This title takes me back to the last years of 1990s, to those days we used to gather in our Big Man neighbour's living room for communal viewing of the movie "Rumble in the Bronx". We would laugh our hearts out at the stunts of Jackie Chan. The Bronx, he didn't know, being a visitor from Hong Kong, was a hub of street gangsters and standing in their way is a call for a “rumble”. Those movie gangsters of New York are just as dreadful as the religious gangsters of northern Nigeria to whom those of us who call for a cultural revolution are seen as pathetic deviants – they want to “rumble” with us today for standing in their gangster ways. I remember that movie from my late childhood today because I'm a stranger to this new world of religious extremism, being unaware of our differences in those days we used to enjoy our movies and laugh together. I remember this today because our reactions to sensitive issues of and around our region, religion and future are being done with our brains turned upside down. We had evolved from those innocent kids who marked both Christmas and Eid to sophist adult advocates of religious differences. We had lost what used to bind us: love. That community in that living room comprised Muslims and Christians, Hausa and Igbo, Musa and Moses, Minority and Majority... It was the symbolic representation of Nigeria in my childhood, one that remains in my dreams. Sadly, these days, I’m now learning to understand the way of our Islamist Bronx.
We used to be beautiful. We were a beautiful people until 1999 when an individual from faraway Zamfara State suddenly pioneered a political ideology that highlighted our differences; a flawed ideology that led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians who engaged one another to contest the powers of their religions. We lost friends and families, many of them, innocent people, in those explosions of madness over the (il)legitimacy of shariah. Senator Ahmed Yarima, then the governor of that part of Nigeria urgently in need of developments, ought to be congratulated for introducing shariah legal system. Only that his was a joke to which laughter was, and still is, impossible. Introducing a system that exposes the poor to constant harassments of a taskforce charged with penalising "legally" recognised criminals and sinners while the major thieves of which Yarima himself is a member under-utilise public trust and misuse public funds is not only a crime against humanity, but an elitist oppression taken too far. The joke of our reality is that these leaders who play God in the name of politics, manipulating aspects of religion that portray them as defenders of faith, are uncritically embraced by the same people they cheat.
Yarima gets away with his tricks simply because he happens to a part of the country in which people are hoodwinked to see politics as sort of philanthropy, in which sentiments around religions and ethnicities and regions are stoked to gain political influence and in which possible resistances to their mismanagements of our resources have been smartly stopped by their ability to convince the people that they actually are just for Allah. Even when, in the name of the same Allah, they do nothing to redeem the destitute “Almajirai” – those products of institutional oppression whose oppressed nature is deliberately obscured by the false belief that they are getting an education, whereas the sociology of this century requires more for survivals and true representations of Islam; they build mansions in Abuja and Paris and London and Maryland and Dubai, while the same supporters are left to wither under the thatch roofs of mud-built houses; they rush to India and Germany on constant medical tourisms while ordinary malaria kills their supporters; and while their children are studying for a certain future at Red Brick, Ivy League and similar Euro-American-esque elite schools, their unschooled and unemployed supporters till depleted lands by hand at the countryside or rush to the cities to add to the sufferings of the urban dwellers. In fact, I believe that in the midst of the religious crises these gangster elite instigate, they flee to their castles overseas to laugh at our folly. All in the name of Allah.
The creators of this cycle of deceits and deliberate underdevelopments have taken care to also create a brand of robots that perfectly fit their intentions – countrymen who fail to see that Yarima’s latest move, calling for legalisation of underage girls as constitutional adults on grounds of marriage, is another cheap fraud aimed at establishing himself as the undeserved “Yariman Musulunci” – Prince of Islam – which I gather is now his appellation. In our rash of debates, we failed to highlight that Yarima, who married an underage Egyptian, couldn’t do so in the bride's country because the law there has outlawed child marriage. And Egypt is over 80 % Muslim! Our abhorrence of child marriage is simply to redeem northern Nigeria whose fortunes have been destroyed by misrepresentations of Islam by these undesirable elements. If some western countries set low age for marriage, that’s because it poses no threat to their economy and healthcare. We are all stakeholders in this; the Ulama can never impose their consensus on us unless we’re consulted, not just because of the flexibility of this religious stipulation, but because we are what they are not: our backgrounds in the sciences are to be sought in the planning of a dependable society, where the benefits of medicine, pharmacy, aviation, computer science, geology, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, name it, are maximally utilised by Muslims. Every honest thinker knows that this Bronx of ours needs to implement policies to check our devastated human capital, and discouraging child marriage, yes, constitutionally, is one of these!
The least we want from Yarima is to not bellow the fire of religious tensions that have possessed us, especially the barely enlightened or illiterate northerners who lack the ability to see through his sophistries. This has been my frustration, I've been possessed by anger and disappointments in which the manner this man manages to hoodwink even the supposed intellectuals. I don't think God gave us brains, to understand and decide, for no reason. Yarima is a dangerous man; I lost two childhood friends in a crisis initiated by his political folly and I'll forever be emotional and unequivocal in these condemnations of any attempt at turning this potentially beautiful country into a fertile ground of fascist theocracy. We're trying to build a sane Arewa, and yet our people actually dance to this tune of exclusions. I do believe that stopping people like Yarima from making it to the front rows of Islamic advocacy is itself a form of Jihad. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda