No one to rock the cradle

Nigeria and the entire world woke up to the news of the rejection of the bill by the Senate on ‘Gender Parity and Violence against Women’ introduced by Sen. Biodun Olujimi. Before I go into the reasons given for the rejection, it’s important to get a background of the bill. Gender Parity – An index used to measure the access to education of both males and females, this is central to the achievement of the MDG 3 gender equality and women’s empowerment through education. Prohibition of violence against women in private and public places . The senator said the bill seeks to promote equality, development and advancement of all persons in Nigeria especially women, the bill if passed will give women freedom of movement that has been hampered by social and cultural practices in some parts of the country, sexual abuse against elderly people, all forms of trafficking in women and children, medical experiment on women and children without their consent or guardians, equal rights for women in marriage, divorce and land ownership/inheritance and much more.

In response to the bill, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu supported the bill saying Nigeria would develop if women were given the same rights as men, Senate Majority leader Ali Ndume criticized it urging Nigerians to stick to either religious or traditional marriage while Senator Sani Yerima condemned it saying it was in conflict with the Nigerian constitution citing the Sharia law as his basis which is recognized by the constitution. It shouldn’t be a surprise why the bill was voted down.

I have often asked in a plural state like Nigeria, what law supersedes the other, for example we have the Nigerian constitution and the Sharia law. Article 10 of the constitution states “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion” this simply means Nigeria is a secular state.  In 1999 twelve states adopted the Sharia law without the implementation of the Apostasy law (an offence committed when a Muslim leaves the Islamic faith or gets converted to another religion, the punishment is death). Article 38 “ Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief…” contravenes the Apostasy law and Nigeria is equally a convener and gave her accession on 29 July 1993 to Chapter IV of the Human Rights Treaty by the United Nations which states in Article 18 ‘’Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, this right shall include freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice…’’.

One of the senators cited religion as one of his reasons for rejecting the bill, I am a Christian and I’ll speak from that point of authority. My people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge – Hosea 4:6. The day I came across this information in the Bible I was stunned and wondering why it hasn’t been expounded upon since we are a very “religious” nation. I will summarize the chapter Numbers 27, the daughters of Zelophehad from the tribe of Joseph had lost their father in the wilderness and they had no brother brought up the case before Moses and asked a profound question “why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he had no sons? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers” this is what my people call Alu!!!. Just like what some senators felt, how can such bill even be mentioned, it was a taboo but Moses took their case to God and this is God’s response in vs 7-8 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.  “Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter…  In a conference I attended a Muslim scholar said a man asked the Prophet, who deserves the best respect and the lyrics of a song I love written by Yusuf Islam sums up the answer “Who should I give my love to, My respect and my honour to Who should I pay good mind to? After Allah And Rasulullah Comes your mother Who next? Your mother Who next? Your mother And then your father”. The repetition of the question and answers isn’t an error.

I have presented the two reasons cited for the rejection of the bill. So I ask what exactly are they against, empowerment of the women, violence against women, education or the well being of the widows. Nigeria is a secular state although there is freedom of religion which provides the ultimate source of a group’s identity and reason for their existence. In creating laws to govern the state the question should be, who are the laws made for, in the case of Nigeria we are talking of the female gender and a time comes when the fundamental human right of an individual needs to be considered first regardless of the gender . There is the need to separate the state from religion, granted religion has a public figure, we should be mindful of making state laws based solely on religion especially when the state is secular. The Apostasy law hasn’t been implemented because it contradicts the constitution of Nigeria, it goes to show not all religious laws are acceptable in all countries. Dear Senators with your recent actions, you have placed Nigeria as one of the countries against the development and empowerment of women, let’s not forget the “Chibok girls saga”, the many Ese Oruru’s out there. “The hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world” if that hand is not protected what will become of that world?

Laods of Love

JMAD

N/B : Alu is an Igbo word for taboo

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Biafra ; a case of collective memory

There was a country written by Chinua Achebe on the Nigerian-Biafra war – a civil war fought from 1967 – 1970 in Nigeria. It’s on record over a million people from the East of the country were killed. While I didn’t witness the war but I’ve relatives who did and I have read some books too.  In the personal memoir written by Raph Uwechue who served as Biafra’s envoy to Paris until 1968  (Uwechue, 2004) as quoted by Achebe in his book wrote

In Biafra two wars were fought simultaneously. The first was for the survival of the Ibos as a race. The second was for the survival of Ojukwu’s leadership. Ojukwu’s error, which proved fatal for millions of Ibos was that he put the latter first.

