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The War In Ukraine And Its Impacts On Africa (1)

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Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III: The Legacies Of A Great King

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Toyin Falola

On February 24, 2022, after weeks of diplomatic talks, Russia decided on what many thought unlikely. Even as the intelligence community in the West sounded alarms about the occurrence of an invasion, there were doubts that it would happen. Putin wanted the attention. He needed NATO to stay far beyond his borders. The world needed to know that Russia, by virtue of its nuclear power status, could press its demands in the manner of the collapsed Soviet Republic. These were expert opinions, but if there is one thing that Russia has proven by this war, it is that drastic actions, ones that escape the borders of predictability, will play a heavy role in crafting a new world order. And, as always, Africa will be an integral party.

Most of the works on the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Africa focus on the economic and political aspects. There is little reference to the historical logs that will dictate future relations nor the nuances in the economic and political sectors. Therefore, this work will attempt an in-depth analysis of the impacts of the conflict on Africa, focusing on existing dynamics in these countries themselves. It will explore the economic interactions of Africa with Europe, how they might be affected, and the hypocrisy in the West’s treatment of the war.

Economic Impacts of the War in Ukraine on Africa: A Country-by-country Analysis
To understand the economic impacts of the war, it is important to note the scale of trade relations between African nations and the warring parties. Thus, this section will examine countries whose ties are critical to maintaining internal stability. It also includes the opportunities for certain African countries in the conflict.

Egypt
Egypt’s relationship with Ukraine and Russia settles deep into the core of its economy. Its ties with Russia intersect with its foreign policy objectives, especially in relation to the West. For Russia, the North African country is an integral part of its anti-west policy. Relations go as far back as the 1950s, during which Russia supported Egypt on economic and military fronts. A notable instance is the Russian engagement with Egypt on the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1964. Then, Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, had joined his Egyptian counterpart in throwing granite rocks into the Nile. This symbolized the benefits of a relationship that spanned several years until the expulsion of Soviet officials in the 1970s. And till the end of the Republic, interactions were at a low ebb between both parties. The reawakening of the Egypt-Russia relationship came about in the twenty-first century when Russia began to re-establish old friendships. Leaders on both sides have been welcoming to each other, with a bold understanding of their individual gains. For Egypt, it is a courtship of two enemies (US and Russia) and a play to befriend both. However, Russia seeks to exert influence on politics in the Middle East and North Africa. They have been united on matters such as the conflict in Syria and Libya, maneuvering the latter’s dynamics to suit their needs.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Professor In Eastern Europe On Russia-Ukraine War

However, what is most interesting is the actual level of commitment that has been made. Russia and Egypt recently signed a comprehensive partnership agreement, touching security and trade relations. The pact is scheduled to last ten years, with automatic renewals lasting five. To the chagrin of the United States, Egypt has also instituted arms purchases totaling billions of dollars from Russia. It smoothens its military ties with joint drills as well. Notable investments in the relationship are the construction of a nuclear power plant in El Dabaa, Egypt, and the creation of a Russian Industrial Zone in the Suez Canal Economic Zone. Construction expenses for the power plant run as high as $25 billion, 85 percent of which will be funded by a Russian loan. The Industrial Zone will also expand the presence of Russian companies in Egypt and provide an estimated 35,000 jobs for the Egyptian populace. In terms of trade, Egypt provides an excellent market for Russia’s agricultural products. Tourism is another domain in which Russia proves an essential partner. Tourists from Russia and Ukraine constituted a high percentage of visitors to Egypt’s historic sites in the early 2010s. Jointly, they were almost a third of the 12 million tourists who traveled to Egypt in those years.

The importance of tourism cannot be underplayed. Research indicates that one out of every ten members of Egypt’s workforce is employed in the tourism sector. And in peak years, tourism revenue soared as high as $13 billion. With the sector making up 12 percent of Egypt’s GDP, the country is keen on retaining partners like Russia. But a situation that twists the knife in the Egyptian economy is the bomb explosion on a plane filled with Russian passengers in 2015. It sent tourism into a tumble as Russia suspended flights to the country and only just recommenced operations in 2021. This, alongside the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, severely reduced the inflow of tourists.

