Thursday, 23 August 2012

Hard View (Non Right To Self Determination)

     1. “All peoples have the right to self-determination…”
2. “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based on the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
3. The State Parties to the present Covenant,… shall promote the realisation of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
                 [Art 1, ICCPR/ICESCR, Art 1(2), UN Charter; Art 20(1), ACHPR; Art 2, AL]
As clearly evidenced in the provisions of the United Nations Charter, international law has always held the right to self-determination at a high standing because its recognition is vital for the effective guarantee and observance of individual human rights and for the promotion and strengthening of those rights. However, even with the importance attached to this right, in the wake of decolonization, the right to self-determination stands as one of the most debateable aspects of modern international human rights law we have today.
A couple of weeks ago, when MOSOP President and Spokesman, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, declared political autonomy from Nigeria, he affirmed his group’s intention to enforce the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In light of the fact that Dr Diigbo expressly relied on the UN Convention to assert his group’s third generation right and since it’s now high season in Nigeria for every interest to claim such right, it is important to examine the position of international legal principles and set precedents established in regards to this right. Based on the international legal provision that the Ogoni people seek to rely on, would their quest for political autonomy from Nigeria succeed under article 1(2) of the United Nations Charter as well as the International Covenants that the right appears in?
The accepted view of self-determination is that it is a right exercised primarily by people living under colonial regimes, which could be exercised once and once only to remove the colonial regime in question. Essentially, it was taken as referring to the right of a group of people, normally of one distinct territory, to decide collectively the manner in which they wish to be ruled or governed. However, even though the right to self-determination for all peoples is an apparently inalienable human right, it must be noted that it is not necessarily an absolute right. Most notably, its application to peoples living under non-colonial domination is not so apparent.
As a starting point, it must be established that the right to self-determination is a group right, but one of its main problems lies with its beneficiaries; who are the people to whom the rights ascribe? Due to the fact that the right is only exercisable by ‘peoples’ the law has to be satisfied that those who seek it meet the threshold of ‘peoples’ under international set principles. The meaning to be attributed to the concept of ‘peoples’ for the rights of people in international law in this regard includes, groups who enjoy a common historical tradition, racial or ethnic identity, cultural homogeneity, linguistic unity, religious or ideological affinity, territorial connection or common economic life. The group as a whole must have the will to be identified as a people or the consciousness of being a people. In view of this definition, it is presumed that the Ogoni people who seek political autonomy from Nigeria do satisfy the definition of ‘peoples’ for the purpose of securing their indigenous rights under the United Nations Convention.
Conversely, in respect of self-determination of ‘peoples’ two other vital aspects have to be distinguished; the internal and external aspect of self-determination. The right has an internal aspect, that is to say, the rights of all peoples to pursue freely their economic, social and cultural development without outside interference. In that respect, there exists a link with the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs at any level, as referred to in Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In consequence, governments are to represent the whole population without distinction as to race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. On the other hand, the external aspect of self-determination implies that all peoples have the right to determine freely their political status and their place in the international community based on the principle of equal rights as exemplified by the liberation of peoples from colonialism and by the prohibition to subject peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation.
Within the backdrop of establishing the internal and external aspect of self-determination follows the issue of territorial integrity. The main bone of contention for any group or peoples within a defined national boundary that wish to declare their right to self-determination is the fact that international law has developed within a framework of respect for the territorial integrity of a state. Cohabiting with the United Nations’ encouragement of self-determination is its very strict practice of respect for the territorial integrity of a state, a policy deeply against partial or total interference with the territorial integrity of a state. Territorial integrity and respect, therefore, is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, Article 2. The General Assembly, in Declaration 1514 on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960 even went as far as purporting to exclude the exercise of self-determination by discernible groups: ‘Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’
In a leading Canadian case with similar facts to the declaration of the Bakassi and Ogoni people, the court was very clear on the position of United Nations Charter with regards to the right to self-determination of indigenous people within a defined state. On the question of whether international law principles recognize Quebecers right to self-determination which could legally effect the unilateral secession of Quebec from Canada, the court concluded that; ‘Canada is a sovereign and independent state conducting itself in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, thus the Quebecers had no right to secede; In the judgement, the Supreme Court had recognized the right of a people to self-determination and acknowledged that much of the Quebec population satisfied the criteria for determining the definition of a ‘people.’ However, the court then distinguished between internal and external self-determination; the former being the accepted political development of a state and the latter could only be invoked unilaterally in extreme situations. The Quebecers were accorded internal self-determination insofar as their linguistic rights are recognised; they have a fair representation in national legislative, executive and judicial bodies and their culture is not threatened. The court received many submissions on behalf of other indigenous Canadians who also argued for their own territory and autonomy. But this point was not even addressed by the court because no application of the principle of self-determination was found as justified vis-à-vis Quebec and therefore no other indigenous group or tribe could invoke that right.
But even with these set principles, there are instances where international law applies a different criterion in cases it considers extreme. The scope of an extreme situation justifying external self-determination was addressed in the opinion of the African Commission of Human Rights in Katangese Peoples’ Congress V Zaire. It was suggested that where a state denies a group participation in the government process and violates their fundamental rights, the territorial integrity of the state may not be such a paramount consideration.
Furthermore, other instances where support for the extension of the principle of self-determination to indigenous populations may be inferred have been recorded. One such example was from the powerful separate opinion laid down in the Western Sahara Case. The judge opined that; “It hardly seems necessary to make more explicit the cardinal restraints which the legal right of self-determination imposes… It is for the people to determine the destiny of the territory and not the territory the destiny of the people.” But even such a strong obiter is not without ambiguity. It could be inferred from this that the ‘people’ must be of a whole territory and hence the judgement conforms to the territorial view of the United Nations. On the other hand, the use of the term ‘territory’ could be taken to mean that the land could be part of an existing state. This still causes some problems for self-determination outside the colonial framework where questions of succession arise.
While unilateral secession is not specifically prohibited, it is clear that international law does not specifically grant component parts of sovereign states the legal right to secede unilaterally from their parent state. Self-determination is clearly acceptable for divesting states of colonial powers, but the problems arise when groups not in solo occupation of a given defined state territory choose to exercise self-determination. Although the policy of self-determination has had some notable successes in the post-colonialist era; for example in Czechoslovakia where the population voted to separate and become two States, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, international law tends to lean towards territorial integrity in a clash with claims for ethnic, cultural and religious self-determination.
As earlier stated, the right to self-determination as a group right applies to the people of a state wholly and not severally. The Bakasi and Ogoni people are the nationals of Nigeria as a whole. And even though Nigeria is a decolonized state that lacks cultural and ethnic homogeneity, the whole people of the territory achieved independence through the communal exercise of self-determination.
So, based on the set precedence of the international legal provision that the Ogoni people seek to rely on, would their quest for political autonomy from Nigeria succeed under the United Nations Charter? Given the fact that it would be difficult to argue that the Ogoni or Bakassi people meet the threshold of a colonial people or an oppressed people or that they have been denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, cultural and social development, especially since the current president of the nation is a South-South indigene, their quest for self-determination under the United Nations Charter would be unlikely to succeed. International law would expect any such agitation for self-determination to be sought within the framework of Nigeria.
Therefore, as Dr. Goodluck Diigbo declares political autonomy from Nigeria in order to enforce the United Nations’ Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he must keep in mind that in challenging the traditional anti-secessionist United Nations’ stand, the present United Nations’ practice dictates that only classic colonies, those Third-World nations under European domination can exercise the right to self-determination. In light of this, rather than relying on international law and the UN Convention to enforce the Ogoni people’s right to self-determination, an internal decision making framework, such as a Constitutional Convention, National Conference or Constituency Assembly may be a more informed, advisable and sensible way for Dr. Goodluck Diigbo to present his argument for breaking away from Nigeria.
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Hard View

