One of the greatest tragedies of Nigeria’s corporate existence as a nation state is the widespread and pervasive but negative religious tendencies of most citizens. This tragedy is a major disincentive for the social progress, growth and development of Africa’s most populous country. Some consequences ofnegative religiosity, which is often characterized by excessive symbolism but devoid of spiritualism, is that it breeds hate, immorality and division. Negative religiosity is preaching precisely that you don’t intend to practice. Unfortunately for Nigeria, the ruling class have found a useful ally in institutions of negative religiosity that endorses their misrule, immorality and corrupt practices because they are mutually beneficial to their selfish interests and to the detriment of public interests.
A clear illustration of this scenario is exemplified in the recent revelation of the unknown side of Bukar Abba Ibrahim, a senator of the federal republic and former governor of Yobe state, as a fun loving Casanova; a sharp contrast to his public image of a religious conservative figure, whose most memorable legacy in public service was the declaration of the Sharia law as the legal code in his state. For a man who introduced a religious law that prohibits free mixing of members of the opposite sex, the graphic images of him barely clad in company of two young women at a location that appears to be a low class guest house, the red line between sincerity and hypocrisy has been crossed by Bukar Ibrahim. Interestingly, he neither denied the obscene engagement nor was he soberly repentant. ‘’It is none of your business’’ he tells all those who are bordered about his immoral conduct. His arrogant defiance and the disturbing silence from his constituency, who ordinarily should have been at the head of the condemnation of his immoral conduct haven been compelled by him to live according to the Sharia legal code are clear indications of a society that is deeply decadent and wallowing in a rare form of negative religious hypnosis. More curious is the non-reaction of his wife, who is also Nigeria’s minister of state for foreign affairs. Not a whimper was heard from her. Husband and wife have since carried on with their public life like nothing unusual has happened. They are right because there is nothing unusual in Nigeria’s ruling elite publicly preaching what they don’t intend to practice in private.
The ruling class in Nigeria particularly in the conservative Muslim north have often insisted on non-separation of religion and state affairs. Working hand in gloves with the religious institutions, the northern political establishment have taken advantage of the people’s deep religious inclination as the only way of life they have known for centuries before the dawn of modern Nigeria, by arresting their collective development in exchange for religious tokenistic symbolic gestures such as witnessed in the politically motivated pronouncement of the Sharia legal code in some northern states in 2001. Tragically, the actions of Sharia pronouncing northern governors, led to an upheaval on a scale never seen before in peace time Nigeria. Kaduna, the capital and cultural headquarters of the old northern region went up in flames as pre-emptive agitations for and against the pronouncement of Sharia law in the state pitched Muslims against non-Muslims in a bloody clash with heavy casualties and in the process dividing the ancient city by invisible walls into ethno-religiously segregated communities. Thanks to these pretentious religious potentates, Kaduna has lost its innocence and has not been regained ever since. While stoking the fire of religious intolerance in a multi-religious/secular country such as Nigeria by always advocating for a separate law of Sharia for Muslims, by leading figures of the northern religious-political establishment which has contributed to the rise of and attempt by the Boko Haram insurgent group to forcefully achieve same, little did the ordinary people concerned realize the insincerity in the heart of their leaders as seen in the conduct of Bukar Ibrahim and his peers. Bukar Ibrahim and other leaders of the north also contributed to the entrenched Almajiri scourge that has become a burden to the rest of Nigeria, by their stubborn insistence on withering down on universal educational curricula, which they have mischievously characterized as western education, with ‘’Islamic’’ education, thereby further stoking the fear of religious life adulteration on the part of their people. The effect of this negative religiosity on the people is manifested clearly in the reality of the fact that northern Nigeria is the poorest and least developed part of an equally one of the least of the world’s less developing countries like Nigeria. The implication of this situation on the corporate existence of Nigeria is that it greatly undermines its unity, peace and security because a large section of the populace has been indoctrinated to see fellow citizens of other religious faith as infidels, enemies and vicious competitor’s resources.
Interestingly, less than two decades after the pronouncement of Sharia law over most part of northern Nigeria, the very advocates and leaders of the Sharia movement have fallen short of their own publicly professed religious standards. Some Sharia law advocates are complicit in corrupt practices that have degenerated to economic and financial crimes, which have further pressed into poverty the already depressed poor of the society. Some even steal food, clothing and medicine meant for internally displaced people as a direct result of the fire of Boko Haram insurgency they helped stoked in the first instance. Ahmed Sani Yerima, senator of the federal republic andformer governor of Zamfara state and the champion in chief of ‘’Sharia’’ law declaration in the north, is today standing trial for the diversion of public funds estimated to be over four billion naira. As a federal lawmaker, Ahmed Sani Yerima is notorious for defending his right to consummate his multiple marriages with his numerous child-brides using religion as strong tool of blackmailing his vocal critics into silence. The current governor of Zamfara state, Abdulazeez Yari, while quoting copiously from both the Holy Quran and Hadith, once attributed the ravaging epidemic of meningitis on his people to divine retribution for their excessive fornication only for the same fellow to be indicted by the EFCC for diverting over five hundred millions dollars of public funds, accruable to his poverty and disease ravaged state from the Paris Club refund, to the building of a massive private hotel complex [ a haven for fornication] in the ‘’infidel’’ city of Lagos.AttahiruBaffarawa, a former governor of Sokoto state, and a prominent Muslim leader, is standing trial for allegedly receiving billions of naira as a prayer contractor to the federal government in the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency for divine intervention. Recently, the Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Nigerian Muslims and a strong advocate of Sharia law in Nigeria, His Eminence SaadAbubakar III was seen attending his daughter’s graduation from a university in the United Kingdom, a secular society that is far from being governed by Sharia law and whose educational curricula is not mixed with’’ Islamic’’ education. On the strength of his advocacy, one would have expected the SarkinMuslumi to send his children to Nigerian institutions where on the strength of his recommendations, Western education curricula is mixed with Islamic education or to an ultra conservative religious institution somewhere in the Middle-east or north Africa or are his children not supposed to ‘’benefit’’ from a system that millions of Talakawa children are ‘’benefiting’’ from?
The open advocacy for Sharia law by political and religious leaders without first imbibing Sharia faith in their hearts is empty, deceptive and has proven to be a useful tool of political dominance and in some cases a special purpose vehicle for blackmail of non-Muslim Nigeria in the process of law making and general administration of the country.