Employees in the sector faced a decline in their incomes, with hospitality service operators struggling to keep up with the rising business costs. Assessments by the media also showed growing disillusionment among workers as many expressed worry about their employment prospects. But as the virus waned and the government intervened in reviving the sector, hopes of an awakening were ignited. Russia lifted its ban on flights; Egypt was implementing measures to contain the virus, especially in the hospitality and aviation sectors, and places like the Red Sea resorts in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada held new promise for their visitors.

True to form, Russian tourists began to flock in again. In the first few weeks of 2022, more than 100,000 Russians visited Egypt. And in each month of 2021, data showed that Russian tourists numbering up to 500,000 visited Egypt. For Egyptians, the invasion could not have occurred at a more inconvenient time. Even as it seems that they are finally getting a reprieve, sanctions on Russia and travel bans may create debilitating impacts for the struggling sector. Although the Egyptian government appears to be working with Turkey (another country with high tourism inflow) on an alternative transit route for its Russian customers, it is unlikely to witness the same flux. The devaluation of the Russian ruble threatens the purchasing power of the average Russian and will potentially influence traveling. It is also unlikely that European tourists can fill the void left by the Russians.

READ ALSO: Ukraine May Opt For Neutral Status Over NATO To End War

Besides tourism, food is a sector with serious political consequences. A hike in the price of bread by the Egyptian government in 1977 unleashed deadly riots in the country, sending the government into a flurry to remedy the situation. A similar hike led to the Arab Spring in 2011 and singularly catalyzed massive political changes in the Arab world. Bread consumption in Egypt is a nutritional culture that has existed for centuries. Aish baladi, as it is known locally, constitutes a major part of Egyptians’ cereal diet and is crucial to the 30 percent of Egyptians who live below the poverty line. In recognition of the centrality of bread to national stability, the Egyptian government avoided removing subsidies on the product in 2016, even as the IMF mandated similar measures in other areas. However, the availability of bread and the consequent price stability relies on wheat. Data reveals that Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, with Russia and Ukraine supplying 70 percent of its total intake. Before the war, Russia had instituted a tax on exports, intensifying the situation for the Egyptian government. The country’s budget for food subsidy in 2022 is $5.5 billion, with a potential increase of over $700 million as the price of wheat rises. There is also a possibility that the subsidy will be reduced, which raises concerns about a price hike. Egyptian officials are aiming to diversify import locations to manage the situation. Grain stocks are also expected to last several months, during which the government may implement buffers.

South Africa
The relationship between South Africa and Russia has more of a diplomatic than economic leaning. Unlike countries in North Africa, it is less reliant on Russian or Ukrainian food. Data reveals that the country imports 40 per cent of its wheat, but none of it comes from the warring countries. Supply centers include Lithuania, Argentina, the USA, Poland, and Latvia. Maize production in South Africa also positions it to exploit the gap left by the Russia-Ukraine war as local supply exceeds demand. However, South African investments in the country may take a hit due to international sanctions on Russia. According to data, South Africa has an estimated R77 billion investment in Russia, compared to the latter’s R23 billion. The automotive industry within Africa’s most industrialized country will also be affected as Ukraine supplies the bulk of the wire harnesses used in vehicle manufacturing. Ukraine manufactures as much as 30 percent of the wire harnesses used in Europe. Russia is equally a major supplier of minerals such as nickel, palladium, and aluminum used to manufacture vehicles and electronics, necessitating a diversification of suppliers.

On the diplomatic front, the situation has become more complex. South Africa’s colonial history includes alliances between liberation movements and the Soviet Union. Today, the political elite in the country maintain their gratitude to Russia for the support it provided then. Although it is questionable if the Soviet Union’s backing was not motivated by a desire to counter Western dominance, the existence still reverberates in leadership circles. Evidence of this is seen in the country’s inability to take a unified stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Remarkably, it also abstained from a United Nations General Assembly vote to criticize the invasion and demand an immediate withdrawal. A factor that further deepens the bond between both nations is South Africa’s membership in BRICS, the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa economic bloc. Its relationship with some of the world’s major powers, particularly anti-Western countries like Russia and China, compromises its decisiveness in actions in the international community. Within BRICS, it periodically mediates on the border conflict between China and India, with Russia playing to support the side it finds most convenient at a particular time. However, analysts have identified a notable shift in South Africa’s foreign policy. In its early post-independence days, the country defined itself by its commitment to the recognition of human rights around the world. Its apartheid experience and struggles for emancipation made this an almost instinctive viewpoint for the country. However, its diplomatic responses at the international level have demonstrated the opposite.