As Iliyasu Adamu woke up to the news that the first sliver of the new moon had been sighted the night before, he felt a sense of optimism that he had not felt in a very long time. There was no doubt in his mind that this Eid ul-Fitr would be like no other. And as he continued to get ready to celebrate the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan with communal prayers in his Mosque and various festivities with his family, his mind was focused on the one duty that he was determined to fulfil by the end of the day…!

Burgundy was Iliyasu’s favourite colour; he had always wanted to wear a burgundy Sallah outfit. But it was not a colour that was traditionally used to sew Baban Riga with; men usually wore neutral, plain or pastel coloured Baban Rigas. It had always been a mystery to Iliyasu why his community frowned at the thought of men sewing colourful traditional attire. After all, it seemed to be alright for men to wear bold coloured shirts and jackets in Western attire and women were widely accepted and encouraged to wear colourful traditional clothes.

About four years ago, on a trip to the market to buy scandals for his two children, Iliyasu’s eye caught sight of the most beautifully burgundy coloured material he had ever seen. Instantly, it was love at first sight for Iliyasu and the burgundy material. So deep and instant was that love that Iliyasu refused to let any thought that he would never have the courage or opportunity to and wear this special material dissuade him from purchasing it. As soon as he left the market with his scandals and material in his undersized black polythene bag, Iliyasu went straight to his tailor with the instruction for the tailor to sew a special Baban Riga with the most artistic yellow embroidery. And what a job the tailor did because two weeks later when Iliyasu went to pick up his garment, the contrast of the intricately woven yellow embroidery against the burgundy almost took his breath away. Rushing home, he lay the treasure on his bed, tilted his head and took some time to marvel at the beauty; then he carefully hung it in his closet.

Since picking up the finished garment from the tailor all those years ago, Iliyasu had brought it home and put it at the back of his cupboard where it did nothing but collect dust. He had never had the courage to wear it in public. That was until this Sallah when Iliyasu bought the burgundy masterpiece out, dusted it off and asked the washer man to wash it with extra strong starch and to iron it very straight.

As Iliyasu put on his work of genius and struggled to move in the over-starched burgundy regalia, he felt a sense of pride and contentment to be wearing a garment that reflected the optimism and brightness that he felt within himself. This was a special Eid; in fact, the most special Iliyasu would ever mark and as he and his outfit jerky and stiffly proceed to the Mosque for the Eid prayer to thank Allah for the help and strength given to him throughout the previous month, his mind went to the other important task he had promised himself he would fulfill today…!

