Religions And Persecution Of Nonbelievers In Africa
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has, in a recent document, highlighted a critical aspect of humanism and religion in Africa – conditions of nonbelievers in the region. The document outlines challenges that Africans who do not identify with any religion face on the continent. It shows that while the number of those who identify as atheist, agnostic, freethinker, humanist, or secularist in Africa is growing, there are pervasive governmental restrictions and societal discriminations in various countries. This situation has made it difficult to measure and determine the number of nonbelievers. Persons who do not identify as religious lack legal protection, suffer political isolation and social intolerance. African states do not accord nonbelievers their full human rights.
The document reveals that the demographics of nonbelievers are in single digits except in Mozambique and South Africa. But that should not surprise anyone. Few organizations for nonbelievers exist on the continent because there are limited spaces for advocacy of nontheistic views. The factsheet contains some instances of harassment, threats, and persecution of non-religious believers.
For instance, Said Djabelkhir, founder of the Cercle des Lumières pour la pensée libre (Circle of Enlightenment for Free Thought) was given a prison sentence and a fine for criticizing Islamic rituals and mocking the prophet Muhammad. In Nigeria, the president of the Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala, has been imprisoned without charge. The police arrested him following a petition that he made a Facebook post that allegedly insulted the prophet of Islam. In Sudan, the authorities arrested Mohamed Salih for changing the status on his identification card to nonreligious. But a judge declared that he was mentally unfit to stand trial and subsequently released him. This factsheet also highlights the persecution of nonbelievers in Uganda, Egypt, Tanzania, Somalia, and Kenya.
It draws attention to violations of the rights of non-believing students across the region. Nonbelieving students are not allowed to opt-out of religious classes and compulsory religious worship in schools.
This publication is a welcome development. It has the potential of transforming the belief/nonbelief landscape in the region.
Religious nonbelievers face challenges expressing their views and living out their beliefs because post-colonial African states are weak and unable to contend and limit undue influences of religions, especially Christianity and Islam. Post-colonial African states pay lip service to the freedom of religion or belief of nonbelievers because governments are biased for a religion or some religions, the dominant religion(s).
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Governments are biased against nonreligious and nontheistic beliefs. Even in cases where secularity or separation of church(mosque) and state is enshrined in the constitution, such provisions are paper tigers and are seldom enforced. What applies in countries are religious governments and politics; Christian/Islamic theocracies, not secular democracies. Religions determine the policies that are implemented and the laws that are enforced. States are an extension of churches, mosques, and temples. Religion trumps human rights, law, and constitution across Africa. Lack of separation of state and religion has turned the state into a tool to promote religion.
It undermines the ability of states to guarantee equal rights of religious believers and nonbelievers. Lack of neutrality of the state on religious matters makes the government an instrument for religious oppression and persecution of nonbelievers. In countries where Islam is the de facto or de jure religion, governments persecute and discriminate against nonbelievers because state actors govern based on sharia, not state laws. State officers make policies and legislate to appease the Ummah. Nonbelievers are designated as infidels. And the state machinery is used to wage jihad, a holy war in the literal sense, against nonbelievers. Muslim theocrats sacrifice the humanity of nonbelievers on the altar of Islamic piety. Early in this 21st century, the violation of the humanity of nonreligious Africans must stop. This culture of abuse and impunity must end!
Nonreligious believers must enjoy equal rights with the believing folks. Nonbelievers are not asking for special treatment.
Nonbelievers demand that African states fulfill their obligations to their nonbelieving citizens.
To improve the situation of nonbelievers in African countries, the USCIRF must take urgent steps at national and international levels to address the persecution of nonbelievers across Africa. The document should be used as a resource to foster state neutrality on religious matters and the separation of church/mosque and state in all African countries. Nonbelievers suffer persecution because there are no consequences for such infractions. Persecuting state and nonstate agencies are not penalized for violating the rights of nonbelievers. They do not suffer any negative impact or effect for these violations. For instance in Nigeria, the president of the Humanist Association has been in jail without charge for over a year. This illegal detention has taken place because Muslim theocrats knew that they would get away with this infraction. The Islamic establishment connived with the police to jail him without prosecuting him.
If the Islamic government of Kano State and members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs knew that there would be consequences for such actions, they would not permit such gross violation of human rights. Individuals who hold nonreligious and nontheistic beliefs should not be killed or imprisoned. Nobody should be penalized for renouncing or criticizing a religion. Offending religious sensibilities should not be a pretext to murder and persecute nonbelievers. There should be costs and consequences for state and non-state actors that aid, abet, or perpetrate such abuses.
So, this factsheet is and should be a call to action against persecution and violation of the humanity and human rights of nonbelievers in Africa. Conditions of nonbelievers in Africa must change and improve. Their persecution must end. The humanity of nonbelieving Africans must be respected and upheld.
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Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge
By Tunji Olaopa
If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.
There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.
Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges
How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.
Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.
From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!
Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.
There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to weak implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.
Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.
The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.
All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.
The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration needs that fighting chance!
. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .
Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!
Orezime: A moral what?
Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?
Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?
Adamu: A moral burden, I said!
Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?
Gani: Or Mars?
Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!
Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.
Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!
Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.
Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.
Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.
Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.
Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!
Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!
Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!
Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?
Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?
Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.
Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.
Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?
Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!
Bankole: May we not travel that route!
Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.
Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.
Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.
Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.
Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.
Bankole: That’s ominous!
Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing. Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.
Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!
Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!
Emeka: Tough luck!
Professors On INEC’s Will (2)
By Tony Afejuku
On Thursday, 2 March, 2023, the Financial Times based in London, England published a blistering editorial on the February 25, 2023 Presidential election which up to now is the talk of everywhere beyond our shores. The said Financial Times editorial was entitled “Nigerians badly flawed election fails to set an example.” Indeed, it was a positively blistering presentation as any positively blistering presentation can be. Professor Olu Obafemi FNAL; NNOM drew the attention of the literati to the editorial that argued succinctly that “If Tinubu’s victory is challenged the courts should take a hard` look.” In his summation of the editorial Professor Olu Obafemi, who headed the debating literati, said he had nothing to add to the efficacious editorial but he would be happy – by my inference – to have the viewpoints of others. Thereafter the debate began. The arguments and counter-arguments began. Whose will was INEC propagating: Was it its will or the will of the cabal in the presidency or the will of the Nigerian people?
By the way, be it noted here and now that the Financial Times, though headquartered in London as already indicated, is owned by Japanese, by Nikkei, a Japanese holding company with “core editorial offices across Britain, the United States and continental Europe.” Why this point is necessary here will reveal itself in the debate I hereby tender to fit my creative and journalistic purpose. But you will notice that there is a shift in focus from the substance of the editorial to the question of anti-black or anti-African Western propaganda.
This is how Professor Ademola Da Sylva, FNAL puts it:
“The Western media are so powerful that they have their ways of turning non-Western genuine patriots and revolutionaries to look like some nameless demons all because they failed to toe servile line as underdogs! Idi Amin, for example, might not get it right in his choice of modus operandi, but he knew what he wanted for his Uganda people. His successful ejection of the British Asians was one of his policies that did not go down well with the hegemons because it devastated the British economy. So the Western media descended on him and painted him as a blood-sucking Dracula! Of course, there were Uganda compradors and cronies of multinationals from within who tried to undermine Amin’s revolution, too. Dedan Kimathi was also considered a “terrorist and a bandit” by the British imperialists; they got him arrested and hanged him, but we know he wasn’t a demon they tried to make us believe he was! Furthermore, no matter what we may think of Mugabe, the immediate past Zimbabwe President, he meant well for his country, he revoked the licences of large parcels of fertile lands, and also a large chunk of the lands from the White occupants and re-distributed the lands among the black peasants. That was ordinarily unthinkable in Africa by an African leader who wanted justice and equity for his people, but he did it and called the bluff of the West. Again, the Western media took over from there, painted a devil of him, and many Africans uncritically swallowed the gambit, too! The first accusation of the West against these patriotic leaders has always been that they were antidemocrats! Democracy is anti-African governance principles. It is the primary reasons why we never get it right, but it has always paid the West because it keeps Africa underdeveloped to the advantage of the West. The truth is: Why would you want to change a leadership that is up and doing, responsible and responsive, and doing very well, why? That principle foregrounds our sense of monarchy. A king remains on the throne for as long as his reign brings progress and security. Where a king fails, as in the cases of the indigenous Yoruba Obas, he is made to commit a voluntary suicide, and another Oba replaces him. Anyway, let me pause here.”
Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano’s stroke goes thus: “My view is that if humans have (or bear) an original sin, according to Christian eschatology, and if humans need to pray and carry out religious duties to be worthy of divine grace, and if secular education requires progressive edification of humans, and if humans are brutes unless they are inserted into a humane culture complete in all its sides (as Matthew Arnold has argued), and if the classical calculators looked forward not to human nature, with its brutal immersion in self-interest and wars and strife, and if humans have repeatedly to struggle to rise above their petty narrowness, then how can their voting behaviour or action be perfect, pristine or excellent? Those who expect a perfect electoral behaviour or outcome in a country brutalized by a savage economic policy and an insensitive and thieving cast of state officials, and the electors riven by religious and ethnic divisions are expecting a miracle. Yet at the local level, the electors did succeed in electing a new set of people to represent them. The problem with macro analysis is that it is positivism at its worst. At the micro level, the elections were expressive of the will of the people. In Kano State, for example, the newly formed NNPP swept the board with more than 18 out of the available 22 seats for the House of Reps and 2 out of the 3 Senate seats. Thousands turned out to vote. Finally, why should we believe anything the Western press says about us? Look at their reporting of the war in Ukraine. They keep saying, against the evidence and the facts, that Ukraine is winning the war with Russia, despite the former being slaughtered on the battlefield and having lost a staggering number of soldiers.
“Humour comes from the ridiculous and the ridiculous from the comical. Here is an example of a statement that is hilarious because it is ridiculous and ridiculous because it is comical: “Ladies and gentlemen, meet the newly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Reverend Mullah Professor Mr. Mallam IBK of Madagascar!”
Do I have any doubt that our readers will find it hard and uneasy to follow the mind patterns and strokes of the debaters who are trying in their peculiar ways to say something tangibly tangible about our will as voters and INEC’s will as electoral umpire? Not at all!
To be continued.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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