Until recently, the country maintained an automatic abstention policy from UN resolutions that aimed to criticize other countries. It refrained from one such resolution on the Myanmar government’s human rights abuses. The country’s political landscape also precludes definitive opposition to Russia’s aggression. The South African Communist Party (SACP), the country’s local communist party, has been a historic disciple of Marxism-Leninism. It demonstrates its followership by rationalizing Russia’s decisions, even clearly expressing its support for the invasion. The situation is not very different within the ruling party, the ANC. A foundation headed by the former president, Jacob Zuma, released a statement supporting Russia and lampooning the West for its hypocrisy in the conflict.

READ ALSO: New York Times’ Ex-writer Killed In Ukraine War

Tunisia
Of all the affected North African countries, Tunisia faces a severe risk of instability. The Arab Spring started in the country in 2011 and has recently witnessed a reversal in gains from that revolution. Its president, Kais Saied, has abolished the parliament, rules by decree, and silences dissent with arraignments before military tribunals. Under this authoritarian atmosphere, Tunisia’s debt was 81 percent of its GDP in 2021 and is projected to rise to 84 percent in 2022 and 84.7 percent in 2023. The necessity of subsidy removal, caused by unfavorable economic outcomes, has worsened the situation, posing a threat to national security. An attempt by the Tunisian government under Habib Bourguiba to remove the subsidy on bread in the 1980s resulted in riots that left more than a hundred Tunisians dead.

Similar attempts between 2008 and 2009 were met by an onslaught of protests. The matter climaxed in 2011 when high commodity prices prompted riots that set off institutional reforms. But subsidy removals are also an economic imperative. Funds earmarked in the budget for subsidizing food stand at $746 million, projected to hit $1.2 billion. Even worse, the country relies largely on Russia and Ukraine for food imports and sustenance of its tourism sector. Tunisia imports over 50 percent of cereals for human consumption and 60 percent for animal feed. Local production is estimated at 1.5 million tons annually, less than half its import quantity of 3.5 million tons. It also depends on Russia and Ukraine for 80 percent of its grain imports and 60 percent of its wheat. It is prevented from shoring up local production by a severe drought that has lasted for three years.

The Tunisian inability to adapt fairly is rooted in the comprehensive welfare system run by its government. As a political solution to the protests in 2011, the government’s response to the employment crisis was massive recruitment into public service. The state employs more people than any other sector in the Tunisian economy, which reflects on available revenue. With the effects of the pandemic and the surge in global inflation rates, it now struggles with paying workers’ salaries. Thus, rising food and fuel prices, high transportation costs, and a decline in political freedoms may warrant negative reactions from Tunisians. And in what may be termed a bleak prediction of fortunes, analysts submit that the Central Bank of Tunisia’s inflation rate of 6.8 percent in 2022 may be moderate compared to likely increases.

READ ALSO: Russian, Ukrainian Officials Hold Peace Talks In Turkey

Russia’s relationship with Tunisia dates back to the Soviet years. Both countries commemorated their 62nd year of diplomatic relations in 2018. They have deepened bilateral engagements, with Russia supporting Tunisia on security and economic fronts. Russia’s importance to Tunisia is evident in the tourism sector, where, between 2016 and 2017, over one million Russian tourists visited Tunisia. This came at a time a surge of terror attacks forced travelers to abandon Tunisian resorts. Moscow has aided Tunis in combating terrorism by sharing intelligence on terrorists’ movements. This cooperation assisted Tunisian forces in operations against smugglers along the Libyan border. These relations may now be affected by the war and Russia’s ban on exports to support domestic supply.

