By Femi Oluwasanmi
The recent death sentence delivered by the Upper Sharia court in respect of a 22 years old man who allegedly used derogatory statement against Prophet Mohammed in Kano State, does not only shows the level at which religious activisim has corroded objectivity in Nigeria but also raises questions on the place of Justice in the country’s Justice system.
A Presiding Judge of Kano Upper Shari’a Court, Khadi Aliyu Kani, had in his judgement on 10th August, 2020, sentenced Yahaya Sheriff-Aminu, to death by hanging for blaspheming against Prophet Muhammad (peace unto him). This is because blasphemy againt an ordinary person is a serious offence not to talk of a great prophet with over 1.5 billion followers world wide.
However, this does not means that the upper Sharia Court should be turned to a center where merchants of death sentence masquerading as judges dish out judgement like this in the name of becoming more Mohammad than the great prophet.
Article 15(2) of chapter two of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, states that: National Integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.
Specifically, the chapter four of the Constitution itemizes the fundamental human rights where the freedom of association and opinion were given prominent attention. Showing that, a person could be Muslim in the morning, changed to Christian in the afternoon, traditional religion in the night to mention but few. This might have occurred in the case of this Singer.
The Singer in a music circulated on whatsapp on 28th February, 2020, used derogatory words on prophet Mohammed which made some youths to vandalised his family’s house and attracted the attention of the security agencies who later arrested him and charged him to the Sharia court for blasphemy. Though, this arrest was in order because it quenched the unrest but the judicial somersault that manifested after in form of death sentence raises question on the place of justice in the temple of justice.
Though, the judge might have rested his judgement on the fact that the music released was inimical to peace because it affects people’s emotions, but that shouldn’t have attracted death sentence.
Surprisingly, the Governor of State, Abdullahi Ganduje, who was sworn in to office by the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, not of Sharia law, on Aug. 27, indicated his readiness to sign the death warrant, if the convict failed to appeal the judgment at the expiration of the 30-day grace given by the Upper Sharia Court.
Though, this kind of statement from the chief security officer of the state whose primary responsibility is to protect lives and properties is highly disheartening but it is understandable because he knows the important of religion in Nigerian politics. So, he might not want to do anything contrary to the Sharia Court’s Judgment so that the religious leaders will not mobilize their followers against his successor when the time for election comes.
Meanwhile, Prophet Mohammed during his life time never killed people for abusing him. Rather, he served as a perfect exemplar for humankind. He even spared the lives of nearly everyone in Makkah when he finally took the city in A.D. 630, despite the early and fierce taunts and insults visited upon him by the people of Makkah.
In fact, Qur’an states that the Prophet’s opponents accused him of being a sorcerer (sāhir, Qur’an 38:4), a poet (shāhir, Qur’an 37:36), a soothsayer (kāhin, Qur’an 52:29; 69:42), and possessed or crazy (majnūn, Qur’an 68:2; 81:22). Yet, he didn’t killed them. Unless, in a situation where those who abused him were found to have committed other offences that are inimical to the peace of society such as killing, vandalism, among others.
Although, some scholars have tried to justified capital punishment for blasphemy by citing the response of the prophet in the case of a woman who was killed by her blind husband for abusing the prophet. But looking at his practical life it is crystal clear that he never supported capital punishment for those who abused him.
Rather, what he supported was death penalty for those were caught in a viral video stuffing money that ought to be used for development and betterment of the people in agbada in a show of corruption which has created poverty and army of unemployed youths using entertainment industry to demonstrate all kinds of anomalies that are not only against religious principles but alien to African culture.
For example, if the young man that was sentenced to death for abusing Prophet Mohammed had been occupied with work or doing positive thinking, this kind of shameful display would not have happened. But because the government failed to take the army of the unemployed youths out of the street, it’s now battling with hate speech of diverse forms.
Though, in this case the hate speech was not directed to an ordinary person but a great prophet in human history. Truly this is painful, but the hostile environment created by the government for the citizens also contributed to it. Today, over 13 million children are out of school, chronic poverty is everywhere, to mention but few.
Gradually, the nation is degenerating into a state of anarchy where anything goes. Insecurity is systematically becoming the second label of the country in the international community. Even, the government officials who are entitled to security details are in fear because of the fear of unknown. This could be deduced from the attack on the convey of the Governor of Borno State, Professor Zulum Babagana in the recent time.
Infactt, it seems the more budget made for security the more insecurity increase. This shows that there is a missing link which the government needs fix quickly.
So, government should pay more attention to poverty alleviation and others rather than manifesting this kind of judicial somersault and other things contributing to the pains of people suffocating under the burden of anti-people’s policies in the name of war against hate speech.
–Femi Oluwasanmi, writes in from Ibafo, Ogun State.