[Friday Sermon] IPOB Killings: An Invitation To Another Civil War In Nigeria!

Murtadha Gusau

Murtadha Gusau

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation. May the salutations of Allah, His peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet, his family, his companions and his true and sincere followers until the Last Day – then to proceed:

Dear brothers and sisters! The terrorist group and Members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, on Sunday mercilessly killed 12 people from the Northern Nigeria, including a pregnant woman, her four children and eight others at Isulo, Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State.

The slain woman was identified as Harirah Jibril, 32, while the four children were identified as Fatimah, 9; Khadijah, 7; Azizah, 5 and; Zaitunah, 2.

The terrorists waylaid them on their way back home after a visit to Orumba North. The slain woman was a native of Adamawa State.

And as I’m talking to you now all Hausa people from the North have completely deserted Ihiala, following heightened attacks on non-natives in the area.

The unprovoked evictions, attacks, killings, destructions of properties and other forms of violations against northerners in various parts of the South East had resulted from the hate campaigns and propaganda being conducted by regional and ethnic agitators.

These killings followed other coordinated attacks on northern traders and haulage trucks, killing some people and destroying millions worth of properties including the truck.

We strongly condemn these killings. It is brutish, horrendous and barbaric. No family deserves to be wiped out in this manner.

And we call on the security agencies to smoke out the killers and bring them to justice. At the same time, we ask all men of conscience to speak up and condemn this barbaric killing.

For peace to reign and to avoid reprisal killings in other side of the country our people must have the liberty to exercising their freedom of movement in Southeastern part of the country, we’re law abiding citizens, we, therefore, warn that these killings should stop forthwith, as the blood of our people can’t be used as a sacrifice to keep Nigeria as one.

Once again, we wish to call on security agencies to intensify efforts in ensuring the lawless elements behind the killings are brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others.

We also appeal to our people in the North not to retaliate. Because vengeance will only ignite a cycle of violence. Nigeria needs peace at this crucial time. Therefore, nobody should embark on reprisal killing please. It will only compound the problem.

Respected brothers and sisters! One of the distinctive characteristics of the times we live in is the overwhelming presence of bloodshed, crisis and violence in our societies. Whether it is an IPOB attacks and killings to our people in Dei-Dei Abuja and southeast, or a tribal and religious attacks, or a kidnappings where innocent people are held at ransom to achieve political ends, we live in an age, where the manipulation and loss of innocent lives has become commonplace.

Such is the all-pervasive nature of indiscriminate violence, that terrorism is considered as one of the prime threats to peace and security in our societies.

The word terrorism came into wide usage only a few decades ago. But one of the unfortunate results of this new terminology is that it limits the definition of terrorism to that perpetrated by small groups or individuals. Terrorism, in fact, spans the entire world, and manifests itself in various forms. Its perpetrators do not fit any stereotype. Those who hold human lives cheap, and have the power to expend human lives, appear at different levels in our societies. The frustrated employee who kills his colleagues in cold-blood or the oppressed citizen of an occupied land who vents his anger by blowing up a school bus are terrorists who provoke our anger and revulsion. Ironically however, the politician who uses age-old ethnic animosities between peoples to consolidate his position, the head of state who orders “carpet bombing” of entire cities, the exalted councils that choke millions of civilians to death by wielding the insidious weapon of sanctions, the terrorist group like IPOB, who are killing the northerners living in their areas, are rarely punished for their crimes against humanity.

It is this narrow definition of terrorism that implicates only individuals and groups, that has caused Muslims to be associated with acts of destruction and terror, and as a result, to become victims of hate violence and terror themselves. Sometimes the religion of Islam is held responsible for the acts of a handful of Muslims, and often for the acts of non-Muslims!

Could it be possible that Islam, whose light ended the Dark Ages in Europe, now propound the advent of an age of terror? Could a faith that has over 2 billion followers the world over, and over 10 million in America, actually advocate the killing and maiming of innocent people? Could Islam, whose name itself stands for “peace” and “submission to Allah Almighty”, encourage its adherents to work for death and destruction?

For too long, have we relied on popular images in the media and in Hollywood films, for answers to these pertinent questions. It is now time to look at the sources of Islam, and its history to determine whether Islam does indeed advocate violence. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus do He command you, that you may learn wisdom.” [Qur’an, 6:151]

Islam considers all life forms as sacred. However, the sanctity of human life is accorded a special place. The first and the foremost basic right of a human being is the right to live. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“…if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” [Qur’an, 5:32]

Such is the value of a single human life, that the Qur’an equates the taking of even one human life unjustly, with killing of all humanity. Thus, the Qur’an prohibits homicide in clear terms. The taking of a criminal’s life by the state in order to administer justice is required to uphold the rule of law, and the peace and security of the society. Only a proper and competent court can decide whether an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings.

Even in a state of war, Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly on the battlefield. Islam has drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows:

“Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman.” [Abu Dawud]

“Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.” [Musnad of Imam Ahmad]

During a war, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed:

“She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?”

Thus non-combatants are guaranteed security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state.

While Islam in general is misunderstood in the western world, perhaps no other Islamic term evokes such strong reactions as the word ‘jihad.’ The term ‘jihad’ has been much abused, to conjure up bizarre images of violent Muslims, forcing people to submit at the point of the sword. This myth was perpetuated throughout the centuries of mistrust during and after the Crusades. Unfortunately, it survives to this day.

The word Jihad comes from the root word jahada, which means to struggle. So jihad is literally an act of struggling. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that the greatest jihad is to struggle with the insidious suggestions of one’s own soul. Thus jihad primarily refers to the inner struggle of being a person of virtue and submission to Allah in all aspects of life.

Secondarily, jihad refers to struggle against injustice. Islam, like many other religions, allows for armed self-defense, or retribution against tyranny, exploitation, and oppression. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? – Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from you one who will protect; and raise for us from you one who will help!” [Qur’an, 4:75]

Thus Islam enjoins upon its believers to strive utmost, in purifying themselves, as well as in establishing peace and justice in the society. A Muslim can never be at rest when he sees injustice and oppression around him. As Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Islam enjoins upon all Muslims to work actively to maintain the balance in which Allah created everything. However, regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, the Glorious Qur’an never condones the killing of innocent people. Terrorising the civilian population can never be termed as jihad and can never be reconciled with the teachings of Islam.

Even Western scholars have repudiated the myth of Muslims coercing others to convert. The great historian De Lacy O’Leary wrote:

“History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims, sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.” [Islam at Crossroads, London, 1923 page 8]

Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up until they were finally forced out, the non-Muslims there were alive and flourishing. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan all have significant Christian and/or Jewish populations.

This is not surprising to a Muslim, for his faith prohibits him from forcing others to see his point of view. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hear and know all things.” [Qur’an, 2:256]

Far from being a militant dogma, Islam is a way of life that transcends race and ethnicity. The Glorious Qur’an repeatedly reminds us of our common origin:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” [Qur’an, 49:13]

Thus, it is the universality of its teachings that makes Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. In a world full of conflicts and deep schisms between human beings, a world that is threatened with terrorism, perpetrated by individuals and states, Islam is a beacon of light that offers hope for the future.

Fellow Nigerians! If you can remember, the same thing taking place today of hate campaigns, maltreatment, attacking and killing the northerners by Igbo people was what ignited the 1966 Nigerian civil war.

In August 1965 five Igbo Majors were beginning to plot a coup against incumbent Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The coup was planned because the Majors as reported, were dissatisfied with the governments actions and that most Nigerian politicians were of Hausa or Fulani descent. In a memoir written by coup plotter Adewale Ademoyega he wrote:

“Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places, that seek bribes and demand 10%; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs.”

The coup plotters had five goals to achieve, to Strike simultaneously in regional capitals, arrest leading politicians-kill any who resist, avoid reprisals-kill all senior army officers, prevent troop movement-block Niger and Benue, and form a new Government. They planned to strike right before the Commonwealth Conference so that Tafawa Balewa would be distracted from any suspicious army movements.

In the weeks leading up to the coup Major Kaduna Nzeogwu carried out reconnaissance on Ahmadu Bello’s house in Kaduna. Nzeogwu often took his men on a night-time training exercise known as “Exercise Damisa” which was in actuality a practice run for a military coup. The commander of the 2nd Brigade, Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, became irritated with the night-time exercises and reprimanded Nzeogwu in a telephone call to keep exercises a safe distance from Ahmadu Bello’s house. Although Ademulegun complained about the commotion he had no idea of the exercise’s true purpose.

Nzeogwu’s control over his troops was so little that he had to conscript young soldiers from the Nigerian Military Training College at Kaduna. In the early hours on January 15, 1966 Nzeogwu decided to turn “Exercise Damisa” into a full blown military coup. Nzeogwu led his men to a bush adjacent to the house gates and informed them of their real mission. Nzeogwu and his men blew open the house gates and conducted a search of the residence, hunting for Ahmadu Bello Sardauna. After losing his temper at his initial failure to locate him, Nzeogwu found him with his wives. Ahmadu Bello was shot along with one of his wives who tried to shield him with her body. Also Ahmadu Bello’s faithful bodyguard came to defend him with a bow and arrows but was also shot.

So we have to be very very careful in order to avoid another civil war in Nigeria. Because if the killing of northerners in southeastern Nigeria continue, I’m assuring you that anything can happen…

All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

 

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusauimam@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

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