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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

COMBATING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (3)





Sheikh Youssef Mechria, Secretary of the Algerian League of Imams continued his speech:


‘The scholars are the heirs of the prophets, as pointed out by the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, where he said, ‘The ulamaa are the heirs of the prophets who have bequeathed neither dirham nor dinar, but what they bequeathed was knowledge.’ 

‘The first to engage the Khawaarij was Ibn Abbas…. So, today, this is your role and responsibility as ulamaa and imams, to preserve sound understanding of the religion.

Ibn Abbas went to dialogue with the Khawaarij. He said to them, in a modern context, ‘What is the grudge you have against the government?’ 

‘They mentioned three things that made them to rebel against the state.  That :1) Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, made men to adjudicate their dispute with him when Allah said, ‘The judgement for none but Allah.’ ( al-An’aam, 6:57 and Yusuf, 12:40, 67) ‘Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are disbelievers…such are wrong-doers….such are evil-livers.’ (al-Maa’idah, 5:44,45,47). 2) When they fought against the army that included Aisha, Mother of the Believers, Ali, peace be upon him, did not take captives or spoils. If the opponents were disbelievers, then their captives are permissible, but if on the other hand they were believers, then why fight them in the first place? 3) He removed the title of Ameerul Mu’mineen (Commander of the Faithful) from the name; therefore, if he seizes to be Ameerul Mu’mineen, then he is Ameerul Kaafireen (Commander of the Infidels).

‘Ibn Abbas asked them if they had other issues, but they said what they presented to him was sufficient for them. He then said, ‘Would you rescind  your stance if I relate to you evidence from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet what refutes your position?’ 

‘When they answered in the affirmative, he said, ‘concerning your statement that Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, made men to be arbiters in a matter which, to your understanding, only Allah will judge, I wish to present to you instances in the Qur’an where Allah orders men to judge in issues that are not as important as those in which Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, called for men’s adjudication. Like the case of hunting by a person in a state of ihraam which the Qur’an prohibits; but in the event where such a person kills the game intentionally, ‘then the penalty is an offering equivalent to the one he killed, as judged by two men among you.’ (al-Maa’idah, 5:95) Allah could have been the judge in this matter of hunting, but He gave it the authority to men, which leads me to ask you this: is a judgement by men in matters of reconciliation in order to avoid bloodshed among Muslims more important or that regarding the hunting of animals?

‘They said men’s judgement in matters of reconciliation are more important.

‘Ibn Abbas cited another example from the Qur’an.  In marital discord, two arbitrators are to be appointed, one from the man’s side, and one from the woman’s side. (an-Nisaa, 4:35) He then asked, ‘Is a judgement by men in matter of reconciling hearts and avoiding bloodshed more important or that of pertaining marital discord of a spouse?
‘The said the former was more important than the latter.

‘On the issue of fighting with taking spoils and captives, Ibn Abbas asked if they could take their mother, Aisha as a captive, and if they could have amatory dealings with her as they would with women captives. He made them see the kufr, (faithlessness) involved if they were to answer in the affirmative to the question of treating Aisha like any other female captive, and in denying that she is the mother of believers. (al-Ahzaab, 33:6) They also accepted his verdict on this.



‘Ibn Abbas went further to debunk the idea that since Ali, peace be upon him, removed from his name the title of Ameerul Mu’minee, he was then Ameerul Kaafireen. He brought as another example the Hudaibiyyah agreement ratified between the Makkan Mushriks and the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. The Prophet was dictating to Ali, peace be upon him, the contents of the document: ‘This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah undertakes with the ….’ But the Mushriks interjected, ‘If we had accepted you as the Messenger of Allah we would not have taken up arms against you.’ 

‘With is object the Prophet (SAW) said, ‘Oh Allah, Thou indeed know that I am Your Messenger….’ He then ordered Ali, peace be upon him, to erase Messenger of Allah, and replace with Muhammad Ibn Abdullah….’

‘Ibn Abbas now said the Khawaarij, ‘By Allah, Ali, peace be upon him, is not better than the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, who himself erased ‘Messenger of Allah’ from his name. That did not erase his ‘messengerhood’ or repudiate the message he brought.


‘The Khawarij accepted all that Ibn Abbas presented in this dialogue which made more 2000 of them to lay down their armour of rebellion and rejoin the fold of Muslims.' 

To be continued......

Friday, December 11, 2015

COMBATING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (2)

Sheikh Youssef Machria, Mr Belkacem Smaili, Ambassador of Algeria, Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar Jega, ES, National Mosque 



I started last week with a meeting in which I participated and which was organised in partnership with the Office of the National Security Adviser. We hosted some Algerian scholars of Islam at the National Mosque who had come to share their experience in combating terrorism with us; something relatively new to us but which they had been tackling since the 90’s. This week, I continue with the translation of the speech given by the head of the Algerian delegation. Please enjoy.


‘In the early 1990s we were the ones (as a country) under this scourge of terror. Now it covers many other nations, Muslim and non-Muslim, but in the 1990s ours was the only country consigned to the wrath of terrorism and violent extremism. 

‘In our intercourse with these terrorist, extremist, takfeeri organisations, I recall, in 1997, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Groupe Islamique Arme, (in French) and the pogrom it carried out in the name of Islaam against infants, children, women and the aged. Even animals were not spared; all in Islaam’s name. These youth were vying with one another in who would be the first in killing women and children. We said, in our dialogue with them, ‘Why don’t you confine your bloodshed to, say, the armed forces as they are contenders with you for political authority, why kill innocent civilians - women and children?’

‘ I remember the image of the sadistic massacre of Tadjena, a city around the villages of Bouhamed and Ayachiche, where an infant not more than nine months old was among the slain, and it was afterwards burnt. Amidst these, throats were slashed, arms and legs cut off, and bodies were thrown in a boiling pot. 

‘Imagine this organised massacre (perpetrated by murderers) in the name of Islaam, depicting it as the Deen of Muhammad, blessings and peace of Allah be upon. Wallaahul Musta’aan! (Only Allah can aid us!)

‘So, I said to them, what is your religious justification for this? One of them answered and said to me, ‘Oh Sheikh! Have you not read the words of Allah in Surat an-Nuuh (71:27) “..and they will beget but wicked kuffaar”?

‘Laa ilaaha illallaah! I was expecting something else from him, not this. I thought he might justify what they did as a retaliation for some wrong done them, but he justified this savagery that is abominated by all laws and religions  with this Qur’anic verse. This emanated from flawed understanding of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him.

