There could be a thin and almost fully blurred line between piety and extremism. The first is a well-meaning zeal for religiousness or political ideology. The other, extremism, is a dangerous overzealousness wrapped in fanaticism and crassly blind ignorance. All over the world, religious and political extremism have been on the rise, and a careful study of cases will prove that both forms of extremism work hand-in-hand. Political ideologies are the foundation of any state, the summation of various beliefs and stances, and how these interpolate to create dynamism and governance. A fundamental feature of democracy is varied political ideologies, and side by side with political ideologies are religious beliefs.
Karl Marx defined religion as the opium of the people, but religion has played and continued to play bigger roles than being an intoxicant. Nonetheless, Karl Marx’s definition of religion presents a strong case for the existence of religious extremism. Religion serves as a strong fiber in the fabrics that make up society. Humans have always been religious. While the definitions of religiosity differ, one thing is constant: the average human’s metaphysical nature and searching for answers for things beyond his comprehension. It is this same metaphysical nature that pushes the human to believe in the One, a being who is more powerful than humans, to whom the qualities beyond human comprehension and inexplicable existence of some things can be tied. This Being is at the heart of religions, and the average human’s ardent belief or proclivity to believe makes religion a very powerful social tool.
The powers of religion, when explored by religious leaders, prove influential on political issues. This has been and will always be—from the Anglican Church’s influence on Great Britain’s Royal Household for centuries, which led to the Church’s influence on many matters of national concern, to the Pentecostal denomination’s exertion of influence during the Donald Trump administration in the United States of America. The US President, considered the world’s most powerful person, made some decisions that made sense to and aligned with his religious beliefs by seeking to broker peace between Israel and Arab nations and assenting to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though Palestine and Israel are in contention for the city. A careful analysis of Trump’s moves proves that the decisions could be based on the influence of Pentecostals, who believe that the Biblical prophecy that Israel will return to its erstwhile possessed land is a milestone towards Jesus’ second coming. With the influence of religion and its effect on politics, it is extremely dangerous for religious extremism to seep into society.
Extremism abounds or has abounded in every religion of the world at one time or the other. As there are extremists in other religions, so are there extremists in Islam too. Extremists do not see themselves as “extremists;” they rather see themselves as pious people, the only true adherents of the beliefs of their religion. This is the reason they perpetrate their evil acts without the slightest form of remorse. They are so knee-deep in their fanaticism that they justify their extremism with alleged religious backings. One thing must be remembered about religious extremists: they have a close affinity with but are not the same as pious religionists. These extremists are people who have studied their religion’s texts and teachings and have listened to leaders and scholars in their religion. They are people who at one time slipped and fell into an aggrandized trance of what their religion should be, its superiority to other religions, and a warped mentality of converting others to their religion.
Another peculiar thing about Nigerian Islamic extremists is that they pride themselves in their deeds and lay claims to Islamic statutes and tenets as the backbone of their extremist views and deeds. These extremist deeds inform societal perceptions of what Islam is, and the chief danger of these acts is that they cause people to throw a blanket of generalization over Islam as a whole. An extremist suicide bomber in the marketplace will be seen and referred to as an Islamic terrorist. A mass murderer on whose neck the blood of many church worshippers trickles down is tied to Islam. Is there anything like Islamic terrorism when Islam is said to be a religion of peace?
During the Toyin Falola Interviews with Sheikh Abdurrahman Ahmad, the issue of religious extremism related to Islam was raised. The politically motivated terror groups who double as self-proclaimed religious movements have greatly affected societal notions of Islam and what its religious ideals are. There are many exaggerated and overblown perceptions of what Islam is and who Muslims are, and these paint Islam and its adherents in a bad light. One powerfully negative thing about perceptions is that people do not go out of their way to change their opinions about you. So long as people believe you are bad, they care less about finding out if you have changed. Changing people’s impression of you rests solely on your shoulders. Societal perceptions of Islam and Muslims are gross, and they are sadly existent among Muslims themselves. These societal perceptions are what lead to statements such as, “You do not look like a Muslim.” How should a Muslim look? The battles against these perceptions are needed and must be fought.
I challenged the Sheikh on changing people’s negative perceptions of Islam. He sought to know the mechanisms that could be put in place to this effect. Getting people to change the negative preconceived notion about Islam is the responsibility of Islamic leaders. They must leverage whatever channels are available—media houses, schools, institutions, etc.—to change people’s perceptions of the religion. It is high time Islamic leaders rose to tell the world that: “This is not us; stop creating stereotypes!” Islamic leaders must liberate the people from the claws of extremism and negative perceptions by providing verses of the Quran that are wholesome in combatting extremism. Why do extremists act the way they act? Why are they so buried in their extremism? Why do they ruthlessly commit atrocities? What could be running on their minds? What could give them peace of mind and fulfilment at the thought and action of killing, maiming, displacing, and injuring people? We cannot tell if these extremists know full well that they are extremists and hold extremist views or if they are just crass perpetrators of violence buried in ignorance.