Ramadan, the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset, was usually a spiritually fulfilling but difficult period for Iliyasu. While he was satisfied with the inner peace he felt when he prayed and beseeched God for forgiveness and mercy during Ramadan, the abstention from food was really a great challenge for a ‘tuwo’ and ‘fura’ loving Iliyasu. He loved food almost more than anything else in his life and the humungous size of Iliyasu’s stomach exposed his secret habit of stuffing 6 servings of tuwo and 10 cups of fura in one meal. Usually Eid was a period that Iliyasu used to gormandize to make up for lost food during the month of Ramadan. This Eid would be no different.

In the past Iliyasu had dedicated his prayers during Ramadan to seeking God’s intervention in the welfare of himself and his immediate family, but this year was a little different for him. Due to certain events Iliyasu had experienced within the last 18 months, this year he went into his Ramadan prayer first of all to be in complete devotion to Allah but secondly he went into his worship with a different need and desire from previous years. For Iliyasu, this Ramadan was not just an abstention from food and drink, neither was it about praying for the welfare of his family. Rather, it was an exercise in patience, understanding and discipline; an exercise in which he needed to search his soul and learn what the true message of Ramadan represents in his life.

Iliyasu lived a relatively satisfactory life. He had a patient and accommodating wife who devoted herself to their family, two children who were obedient and respectful and a job where he earned enough to comfortably support his family. He was somewhat an eccentric character and had never been a particularly sociable person. Often people referred to him as awkward. But even with that awkwardness, Iliyasu had mostly kept himself out of other people’s business, preferring to go to the river bank and watch the flow of the water in his spare time. He would do that for hours and every day after leaving work, he would go to a river bank that was not too far from his workplace to sit alone amidst the tranquillity and watch the water flow. But there was an inner feeling that Iliyasu nursed which, up until 18 months ago, he never let anyone know. Iliyasu had an innate and vicious hatred for anyone that practiced a religion that was not Islam!

By the time Iliyasu realised that he nursed these deep feelings, he had tried to dismiss them because he worked with non-Muslims in his office. But over time, from one sectarian skirmish to another in his state, that hatred had grown into a severe loathing. From Iliyasu’s point of view, Muslims in his community were constantly accused, persecuted and targeted. The situation, in his mind, became worse because every time there was a sectarian and religious conflict, the media immediately put out a report saying that it was the Muslim community which had launched the attack. This angered Iliyasu because he didn’t see the actions of the Muslims as an unprovoked attack but as retaliation for an earlier attack or injustice that was done to the Muslim community. All Iliyasu wanted to see was the end of non-Muslims in his community; he had a thirst and desire for this.

For over 8 years, Iliyasu had lived with his family in the same house. He loved where he lived because it had all the amenities that his family needed and it had a small garden in the back where Iliyasu grew carrots. But the one negative of living in the house for Iliyasu, was living next to his neighbour, Cletus.

Cletus Samson and his family had moved into the house next-door approximately 5 months after Iliyasu. In the 7 and half years that they were neighbours, the two men had barely spoken to each other. There seemed to be silent understanding of hatred between a Born-Again Christian Cletus and a devoutly Islamic Iliyasu. Each looked at the other with suspicion and contempt. Each believed they were defending, protecting, representing and doing right by their religion. Their wives were not allowed to speak to one another and their children, who happened to be the same age, were not allowed to play together. Often, the two grown men would do little things around their compounds such as throw dirt towards one another’s house to anger the other or block each other’s cars in the main driveway.

Although there was a lot of contempt between the two men, it was not until the campaigns and elections of 2011 that it came to a head. With each sticking posters of their chosen candidates on their verandas, the men found themselves, for the first time, arguing about which poster took precedence on the communal wall that linked their houses. When the election was concluded and Cletus’ candidate was declared winner, Iliyasu became enraged. Feeling cheated and incensed Iliyasu’s hatred for Cletus and every Non-Muslim grew; he prayed for a way to punish Cletus and every Non-Muslim in his community. He became more vocal about his feelings and the two men regularly cursed and swore at each other whenever they saw each other in the compound.

When extremist forces started attacking churches in his state, Iliyasu was over the moon that someone had finally decided to take action against the people that were well and truly his enemies. Iliyasu even briefly considered searching for these extremist forces and offering his service in their ‘fight for freedom’. ‘But-for’ the fact Iliyasu loved his wife, his children, his food, his water flow, his burgundy outfit; ‘But-for’ the fact he loved life; he might just have done it. With every Church bombing, Iliyasu would celebrate, but with every bombing where Muslims were killed, Iliyasu would lament.

One dark and gloomy Sunday, as Iliyasu was coming home from the river bank, he was met by his wife who informed him that there had been a bombing in the Church that Cletus and his family attended and Cletus’s youngest son had been killed in the blast. Iliyasu had mixed emotions because, as a father, he couldn’t imagine the pain of losing one of his own children in that manner. But then he felt somewhat triumphant because this was the ultimate punishment for a man who, not only detested Islam but hated Iliyasu’s family as well. Iliyasu was positive Cletus would have felt the same if something had happened to Iliyasu’s own family. So, he decided not to say anything to Cletus, ignore him and to continue on his business as if nothing had happened.