Part of the Talking Points at the International Colloquium on Russia-Ukraine War and Implication For Global Security, Pease and New World Order, organized by the Centre for Black Culture and Understanding, Osogbo, Nigeria, March 22, 2022

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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Opinion

The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

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The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

By Leo Igwe
I have been campaigning vigorously for the release of Mubarak Bala, who has been jailed for insulting the religious sensibilities of Muslims, some Muslims in Kano. In the past two years, I have engaged the notion of contempt for religion as a crime or an offence that warrants any sanction or penalty. I am of the view that criticizing religions and highlighting their misconceptions, shortcomings and absurdities is a moral and intellectual duty. I have encountered many religious apologists and fence-seaters who have tried to defend the notion that insulting religion is a transgression that should be punished. In this piece, I want to reiterate the implausibility and unintelligibility of the treacherous notion of insulting religion.

As expected the brutal murder of Deborah Samuel for making supposedly blasphemous statements has reawakened the debate on insulting people’s faiths. I have seen some educated Nigerians tacitly justify this obscenity implying that the alleged remark by Deborah Samuel constituted a punishable transgression. Sometimes they put it expressly stating that they do not support making disparaging remarks about others’ religious beliefs. Look, those who try to justify the notion of insulting religion either do not understand the nature of religion or are not good students of history especially the history religions in Nigeria and Africa. Do not get me wrong, I understand that people feel hurt when their well-cherished religious or philosophical views or icons are challenged, criticized, questioned, or ridiculed. But that is what is, and what it means to live in a free and open society.

READ ALSO: Bakare Condemns Killing Of Sokoto Student, Urges Unity

And this open-society feature is not peculiar to any people or culture. In a pluralistic society like Nigeria, people hold diverse views and opinions. These views may be offensive, hurting, or insulting to others’ beliefs and sensibilities, positions, and propositions. Some people’s religious sense is others’ religious nonsense. A person’s religious food is another’s religious poison. Clear and simple. People are bound to find other people’s religious or philosophical views and opinions objectionable and disagreeable. That is normal and should be expected. Nobody should expect to live in a society where there are no opposing or contradictory views and ideas. So instead of urging against insulting other people’s religious beliefs and sensibilities, which is a pretext for oppression, repression, and suppression of other religious and irreligious ideas, a case should be made for tolerance -tolerance of other religious and non-religious ideas and notions. A case should be made for respect for the rights of others to freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression, not respect for others’ religious notions. Ideas should not be respected. Human beings should be respected.

It is disingenuous to accuse people of disrespecting a belief or a religion, or to expect everyone to respect a particular religious icon. That is tyranny. That is a totalitarian tendency. Religious doctrines are to be believed or disbelieved, debated, confessed, and professed. Religions are made to be entertained, embraced or abandoned, renounced, examined and analyzed, accepted or rejected. In matters of faith, respect or disrespect is a factor of belief or disbelief. Christians who treat the Bible with respect do so because they believe that it is the word of God. Muslims respect Muhammad because they believe or are made to believe that he is the messenger from Allah or the greatest prophet of all times. Now, non-Christians and non-Muslims do not share these beliefs.

How does one expect an individual to respect a belief or doctrine that he or she rejects? What does it mean to insult a belief, that one thinks is mistaken, false, or untrue? Unfortunately, religion is replete with myths and misconceptions about the universe, nature, and how nature works. Many religious teachings are outdated and incompatible with many scientific and philosophical views. To be specific, how does one expect non-Muslims to treat the prophet of Islam with respect when they do not believe in his prophethood? How does one think that a non-Christian who is of the notion that Jesus never existed would treat Jesus with respect? The mistake many believers make is to expect non-believers to treat and respect their beliefs, objects, and personalities as they do. And as Germans would say: Das gehts lieder nicht(Unfortunately, that is not possible). That is not applicable. That is not healthy for society. Yes, that is not how religions operate.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

Now think about it, the religions which demand respect are Christianity and Islam. Meanwhile, these are not the only religions and philosophies that exist in society. Why is it that believers, Muslims in this case, feel entitled to not be offended? Meanwhile, they espouse views and notions that going by their standards insult religious and irreligious beliefs and icons of others. For instance, Muslims claim that making disparaging remarks about the prophet of Islam is a red line. Understood. They claim that nobody should cross the redline without serious consequences. Fine. But in their everyday preaching and profession of faith, they cross the redlines of others; they make disparaging remarks about prophets and propositions of other religions and philosophies. In their profession of faith, Muslims dismiss other gods as non-existent; they downgrade other prophets. Don’t Muslims know that the recitation of Shahada is offensive, insulting, and provocative to many out there?