Further on the need to combat Islamic perceptions, Ms. Lemu was spurred to ask questions on how Islam can stop religious extremism and lead Muslims on the right path of where piety ends and where extremism starts on the map of religiosity. The battle against religious extremism must be concurrently run with the battle against the derogatory views about Muslims for lasting and sustainable changes. If focus is placed on changing perceptions and extremism is left to blossom, the battle against negative perceptions will be lost. Also, shifting the focus to combatting religious extremism alone will not be effective in the long run because negative opinions will continue to run in the background. And if no action is taken to change people’s views, their mindset will not change, and the negative beliefs about Islam will persist. Ms. Lemu asked to know if there are ways to change their perceptions and mentality, and Sheikh Ahmad did consent to her question.
In response, Sheikh Ahmad said that while there is the need to change people’s negative perceptions of what Islam is and who Muslims are, perceptions can hardly be influenced, as they are shaped by what people see and the happenings in society. Suppose Boko Haram continually claims to be a religious body while wreaking havoc in society, it will be difficult to convince people that Boko Haram is not what Islam is. He further said that the Toyin Falola Interview is an example of actions towards reshaping the negative perceptions about Islam, as it is an avenue for many to learn what they did not know about the religion.
According to the Sheikh, extremists would use their ideological background to justify their extremist views no matter the country they belong to. In other words, extremist views vary according to ideological backgrounds. The single objective of extremists is to stick blindly to their warped beliefs and justify their extremism at any given time, using their atrocities. Extremism has militated against the correct portrayal of Islam and people’s perception of the religion. Suicide bombers and terrorist groups all lay claims to doing as the Holy Book instructs. Extremism should never be seen as a product of the religion whose ideologies were misinterpreted and blown out of proportion by the extremists. Islam is not responsible for Boko Haram and Al Qaeda’s irresponsibility, neither is Christianity responsible for the Lord Resistance Army’s extremism.
Problems arise that we may adapt and find our way around them; however, the onus rests on the faithful adherents of a religion to internally combat extremism. At the rise of extremism in Islam, well-meaning Islamic leaders came up with strategies that could help curb extremism. The Sheikh said this need for internal combat against extremism led to Islam putting “Al Hishtihaj” as the pathway and the “Makharathi” as the compass to show Islamic adherents whether they are on course or have veered off towards extremism and radicalization. Sheikh Abdurrahman Ahmad has also contributed to the fight against Islamic extremism in Nigeria through the “Dawah Inoculation,” a program to teach Muslims how to identify instances where views are becoming extremist. While all Muslims cannot become scholars, the Sheikh admonished that the average Muslim should create awareness against non-Islamic ideas, as every idea in Islam is geared towards achieving social good.
This is the fourth report on the interview conducted with Sheikh Abdurrahman on May 2, 2021. For its entire recording, see https://fb.watch/5eN6-jkkUu/
Moral Values In A Changing World
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
JUSTICE: This world has degenerated into abysmal filth, immoral ungodly concupiscence, infantile greed, atavistic, primitive acquisition of property, and satanic hopelessness! The judiciary, the political class, the church, our royal fathers, and most other socio-cultural institutions have fallen into the cesspit of indiscipline and lack of respect for ethics! The Labour movement that used to be in the forefront of discipline cannot be trusted anymore!
MARIAM: Hehehehehehe! Okpoyibo! Big grammar is talking. I must invite Hon Patrick Obahiagbon to compete with you on explosive vocabulary.
PROFESSOR: That’s an old song. Our parents said the same thing some forty odd years ago.
UMUKORO: You are right; it is the way of the old to berate the world and say the past was better!
JUSTICE: Kindly don’t reduce the profundity of my introspective submission to the jejune level of the banal as has been the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals in the polity!
MARIAM: I am going to get a new and bigger dictionary. I can’t find Michael West anymore!
JUSTICE: If you still restrict yourself to the archaic confines of Michael West, then you are a victim of historical detention, arrested development, and exploration of the brave new world!
MARIAM: I give up!
UMUKORO: Who still uses a dictionary in the 21st century? Ask Google my dear, ask Google!
JUSTICE: Your infantile and rudimentary knowledge of homonyms limits your capacity to process thoughts of the new century. Away with you, thou physically beautiful body without an intellectual soul. I take exception to people denigrating my exceptionally brilliant exegesis on the state of Homo sapiens!
