The violent protests by Muslim youths guided by some adults demanding for the release of the arrested suspects in the murder and burning of Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a 200 level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, accused of blasphemy by some Muslim classmates of hers should not be used to cover this heinous crime against humanity. Nigeria is no doubt a secular state, with no particular religion adopted. However, it is mandatory for all citizens to respect another’s religious practice. Yet, we all rise in condemnation of the gruesome murder of Deborah Yakubu by her co-students and invaders simply because she protested against the students’ Whatsapp group used to promote religious messages.
The young men and women in an academic environment are supposed to be civilized in their approaches and conducts at any given time. They are in school to acquire knowledge to advance their sense of reasoning in their economic, political, social and religious thoughts. The students in a higher institution are expected to be more tolerant and accept other peoples’ way of life. Several lives have been lost this way and there is absolutely nothing our governments both at the state and centre have done to stem the trend. The usual silence by the Christian groups may not be for too long as patience and tolerance has expiry date. The cure to this unjust killings remains the government of the day applying our laws to the letter without fear or favour. The government have to ensure that the culprits of this extrajudicial murder are brought to book. The callous killing of Deborah Samuel should be used to bring end to such killings in the country. Islamic clerics and faithful’s from and outside Nigeria have come out to condemn that act and, highlight again that, there is no Islamic law permitting anyone to take another’s life without due process.
There should be a thorough investigation to uncover the possible undercurrent that may have led to the callous murder of Deborah. There is every possibility that something else may have triggered this devilish act. Some years ago, in the late 1990s, in Kaduna, I had an experience that has always flashed my memory when I read some of these blasphemy stories. I was in Kaduna for a programme with my colleagues, my bosom friend, Kolawole Ogunbiyi, my comrades Suraj Olanrewaju, Omolade Adunbi and late Adams Unaji (may God bless his soul). On the first day of the programmme, the organisers invited us to the corridor of the hotel for morning tea. I stood close to a lady, fully dressed in the Muslim way. I greeted her and she responded with a smile and we began chatting, we took our tea and snacks together, moved to a corner and continued chatting. We bonded immediately. I never thought of it, planned or expected it.
After the tea, we went back into the hall to begin the programme proper, she went to her seat and collected her bag and documents and came to a seat close to me. The programme continued and we quietly exchanged remarks, pleasantries, questions and answers. When it was time for lunch, Adams Unaji, Kaduna boy, he knew the nooks and crannies of the city, spoke Hausa fluently. He decided to take us to where we could have varieties of food including popular Yoruba food, Amala. Me and my lady friend, Fureira, stepped out together. Unexpectedly Fureira and I held hands together as we matched into the street. I was innocent, to me she was just a colleague, friend and fellow compatriot. As we walked together, we chatted freely. Of course, she has known I am Igbo, she then revealed to me she did her Youth Service in Enugu, the Coal City, after graduating from the University of Maiduguri. She told me how she liked the Igbo foods, especially akpu and bitterleaf soup, freedom of association between the males and females irrespective of religion or ethnicity, the hustling of the Igbo man and woman and banters usually thrown among the South Easterners. Realizing I stay in Lagos, she asked about Eko, and told me how delighted she will be visiting Lagos as she has heard, read so much about the city.
We got to where we are to have our meal, we did and cracked jokes amongst ourselves. We were quite large in number that went for the lunch, some of us from Jos, Benin, Lagos, Damaturu, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Kano, etc. My friends from Lagos were poking me, asking how I magnetized a ‘Hajia’, we laughed! We are done with our meal, we immediately left for the hotel for the second part of our meeting. We arrived the hotel and continued the meeting. That day done, some of us decided to go have drinks somewhere. Fureira insisted she would go with us, after all, there were other ladies who joined us. We went to one of the bars in town and had drinks. Fureira took malt drink and some suya meat while, me and some other guys took some bottles of beer, discussed the programme and Nigeria’s political situation. On our way back to the hotel, we held hands like lovers and continued our discussions. Arriving the hotel reception, Abudu, one of our co-participants from Damaturu was at the reception looking sad and angry, like a man who lost huge amount of money. He accosted me with that anger and fury. He poured insults and called me names. I kept calm because I was confused and wondered! Our colleagues gathered us to find out what was wrong, he began the explanation, that it was un-Islamic for me, a Christian to be holding the hand of a Muslim lady that is not my wife or sister. Wow! I didn’t know it was a crime against Islam. I didn’t know this but other participants could have alerted me, moreover, why did Fureira, a Muslim not protest our holding hands? Meanwhile, she was still standing beside me and holding my hand tighter. I was still confused. I didn’t compel her, this is a grown up adult in her late 20s. I stood motionless. Fureira only smiled and was still holding my hand, like saying, ‘I die in his hands’. A particular guy from Jos asked him, if the lady complained to him? He couldn’t respond. Some of the participants became angry with him and expressed disappointment at his attitude. Another Muslim brother told him, ‘walahi, you have just disgraced us’. ‘You have presented us as unenlightened people’.
His plan of raising religious sentiment, bias against me apparently failed. It died on arrival. A higher percentage of the Muslim faithful’s attending the programme, male and female refused to support him in condemning me rather expressed their anger and disappointment at him. We sat in small groups at different corners of the hotel to discuss the issue and other matters. Fureira and I sat at a corner of the reception. She apologized to me for the embarrassment she has caused me, I replied, no, no embarrassment, I am only shocked. She now began telling me her experiences growing up in the north as a Muslim woman. She confessed to me that she like her religion, Islam but not happy with the way some of them are practicing it. She opened up to me that she doesn’t know Abudu from anywhere. That, they only met at the park, entered the same vehicle and incidentally they were coming for the same programme. That, when they arrived Kaduna, he overheard her asking the driver how she could locate her destination, he then approached her explaining that he was on the same destination. They boarded the same cab to the hotel. Arriving the hotel lobby he started ‘toasting’ her. He did actually invite her to his hotel room that same night which she turned down and wondered what sort of a man he is? Fureira said, that was basically his anger. And, worst still he is seeing her ‘romancing’ with a non-Muslim, non-northerner. I then laughed! ‘Why can’t I freely choose my friends’, she wondered? ‘Uzo, please, I am sorry’. Then, a lady walked up to us smiling, and said to me, ‘comrade, you are lucky’. That, if that guy could mobilize some miscreants immediately to attack you, he would have done it. If this was his home in Damaturu, he would have physically assaulted you and Fureira and possibly done worst things. ‘Anyway, I love the way people stood up to tell him off.’ He was so bitter you took away her ‘bride’ that was just it. We all laughed. That’s their way, she concluded. I shook my head in bewilderment.
Till we all departed to our respective homes, Fureira and I remained very close, indivisible and indissoluble. Like she told me, she was more encouraged with Abudu’s reaction. I sympathized with my friend, Abudu as he withdrew into his shelf. I continued to greet him with no hard feelings. We must remove this hypocrisy and worship God with clean hands and open heart. We must together bury illiteracy and lack of knowledge in our land. The great countries of the world never considered religion above humanity. No person has seen God and therefore none of us can fight for Him. I call on the Police and authorities to investigate the murder of Deborah Samuel Yakubu thoroughly and endeavor to arrest all suspects of that lady’s murder for prosecution.