is unsettling. I am not by chance preaching turning the other cheeks in a world that has perfected the act of taking and giving is the law of God.
I agree that we must protect ourselves and our properties against encroachment by anyone. But that type of reacting to our own perception of a wrong that undermines the rights of others is not acceptable. Even worse is it when it is a cloak to achieve some other agenda that has little is any relationship with the event we purport to be reacting to.
America is organized enough to dictate its reaction to the blow it suffered. But how organized are we to cope with the increasing threat to the security of this country? Where those who were drafted to keep the peace in Jos and Kano discovered that they were wearing the same uniforms as those who were causing trouble, then the planning for this phase of disturbances that take on the tag of religious protests must have preceded the terrorist acts to which United States is reacting in Afghanistan.
Someone is telling us that they are not happy with the dispensation we have chosen. If this type of reactions is wearing so many different faces in different parts of the country, is it not proof enough that we are not all speaking the same language? Why must we choose to learn lessons the hard way of first-hand experiencing?
Let us meet and talk. Time is running out. The failure to embark on a journey to a truly federal union may lead to one that may impose on us a confederation or even a break-up where those who should midwife a true federal union are too greedy or afraid to take the bull by the horns.
(Vanguard of Sunday, October 21, 2001)