However, Iliyasu was only human and even though he tried to push the cocktail of emotions he felt back, since the death of Cletus’ son, Iliyasu felt quite uneasy. He couldn’t sleep, he had no desire to visit the river bank and he couldn’t enjoy his ‘tuwo’, even with extra pepper added to it. This feeling became worse one morning when Iliyasu saw the face of a grieving, drained and dejected Cletus outside. Cletus looked by every definition a broken man. Feeling a strange and unwelcome empathy towards his neighbour, Iliyasu had to stop himself from going to hold Cletus. From that day on, Iliyasu constantly thought and dreamt of Cletus and the broken look on the man’s face. Confused and irritated with his feelings, Iliyasu decided to use the Holy period to pray on the matter.

As this year’s Ramadan came, Iliyasu moved to the Mosque to be in complete devotion to Allah and pray to God for an understanding in patience, discipline, kindness and the message of Ramadan. He wanted to know and be enlightened as to the right and correct thing for him to do as a devout Muslim. By the end of Ramadan and his devotion to prayer, there was no doubt that Iliyasu had well and truly been touched by the essence of the Holy month and was satisfied in his heart that all his queries had been answered.

Now he understood that the lessons of Ramadan were not just about self-discipline but about a personal growth to becoming better in every aspect of a person’s life. He learnt that Ramadan teaches us to be more understanding of the needs of others, to be more compassionate, to be more sincere and to have a feeling of brotherhood towards everyone. He learnt that, as humans, we cannot divest ourselves from the misery of others despite their beliefs; that we cannot shrug it off saying that it does not concern us because to do this would be an injustice to humanity. He realised that it was not his duty to judge others and that everybody has a right to practice a religion of their choice; the ultimate judge is God. He learnt that all of humanity is the family of God and the most beloved to God is the one who is of most benefit to his children. He read of the Holy Prophet’s (SAW) teachings to treat the people of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, with respect and tolerance. He came across scriptures which stated that The Prophet’s (SAW) first acts after his emigration to Medina was to establish an agreement with the Jews which would ensure them full protection, respect their beliefs and give them equal rights. In Medina, many of The Prophet’s (SAW) neighbours were Jewish and He would regularly visit them, give charity to those who were needy and exchange gifts with them. One day, The Prophet (SAW) was with some Muslims when a funeral procession passed them by. He stood up out of respect. His companions were surprised and informed Him that it was a funeral of a Jew. He replied, “Was this not a human soul?’ demonstrating his solidarity and sorrow for this loss to the Jewish family.

Iliyasu learnt that it is these practices together with the pillars that have an impact on the quality of our lives and death on earth and the hereafter. He wished that every other extremist under the misguided belief that they were promoting the cause of Islam by hurting those who share a different belief to them would be touched by the message of understanding in the way he has and embrace a peaceful co-existence with all in the way The Prophet (SAW) did. With that realisation, he knew what he had to do in order to become a better Muslim. Iliyasu decided not to hate anymore and not to be ignorant in his duty as a human being and as a Muslim. He decided that, by the end of the day, he would go Cletus’ house, apologise to him, console him, offer his hand in neighbourly friendship to him and invite him over for the Eid Buffet Iliyasu’s family was having that afternoon. It would hopefully be a new beginning for them; a beginning where they would respect each other, support each other in grief and look out for each other’s welfare as neighbours; one where they would provide an example of peaceful co-existence for the rest of the community. That was the duty he was determined to fulfil by the end of the day.

Oblivious of the giggles and public stares of astonishment that followed his every move, Iliyasu adjusted his burgundy Baban Riga. Rustling and scrunching as he wobbled with his stomach ahead of him, he proceeded towards Cletus’ front door. Reaching his destination, Iliyasu smoothed his shocking garment over a stomach that was getting ready to be well and truly satisfied. He then rang the bell. As a shocked Cletus opened the door to this huge burgundy and yellow eyesore, he froze in disbelief. Not knowing whether to laugh out hysterically or yell at the monstrosity before him, Cletus’ eyes fell on Iliyasus left hand which held a bag that had a number of items wrapped in burgundy paper. Iliyasu outstretched his right hand gently towards Cletus in a gesture of friendship. A confused Cletus lifted his head to say something but quickly stopped when he saw the smile and look on his neighbors’ face. In that moment, no words were necessary; both men had a complete mutual understanding of the conversation in their unspoken words. Instantly reading the regret, empathy, alliance and understanding on Iliyasu’s face, Cletus smiled back, nodded his head and stood aside to invite his neighbor into his house.

This Ramadan, as new friends Iliyasu and Cletus sit down to celebrate Sallah as neighbors, while looking forward to a future of mutual understanding and respect, one hopes that Nigerians all over, despite their beliefs and identities, will stop the ignorant rants and hate, embrace the spirit of brotherhood, understanding and neighborliness.