At the time of this writing tens of thousands of youths in the South East of Nigeria are protesting for the release of Nnamdi Kanu – who before his arrest by the Nigerian government was clamouring for the nation of Biafra. I’m currently enrolled for a course on Religion and Conflict. It’s been an amazing five weeks of lectures filled with loads and loads of information. We are currently on the role of religion in peace building process. Bosnia is a case study for this week and we are looking at collective memory – Bosnia was under former Yugoslavia before the war that caused the break up.

I think it’s time for the Ibos to go down memory lane; are they about to tow the same path the former leader of Biafra took? Is one man’s error (Nnamdi Kanu) going to cause the lives of millions again or is he the messiah the Ibos have been expecting to take them to the Promised Land. For those agitating and chanting ‘No Biafra, No Peace’ do you really understand what you are saying? War has never really been the answer besides, the absence of war isn’t necessarily the presence of positive peace. Some might succeed at fighting a war like in the case of Biafra, probably become a nation and still experience structural violence – policies and structures established that causes unequal advantage creating a class divide, group privileges over other.

The Ibos have the right to self-determination, but the question remains are they prepared to govern themselves. The aim of the protest is to embark on a million march and from what I’m observing they are gradually achieving it. I’m not sure they have ever succeeded at such unity in the past elections for key positions like the Presidency. This goes to show some underlying truth – they do believe in the project Biafra. The scars of the war are still there, most of them protesting may never have witnessed it but the stories have been passed on by their forebears.

This brings up an important area for the new administration. There’s a need to foster unity among the already severed tribes in the nation. This is not the time to favour a particular set of people on the basis of loyalty. Nigeria has gone through many violent conflicts and many people had prophesied the Balkanisation of Nigeria. Somehow she finds a way of bouncing back on her feet even if she has to be supported to walk.

The issue of Biafra shouldn’t be swept under the carpet; the Nigerian government shouldn’t rest if it is successful at quelling the ongoing protest.  It will only be temporary if meaningful dialogues are not held. At the same time the Ibos should look inwards and ask themselves if they’ve made good use of the opportunities handed to them in the past. It’s written if you are not faithful in little, who will give you something bigger. Posterity will judge us all for the various parts we play.

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Just realised I had not read the book on Yugoslavia and I’ve had it for a while. Two books published by the same publishers, written for two different countries by different authors, while one no longer exists the other is trying to exist. Irony of life

JMAD

Reference Titles

Uwechue, R., 2004, Reflections on the Nigerian civil war: Facing the future, Trafford on Demand Pub.

Please ask that question

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When was the last time you travelled, what excited you and what were your expectations? It’s been said people on a journey often look out for the destination and hardly take note of the experiences on the road especially if the trip was by road; not many people can remember the cities they passed through. I recently went on a trip with my friend that ended up becoming a weekend to remember and to think it was just a night beats me.

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We had set off by train and for some funny reason when we got to the last stop we stayed back thinking it was still going further to the final destination which was in the same city, while we were still wondering the train started going back. You don’t want to know how confused and funny we looked, while my friend went online to find out, I quickly asked the lady sitting close to us and she explained what happened and advised us to get down at the next stop to join another train. We eventually got down in a place that looks like a hunted place and did I mention we were the only ones at the station but after about 30 minutes a train came forth.

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That moment nothing on the board makes sense

 

Lost 2
Please look beyond the smile on my friend’s face and look at the surroundings. Doesn’t it look deserted and No i wasn’t smiling, that was a confused face.

 I will spare you the entire story of the trip but will highlight something really important. It’s okay to ask questions when you are in doubt; in my native language it’s said this way onye ajuju anaghi efu uzo (Someone who asks questions never misses the way). Imagine for a second we chose to keep quiet and act cool. No one knows it all; you may just be an information away from that job, scholarship, business funding etc. Ignorance shouldn’t be an excuse in this era we are living in; this generation is referred to as Generation X and it’s not a mistake.

I remember watching a programme where the mistakes done by medical personnel was highlighted and one of the advice given was to always ask what drug was been administered. I can’t forget the woman whose breast was removed; not 1 but the 2 as a result of a mix up of a cancer test result, apparently the result of another person who had cancer was given to her.  There are many more mistakes that have been made in the past and who knows another one could be taking place now.