‘You (the imams) and scholars know this reality: misinterpretation and deformed understanding of the corpus of the Shariah leads only to disaster and catastrophe. I call to mind, in this connection, Allah’s word, ‘Say: "Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? -  "Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?” (al-Kahf 18:103-104)

‘Look at it from that angle, dear scholars. They worked evil, killing, mutilating bodies, and thinking that to be jihad in the cause of Allah; but on the Day of Resurrection ‘And We shall turn to whatever deeds they did [in this life], and We shall make such deeds as floating dust scattered about.’ (al-Furqaan 25:23)

‘All these organisations, The Armed Islamic Group, The Islamic Armed Movement (MIA), The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, etc, personified flawed understanding of Islaam, and each is saying we want to return to the Islamic Caliphate. But this is not the way to effect change in a system. If you desire the establishment of the Caliphate,  tread the path followed by the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him. ‘Say thou: "This is my way: I do invite unto Allah, - on evidence clear as the seeing with one's eyes, - I and whoever follows me. Glory to Allah! and never will I join gods with Allah!” (Yusuf 12:108)

‘The corollary of deviating from that path was the massacre of countless innocents, which led to the emergence of hundreds of thousands of widows, and orphans. In their madness they did not spare the police, the military, members of the press, politicians or even civil servants; even fire service personnel were not immune. They threatened doctors and teachers to stay away from hospitals and schools or face death. Moreover, Muslim scholars were assassinated on their mimbars (pulpits) and dwellings for speaking against extremism. We, at the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment, lost no fewer than 300 imams, scholars and Qur’anic instructors.

‘I recall an incident in a local Qur’anic school which we call zaawiyah (the equivalent of Tsangaya in Nigeria), in the middle of Algiers. These extremists cordoned the entire zaawiyah and slaughtered each and every member of the school - teachers and students. Their sin? They were engaged in a bid’ah of some sorts, memorising the Glorious Qur’an in a system under the sponsorship of the government!

‘This is extremism in its extremity! This is misinterpretation and the application of flawed understanding of the text. How did this start? It started with  altercations on trifling matters. With this, I would like to admonish my brother-scholars in Nigeria, and in every Muslim country. Difference of opinion starts from the branch and graduates to the trunk. Pay attention to this very well. As Ibn Hazm mentioned in his book Al-Muhalla that the beginning of the exit of the Khawaarij during the Umayyad Dynasty was their refusal to pray behind the imam of the mosque.  That was how it all started; their refusal to pray behind those they called the sultanate imams, or government imams. And we have the same thing today. The extremists have separate mosques other than the ones with imams under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. History, they say, repeats itself. 

‘We noticed the first incident of such division after the return of the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, from the Expedition of Hunain, when he distributed the spoils to some of his companions. A certain Dhul Khuwaysirah said, ‘Oh Muhammad! Do justice, for in this matter of distribution of spoils, you have not acted justly.’ 

‘He was so impudent that he called the Messenger of Allah, ‘Oh Muhammad!’ while Allah, Almighty has called the Messenger by his name three times in the Qur’an for definitive purposes only. But always we read Allah’s words in the Glorious Qur’an, ‘Oh Messenger… Oh Prophet…’ as an honour to him, peace be upon him, by the Highest Authority. But this man said   ‘Oh Muhammad! Do justice, for in this matter of distribution of spoils, you have not acted justly. The Countenance of Allah was not sought in the division of the spoils!’

‘The Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, said, ‘Woe unto you! If I fail to deal justly, who is there to do that? How will Allah trust me with the Heavenly Chronicles, and you demurred to trust me with the division of fleeting glitter of the world?’ 

‘When the man went away the Messenger of Allah said, “From the progeny of this man,” or he said, “From the offspring of this man, there will come a people who will recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats. They will go through the religion like an arrow going through its quarry. They will murder the people of Islam while ignoring the people of idol-worship…’ (end of quotation)

You see, of course, how this describes the new inheritors of Dhul Khuwaysirah among us in the global community. Bloodthirsty, ignorant and cowardly people who use the Book that condemns them to justify an action the Book condemns. Scholars of Islaam over the centuries have always taught their people and warned their students about deviant sects with deviant ideologies. The gullible and ignorant are their foot soldiers.


Have you noticed how the Army in the North East keeps reporting cases of so-called Boko Haraam commanders who cannot read the Quran properly, let alone understand it? One of such captured men could not even recite the first Surah of the Qur’an with which every Muslim says his daily prayer. This is what you find with all the sickening Muslim terrorist groups. You have ISIS soldiers captured with tattoos of women on their arms; things, which are abhorrent to their professed faith and to any decent person. The recent killers in Paris had just left a bar where they drank alcohol before shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and murdering people in the name of Allah, Who forbids both murder and alcohol! 
  
Notice that I write, “Muslim terrorist groups” and not the disingenuous “Islamists” or “Islamic terrorists” you see every day written by either ignorant or bigoted, biased reporters. The words “Islamic terrorist” and “Islamists” are repulsive to Muslims. Terrorism is not Islamic! In fact, Islam is the only religion, which has a legal punishment for acts of terrorism. (Al-Maa’idah Q5:33)

Insha Allah, I will continue, next week, with the speaker’s advice to Nigerian Muslim scholars on dialogue with extremists.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

COMBATING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (1)



The Executive Secretary (ES)of the Abuja National Mosque, Alhaji Ibrahim A. Jega, Ambassador of Algeria, Mr Belkacem Smaili, and Sheikh Youssef Mechria, Secretary of the Algerian League of Imams’


The Executive Secretary (ES)of the Abuja National Mosque, Alhaji Ibrahim A. Jega (Matawallen Jega) hosted ‘a four-man team under the leadership of Sheikh Youssef Mechria, Secretary of the Algerian League of Imams’ at the National Mosque on Thursday 26th November, 2015. Other members were the Ambassador of Algeria, Mr Belkacem Smaili, and Mr Ahmed Benabbes, Foreign Affairs Counsellor, Embassy of Algeria. The team was ‘on a four-day workshop for the purpose of cross-fertilisation of ideas on the effects of extremism and terrorism and measures to be taken in countering the negative activities of terrorist elements.’ The team came chaperoned by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

The ES chaired the occasion while yours truly acted as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) and translator. As MC, I commented on the fact that almost all the attendees spoke Arabic or at least understood it. I was vindicated when the ES got up to give his chairman’s remarks. He spoke in lucid Arabic.

He welcomed all the guests to the National Mosque and explained the importance of the lecture to be delivered. He declared that Nigerian Muslims had a lot to learn from Algerian Muslims who have had the misfortune of encountering violent extremism and terrorist attacks before us. He urged everyone to listen with rapt attention and informed the guests that the floor shall be opened for questions, comments and answers. 