As we anticipate the sighting of the first sliver of the new moon this weekend to mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid ul-Fitr celebrations, here’s hoping that we can all embrace a spirit of compassion, respect, charity, forgiveness, understanding and peaceful coexistence much in the way Cletus Samson and a burgundy Iliyasu Adamu did. I wish everyone celebrating Sallah, Eid Mubarak!

Written By Hannatu Musawa
Twitter - @hanneymusawa

Hard View (The Ideal Of Ramadan)

Hard View

Nothing in my opinion symbolises the speed at which time flies more than Ramadan. It seems to me like only yesterday we were celebrating the last Ramadan when the thirty days of fasting, reflection, feasting and prayer went by so swiftly. But here we are again at the commencement of this most beautiful period in the life of all Muslims. As we approach the end of this blessed time of abstention, it’s important to remember what the ideal of Ramadan is and its significance in the lives of we who submit to it.

In this day and age of transgression, sacrilegious entertainment, profane pop culture, venal individualism and the attractiveness of non-conformity, it is easy for the ideal and message of Ramadan to get shrouded by the lurid articulation of an alternative value. This also happens during Christmas, Easter or Lent when Christians all over the world are expected to continue embracing the message of love, peace, patience and honour that Christianity represents.

While the ideal of Ramadan is one and the same for every Muslim and almost identical to the ideals of the fasting rituals of Christianity and Judaism, the meaning and lessons one derives from it is, in the main, unique to each individual. Apart from the fact that it is the most important month in the Islamic calendar, it is also a most remarkable bequest from the Almighty. A gift that signifies the dawn of the day in the landscape of Islam when the morning breaks, sun rises, cocks crow and God’s creatures emerge bright and refreshed.

Ramadan, together with every other form of fasting in other religions empowers us as human beings because it teaches us that life is about both the body and especially the soul. What establishes man’s worth lies within the soul, not the body. The fact that we deny our body food in the spirit of faith only means that we are nourishing, enriching and fortifying our souls. A person can enrich their souls not only by being tolerant and determined in the face of struggles but by being resolute in steering clear of sin despite the enticements. Being able to withstand hunger and thirst during fasting and being able to keep the hands, ears, eyes and minds away from sin provides a training ground for the important quality of patience and perseverance that Ramadan also stands for. One can understand the importance of restating the message of Ramadan if one keeps in mind that the avaricious and epicurean ideals of the times we are living in are in direct conflict with the ideals of fasting in any faith.

Almost everything in this life and in this world navigates us towards the satisfaction of our bodies. Day in day out we seek ways of fulfilling the unappeasable desires we feel, be it through the consumption of food or adorning ourselves with trinkets of beauty in a quest for perfection. Such worldly aspirations, generates limitless desires which subsequently lead to limitless conflicts. In a bid to meet up with those unbounded desires, all manners of intrigue are put into play. Such infinite aspirations create vast dissatisfactions because it is impossible for any living soul to completely fill the gap between their desires and achievements. In effect, the lack of fulfilment gives way to a plethora of pandemonium, unhappiness and repression. The gift that Ramadan and other forms of fasting gives us is that it allows us to let go of all those worldly pleasures that are so addictive and, in effect, this helps us to distinguish and focus on worldly responsibilities as opposed to the pleasures.

Fasting allows us to take a break from the material things we enjoy in life to reflect on what truly is important in our existence. By depriving ourselves in the name of our spiritual beliefs, we are voluntarily bidding farewell to the vain quest of happiness in all forms of corporeal hedonisms and reflecting on the direction of our lives and the hereafter.

I have come to learn and appreciate the beauty of what this Holy month means to me as an individual. From the beginning to the end of Ramadan, I see it as a complete overhaul of my life; I feel inspired, encouraged and have faith that any situation can be resolved with the strength of the prayers. That is a far cry from my perception as a very young girl when I used to think of Ramadan as a period of pure starvation and a small alteration in meal times. Now, apart from Ramadan symbolising spiritual empowerment to me, it is a time of enhanced charity and kindness. We are told that whosoever feeds people of lesser means or gives another person food to break his fast shall be blessed and rewarded by God. With the level of suffering, poverty and hunger in Nigeria and all over the world, this ideal of fasting to embrace and perform charity cannot be overemphasized.

Hopefully Muslims all over the country used this Ramadan period as a route to rediscover their inner beings while dedicating themselves and time to the Creator. Apart from reading the Holy Scriptures, voluntary worship, engaging in prayer and conversing to God, Muslims should remember that every action we take as representatives of the Deen reflects on the perception of Islam. With extremists killing in the name of religion, Ramadan should have been used as a period of reflection especially by them. This was the period for Muslims to have reflected and asked themselves whether their actions are truly done in the interest of Islam and what effect it has on the Deen.

In a sermon to prepare people mentally for the sacred month of Ramadan, The Prophet (PBUH) once said; “Oh people! A great month is coming to you; A blessed month. A month in which there is one night that is better than a thousand months. A month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer to Allah by performing any of the voluntary good deeds in this month shall receive the same reward as is there for performing an obligatory deed at any other time. And whoever discharges an obligatory deed in this month shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience and the reward for patience is Heaven. It is the month of kindness and charity. It is a month in which sustenance is increased...”

One hopes Muslims were inspired to imbibe the essence of such a sermon and the spirit of the season so that their actions and ideals can be informed by the ideal of Ramadan. An ideal, that preaches peace, sharing, love, patience, respect and understanding towards ourselves and our Christian and other faith-based brothers and sisters. An ideal that doesn’t encourage misguided elements to go about on a wanton murderous bombing spree. May all the religions in Nigeria live together in mutual harmony, understanding and appreciation.

I hope that everybody who participated in the Ramadan had a very blessed, fulfilling, and rewarding worship. As the new moon is sighted this weekend, I take this opportunity to wish those who celebrate Sallah, ‘Eid Mubarak’

Article Written By Hannatu Musawa
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Thursday, 9 August 2012


This piece below was written by Auwal Sani Anwar. It reiterates why we (Hausawa) are in our present predicament. Happy reading!

In 2001, I noticed three young men sleeping in a mosque in one small town in Northern Nigeria where I worked in a higher education institution. For the next two days, I observed two of them praying in congregation five times a day, yet the mosque remained the accommodation for the three of them. On the third day, I casually engaged them in a conversation asking about the other one. They just laughed and told me that he was not a Muslim. Surprised, I pried further. They told me that the two (Yoruba Muslims) and the one (Igbo Christian) met at a connecting station on their way (from their respective Southern states) to that town, and they became friends. Their missions were to obtain application forms for entrance into the Institution. Given that none of them knew anyone in the town, they resolved to live in the mosque and even offered their friend accommodation. They were afraid I was going to rebuke them when I told them that the Prophet had accommodated guest Christians in his Holy mosque too. But that was not the issue.

The remarkable thing was that these children stayed in that mosque for nearly six months within which, they obtained the forms, secured the admission, registered and started the programs. For a fact, at the time they came, the three of them only had enough to obtain the forms. They had just a few clothes and no money for food. They told me they'd gotten jobs as labourers on one building site. A few months later they'd saved enough to rent a shop and open a barbing saloon, which the Igbo guy ran as the other two continued their menial job. I was so impressed that I felt compelled to assist with the admissions. Well, to cut the story short, at the moment the three young men are gainfully employed and prospering. One of them is even a lecturer in the same Institution. Now reverse back to that month when I met them.

A few days after meeting them, it pricked me that I'd these two Hausa cousins who were back home in Kano living with our grandparents. I obtained two forms and rushed to Kano to give them to fill in. I gave them on Friday when I arrived and told them I'd be leaving on Sunday. By Monday, they had not filled in the forms. I was shocked and wanted to know why, after all I'd promised to assist with accommodation (which would naturally come with feeding), registration, and a few other things. This was despite being a starter myself, less than a year into my first job. All they could finally say was, 'Nasarawa is far. Too far.' I was deflated, I'd to tuck my tail between my legs and trudge back to my destination.

Ten years later, my cousins are still at home, waiting for us to ASSIST them whenever we come home. They are also there to probably abuse us if we don't. And no doubt, this personal story must resonate with many people all over the North.

The question is, what can we do to change this destructive attitude that pervades our people and our clime? What can we do to make even the ordinary man on the streets see and appreciate the big picture? What can we say to make them honour, believe and chase 'long term' fruits? How can we save them and ourselves from the mockery of living in a Nigeria where our region is economically deteriorating and socially fragmenting? It is time we begin looking for answers from within. Let us begin doing something please.

Written by Auwal Sani Anwar

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Hard View (No Compulsion in Religion)


Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi is not only a knowledgeable Islamic scholar; he exemplifies the character of a Muslim nurtured from an early age in a virtuous environment. Having been taught and raised by his late father, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi, he serves as a role model for the spirit and virtue that Muslims can aspire for and attain.

In the spate of the recent unabashed religious threats and violence by misguided elements, it has been necessary for notable and respected members of the Nigerian Islamic society to speak out on the outrageously arrogant and aggressive stance that people purporting to speak and act on behalf of Islam have taken. Up until the recent sermons Sheikh Gumi has given, in which he has contradicted much of what these elements claim, a very minute number within the Nigerian Islamic society have had the courage and persuasion to speak out. Few Scholars have been brave enough to set the record straight on the fact that the individuals and groups presently attacking the peace and stability in Nigeria by claiming an Islamic affiliation are operating with a vile distortion of the noble and peaceful teachings of Islam.

It is regrettable that Islam, a religion of peace, harmony, goodwill and brotherhood has been used by unruly people to justify unwarranted acts of violence such as suicide bombings, threats and other forms of violence. At the very base of Islam is the quest for freedom, justice and equality and when a Muslim uses Islam to threaten and condemn another because they do not share the same faith, that discrimination is totally foreign to the pure teachings and doctrines of Islam. In the Quran, God bestowed honour on every single individual, no matter their background, race or tribe. Liberty and everything that emerges from it are some of the great favours God has given us and concepts such as kidnappings, threats and the kind of unprovoked violence we are seeing in Nigeria today towards people of a different faith to Islam are not part of the true teachings of Islam.

It is so shocking that people claiming to promote Islam can issue an ultimatum in which they threaten a Christian president to convert to Islam or face their wrath. Under Islamic dispensation, it is clearly taught that “There is no compulsion in religion…” The Qur’an was very clear on the issue of forced conversion by stating, “Had your Lord wanted, all the people on earth would have believed. So will you force people to believe?”

Throughout history, Muslims themselves were being the targets of forced conversion during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades and the Communist era of the 20th century and first hand Muslims understand how unacceptable such a notion is. Threatening people who don’t convert to Islam, persecuting non-Muslims and treating a society in the unjust manner that extremist elements have been doing most definitely is not what Islam is about. When one reads in the Qur’an that Allah encourages Muslims to deal kindly and justly with anyone of any faith who has not fought Muslims for our faith and driven us out of our homes because God loves the just, one wonders why anyone would want to put a negative interpretation to what is clearly a message of patience, peace and harmony between different faiths cohabiting.

The second source in Islam, after the Qur’an, are the statements made by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who in his lifetime gave a clear view on the persecution of non-Muslims when he stated, “Whoever kills an innocent non-Muslim will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.” How could such statement possibly be compatible with the extremist ideal for Islam to force itself onto others? Instead, it makes it clear that no non-Muslim is allowed to be harmed because of their beliefs.

The one doctrine that is used by extremists to lend credibility to the notion that Islam encourages violence is the concept of jihad. The word Jihad brings into play the vision of a marching band of religious fanatics with savage beards, short trousers and fiery eyes, brandishing swords, screaming in Arabic and attacking everyone and everything in their wake.

However, the true spirit of Jihad in Islamic terms means to endeavour and strive in a noble way. Over time this meaning of Jihad has been eradicated or at least diluted. The critical juncture in the Islamic world requires reviving and recapturing the true and pristine meaning of Jihad. Jihad can be divided into two broad categories. First is Jihad-e-akbar. This is Jihad against one's own person to curb sinful inclinations, which is the purification of self. This is the most difficult Jihad and hence in terms of rewards and blessings is the highest category of Jihad. The second is Jihad-e-asghar. This is Jihad of the sword. This is communal Jihad and presupposes certain specific conditions. The Quran speaks of fighting only as a self defence and this is the very condition laid down in other verses of the Holy Quran as well. The so-called verse of the sword in the Islamic scripture is often taken out of context as if it inculcates an indiscriminate massacre of all non-Muslims. The Quranic words such as “kill whatever you find them” apply only in cases of self defence, they do not apply to unprovoked wars and battles. The Muslims who interpret these verses in any other manner commit a travesty of the lofty ideals of Islam. There is not a single instance in the life of the Holy Prophet where he offered the alternative of the sword or Islam to anyone.

The Holy Quran does not make Jihad, in context of an article of faith. The sayings and traditions of the Holy Prophet render it into a formula for active struggle that invariably and incorrectly tended towards a militant expression. Suicide bombings, violent threats and killing those of different faiths are contrary to the purview of the real spirit of the Islamic Jihad. The presentation of Islam as a crude and barbaric religion which gives itself the right to cause unwarranted human and material suffering and destruction under the guise of Divine authority is not the kind of Islam we find in the precepts of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

The basic unity of the followers of all faiths is emphatically stressed in the Holy Quran and the creation of discord and disunity by terrorism or otherwise has no place in Islam. Islam is an all-encompassing codes of values and conduct and with those values, those of us that practice it must use its teachings as a ground of hope to progressively promote unity and accord in Nigeria rather than mischievously and maliciously using it as a justification for violence.

The Holy Quran teaches that God has sent His revelation to all people from time to time. Jesus Christ and many of the Prophets of the Old Testament are mentioned by name and they are all honoured and revered by all true believing Muslims. Indeed, the Quran requires belief in the truth of all the Messengers of God and requires an affirmation in them all wherever they appeared and therefore it seeks to bring about reconciliation between the followers of different faiths and to establish a basis of respect and honour among them. The Quran says: Surely, those who believe and the Jews and the Christians and the Sabians - whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah (God) and the Last Day and does good deeds, shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve.”

In the Holy Scriptures, both Christians and Muslims are taught that God is the Source of peace and the bestower of security. And since the doctrine of peace and security are His will, the establishment of that peace and maintenance of security must, therefore, be the constant objective of all Muslims and Christians alike. Those who choose to exact a campaign of violence and threats against others who have done nothing to provoke them must take a break, revaluate Allah’s message of peace and harmony and understand that, only through conformity to the spirit of peace, patience, conscience and the promotion of human welfare can we achieve a society where all can co-exist.

Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Abubakar Gumi is a beacon to the inherent justice in Islam and a brave Scholar, especially when examined with the lenses of the present Islamic society in Nigeria. Like his father, he lives a life outstanding in its dedication to the cause of Allah. Nigerian Muslim extremists especially can learn from him when he explores them to follow Allah accordingly and advises them that there is no compulsion to Islam.

Hannatu Musawa
Twitter @hanneymusawa

Friday, 3 August 2012




Last week while reading a blog on one of my favourite reality shows, I learned a new word, schadenfreude: A malicious satisfaction derived from the misfortunes of others. From this German word, I learned that when people do not have the best intention for you, you must not give them the devices with which they can destroy you.