I would rather been known as the person who asks lots of questions than the one who dies in silence out of ignorance or the fear of asking. So can we go out there and become better informed by asking the required questions. While you are thinking, take some time to be grateful you’ve a roof over your head, everything may not make sense now, you may not have achieved your life’s goal for the past 5 months but be grateful. We got teary-eyed over the weekend when we passed some homeless people protesting.

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Loads of Love

JMAD

N/B: Nigeria just successfully and peacefully handed over to another government that will be led by President Muhammadu Buhari. I pray for wisdom upon you Sir, the entire world is watching and hoping for a miracle. The task ahead won’t be easy but I pray you surround yourself with wise counsellors. God Bless Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari

Photo Credit : Reuters

The narrative of Inter-Faith; beyond the stereotype

A few years ago some airports in Nigeria were undergoing rehabilitation; this resulted in manual security check on the luggage of passengers. In one of my trips during the security check, a group of nuns were searched as well as their luggage; a young man said something really remarkable and I quote him “how can you search nuns like that, I would be scared to even touch them or their luggage”. He made the statement because he respects what they stand for but I wonder what he would have said if he witnessed the humiliation a pastor in his full regalia experienced at the airport when everything on him was searched even his BIBLE. He didn’t go through the ordeal for the reason he’s a pastor rather the country he represents. Nigeria was/has been on the news for stories like ‘419’, drug trafficking; hence any carrier of the green passport was a potential suspect. This stigma followed Nigerians everywhere they went and somehow Nigerians are trying to prove to the world that a minority doesn’t define the entire country.

We are experiencing a similar stereotype that isn’t just regional rather worldwide. I found myself introducing my friends or neighbours as Muslims but didn’t introduce others as Christians. While this may mean nothing on the surface but it has a deep implication. In a report written by the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies they found out that “Muslims are often identified simply as Muslims rather than as individuals or particular groups with distinct identities” (Moore et al., 2008). The world is experiencing a lot of radicalism and extremism; from Boko Haram, ISIS to the disappearance of teenage girls from the UK to Syria. There’s heightened tension and fear at the same time, Muslim parents are praying their kids don’t get radicalised, non-Muslims are becoming Islamophobic and Muslims are trying to prove to the world that their religion is peaceful and is against radicalism.

Muslims pray while Christians form a protective human chain around them during a protest against the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy that has doubled the price of petrol in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 10, 2012. Nigerians took to the streets on Tuesday in growing numbers on the second day of protests against a sharp increase in petrol prices, piling pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to reverse his removal of fuel subsidies.
Muslims pray while Christians form a protective human chain around them during a protest against the elimination of the fuel subsidy that had doubled the price of petrol in Nigeria January 10, 2012.

I attended a lecture yesterday organised by the Bradford Churches for Dialogue and Diversity on the theme ‘The Shaykh and Bishop: Faith and Creativity Bradford’. It was an enlightening session with a mixed crowd of Faith and Non-Faith participants with the Bishop and Shaykh chairing it. I took home a few points but the highlight was seeing the Bishop and the Shaykh coming together to discuss ways of promoting Inter-faith dialogue using creativity. The Bishop highlighted the following : –

  • We need to speak about justice regardless of religion, gender, sexual preference or skin colour. We shouldn’t be picky about it. The question is Who is justice?
  • When we choose who we speak up for as a result of the God we serve, we make Him (God) a ‘Local Tribal Deity’.

And the Shaykh who I found really interesting and funny highlighted the following : –

  • Most of the young people are not found in the mosque; hence he wonders where they get radicalised from? (In my Religion and Peacemaking class, I found out most young people can’t relate the teaching in the Mosque to contemporary issues hence they turn to the internet for answers which is popularly called Shaykh Google. Recent survey shows most of the young people get radicalised through the Internet). He cited the non-engagement of the younger generation in the Mosque as a challenge but said they are working on that but he doesn’t know when they will overcome it.
  • We need to speak about Religion not as victims or as perpetrators.

I think we all should be concerned about this situation. How can we have productive Inter-faith discussions? The truth is, we are all affected one way or the other. You are either at the sending (Non-Muslim) or receiving end (Muslim). Our various modes of worship, the way we communicate with God, the way we dress may be different but we all have the same colour of Blood. May this unite us even as we seek ways to resolve this issue.

 Loads of Love

JMAD

 Reference Titles

 Moore, K., P. Mason, and J. Lewis, 2008, Images of Islam in the UK: The Representation of British Muslims in the National Print News Media 2000-2008. Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

Photo Credit : Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters