Deborah’s fate: Delineating the facts

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
~ Pascal Blaise.

Nigeria has become a theatre of possibilities, an enigma to every known convention in human civilization. The happenstance that punctuate her history is as awkward as it is scandalous to sane minds. The differentiation between north and south in Nigeria is not just geographical, it is anthropological too. The character traits and behavioural patterns of the two sharply contrast each other.

The horrific event last week, of the gruesome murder of an innocent student, Miss Deborah Samuel at the Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto, for an alleged by bare-faced arsonists, masquerading as Islamic extremists, adds to heinous crimes that had strewn the north’s historical landscape.

However, just before we fall into fallacy of generalisation, let us not forget that there are illustrious Muslims and Islamic clerics in the north who are exemplary. The kindness of Northern Fulani Muslim, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who saved lives of hundreds of Christians on June 23, 2018. during crisis in Plateau has kept receiving awards across the length and breadth of the country.

It is disheartening that the action of few delinquents are obscuring the magnanimity of noble majority.

For the record, there are dense population of native faithful Muslims in the south. But something like this never happened. Elaborate religious crisis hardly erupts in the country’s southern hemisphere. As recently as February this year, there were heightened threats of violence as a result of clash of interest about school dress codes between Muslim and Christian students in one Baptist Secondary school in Kwara state. Though, geopolitically, Kwara belongs to north central, it is nonetheless an extension of Yoruba province by culture and socialisation. The accustomed civility and modesty that guide religious piety in the south prevailed, and quailed the situation.

Seemingly, people of the south are in unanimous agreement with their compatriot, Dike Chukwumerije, that “no culture is older than being human.”

Within this Easter, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, of Sterling bank, Abubakar Suleiman, committed blasphemy against Christianity, by the provocative and demeaning Easter greeting/advertisement, in which the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death was compared to the rise of Agege bread. Following widespread backlash, the bank had withdrawn the message and apologised to the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, through a letter dated April 20, 2022. And in return, CAN unreservedly forgave him. There was no crisis, no violence of any sort.

Keepers of our national history can attest that irrationality of some religious adherents up north astounds the mind. The evil of fundamentalism had eaten deep into them. It can be argued that imposition of sharia law in some states in the north provided the enabling environment for, and explains the impunity that accompanied the barbaric murder of Deborah.

But that is still as weak a justifying argument as those who use the low literary level in the north to justify religious extremism. Many analysts have struggled to blame the former for the later. We should not forget that Deborah was killed by undergraduates in an elite school environment. A criminal is one, irrespective of his/her educational qualification.

Another fact that must be delineated in the whole quagmire is the rebuttal of those who are inadvertently exonerating government’s failure to exert full weight of our laws against the perpetrators, by hiding under the rhetoric of religion.

Like Fr. Oluoma wrote: “I am not here to take sides with some who are emotionally and psychologically tipsy with sensational religious inuendoes and claims. Let’s be clear on this heinous crime that took place in Sokoto state, it is not a religious problem. No one should even attempt to cheapen it with stupid religious colouration. It’s purely a legal and governance issue.”

If the Nigerian state cannot prosecute day light murderers in whatever guise, then it cannot make a claim to legitimacy. Only a failed state will not arrest and prosecute such audacious murderers and their enablers.

We must direct our anger at the government and hold it responsible for justice. Making this a religious issue is tantamount to absolving government from its responsibility.

Nigeria is a secular state, we are not governed by religious laws, this is where we should focus. If government cannot come down hard on people who kill and maim others, then we don’t have a country. This should bother us more than giving artificial colouration to a dastardly act.

For Reno Omokri “Though, Deborah’s murder is condemnable, we should not get carried away… Let us blame the perpetrators, not Muslims and Northerners. There are good and bad people in every religion and region. Face the bad people, not their religion or region!”

Even the controversial Sheikh Gumi was generous with the truth this time. He roundly condemned the arsonists, and preached that “Prophet Mohammed was abused in his days, but he never punished anyone for it.”

More so, Justice I. T. Mahmud, formerly of the Supreme Court, affirmed while adjudicating a similar case in 1999 that, “Islamic religion is not a primitive religion that allows its adherents to take the law into their own hands and to commit jungle justice. Instead, there is a judicial system in Islam which hears and determines cases including the trial of criminal offences and anybody accused of committing an offence against the religion or against a fellow Muslim brother should be taken to the court (either a Sharia or a secular/common law court) for adjudication. It is only when a person is convicted and sentenced by a court of law that he will be liable to a punishment which will be carried out by an appropriate authority (i.e. the prison)”

Whether Deborah’s killers and their enablers adorn their dastardly action with a religious garb or not, their crime is a judicial matter, and should be treated as such.

This discourse will berth with a message to south easterners. As we have already seen, the ugly fate of Miss Deborah implicated the hypocrisy of some Igbo who okayed the sporadic social perversion and extrajudicial killings in the southeast in the name of Biafra agitation by IPOB militants, but are now the loudest vocal opposition against the atrocious act of Deborah’s murder in faraway Sokoto.

Let us listen to Mr. Pascal C. Eze, “we should learn that extremism can be political or religious. Political extremism which is reigning in south east can even be more destructive than religious one.”

Over the past one year, some traditional rulers who were opposed to certain secessionist ideology in the zone have been killed, and their houses burnt. Recently, a lot of Igbo businessmen and renowned intellectuals like the husband of former NAFDAC DG, and Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, were murdered in cold blood.

About three weeks back, an Igbo female solider and her husband were horrendously beheaded. How do we cry about dirts in our neighbour’s compound, and turn a blind eye to the decaying dustbin that our house is becoming. We need to condemn the obnoxious attacks and extremism in our land with the same energy we condemn the killing and attacks in Sokoto. We must learn to condemn evil, wherever, whenever, and however it happened.

May daylight spare us!

Ogechukwu writes from Abuja via
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