The wave of religiously inspired violence and gruesome murders in Nigeria in recent times belies the lofty ideal that religion is not only a very personal matter between man and its creator, but also a means of promoting coexistence. peaceful.
With three fatal incidents occurring in six weeks across the country, that ideal has all but been rendered invalid, especially since no one has been implicated, if only to deter other potential offenders.
For a country that calls itself secular or multi-religious, killing for religious reasons, circumventing the law or the constitution, is an ill wind that will dry out the existing little knot that holds the country together.
In recent times in Nigeria, people have been lynched and burned to death for alleged blasphemy, starting in Sokoto State, where Deborah Samuel was assaulted and burned to death by a ragtag mob of religious fanatics who accused her of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad. This happened at a tertiary school, Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, an incident which only adds to the long list of similar incidents in Nigeria.
And before the dust of extrajudicial killing died down, a security guard was set on fire for alleged blasphemy in the Lugbe region of the Federal Capital Territory, indicating that religious extremism has crept into the nation’s capital.
According to police spokesperson DSP Josephine Adeh, Ahmad Usman, a 30-year-old member of the local vigilante group around Tipper Garage at the Federal Housing Estate in the FCT’s Lugbe area, had a fight with a cleric ( Malam), whose name is still unknown from the same region. The heated argument escalated into an outbreak of violence that led to the murder and burning of Ahmad Usman by the enraged mob allegedly mobilized by the clergy, numbering around 200.
Police Commissioner CP Babaji on Sunday, while warning against the indiscriminate act of self-help to seek justice known as jungle justice, said adequate penalties would be meted out to subscribers of this crude act and despicable. Police later announced the arrest of 15 suspects involved in the murder and arson
Within days of each other in Lagos, there was a report of a sex worker who was lynched and burned for possessing the Holy Quran while practicing this profession. The action would have been initiated by her client with whom she had a disagreement. The incident happened in Alaba Rago, Ojo Local Government of Lagos State, where Hannah Aliu plied her trade. According to the police, three people were arrested while the investigation is still ongoing into the circumstances. However, it is a fact that the justice of the jungle has been meted out to another human being.
It is an immense irony that man should lose his life because of religion which promises to care for man even beyond earthly life. Religion, in a sense, is man’s attempt to understand his creator and the purpose of his stay on this earthly plain. Most religions preach peace, harmony, respect for the sanctity of life, and a joyful life in the afterlife. For them, life is inviolable.
These extrajudicial deaths testify to the diminishing value of human life in contemporary Nigeria. The need to contain these marauders and enthrone the dignity of life has become imperative. We cannot continue on this deadly path.
Religion has figured prominently as the main cause of some of these deaths, but religion is not the problem. The problem lies with those who weaponize religion for selfish interests such as the pursuit of power. They pose as defenders of the faith but are only interested in the instrumentalization of the faith to acquire importance and power. Their machinations are aided by the mass ignorance and widespread impoverishment of the population.
In these circumstances, true religious leaders must rise up to educate their followers about tolerance and the need to respect the rights of others to freely practice their own worship. They must intensify education in the sanctity of human life and human dignity. They must also be educated to respect constituted authorities and above all to the fact that no citizen has the right to kill another citizen.
What happened to the old authors? This is a question that agitates the minds of well-meaning citizens. What has happened so far is a series of condemnatory speeches from the authorities and bland assurances that the culprits would be brought to justice. Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to have been done. Nigerians want to see the culprits apprehended, tried and punished according to the law of the land. This will not only serve to deter potential perpetrators, but will engender trust and cooperation among citizens. But a situation where only the initial statements of the guardians of law and order are heard by all citizens without subsequent trial or conviction is a subtle incentive for would-be perpetrators. There is widespread suspicion that perpetrators are released when righteous outrage subsides. This cycle of impunity must end.
But the greatest blame should lie with the government, both at the center and at other levels. It bears repeating that the primary goal of government is to ensure the safety and well-being of the people at all times.
Governments have failed the people in this regard. Good governance that will bring the greatest good to the greatest majority of the population is what is needed to stem the tide of indiscriminate killings.
Food security, good infrastructure and a general sense of belonging for all citizens are the basic ingredients of good governance. He has become continually elusive in Nigeria, hence the alarming state of affairs.
Nigerian politicians are busy thinking about the 2023 elections, but how many are thinking about real positive changes in the political system as true statesmen demand? The situation now resembles that of Nero playing the violin while Rome burns.
To get Nigeria back on track, the sanctity of human life must be enthroned by all.