Muslims tell us that they love their prophets more than their parents, in fact, more than any human being. They tend to forget that people of other faiths and beliefs have a strong emotional attachment to their religious and philosophical icons too. And if people were to respond violently as Muslims often do to those who scorn their faiths and beliefs then there would be no peace in the world. There would be no Muslims or Christians, no believer or non-believer to respect or disrespect religions and philosophies.

It should also be noted that Christianity and Islam are faiths that missionaries, jihadists, and scholars from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia introduced to the region. These two religions owe their spread and dominance to the activities of those who ‘insulted’ and still ‘insult’ African traditional religious gods, prophets, and beliefs. So how does one make sense of the fact that the religions whose members ask that their icons be respected are out there relentlessly lampooning other religions and beliefs as a matter of divine mission and mandate? For centuries missionaries and proselytizers have in some cases, through physical and structural violence, and impertinent insolence toward African traditional world views and identities been furthering the cause of Christian and Islamic faiths.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

The idea of insulting other gods, religions, and beliefs is embedded in the religious enterprise. Insulting religious beliefs is not alien to religions. Every religion blasphemes against other religions. Each religion claims to embody absolute truth and divinity as opposed to other religions that are fake or inferior, or custodians of minor/marginal gods. Interesting no religion is monolithic. Every faith is characterized by a plurality of views and doctrines; by competing and opposing sects, denominations, and traditions. These traditions have doctrines, and they make propositions that other faith traditions consider insulting or disrespectful. So insulting religious beliefs is part and parcel of the religious business. It is what religions do as a matter of fact. Instead of urging against insulting religious sensibilities, which is often a demand from members of a particular religion wherever they are in the majority, tolerant pluralism should be encouraged and fostered. Believers and non-believers should be urged to condone other religious and irreligious views. If anyone finds a view offensive or insulting, the person should challenge it, criticize it, scrutinize it, denounce it, examine it, and yes debate or debunk it. People of all faiths and beliefs should learn to accommodate and civilly engage positions and propositions that insult or disparage their faiths or beliefs whether they are in the majority or in the minority.

 

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The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

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The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Last week the video of a body set ablaze by a mob went viral on social media. It was preceded by the still picture of a lady dressed in red lying on the ground in a grotesque manner. Life was no longer in her. She had succumbed to savagery and jungle justice by overzealous morons who accused her, found her guilty and executed her in a most barbarous manner reminiscent of the Stone Age. She died a most horrendous death at the hands of her class or school mates. She was stoned to death by students at a College of Education. The barbarous act was carried out by some teachers of tomorrow. What kind of educators would these teachers be in future? Do they recognize Nigeria? Do they realise that Nigeria is not an Islamic Republic, that is, supposing an Islamic Republic will tolerate such a murder? How are the killers better than bandits or terrorists currently plaguing the northern part of Nigeria? We have allowed a monster out of religion, fighting wars for God who obviously did not ask us to fight for Him!

It turned out that it was the body of Citizen Deborah Yakubu, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education Wamako Sokoto, who had been murdered because, according to her traducers, she blasphemed the name of Prophet Mohammed. In a class WhatsApp platform, she had complained that the platform had been inundated with religious posts and that the platform should be used for what it was created for. Her traducers claimed she made some uncomplimentary remarks about Prophet Mohammed. Later a sweaty nincompoop, with the dark looks of a savage, released a video in which he claimed gleefully that he was the one that killed the lady in question. This in 21st century Nigeria? This is unacceptable. It is indicative of the deep division between world view of extremists in the north and the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: Obi For President, Zulum For Vice President

The ugly news has not been carried by cable network stations. If it happened in Afghanistan or the Middle East, her death would be on the airwaves. Fortunately, and appropriately, the Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Muslims in the country, has spoken against the murder. But he should not stop there. We expect him to personally get involved and ensure that the killer is paraded before the press as a common criminal. Except he does this, we would see the condemnation as mere lip service. The irrepressible Father Matthew Kukah has also condemned the murder and called on the government to fish out the perpetrators for the right punishment, stating that ‘’the only obligation that is owed her immediate family, her fellow students and the school authorities is the assurance that those who are guilty of this inhuman act, no matter the provocation, are punished according to the laws of the land’. Writer Gimba Kakanda wrote on a Facebook post: ‘the barbarism that transpired in Sokoto today has no basis in Islam, and it indicts us all. This culture prevails because past self-appointed punishers of blasphemers got away with their crimes. Whether in Islamic jurisprudence or our secular law, there’s no place for jungle justice, no matter how any offended mob feels’.