PASTOR: ‘And in the last days, iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold’, so said the Master. The time is here!
PROFESSOR: A broken record! A broken record waxed hundreds of years ago!
PASTOR: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved!
PROFESSOR: Saved from what? Another holocaust? Another atomic bomb dumped on humanity?
PASTOR: Do you spurn sacred and biblical prophecies?
PROFESSOR: General prophecies mean nothing to me. Look here Mr Pastor. For all the false prophecies which members of your infernal gang of profiteering pastors gave before the last general elections, you should be behind the bars of God!
JUSTICE: It is not late, not too late at all. The hounds of heaven are waiting for all the false pastors, especially those who have commercialized the Lord’s work! A wonderful and abominable thing is happening in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love it so!
PROFESSOR: One preacher I knew used to say that one false prophet was more dangerous than 100 armed robbers. Now I understand why!
UMUKORO: Armed robbery is no longer fashionable. Pen robbery fetches millions of naira with one stroke. Just add two zeros to the figure or transfer public funds to a private account.
PROFESSOR: I spoke metaphorically!
PASTOR: When it is becoming fashionable for persons of the same gender to marry and be recognized by the state, then the world is coming to an end.
UMUKORO: Sodom and Gomorrah incurred God’s wrath with that abomination!
MARIAM: When Supreme Court judges dispense political justice, then the end of the state as we knew it, has come.
UMUKORO: Even in America! Democratic judges give judgment guided by the so-called liberal values of the democrats while republican judges give conservative verdicts like abolishing the right to having an abortion!
JUSTICE: What then is justice?
MARIAM: Self solution! Your name is justice!
PROFESSOR: Aren’t we mixing oranges and apples in the same basket?
PASTOR: Let the tares and the wheat grow. At the harvest the Lord shall do the separation of sheep from goats!
JUSTICE: Eschatological metaphors can be used to rationalize and explain currents and undercurrents of contemporary events. It is very convenient to do so!
PROFESSOR: I am disappointed that our Nobel laureate could make such a one-sided pronouncement on the 2023 general elections. Unlike him, he didn’t speak like a man who comprehends the totality of our traumatic experience in February 2023!
MARIAM: But he spoke his mind. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression!
JUSTICE: He spoke with the finality of a judge. I respect him for that. But he should also like an elder have acknowledged the level of rigging and violence which marred the exercise. The general thinking is that he is silent on that aspect because a friend of his now occupies Aso Rock!
MARIAM: That is a most uncharitable thing to say about a man of such intellectual distinction and moral probity!
JUSTICE: Excuse me! Has he occupied any public office in the country to enable you to arrive at that conclusion? Has he been tested?
MARIAM: His name is a shield. His name travels before him.
JUSTICE: Why did he wait for the PEPT to make a pronouncement before proclaiming his tigritude?
PROFESSOR: Let’s leave that old man alone jor! I’m more interested in the shuffling feet at the CBN. What exactly is going on? Was there no due diligence before Shonubi was asked to act as Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they have suspected that he was part of the rot that ran that institution aground in the dying days of the former president?
PASTOR: Alas, it has given the president the opportunity to appoint his own man as governor. The new man by all account is competent and exposed in the financial world!
PROFESSOR: My only worry is whether he will have the gumption to say no if he receives obnoxious directives from his boss.
JUSTICE: How many appointees in our country have the liver to say no to the indiscretion of their bosses? It is not in our DNA!
MARIAM: In Lagos state, the Speaker of House said no to the governor on the appointment of some commissioners! The heavens did not fall.
PROFESSOR: The heavens almost fell. But that speaker is arrogant. No big man can trust him. Or was he dancing to music being played in higher quarters to spite the governor?
MARIAM: Who knows! It is possible. The ways of politicians are not straightforward. How could he say that he and the governor are colleagues! He has no respect for the office!
UMUKORO: I felt sorry for the governor! This attempt to humiliate him all in the name of politics.
JUSTICE: I hear it is all about 2024. If he is thinking of becoming governor, that statement will return to haunt him in future!
PASTOR: Now! Now! Now! Is the Dubai visa ban still hanging over us or Mr. President got the desert kings to lift the embargo?
JUSTICE: Is there any ‘gbajue’ going on?
PROFESSOR: Hahahahahaha! The more you look, the less you see. Proverbs to bones and silence!
UMUKORO: I don’t think it is ‘gbajue! It is possible that there was an agreement in principle which would require Nigeria to finetune certain details before going public. A federal government cannot tell lies about such public matters!
