The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, is at once a man of peace and a national hero (for some of us, if not all). At the age of 100, he must have “seen it all”, in Ghana: the vicissitudes of Ghana's life-story, from colonialism, to empire-dom, to indirect rule, to independence, to republicanism, to one-party state, to military rule, to multiparty democracy, et cetera, et cetera…he is a perfect man of Allah.
Should we have decided to change faiths, one highest competitor would be Islam, not because of the permission to marry four women, nor because we love to eat emo-tuo and tuo-zaafi, but because Islam in Ghana can boast of a great icon in the person of the Chief Imam, Sharubutu. Some of us are ready to follow his footsteps. He had put his knowledge of Arabic grammar, Arabic literature, Arabic jurisprudence and Hadiths to good use, to enhance Ghana's development.
Islam, in Arabic, means submission or return to God, and for a month, Muslims in Ghana gave themselves up to fasting and prayer (a spiritual exercise) till Sunday, 23rd May. The following day, Monday, was declared a national holiday. It was a peaceful occasion – this time, no public revelry, no picnic, no beach-going, no horse-riding. The Chief Imam used the occasion to make a humble request: “This year is an election year, associated with so many challenges, including the COVID-19 crisis. As a faith community, committed to lasting peace and harmony. We are calling on all stakeholders, particularly the Electoral Commission, to ensure a violent-free, free, fair and transparent election.” These were the words spoken on the Chief Imam's behalf by Sheik Aremeyaw Shaibu at the GBC studios, which pleasantly hosted the President, Nana Akufo-Addo and the Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia.
The Electoral Commission has not had a straight path on the compilation of a new voters' register. While the NPP wants a new voters' register, the NDC insists that there is no need for a new one. In their latest demand, the NDC is seeking a “Declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 45 (a) of the 1992 Constitution 2nd Defendant (EC) has the constitutional power to do and can, compile a register of voters only once, and, thereafter, revise it periodically, as may be determined by law. Accordingly, 2nd Defendant can only revise the existing register of voters, and lacks the power to prepare a fresh register of voters, for the conduct of the December 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.” The NDC has provided an alternative which is pari passu (also falls in line with) the first. The writ was issued in the law offices of Ayine and Felli, 1st Close Lily Street, East Legon, Accra, and their lawyer is Godwin Kudzo Tamekloe. The NDC staged a walk-out at a meeting called by the EC in February, because the letter inviting them did not have an agenda. “…We can no longer be ambushed into meetings because it is an issue we raised even with the Committee of Eminent Persons, the Electoral Commission is engaged in a charade of consultations, they pretend to be consulting you when they are not…,” stated Asiedu Nketia.
In a muted response, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice-President, has stated that election 2020 will be won with records, not violence. He advises all Ghanaians to “…make sure that how we speak and what we say to the public bring about peace and understanding. We want a very free fair and violence-free election… we are very happy and we are willing to fight on the record of what we have achieved across the board…”
When Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, the British Indian novelist and essayist, wrote the “Satanic Verses” in 1988, it evoked a major controversy. There were several protests, and death threats were issued against him, including a “fatwa” by Ayatola Robollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran in February, 1989. A “fatwa” is a non-binding legal opinion on a point of “Islamic Law” (Sharia law) given by a qualified jurist (mufti) in response to a question posed by a private individual, judge or government. In the case of Salmon Rushdie, the Ayatollah's order included assassination. The British government offered him a 24-hour police protection.
The name Boko Haram evokes profound anxiety. Formed in the far northern part of Nigeria, where poverty is pervasive, it is opposed to the Westernization of the Nigerian society. To the adherents, it is an anathema to have a concentration of the country's wealth in the hands of a small political elite. “Boko” (Book) that is, western education, is “haram” (forbidden). To achieve their objectives, they have resorted to bombings, assassinations and kidnappings. The group's official name is “Jama'atu Ahilis Sunna Lidda'awati wal Jihad” (People committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad). Founded in 2002 in Maiduguri, it launched military operations in 2009, and abducted over 200 school girls. It draws its strength from the Kanuri ethnic group.
Lest anybody insinuates any religious stigmatization of intolerance among our Muslim brothers and sisters, let it be noted that all religions and religious sects have had their fair share of religious zealots and fanatics, one time or another. Religion evokes dogmas and dogmatic following. One can quickly remember The Crusades, the first of which was proclaimed by Pope Urban 11 (Odo of Chatillon) at the Council of Clermont in 1095 with the encouragement of support for Byzantine Emperor Alexios 1 against the Seljuk Turks9 Muslim), and also to reclaim the Holy Land. The war –cry was Deus vult (God wills it). Or the proclamation of political crusades by Pope Innocent in 1199 against Christian heretics. Or the various crusades proclaimed from the 14th century against the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which only ended in 1699 with the War of the Holy League. What about the belief that the religious wars were penitential exercises for the partakers
Until the “Good Friday Agreement” in 1998, and the “St. Andrews Agreement” in 2006, the Northern Ireland Conflict was an “irregular war” or “low level war” between Catholics and Protestants. Known as The Troubles (In Irish Na Triobloidi), it started in the late 20th century. 3600 people died in the conflict that had the trappings of a civil war-road blocks, sniper fire and bomb blasts. It was a centuries- old protest that culminated in the partition of Ireland in 1921 and got heightened by the involvement of the Irish Republican Army and its political wing, Sinn Fein, casting themselves as the most radical agitators of an aggrieved Roman Catholic Minority.
Will Allah or God be a Ghanaian for having spared us all these latent conflicts? We must do all we can to entrench these gains. Bravo to Peace Council. Goodwill to all lovers of peace. May Allah or God be praised.