A few days ago elder statesman and former Federal Commissioner of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, attended a symposium organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, where he went on the offensive and made a number of statements and accusations blaming the woes and tribulations of the Jonathan administration on everyone and everything from the man on the moon down to King Kong. He called opposition party members rude and referred to the governors of the ruling party as an extension of that opposition.

Bordering on the acutely defamatory, he indicted people for treachery and conspiracy to destabilize President Jonathan’s administration. The accusations coming from Chief Clark himself really are quite rich considering that fact that some months back he did his fair share to stirring to destabilise the country. When he assembled a number of ex-militants in Lagos to assert that President Jonathan must contest and win the presidential election in 2015 at all costs, did he not realise that his kind of rhetoric and actions also have the potential of destabilising the future of the nation, given the fact that the vast majority of Nigerians may not want President Jonathan to have a second or is it third term? He ranted and raved about the rights of President Jonathan and the injustices meted out to his administration. And in perhaps the grossest pronouncement of haughtiness and triumphalism, he veiled his message with a regional cloak suggesting that people had to be either with President Jonathan is celebratory euphoria or not. Unfortunately this moral turpitude is not unique to Chief Clark and if one needed coaching on exactly how to immorally and dangerously rile up the populace in the propaganda of fighting for a regional or ethnic interest, one had plenty of options to choose from, most especially from Northern Hausa/Fulani leaders who often use that card to propel their personal interests at the detriment of the masses.

When Chief Clark shadowed the opinion of the former National Security Advisor to give the impression that government is aware of the politicians orchestrating terrorism in Nigeria, it was quite shocking. Yes, quite shocking! Because it is shocking for those within the kitchen cabinet of President Jonathan to continue putting out, in not so cryptic terms, messages about their knowledge of those behind the mass murders of hundreds of Nigerians while government does absolutely nothing to expose and indict these criminals. Lest the government forget, innocent people are being murdered and targeted daily and it’s about time the government does something to put a stop to it. Whenever members of the kitchen cabinet make these statements and are queried on who the sponsors of Nigerian terrorism are and why the government is doing nothing to prosecute these apostates, they respond with an almost catatonic “We don’t know”. This has now become somewhat of a national refrain; “We don’t know who they are, but we really do know who they are… We are just not doing anything about it!” Call me leery but this, to me, seems like a rather incriminating thing to be boasting about.

It really is quite ridiculous and in case Chief Edwin Clark failed to grasp the point, it takes certain aplomb to accuse specific people of trying to destabilise a whole government. And it takes even more aplomb to admit that a whole administration actually knows the exact people destabilising the country and committing mass murder yet the government is either too afraid or too inept to do anything about it.

No matter what bond or loyalty Chief Clark has with President Jonathan, even he must realise that every failing of the Jonathan administration is the responsibility of the Jonathan administration and the Jonathan administration alone. You don’t see leaders like Barak Obama blaming every one of their government failures and terrorist attacks on Al-Qaeda. You see them taking responsibility for their people’s safety and going out to ameliorate those who persecute their people. When every government and every interest in Nigeria continue to hide behind the shadowy world of maybe or maybe not’s and blaming every one of their failings on bogey men, on opposite interests, on anyone except themselves, the only real thing it does is it saves them the trouble of confronting reality. It shamelessly saves them the trouble of having to take responsibility. It quickly saves them from taking accountability. And when feckless rulers, with the same charmish and gormless shrug of shoulders, take this stance, it saves them from the burden of having their populace demand better from them. It may save them from all this and more, but it certainly does nothing to save the country.

If members of the kitchen cabinet really want to help President Jonathan in the long term, they need to drop the self-indulgence, the arrogance, look beyond their exclusive contracts and see the absurdities happening within the unstructured set up of this administration. Only then will they be able to objectively advise the President that almost 90% of Nigerians are gravely suffering and can barely survive. That he has been inconsistent on all fronts and cuts the silhouette of a weak and ineffective leader. That he has failed in his responsibility to protect Nigerians and bring those responsible for slaughtering Nigerians to book. That he needs to start using his powers in the interest of Nigeria as a whole.

In his privileged position, Chief Edwin Clark should really know better. He should know that standing up against the discrimination, disunity, oppression, domination, terrorism, corruption, social degradation and lack of human rights in Nigeria is much more important than improperly standing up for President Jonathan. He knows that the main factor that constitutes our failing in Nigeria and the failing of the Jonathan administration is corruption and the denial of justice and that it cuts across all our religious, regional and tribal differences.

From the interview that Chief Edwin Clark gave, it would be fair to say that his best intentions were reserved solely for the Jonathan administration as opposed to Nigeria as a whole. And as I learned from my new word, when people do not have the best intention for you, you must not give them the devices with which they can destroy you. Here’s hoping that like-minded Nigerians don’t give such people such power. So even though one read Chief Clark’s enthusiasm in making shallow excuses for President Jonathan’s ineffective administration, one took his sense of Schadenfreude away by holding the Jonathan administration accountable for everything that the administration is actually accountable for.

Written By Hannatu Musawa
Twitter @hanneymusawa