But the misguided zealots don’t feel any remorse. Some posts which followed the gleeful announcement on social media are instructive. The killer whose photograph is prominently displayed on social media boasted: ‘I killed her. I burnt her. You can see the matchbox I used in setting her ablaze’. One Muhammed Mode Gagi wrote, just as Bilyaminu Ladan, Sirajo Isiya and Balkisu Umar Ibrahim that: ‘You have done well, may God increase the status of Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w). Sufiyenu Yabo then concluded it: ‘Praise be to God. May Allah reward you with paradise! Which God? My question is if the head of Muslims has called it murder, from which book did the young Muslim boys and girls learn that to inflict jungle justice on a woman who supposedly blasphemed is carrying out a divine injunction?

I must state from the outset that no one has the right to insult another religion, either directly or indirectly. Christianity and Islam are the two major religions in Nigeria. Adherents must know their boundaries. To insult Prophet Mohammed is unacceptable. But it is also unacceptable for an individual to take the life of another citizen in the name of religion. This is how religious wars start. Pause for a minute and imagine what it would be if Christians in Sokoto decide to take the life of a Muslim youth in vengeance. Or if in the Christian-dominated south a Christian family carries out a reprisal attack. An endless cycle will start, the end of which no one can predict. Therefore, the Sokoto State government must rise to the occasion and bring the culprit to book.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

There had been other killings in the name of religion in the past. In 1995, one Gideon Akaluka was decapacitated by Muslim fanatics for blasphemy. Nothing came of it in the form of punishment on her killers. In June 2016 Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme was brutally murdered by suspected Islamic extremists in Kofar Wambai market Kano state, over allegations that she blasphemed the name of the Holy Prophet. Except the government takes a decisive action against such criminals, more of such acts will occur in future.

The killing is most incendiary. It is provocative. It could trigger off sectarian war. As we know, religious wars are difficult to contain. The Christian Association of Nigeria should get actively involved to ensure that Deborah does not die in vain. Justice must be pursued to serve as a deterrent. The NBA and allied associations must rise to the occasion. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) has urged NBA-SPIDEL not to hold any conference in the state where a Nigerian citizen has ‘been brutally murdered and burnt to death…we should make a statement to the government by cancelling the conference and hold it in a neighbouring State in the North’.

What has given Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai an international stature? It is the attack on her person by religious extremists because of her stance on education. Deborah is our own Malala, and she should be accorded that status. Her death at the hands of ignorant and defiant zealots diminishes all of us. I expect the president, the state governor and high-ranking state officials from the North to condemn the killing and order the arrest of the killer. The college management should suspend the suspect pending full a investigation. There will be no love lost between the killer squad leader and other Christian members of the class and indeed all other Christian students in the college. Some acts, small as they are, help to define a nation. Except the government punishes the killer, the government would inadvertently be promoting the emerging narrative that there is no ‘One Nigeria!

POSTSCRIPT: After submitting the essay, further developments made me return to my submissions. The culprits were appropriately arrested, leading to mass protests. There have been riots in Sokoto, with houses and property belonging to non-Muslims being targeted. Alhaji Atiku has withdrawn his condemnation of the killing of Citizen Deborah. He has lost votes, thereby. The state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew. But soldiers ought to be drafted to quell the riots that have led to the destruction of lives and property. This is no way to grow a federal republic! Government must stand firm! Mr. President must condemn the arsonists.

Professor Eghagha writes from the Department of English, University of Lagos.