PASTOR: When the saviour comes, let him that be on the rooftop not come down to be saved. You will run to the mountain and the mountain will be melting!
MARIAM: And the sea will be boiling!
PROFESSOR: Who will save us? Who can take the nation back to factory reset? Shall we invite Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, and Ahmadu Bello to rescue us?
PASTOR: Perish such thoughts please! Those men have not been able to save themselves. How can they save anybody? Jesus Christ is the answer!
A Response To Toyin Falola’s Obasanjo, Obadide And Obajoko
By Yinka Agbetuyi
Toyin Falola’s “Obasanjo, Obadide and Obajoko” is a timely article that captures the complexities and contradictions of a Yoruba (even Nigerian) in transition. It reframes the questions: ‘transition to where?’ How will this transition be better managed? Until these two questions are adequately resolved Yorubaland (and Nigeria) will always be in constant crises.
It is very important that the essay brings out the fact of extant kingships alongside modern polities in Europe like the UK and Belgium, (there are still twelve extant monarchies in Europe) where the monarchs are not subordinated to modern politicians and humiliated thereby. So which West are the Yoruba (and Nigerians) copying? Newfound lands, mainly the US – as well as Australia and Canada- stolen from the aborigines.
Yoruba people and fellow Nigerians must constantly be reminded that the success of the anticolonial struggles was about stopping such occurrence in Africa. Perhaps Yoruba Nation advocacy was geared toward the same goal, but lacked effective strategies. At the last stop before Tinubu’s unexpected victory, the groundswell was for Yoruba Nation advocates to go into partnership with other Nigerian ethnic nationalities and evolve a workable blueprint that takes into consideration each group’s preference and the rate of and speed of integration into the totality – the North’s preference at independence, and Awo’s true federalism- supplanted unfortunately by the adoption of an American presidential federalist model, hook line and sinker! My reaction over the decades is that Nigeria is not necessarily vying with others for the position of the 51st state of the US.
In my own summation in diverse forums, as it exists now in Europe, the royal houses should be clearly delimited and given definite CONSTITUTIONAL roles and worthy remuneration. First Class traditional rulers should earn the same salaries as sitting governors (Nigeria can afford this option many times over from a mere fraction of its stolen wealth if recovered). Monarchs will in turn underwrite the integrity of the polity by being constitutionally tasked with the appointment of auditors who will scrutinise State spending (states and federal) and projects in their domains and report directly back to such MONARCHS for onward transmission to state chief executives and the presidency.
Traditional rulers should be elected and appointed only by traditional councils and their appointment signed into law (but not subject to nor subordinated to) the state governors. After all the days of crass illiterate caricature of traditional rulers is long gone. Traditional rulers should therefore be structured as parallel instruments of and facilitators of governance in a check and balance structuration of governance, in a carefully integrated whole to achieve total governance – the transient and the permanent. Lesser traditional rulers should be administered by the First-Class rulers (in council) who will recommend their emoluments, (and functions) subject to rankings to state governments.
Only First-Class rulers (in council) should be able to recommend the creation and elevation of lower ranked rulers to the states according to the existing norms of such communities, (they did this well enough in the precolonial days) and the state government should only administratively approve or reject such recommendations based on financial contingencies. This formulation should neutralise party politicking in the creation and maintenance of traditional rulership.
Yes, traditional rulers must be constitutionally barred from seeking and accepting contracts from their states of origin and from the federal government, the same way a governor is not notionally entitled to be awarded a contract by their own government. In the British system, this is called declaration of interests by parliamentarians (whether in government or not) in the register of interest book. This is to prevent conflict of interests of the person in government (and their associates) and their official duties. This provision demonstrates that greed is a universal phenomenon unless and until checked by relevant laws (witness the UK Parliament’s expenses claim scandal in 2010.)
Now that the Tinubu struggle has been fought and won, the Yoruba Nation advocates, must in continuation of their activities not rest their oars on the ship of State, but intensify such by taking the lead in the quest for this new reality, by reaching out to like minded nationalities across the country to achieve the constitutional change for a better, stable and prosperous tomorrow for Nigerians.
Prince Agbetuyi is a Professor of Comparative Arts & World History at the Edutronix Institute, London.
Use Your Penis: Hopes, Expectations And Realities Of African Migrants In Europe
By Leo Igwe
The issue of migration to Europe has been in the news. There has been intense discussion on how to tackle the flow of migrants to, not from, Europe. There have been reports of boats carrying migrants capsizing or missing on the Mediterranean Sea. Many Africans have died trying to enter Europe via the Sahara desert. North African and European countries have taken measures to curb illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, the migration flow out of Africa continues and shows no signs of abating. Why has the migration of Africans or migration from Africa become such a huge problem? What are the hopes, experiences and realities of these migrants?