One might wonder about the need for a translator, since almost everyone spoke Arabic. However, the need becomes justified when you remember the press attended the lecture as well as some non-Arabic speaking members of the ONSA staff. Sheikh Youssef Mechria did justice to the lecture and I think the content of this lecture should interest our security agencies and every Nigerian. Of course, he spoke in Arabic; what you shall read below is my translation of that beautiful lecture. Enjoy:

‘Your Excellency, the Ambassador, Mr Chairman, I wish to register the comfort and tranquility I enjoy sitting in the midst of my brothers, scholars and Imams from various mosques, in this hallowed precincts of the Abuja National Mosque, the centre of knowledge and peace.

‘I come to you from Algeria. When I came to Abuja, I did not deem myself a stranger. I felt that I was with my loved ones and brethren, which is part of Allah’s bounty on us. ……’

‘The world has now become a very tiny hamlet. Whatever happens here, affects the entire globe. It is sad to note that Nigeria is suffering from the scourge of insurgency and terrorism adorned in the garb of Islaam, a religion  established as a mercy to humanity, free from religious terrorism and violent extremism (Al-Ambiyaa 21:107)’

‘As you all know, the history of the spread of Islaam to our continent of Africa was not by sword, but rather, through the sublime attitude exhibited by faithful Muslim merchants, in whom people saw honesty, trustworthiness, mercy, love, and compassion;  inviting, as it were, to the path of their Lord with wisdom and right conduct (An-Nahl16:125), thus people embraced the religion of Allah in troops. The same goes for all conversions into Islaam, from its early debut to recent history, people were drawn to it largely through good relation they perceive from its adherents.’ (end of quote)

These words remind me of another fact which eludes the notice of bigots in Islam and the staunch enemies of the faith. Bangladesh has large population of Muslims, yet not a single Muslim soldier set foot on it. The same goes for Indonesia. The more you look at the claim of a violent religion spread on the blood of ‘infidels’, the more the evidence compels you to see the contrary as true.

Sheikh Youssef Mechria continued, ‘Your Excellency, the Ambassador, Mr Chairman, scholars and Imams, I would like to dwell to what the chairman mentioned concerning Algeria’s experience in dealing with terrorism and violent extremism. I hope the floor will be opened after this presentation for exchange of ideas among us, dialogue, question and answer session as well as analysis and comments. I shall confine my intervention on the cure - yes, I prefer to use the word cure - in curbing terrorism and violent religious extremism. 

‘We lived this reality of terrorism from the end of 1970s through the beginning  of 1990s mixed in what was called Islamic awareness or religious revival, occasioned, may be, by certain acts of omission from the official religious establishments in the Algerian community. The gap created by that official omission made possible the incursion of the terrorist narrative into Algeria. 

‘There is a religious cable that connects and unites Muslims in the African continent as a whole; that cable is The Qur’an and The Sunnah of the Prophet, (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and as expounded by  the mazhab of Imam Malik, (may Allah be pleased with him). The extremist narrative started penetrating the Algerian community after the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution and Jihad in Afghanistan, especially in Muslim gatherings in universities, mosques with high concentration of youth. This gave rise to religious organisations, societies and establishments, each calling to Islam and its revival.

‘Afterwards came the period of democracy when there was surge in the evolvement of political parties and associations. The Muslim revivalist movements used the space created by democracy to attain to political power on religious wheel. Of course other Muslim organisations stuck and confined their activities to da’wah (propagation of Islaam). Those that combined da’wah and politics were further bifurcated into the groups seeking Islamic revival through the ballot, and those seeking for it through the bullet, thus the armed resistance movements which is the most dangerous of all. No law will proscribe peaceful exchange of ideas between groups of people with divergent positions on issue religious or otherwise. But the danger is for ideas to be enforced through violent means.

‘Unfortunately for us in Algeria some extremists were able to ascend the mimbar in not a few mosques. They were thus able to disseminate their extremist ideologies easily. The first to receive the hit was the Algerian Government as an entity, where it was declared non-Islamic, and therefore operating under a kufuristic system. Then during the 1990s they issued a fatwah in which both government and people of Algeria were declared kuffaars, non-believers, renegades from the fold of Islam. This was done even when the Algerian constitution has provisions in it stating that Islaam is the official religion of the state, and has empowered the state on religious expenditure covering mosques, Qu’ranic schools, zakah, Hajj and countless other activities superintended by the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment. Not only that, we have in Algeria what is called Supreme Islamic Council, an official body overseeing Islamic activities and offering counsel to the authorities on such matters. But with all these, the government and people of Algeria were declared infidels by the extremists!

‘The extremists have a dictum: attakfeer qablattafjeer, loosely translated as ‘expulsion before explosion’; meaning you have to expel people from Islam before you kill them with explosives.’

I will continue from here next week.


    


Friday, November 27, 2015

CONDOLENCE VISITS BY NAHCON





The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) paid a condolence visit to the Abuja office of the Association for Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), on Thursday, 19th November, 2015, in relation to the pilgrims that ‘died in Saudi Arabia in the crush that happened at the peak of 2015 Hajj on Thursday 24th, September, 2015, as a result of millions of pilgrims heading to the same Jamarat site at the same time.’ AHUON lost many pilgrims in the incident including its Administrative Secretary, Southwest Zone, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Ademola Ajadi. 

AHUON has three operational zones - Lagos (Southwest), Abuja and Kano - to inspire a sense of camaraderie and competition for effectiveness and advancement of the industry. Lagos, I must say, even though I am from the Abuja zone, has been ahead of all zones in terms of organisation and commitment, followed by Kano and Abuja. We have witnessed this edge repeatedly in the way the office is handled, and how meetings with other zones are conducted under the aegis of the Lagos Zone of AHUON.

The success story of the Southwest zone was not unconnected with the relentless effort of late Alhaji Abdulganiyu Ademola Ajadi, who, since the commencement of his billet as Administrative Secretary in 2013, has proved to AHUON, even at the national level, that running a functional secretariat required selfless dedication more than mere office space and furniture. AHUON leaders were quick to spot this rare assiduity in Abdulganiyu that they sought for his assistance in the national secretariat of the Association during AHUON National Conference, which was held in May 2015.


In addition, late Abdulganiyu has left an indelible mark in the area of Hajj monitoring, an innovation of NAHCON in the form of a committee composed of members from the Commission and AHUON with the brief of assessing the standard of services offered to Nigerian pilgrims by Saudi service providers during the Hajj season. He participated creditably when the Hajj Monitoring Committee made its debut in 2014, where his input enriched greatly the report that the committee submitted to NAHCON. That credible participation necessitated his inclusion into the Hajj Monitoring Committee of Hajj 2015. It was in the process of fulfilling this duty, taking note at every point of the pilgrims’ movement, snapping pictures on Arafah, that he attained martyrdom on his way to Jamaraat in the Minaa crush. Doubtless, the notes he took and the pictures he snapped during Hajj 2015 will make significant impact on the final report of the Hajj Monitoring Committee.
NAHCON team arrived AHUON office at B11, Melita Plaza, Area 11, Garki, Abuja around 1:00pm led by Dr Saleh Okenwa, Commissioner, Planning, Research, Statistics, Information and Library Services (Com. RPISILS). Other members were Alhaji Suleiman Usman, Director Planned Research and Statistics, Alhaji Alidu Shutti, Head, Tour Operators Unit, Ibrahim Mahmud Visa Officer, and Yusuf Hameed Special Assistant to Com. RPISILS.


Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Adam, Vice President of AHUON, Abuja Zone, Salihu Abdullahi, Deputy President, Umrah, Abdul Malik Hassan, Financial Secretary, Ibrahim Balogun of Comerel Travels and yours truly, among other members received the team.



After a brief welcome address by the AHUON Vice President, Mohammed Lawal, Dr Saleh Okenwa said they were destined to visit AHOUN in its new office for the first time on a sad note; an aftermath of the Minaa tragedy. The Commissioner reflected on the successes garnered during the Hajj 2015 operations and hoped the sombre incident of the crush on Jamaraat would not overshadow them. 

He later presented two letters of condolence; the one to ‘The Family of Late Alh. Abdulganiyu Ajadi’, the second was to the AHUON President, commiserating with the Association on the sad bereavement, and praying Allah forgive and have mercy on the soul of the deceased. Thereafter, Dr Okenwa supplicated for the deceased and the bereaved.




In my vote of thanks, I commended NAHCON for the thoughtfulness and care embodied by the visit, not only to AHUON but also for similar condolence visits and messages that the Commission undertook to state governments that lost pilgrims in the Minaa crush. NAHCON, I averred, has shown leadership in the way it handled the situation under difficult circumstances in the holy territories; moving from one hospital to the other, from one mortuary to another, identifying bodies of Nigerian pilgrims, inspecting the treatment administered to the injured, obtaining death certificates and monitoring janaazah and burial of the dead.





I concluded by showing our gratitude to the team, and urged its members to convey our regards to the Chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, and the Honourable Commissioner of Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Modibbo, for their commitment to the cause of serving the guests of Allah, and providing the direction which led to the achievements that we saw during Hajj 2015, despite the challenges of the crush in Minaa.

O Allah! The Consoler of the aggrieved, the Caretaker of the bereaved; have mercy on the souls of those who died and take care of all they left behind. Forgive their sins and do not bring us into trial after them. Do not refuse us the reward thereof.





Friday, October 23, 2015

HARAMAYNIC TEARS OF DECEPTION (3)












                                                           Haramayn High Speed Rail 


As I have earlier mentioned, it is quite apparent that either Tears for The Haramayn was more about fiction than fact or the author was ignorant about the matters of Hajj and its logistics. This is not to mention the chasm of ignorance in religious matters with which the article was littered. Often times people mistake oratory and good diction for knowledge and scholarship. Those who are taken in by the write-up find themselves making that mistake. Armchair critics are often critical of everything and everyone but themselves. They come across as knowing more than the rest of us combined. However, that projection is usually false, as you will discover.

Adamu Adamu wrote, “… that forest of cranes over the Masjid al-Haram should have been disabled and stood down but that would have happened if the lives of the pilgrims were of consequence to the authorities. As was visible from the horrendous pictures beamed by social media, even after the collapse, there was no rapid response by first aid groups, by the civil defence or by paramedics during the crucial moments in its immediate aftermath.”


The charges are far from true. This is because all footages of the crane collapse were short and unclear. No one could reasonably use those videos as evidence of poor response time. On the contrary, we have the Twitter posts of pilgrims who were right within the Haram confirming that the evacuation of the dead and wounded was quick and order was restored quickly.


To further demonstrate his disdain for the government of the KSA, our friend went further, “The provision of a safe environment, the necessity for a methodology of ensuring orderly conduct, the need for providing logistics for round-the-clock regulation of human traffic and showing human sympathy and Islamic hospitality to the guests of Allah are never among their priorities.”
This is despite the fact that what obtains is quite the opposite. In fact, in controlling human and vehicular traffic, we often see the measures the Saudi authorities put in place as too strict. For the most part, they curtail movements through an entry or exit point in more than one direction. This is to stop disorderly conduct.

There is an array of crowd control barriers in bright colours everywhere in Saudia. To borrow from Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon, they are visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. The author did not marvel at the fact that no one has been crushed at the Ka’bah despite the multitude and the overzealousness of many worshippers who try to touch the Black Stone. It did not occur to him there is always a uniformed officer guiding people and guarding the Black Stone corner. The officer carries neither whip nor baton not to mention a gun. Warning lights stop people from gaining entry into the main courtyard of the Grand Mosque when it is filled to capacity. A green light signifies there is still space and specifies where there is space; either upstairs or on the ground floor. To enforce compliance, there are security personnel to turn erring pilgrims back at the entrances. This happens, to use the parlance, 24/7. 


Pray tell us what these measures demonstrate if not provision of logistics for round-the-clock regulation of human traffic. What do the chilled water fountains at every few hundred metres from which many quench their thirst represent? What is the purpose of the famous sabeel pilgrims get as gifts all the time? Why do their hospitals treat all pilgrims free and give free drugs? Do those measures count as showing human sympathy and Islamic hospitality to the guests of Allah? The cranes he roundly condemned are part of an on-going expansion project to decongest the mosque and accommodate more pilgrims- in order words, to reduce the crowd and make things easier for the guests of Allah. People more exposed and more knowledgeable in these matters have given due credit for the outstanding work at the Haramayn; work, which has not stopped the worship in the mosques. While pilgrims made tawaaf, their engineers safely and unobtrusively installed the circular platform around the Ka’bah known as the Mataaf. They have done several expansions of the Mosque at huge costs without collecting a dime from Iran or any nation for that matter.


You only need to watch the cleaning of the mosques round the clock; the disinfection and washing of the floor every few hours without disrupting the worshippers’ activities significantly, the seemingly superhuman crowd control by a few without the objects of coercion to do so. They just urge patience and forbearance. However, as the proverb goes, “In the eyes of one’s enemies, one’s horse is never tall”. All these evaded the notice of critics.


In Tears for the Haramayn, the author wrote, “If they really cared about the lives of the pilgrims, they would have paid more attention to their safety and comfort. If they cared about the fate of the pilgrims, they would, for instance, have laid the foundations of fast and comfortable railway links to connect Jeddah to Mecca and Medina”.  


Any sane person who knows the Haram as it was and how it is presently can only pray for the initiators of the changes.  Intriguingly, the writer is not aware of the Haramayn High Speed Rail project commissioned since 2009 by KSA, to link Madeenah, Makkah and Jeddah. It is ‘planned to provide a safe and comfortable transport in 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph) electric trains.’ When completed in 2016, the railway will help ‘relieve traffic congestion,’ and serve about three million Hajj and Umrah passengers during the pilgrimages. KSA did not wait for the goading of bilious critics to start this project seven years ago.



If they really care about pilgrims, they would have concentrated on providing affordable hostels to the majority of the poor who cannot afford the international hotels they are busy erecting on the graves, homes and history of the first Muslims, instead of leaving them to the mercy of shylock Saudi landlords with their substandard, unfurnished accommodations.”


On whose graves did the Saudi authorities build? Islam forbids grave worship and its associated heresies. It is also forbidden to knowingly build any structure over a grave. The buildings currently around the Haram have been marked for demolition. They shall give way by the 25th year of their existence to more expansions. Indeed the prices of the hotels around the Haram are steep but we must remember land is at a premium the closer you get to the Haram. There are cheap, pilgrims’ apartments, which less privileged pilgrims rent for the period of their stay. In fact, such buildings are the bread and butter of the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards. The only things you sacrifice are proximity and comfort.

Let us look at another claim. “Within the last decade, that is even after they have only reluctantly and perfunctorily taken some of the suggested steps, for instance, there was no year in which hundreds of pilgrims didn’t die in the scramble of those days.”


Before the two incidents this year, the last time a crowd crush incident occurred in Minaa was in 12th January 2006 when a busload of pilgrims overwhelmed the security personnel and caused a crowd crush. Before then, there was and incidence in 2004, 2003 (the only succeeding years of a disaster), 2001, 1998, 1994 and 1990. There were fires in Minaa in 1975, 1997 and 2011. The last was a train coach fire that claimed a couple. The fire of 1975 was a gas cylinder explosion while the 1997 fire was a tent fire. Tents have been made from fireproof materials since then. The last decade would refer to 2005 to 2015. Only three cases happened in that time and two of the three were in the same year (2015). The aim is not to trivialise the incidents and the lives lost during them but to exaggerate them for whatever reasons is equally bad. I do not think that anyone who knew how the Jamaraat area used to be would accuse the Saudi government honestly or fairly of being reluctant or uncaring.


Every year presents new challenges. Among the most unruly pilgrims are those who come from Iran. During the 1987 hajj, they staged a riot. About 400 people died. In July 1989, a bomb went off at the Haram. 16 Shiites from Kuwait were executed in connection with the incidence. In 2009, they desecrated the grave of Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH), in Al Baqee in Madeenah, forcing their way into the graveyard and claiming to have located the grave of our mother, ‘Aishah. They stamped on the grave and cursed its occupant and calling the dead names too filthy to print or recount.


Those who think these people should have control of the Haramayn and who parrot their hateful statements should think twice and fear Allah. They should take a leaf from what Allah said, “O ye who believe! Be ye staunch in justice, witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or (your) parents or (your) kindred, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man, for Allah is nearer unto both (them ye are). So follow not passion lest ye lapse (from truth) and if ye lapse or fall away, then lo! Allah is ever Informed of what ye do.” Q4: 135   












Monday, October 19, 2015

HARAMAYNIC TEARS OF DECEPTION (2)

But Adamu Adamu wrote, ‘Many eye-witnesses blame the stampede on the Deputy Crown Prince who arrived with a 350-man strong escort; and, to enable him cast his stones at the Jamarat, the flow of pilgrims was barricaded. This forced a backward flow of pilgrims and unleashed a stampede unparalleled in scope and in casualties. Eyewitnesses now speak of more than 2000 people dead. Luckily, every step of the tragedy had been caught on tape by social media buffs;…’  


Firstly, these so-called eyewitnesses must be demons who could behold what humans cannot see. What is more painful is the fact that this fairytale is disseminated by a veteran journalist who knows more than ordinary people the etiquette and ethics of his calling. Real eyewitnesses were saying there were not enough security personnel at the time, making it possible for some pilgrims to return from a wrong direction; how could there be ‘a 350-man strong escort’ on the scene. If ‘every step of the tragedy had been caught on tape..’, as falsely claimed by the writer, where is the footage of these 350 strong escort? 


Secondly, it was the Lebanese newspaper, Ad-Diyaar and the Iranian Press TV that started spreading this obvious falsehood. The Press TV is notorious for spreading fake information as a form of propaganda. An easy one that comes to mind is the recent Syrian refugee situation, which saw a large number of Syrians fleeing into European countries. Press TV reported that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States have not helped the refugees at a time Saudi Arabia alone was hosting over half a million of the refugees. This is apart from millions of dollars in aid over a four-year period. It is therefore not new to read thrash from the duo.


The tapes making the round on social media are the ones on the scene of the crush, some of them too distressing to watch. They did not depict anything on the cause of what happened. There was one tape that went viral on the social media, in line with Adamu Adamu’s ‘flow-of-pilgrims-was-barricaded’ position, but which, for those with knowledge of video editing, was clearly tampered with, and ended up showing nothing other than a gate was forced opened, and the pilgrims dispersing. 


Another footage showed two people in a car throwing stones at the Jamaraat; they were not in Ihraam. A note and an image were attached to the tape stating that the stone thrower was ‘the Deputy Crown Prince’. But the footage failed to show any other person aside the two occupants of the car; no crowd of pilgrims in the entire Jamaraat area at the peak of the first day of the stoning ritual; no traces whatsoever of Adamu Adamu’s ‘350-man strong escort’. The whole episode of this clip has betrayed the ignorance of its proponents on the rites of Hajj, and Royal Movements in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The man throwing stones at the Jamaraat was neither ‘the Deputy Crown Prince’, nor was he even a pilgrim. On the day of the crush, all pilgrims were in their ihraam. The propagators of that malicious campaign were ignorant of the fact that a member of the Royal Family is bound by certain traditions vis-a-vis his tunic when he appears in public – the thobe, ghutra, and bisht…all have to conform to set standards. For those who know, even a fleeting glance at the image of the man in the car is enough for one to vouch that he cannot be from the Royal Family; his thobe was not elegant; he had neither ghutra nor bisht- that is when you forget the fact that he ought to be in ihraam cloths.


The concocters of the tale of Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud blocking Street 206 are ignorant of the way the royals go to the Jamaraat Bridges and they seek to mislead the unwary. There are VIP tunnels from the Palace close to Minaa through which the royals and their guests reach the stoning area. It would be entirely purposeless to block a street they would not use. In more than 15 years of my annual Hajj experience, the Royal family has never stopped the movement of people to the stoning site because of a VIP.


Atassi Basman of Al Jazeera wrote, "For those who know the area where the stampede occurred, this report seems far from reality. The relatively humble area is far from the entrance to Mina and houses ordinary pilgrims arriving from outside of Saudi Arabia. Important personalities stay in areas close to the entrance and their convoys are assigned separate tunnels and roads to facilitate their movement."


On the crane accident preceding the Minaa disaster, Adamu wrote, “The government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is fully responsible for this tragedy. In the case of the crane collapse, it can no longer escape blame by blaming God, as if He acts without a cause; or try to pass the blame by holding the Bin Ladin family scapegoat, as if a contractor in the kingdom is supposed to supervise himself”.
It is very unfortunate that he has either decided that the preliminary report of the Saudi government based on investigations is false or that it does not fit into his plans and prejudice. He also made the Saudi government fit the crime he had in mind for it. He made it look as though they were a bunch of thirsty vampires who needed accidents to happen and blood to flow to sate their thirst.

He conveniently forgot to mention that the German-made Liebherr Group crawler crane LR 11350 involved in the incident is operated by the Saudi Binladin Group, who are heading the expansion of the Grand Mosque and also responsible for a large amount of major building contracts in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Binladin Group is the second largest construction company in the world. An engineer for the group said that the crane was erected in "an extremely professional way", and the accident was an "act of God". 

The German manufacturers sent their engineers to help in the investigation of the accident and to assist on site. They found no structural flaws in the crane but stated that the crane's 190-meter long boom was not sufficiently secured by its operators so as to withstand the high winds present on the day of the collapse, and that use of that crane in those 80–105 kph winds was well outside the manufacturer's recommended operating parameters. Eleven days before the accident, the Emir (Governor) of Mecca, had ordered the Binladin Group to relocate the crane from pedestrian areas and to deploy safeguards to prevent pilgrims entering the construction zone.


After the accident, all of the 100 cranes still present near the Haram were inspected and found to be safe. As compensation, King Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered that one million Saudi riyal (US$266,000) be paid as compensation to the families of those who died in the crane collapse, and that two relatives of each of the deceased are to be the King's guests for Hajj in 2016. Adamu’s fiction said, “they have thrown a cheque of $174,000 at the estate of each of the crane victims as diyyah”.


It is nothing short of amazing that in this age of near ubiquity of information, people still try to hoodwink the public with distorted facts. Nigerians are not fools. Just type ‘1 million riyals in USD’ into your Google search engine and you will see how false his figures are.


The Saudi King gave a million Riyals to each victim of the collapse with a permanent disability, and half a million riyal (US$133,000 as compensation to those victims without lasting injuries. King Salman also decreed that these compensation payments would not prevent private legal claims by the injured and families of the deceased.

All I have mentioned so far is available online and is verifiable. The one you will be hard-pressed to find except in Shi’ite media outlets or those of their supporters. 


Insha Allah, I shall continue next week.

Friday, October 9, 2015

HARAMAYNIC TEARS OF DECEPTION (1)

Minaa



“And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).” (Q17: 36)


Is this a belated article? Aleatory responses to the tragedy on the way to the Jamaraat such as Adamu Adamu’s Tears for Haramayn, (Daily Trust of Friday September 25 2015, and October 2 2015), to my mind, will not serve the cause of objectivity and honest analysis of what occurred at the peak of Hajj 2015 operations. Tears for Haramayn is purposeless as Allah has endowed the Haramayn with a succession of dedicated and competent custodians who spare no expense in massively expanding, preserving and maintaining them; who, with erudite verdicts of sincere scholars, will avert any shirkiyyaat-desecration of the Haramayn by religious deviants, and false claimants of faith and love of the Prophet’s household. 


To begin with, the term ‘stampede’ is wrong and derogatory. A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd (or crowd) collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose. Academic experts who study crowd movements and crushing disasters oppose the use of the term "stampede". (Benedictus, Leo (October 3, 2015). "Hajj Crush: How Crowd Disasters Happen, and How They Can Be Avoided". The Guardian). Crowd behavioural experts like Anne Templeton argue that calling crowd collapses and crowd crushes stampedes imply that the crowds are animalistic or mindless; and this was not the case.


What happened in Minaa is not unique to Minaa; in fact, it has been the subject of much academic studies in Saudi Arabia. They have computer models of potential scenarios that could cause the tragedy. They even have people who have gone to study the phenomenon outside of the kingdom and who returned to head departments responsible for human and vehicular traffic. I will come to why such accidents happen in spite of all these later, inshaa Allah.

Genuine tears should be for the martyrs that died in the crush, and the loved ones they left behind.  Tears shed, not because the departed died in vain, but for love and care. Their end came to them while they were adorned in their ihraam; at the end of fulfilling one of the pillars of their religion; at the hallowed grounds of Minaa. If a Muhrim (a pilgrim in the state of ihraam) dies, their faces and heads are not covered; they are buried in their ihraam because on the Day of Judgement, they will raise from their graves chanting the talbiyah – Labbayk Allaahumma labbayk - answering Your call, Oh Lord.

I waited this long for the clouds of shock and anguish to abate, on the one hand. It also gave room for the political curtain encompassing the crowd crush/collapse to fall, to expose what was concealed behind it of blackmail, deep abhorrence against the Al Sa’ud, thus revealing the ardent desire of a people with Zoroastrian lineage to have control over the administration of the two inviolable places of worship, on the other.


I do not think the Saudi government is saintly; far from it. I know they have their faults; that is another matter. I know they can improve on the already very good services they are rendering to the guests of Allah; that is not my point, presently. What galls me, and of which the proponents should be ashamed, is the claim that they were nonchalant and cared little for their fellow Muslims from all over the world. Allah adjures us to be fair even to our mortal enemies.


The lies, the liars and the misinformed have grown in number and it is not fair; even against pagans to produce vicious lies and half-truths against a people just to find a reason to demand the handover of the two harams to a deviant sect. Although the Saudi government is very capable of defending itself, nonetheless, it is befitting that we all debunk the specious stories making the rounds on social media and elsewhere about the cause and aftermath of the mishap.

I write not as a sedentary critic far away from Saudi Arabia, parroting whatever comes to him from the social media and churning it to unsuspecting readers. I write as a Hajj tour operator who, like numerous other private Hajj organisers and state pilgrim officials, was leading groups of hajjis during this year’s pilgrimage. Our responsibility was to ensure the safety of all pilgrims in our groups from the time they depart Nigeria until they return home after completing their devotions in the holy territories. When disaster strikes leaving death and injury in its trail, therefore, we are worse affected because of the fiduciary duty that we owe our pilgrims. We take responsibility of whatever happens to them for the duration of the package that they paid to our companies. 

As I write this piece, an interim report on the crowd crush/collapse of the Association of Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON) states that a total of 18 pilgrims that travelled through private Hajj companies have died, 25 are missing, while 11 sustained injuries. If you add this to the casualties among the state pilgrim arrangements, you arrive at the figures given by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) from its office in Makkah, of the dead from Nigerian pilgrims being 64, with 240 missing, and 75 injured.

AHUON’s monitoring team under the leadership of its President, Abdulfattah Abdulmajeed, moved tirelessly from one Saudi hospital to another, identifying bodies and speaking to the injured who survived the crowd crush/collapse. I must state here that the team easily identified pilgrims who died with their identity cards hung on their necks. Unless a relative was close by or somebody who knew the deceased, bodies of pilgrims without identity cards on them were hardly traced to any Hajj group. That is why we constantly adjure our pilgrims to carry, at all times, the identity cards we issue them for the Hajj operation. Another means of identification was the hand band which had certain numbers unique to the Hajj Field Office where the pilgrim’s passport is kept. Some of the bodies had neither identity cards nor hand band on them.

On account of AHUON’s findings, what I will present here is at variance with Adamu Adamu’s ‘Many eye-witnesses’ fiction; albeit, my desire is not to exculpate the Saudi Hajj authorities or the government of the Kingdom on what occasioned the crowd crush/collapse either, but to give honest record of events, and support the call for the inclusion of countries affected into the committee investigating the incident, as proposed by the Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar

The multitude left Muzdalifah for the first ritual at Jamaraat in Minaa, though the flood of pilgrims appeared to be at a standstill, people kept moving towards the stoning site. The pilgrims that had already preceded others have finished their stoning rites and were returning from the same direction.  Before these were others, who claimed to have been diverted, on their way to stoning, by security personnel, to follow a lane designated for pilgrims who have finished their ritual at Jamaraat, thus the two set of pilgrims collided with each other. Normally, the police and civil defence personnel would be there to enforce taking a different route by such pilgrims. The Jamaraat environment is such that every pilgrim would prefer to return from the route that they come from for the stoning, because it is more convenient and closer to wherever their tents are situated.  Taking a different route is longer but safer for all.


How these pilgrims were able to retrace their way to the same direction they came from unchallenged by the police, and in the process obstructed the movement of human traffic, could only be made clear by film footage of CCTV cameras that abound in the Jamaraat area.


Several eyewitnesses claim that the closure of Street 206 was the main reason behind crowd crush/ collapse in Minaa.


The closed eastern part of Street 206 left pilgrims with no choice but to go left through Street 223 and end up meeting the thousands of people coming from the opposite direction of Street 204. The narrow pathway is surrounded by camps and does not lead to other nearby streets.


In Mina, over 10 streets are used only for catering purposes and  by pilgrims going to and coming from the Jamaraat Bridge.


Street 204 links Minaa tents with the Jamaraat Bridge and is used by the pilgrims in camps located on each side of the street. Vehicles are not allowed on the street. It merges into Street 406 running from Muzdalifah, which links Muzdalifah with Mina and Al-Jamaraat Bridge. It is used by pedestrians and buses transporting pilgrims and is 1.5 km away from the Bridge, which was built 11 years ago at a cost of around SAR4.2 billion.


Contrary to Adamu Adamu’s fiction, in the last 8 years, no accident has taken place at the bridge or Minaa, even during the time when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock to throw pebbles at the same time. This is because the bridge was designed in a way that prevents overcrowding and stampede. It is 950 meters long and 80 meters wide with five 12-meter-high floors as well as 12 entrances and 12 exits. The claim that hundreds have been dying every year must be called what it is; a lie!


You see, as Dr. Erwin Kirsch said, “Half-truths, because of their plausibility, are frequently more dangerous than downright falsehood.”


Street 204 leading to the Jamaraat was filled with pilgrims who were pressing onward the stagnant flood, some carrying infants on their arms, others assisting the aged and the weak on wheelchairs. The heat was intense, about 48 degrees Celsius; exhaustion set in amidst a constricted mass, majority of them had trekked from Arafaat to Muzdalifah and then Minaa.


Even at the sight of this impending catastrophe the personnel operating gates of special tents, (these are not Saudi security forces; they are private guards), on either side of street 204 refused to open them to give way to the surging wave of pilgrims. If the gates were opened, some pilgrims could have safely moved into the tents, and thus the constriction in the multitude would have been lightened. Moreover, these private guards at the entrances of the tents refused to give water to their dying brethren who were weakened by severe thirst, sweating profusely. This was quite unusual in Saudi Arabia where people, seeking Allah’s reward, are eager to give sustenance to pilgrims, be it during Ramadan or the Hajj season. The guards were deaf to all entreaties for water. Many victims simply died of dehydration in the sweltering heat.

People started gasping for air; ventilation was at its premium. Some climbed over the barricades into safety, while others were trampled, and slowly asphyxiated. It was a mini-Qiyaamah as nakedness of men in the presence of women and vice versa was not an issue. The wheelchairs compounded an already horrendous situation, causing the death of many that could have otherwise been saved. Some pilgrims who climbed over the fence forced the guards of the adjoining tents to open their refrigerators to give water to the dying hajjis. To many, the water came too late to save them.


No survivor or eyewitness can relate anything beyond what happened at the epicentre of the crush, just as people who were within the Jamaraat area could only speak concerning what they witnessed there. They knew nothing about the crush except what survivors and eyewitnesses told them. Therefore, survivors who spoke about the closure of roads as the cause of the crush had no justification for saying so, because they could not be at the two scenes at the same time - the epicentre of the crush, and the Jamaraat area. The two places are poles apart! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

KUKAH’S CLERICAL DISTRACTION



             KUKAH



I revere and adore most of the members of the National Peace Committee, the Chairman, General Abdulsalam, His Eminence, the Sultan, and John Cardinal Onaiyekan, among others. I cannot, however, fathom the rationale behind the inclusion, into this august committee, of people like Oritsejafor, the antithesis of peace; a personage that spared no effort to hamper the dawn of change, christening it ‘a jihadist movement’ and its champion (who was then its presidential candidate)  a sponsor of Boko Haram. I would have loved to behold Pastor Oritsejafor’s demeanour during that conference with his greatest bĂȘte noire, President Muhammadu Buhari.

Disgustingly, the words we heard from Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto after the Peace Committee’s meeting with President Buhari, were more like those of an Oritsejafor than a consensus of its members. It was like Oritsejafor speaking in Kukah’s clothing. If the honoured members of the Peace Committee left to chance or the aleatory decision of their chairperson, the issue of whom among them to address the press, that was a serious omission. If on the other hand the committee actually anointed Kukah as its spokesperson, then they all have now seen how flawed that decision was, because the garrulous Bishop ended up speaking his mind and imputing to them what they did not say.

It is not surprising we witnessed incongruence between Kukah’s words and those of other members of the Peace Committee. The Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, has urged churches nationwide to give wide support to President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘Anti-corruption Agenda’.

He said, “The Church has been preaching and teaching that people should live right.

“When you live right, there will be no need for anybody to set up any panel or court against anybody.

“If you take what belongs to you and I take what belongs to me, then there is no cheating. But a situation where someone takes what belongs to everybody and appropriates it and then others are deprived, that is a bad situation…,”

Of course there will be no need for probes where people abstain from pilfering and plundering of our commonwealth, but where the situation is as bleak as what we find ourselves in Nigeria today, then the law should be allowed to take its course.

I am not going to comment on the makeup of the committee of 21 well-known Nigerians. I gathered Bishop Kukah, the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, convened the committee and he is currently its coordinator, or so their website informs us. What bothers me is his body language and the queer matter of a catholic bishop seeming to hold brief for a political party and the former president.

Father Kukah’s meddling is unbecoming. The one to whom we look up seems to be looking elsewhere himself. It is easy to assume I am holding brief for someone else myself or to believe this is just an attack on the personality of Bishop Kukah. I urge you to perish the thought, as I shall furnish you with evidence that there is something amiss in his recent interventions.

If you carefully dissect Bishop Kukah’s words, the gist can be summarised into about three main points.

The first point is that the Buhari administration is too preoccupied with probing the last regime and it is hampering governance. This is mere fiction not borne out by any fact. PMB promised he would fight corruption in his campaigns before the elections. If anything, this was why most of the masses voted for him, ignoring his every other failing. We saw in him a symbol of hope for justice and redress. This much was clear to anyone who watched the man campaign. Besides, this was the thrust of his campaigns since he ventured into politics in 2003. He would betray the trust reposed in him were he to suddenly develop cold feet because of the whining of the likes of GEJ and Kukah.

Kukah pointed to the lack of a cabinet and ‘policy directions’ for MDAs as evidence of Buhari’s obsession with probing Jonathan’s administration to the detriment of governance.

What the bishop failed to mention was the near miraculous way the same MDAs have started performing better. He did not mention a substantial increase in power generation. If you attribute the power output increase to the rains, be prepared to tell us whether there had been drought in the last 6 years before PMB. Kukah did not mention that two refineries suddenly started working; that the military seems better motivated; that the foreign reserves have increased; that financial leakages are getting attention and are being plugged. He failed to notice that Buhari is indeed implementing his main agenda; Security and Anti-Corruption. In fact, he seemed not to have heard PMB tell the nation to expect ministers in September. Ministers do not run MDAs but the permanent secretaries and those under them do.

His second point was that PMB has been ‘heating up the polity’ (how I loathe these clichĂ©d phrases!) by stating he would probe only Jonathan’s tenure. The only ‘polity’ I think is being heated up is the behinds of the treasury looters from that era. He went on to tell a stunned audience about the great sacrifice “Hero” Jonathan made by conceding an election he clearly lost. Bishop Kukah is in his 60’s but he seems to think the rest of us never grew up. How could he bring up Jonathan’s defeat and the subsequent concession of defeat as a shield against prosecution?

Does Kukah still remember what happened at the International Conference Centre here in Abuja on the day of the final collation? We had an Orubebe who Jonathan’s group gave the task of upsetting the whole process. Allah restrained him by imbuing Prof Jega with the wisdom to understand where the drama was heading and adjust accordingly. We had the US and UK governments breathing down Jonathan’s neck; requiring him to do the needful. We had Bishop Kukah and his committee going to beg him not to do ‘ojoro’ (foul play).

The man succumbed to immense pressure and did what he did not want to do but the uninformed and gullible ones started calling him a hero. There is an adage, which says, ‘The monkey dropped his kolanut from his perch up a tree and declared it as a gift to the people under the tree. If he did not give them as a gift, could he have descended to retrieve it?” If Jonathan did not make any phone calls and decided to scuttle the elections, could he have continued as president? Why do our so-called leaders, religious and political, think they can always play on our collective intelligence in this way?

Kukah’s third point is that Buhari should not bother to probe anyone because that would not allow him to do other things. He added that probes do not exist in a democracy, only investigations are acceptable. The last time I checked a thesaurus, a probe is synonymous with an investigation. Bishop Kukah, we understand English as much as you do, please do not pull wool over our eyes. To be fair to the bishop, he kept reiterating that he did not oppose a probe but he called it ‘drama’ and that if Nigerians wanted ‘drama’, fine! He also said he did not believe it would work. He saw no way a man could retrieve a large chunk of our stolen collective wealth while still doing a good job of governing us. I beg to disagree.

A regime brought Nigeria to its knees more than others did and the memory is still fresh. As an analogy of the kind of diseased thought that gave birth to the idea of ‘probe all or none’, let us imagine this scenario: A newspaper owner dies in a letter bomb explosion last week and the IGP is telling Nigerians he would ensure the killers are found. The investigation points at several of the immediate past IG’s people being the masterminds with evidence. Some malams and priests call at the new IG’s office to tell him to remember that the former IG did well and handed over to him in a peaceful way, so he should not ‘heat up the polity’ and forget about the investigations. They say if he insists on the probe, he would be unable to perform other roles and he should probe the one of Dele Giwa in 1987 too, if he wants to be fair. You will agree with me that is not an intelligent argument.

Jonathan was the one who handed over to Buhari, not IBB or Abdulsalami Abubakar. It is Jonathan Buhari should ask concerning what went missing under him, not Jonathan’s predecessors. If Jonathan did not think anything was amiss with what was handed over to him that is his own headache. To probe everyone is not possible but to send a clear message to aspiring treasury looters is. The ones whose malfeasance was just yesterday, so to speak, should still be able to answer for their crimes. There is an important element in law, which Kukah is ignoring: enforcement and deterrents.

The reason the average American obeys the traffic light is because he knows there will be consequences if he did not. The reason an average Nigerian does the opposite is that he knows there are no consequences. The worst that could happen is a policeman sits in your car and pretends to arrest you before you get the cue to part with NGN500 or NGN1,000; depending on how greedy the fellow is. By making sure no one is allowed to go away with corruption, the people will adjust; and they are already adjusting.

The rest of the committee members who have spoken out are in sharp contrast to Bishop Kukah in their submissions. They support the fight against corruption and they do not see anything wrong with Buhari’s actions. His Eminence, the Sultan, urged PMB to prosecute anyone who has been found guilty. His Eminence, The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh of the Anglican Communion spoke in the same vein. I wonder why Kukah has been so vehement in support of Jonathan and so critical of any step to retrieve some of our stolen commonwealth.


I remember a certain Abati who was very critical of corrupt governments but who was later invited to ‘come and chop’ (apologies to OBJ). He became the poster boy for moral turncoats. My ardent prayer is for Kukah not to be his replacement in the eyes of people.