In a country where life has become as cheap as commodities in a market of chips and where everyone is supposed to shout themselves hoarse in stressing the sanctity of human life, it appears there are many who would kill in the twinkle of an eye and at the whispers of those they lend their ears, and unfortunately their humanity.
It was a horrified country that received with shock the murderously farcical circumstances under which Deborah Samuel, a 200-level student of Home Economics at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto was killed and burnt by a mob of Muslim youths who accused her of blaspheming their religion on the back on a WhatsApp voice note many of them did not even listen to. In Deborah`s case, once the rabid destruction of wild dogs was let off its leash, only the most agonizing of deaths for an innocent woman could sate its bloodlust.
If Deborah`s death slipped horror into the sensibilities of many Nigerians, the events thereafter, and the reactions of some Muslim Clerics and government officials in Abuja and elsewhere which showed that the murderous mob was emboldened by its masquerades who did not even bother with masks, proved to be takobas tearing through Nigerian hearts.
When some of the Deborah`s murderers were arrested, huge crowds protested in Sokoto. They looted and burnt buildings in the state. Mr. Ibrahim Maqari, the Deputy Chief Imam of the National Mosque Abuja saw nothing wrong in the actions of the criminals who killed Deborah. For him, if anything, she had crossed the red line and was to blame for attracting the red mist to herself.
Mr. Aliyu Tilde, the Bauchi State Commissioner for Education, gleefully blamed Ms. Deborah`s mouth for cutting off her own neck before swiftly recommending psychiatrist evaluation for those who would not agree that the provocation perceived from the WhatsApp voice note was fittingly used to make a pike for Ms. Deborah.
Apart from Messrs. Maqari and Tilde, one suspects that many others across the country nodded their heads in approval of the punishment meted out even if they were careful to keep their approval to themselves.
A few days later, in Bauchi State where Mr. Tilde is a Commissioner, a mob went berserk as they sought to make an example out another woman who was alleged to have blasphemed religion. Gratefully, it was averted.
It is doubtful if those who sought to replicate the apocalyptic scenes seen in Sokoto in Bauchi read Mr. Tilde`s comments on twitter. Given the asphyxiating presence of poverty and illiteracy in the North which leaves many unable to own internet-enabled gadgets or read anything when they get on social media, it was more likely they had someone interpret for them. In any case, they knew they had the backing of some of those they look up to.
On Saturday, June 4,2022, less than a month after Ms. Deborah`s gruesome murder in Sokoto, those for whom religion is always a spear and never a staff again let loose their murderous instincts, this time around at the Federal Housing Estate in Lugbe Area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
When 30-year-old Ahmad Usman, a member of the local vigilante got into an argument with a Muslim cleric who immediately summoned his mob of murderers, little did he know that fiery flames were about to force him to breathe his last.
In a world riveted and riven apart by Islamophobia, Nigeria`s Muslim community must unequivocally address those within their ranks who continue to give Islam a bad name. In a world where seeing is believing, it has long ceased to be enough to say that any religion is a religion of peace. Because there are many in Nigeria who blame religion for the many problems of the country and take words no matter how weighty with a pinch of salt, the adherents of every religion which holds itself out as a religion of peace must go all out to show by their conducts which necessarily conduce to tolerance and non-violence that such a religion is well and truly a religion of peace.
To make room within their ranks for those who will take the lives of others at the slightest provocation, and those who milk their status as leaders to cause mayhem, is to give their religion a bad name.
Nigeria remains a secular state. For all its failings, the country`s justice system remains capable of occasionally getting the basics of justice right. For all the controversies the courts here wade in, they remain capable of providing the common man with the occasional glimmer of hope.
The law is crystal clear that he who asserts must prove and that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty. The law here also unfailing requires that every person should be given fair hearing. However, it is apparent that the fine dictates of the law and justice have become too delicate for Nigeria`s crude mob murderers and their masquerades.
There can be no doubt about it. Those who find scandalous safety in numbers, the cowards who fashion cudgels out of religion and hide behind mobs to take the lives of others while feeding off the circuitous arguments of their slave drivers do not act in service of any religion. They are bloodthirsty criminals who live to dip their stale bread in the blood of the innocent while inhaling the smoke of their pyres to satisfy their murderous addictions.
Together with those who urge and cheer them on, they are enemies of Nigeria and the sworn enemies of a country free of rancour and bitterness.The time was yesterday to check their excesses.