 

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Opinion

The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

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The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

By Leo Igwe

Humanists are outraged by the gruesome murder of a female college student in Sokoto in Northern Nigeria. Such a horrific act is a sordid reminder of the threat of Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Muslim students at Shehu Shagari College of Education accused a Hausa Christian, Deborah Yakubu, of blasphemy; they beat their colleague to death and burnt the corpse. Ms. Yakubu reportedly protested against posting religious messages on the student Whatsapp platform. Her protest angered some Muslim students who mobilized and subsequently killed her.

The brutal killing of Ms. Yakubu is not an isolated incident. Many Muslims and non-Muslims adjudged to have insulted Islam or its prophet have suffered a similar fate in the region. In 2007, some Muslim students in Gombe lynched their female Christian teacher for desecrating the Quran. There have been other violent attacks and murders of alleged blasphemers in Muslim-dominated areas in Kano, Niger, and other parts of Islamic Northern Nigeria. Persons accused of blasphemy have been sentenced to death by sharia courts in Kano. Others like Nigerian Humanist, Mubarak Bala, have been given long prison sentences. Muslim clerics and state officials have openly and publicly endorsed the execution of blasphemers.

Police Arrest Two Over Killing Of Female Student For Blasphemy

The late Deborah Yakubu

For instance, in 2015, Islamic theocrat, Bashir Ahmad tweeted this comment after a sharia court sentenced nine persons for blasphemy: “I cannot pretend or keep silent. I support the death penalty for blasphemy. That is my belief and I will never support #SaveKanoNine”. So it is patently untrue and misleading for anyone to say that the brutal murder of Ms. Yakubu and other blasphemy-related attacks, sanctions, and bloodletting in Northern Nigeria have nothing to do with religion. No, they do. As the case of this Christian woman has shown, these bloodletters are usually motivated by their religious belief in the prophet of Islam; Islamic teachings and orientations, and by their quest to placate Allah and inherit the paradise in the hereafter.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Two Over Killing Of Female Student For Blasphemy

So if Nigeria wants to end these horrific attacks and killings, it should take a critical look at how Islam is professed and practised in Northern Nigeria. Nigeria needs to determine if Islam is a religion or a death cult; if muslims operate within the law or above the law and if Islamic privilege is a state policy. Look, Islam has a history of violence and bloodletting that persists. The government must admit that jihadist Islam is entrenched and pervasive. Boko Haram militants are not only in the Sambisa forest. Islamic extremists exist and operate in several mosques, courts, police, and army stations. Boko Haram jihadists and their sympathizers are not a small minority as some people claim. They populate government houses, schools, colleges, and universities.

So it is high time Nigeria confronted this big elephant in the room, that is Islamic extremism. Muslim leaders should stop living in denial; they should stop pretending that jihadist Islam is not a huge problem. Muslim leaders should stop deceiving the world and saying that blasphemy killings and attacks have nothing to do with religion, in this case, Islam. No, these killings have everything to do with Islam as practised in Northern Nigeria. And the way Islam is preached and practised in Northern Nigeria must change. The government must address this toxic tendency and habit that makes muslims value their religious and prophetic icons more than human lives. Nigeria must tackle this savage and dreadful inclination of muslims to kill, attack or maim others at the slightest provocation. Nigerian authorities should monitor the activities of Muslim clerics because these religious actors use their preaching and Quranic indoctrination programmes to radicalize young Muslims and turn them into merchants of hate, violence, death, and destruction. The government should protect the rights of those who criticize the teachings and traditions of Islam and its prophet because it is through a critical examination of Islamic doctrines and practices that these extremist ideas and tendencies could be exposed and expunged.

READ ALSO: Female Student Burnt Alive Over Blasphemy

Nigeria should take measures to end impunity and ensure that those who indulge in blasphemy-related attacks or killings are brought to book. Those who carry out these barbaric acts should not go scot-free. They are murderers and criminals and should be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed to serve as a deterrent to others. Usually, when muslims attack or kill for blasphemy, no arrest is made, in cases where arrests are made, nobody is prosecuted; and in situations where some are charged to court, they are later acquitted. This culture of impunity must end if Nigeria must make progress in this 21st century. There should be serious consequences for blasphemy-related attacks. The Nigerian government should repeal blasphemy laws because as long as there are provisions that criminalize insults on religion, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression will not be guaranteed and these savage attacks in the name of Allah or Prophet Muhammad will continue.

 

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