In August I was invited to speak at a seminar on migration. The focus was on the migration of Africans to Europe. The event took place in Bergen, Norway. As a doctoral student, I lived in Germany for six years. I was invited to speak at programs on migration. Governmental and nongovernmental agencies in Denmark and Germany organized the events. I did not find these events interesting because the focus was on human trafficking and the role of African juju and witchcraft. Do not get me wrong. Human trafficking is a huge problem and needs to be addressed. But we have to tackle the problem from the root. These events were by my estimate a complete waste of time and money because organizers and participants were not ready to tell themselves the truth, face the facts and address the real issue. They want to make themselves feel good and privileged while talking about these helpless Africans streaming to their shores. Organizers were more interested in marginal voodoo, and oath-taking issues. They made it seem as if there was something unusual about African migration. But there was not. Migration is as old as human beings. Humans from all races and regions have been migrating from one region to another, from one country or continent to another. Before this recent wave of migration out of Africa, people from Europe, America, and Asia have been migrating to Africa. They are still migrating for business, social, economic, religious, and political reasons.
Contemporary African migration is mainly economic. It is driven by poverty, miserable living conditions, and the devastation of African economies by European, Asian, and American companies. To tackle the problem of migration, African economies must be fixed. The continent must realize an economic leap. Now instead of focusing on the economic roots of the problem and how to address them, many Europeans and Americans expend energy discussing trivialities, such as the role of voodoo and so-called powerful witch doctors in Nigeria. Well, at these events, I told the organizers the bitter truth. I told them to forget this juju or voodoo talk and face the reality: the destruction and revival of African economies. I told the organizers what they did not want to hear. And they never invited me back.
But this time around it was different. The organizers were not Europeans or Americans. A Nigerian student at the University of Bergen staged the event. He contacted me some months ago, drawing my attention to the plight of African migrants in Norway. He explained how many who travel to Norway and other European countries had their hopes and expectations dashed. Many who migrate to this country or other European countries end up entrapped. They are compelled to go into things they did not plan to do. Many migrants end up in a new form of slavery, in a marriage to a European citizen. Left with the option of going back to Africa at the end of their study or marrying to get the documents to stay, many end up contracting a marriage, in many cases a paper or document marriage. These marriages entrap them, they turn these migrants into errand boys and girls. Many of them are mistreated. They suffer silently. If they misbehaved, their partners would threaten to report them to the authorities and get them deported. I was told that many in the African migrant communities were not helping matters. Someone told me that he approached some migrants seeking and wanting to know how he could navigate migration issues. But the person told him: “Use your penis”. I guess for a female it would have been a case of: Use your vagina. While studying in Germany, some African migrants told me how they were sexually exploited, and dehumanized before they could get legal documents to stay in the country. One woman told me that everyman who wanted to help her wanted to sleep with her.
So, the program was cathartic. It provided a space to let out these pains, sufferings, disappointments, and frustrations.
The event brought together ‘free-will’ migrants and Norwegians. The panelists were from Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Belarus. I was the only international guest on the panel. Other panelists discussed the hurdles that they have faced, and the challenges that they confronted trying to live and integrate in Norway. As one panelist noted, many who come to study were unable to find a job at the end of their program. In many cases, they graduated and found out that there was no job for them, or they were unable to speak the local language, which was a requirement for many jobs. Another panelist from Ghana, married to a Norwegian, discussed her challenges as a migrant parent in Norway. She recounted how her child had suffered racism in the school. She narrated an experience where the child did a group assignment with four other white Norwegian children. And the teacher gave her child four marks for the assignment and other group members five marks.
There was some discussion on illegal migration and the risks involved. Some Norwegians in the audience noted that many African migrants knew about the risks they could face migrating to Europe. And still, they decided to embark on the risky journey. There was a lot of focus on migrants and their experiences traveling from Africa. However, little or no attention was paid to the European connection with the problem, the fact that western foreign economic policies have devastating effects on African economies. Africa is a market for Western goods including Norwegian stockfish. Apparently Europe needs African markets not African migrants. Western multinationals are relentlessly plowing and plundering the resources of Africa in ways that have displaced the local populations. African professionals are leaving in droves. They are migrating to work in the West and the Middle East. So, Western economies profit from the migration flow and the cheap labor it provides. Western countries benefit from the economic status quo that has turned Africans into migrants and refugees in Europe and America. To contain the flow of migrants to Europe, the situation in Africa must change. African economies must begin to grow and improve. Western governments must end the economic exploitation of Africa.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
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