Psychologically, the place called Nigeria cannot continue pretending to be something it is not: Unity.
Persistently, Nigeria is divided along the lines of ethnic and religious tensions that from time to time boil over into grand ridiculousness.
If Nigeria was truly a secular society the violations of the basic rights of the newly crowned 44th Miss Nigeria, Shatu Garko, would not occur. Irrespective of her faith, for whatever reasons her freedom of assembly which implies freedom of association, and freedom of expression and movement should not be violated. Not in this day and age.
Nigeria's 1999 so called constitution luckily contains a 'no state religion' clause but the North for the most part, said no, we will mix religion and government. And it Did.
Which is a boost for the likes of Sheik Harun Ibn Sina the Commander General (CG) of the religious Police force, Hisbah, an Islamic organization, funded by the Government of Kano State.
CG Harun Ibn Sina in an interview with BBC Hausa expressed selective discrimination and prejudice towards the new Miss Nigeria when he singled out the beauty queen over the way she dressed for a special occasion.
The CG’s approach to her was a form of discriminatory harassment at least in the eyes of the Constitution. Ms. Garko made history as— the first hijab adorning Muslims to win the national beauty pageant, an annual celebration which started in 1957 showcasing positive attributes of Nigerian women.
But in the eyes of historic muslim northern Nigeria, especially the Hisbah board of religious police, social educational celebrations like the beauty pageant, is part of Western education, and “Western education is a sin.”
Could it be that psychologically, the Hisbah police chief has become more emboldened by many past and current influences. President Muhammadu Buhari in 2001 once asserted that “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria… God willing we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of Sharia in the country.” Buhari noted that the spread of Sharia is “a legal responsibility which God has given us, within the context of one Nigeria to continue to uphold the practice of Sharia wholeheartedly...” CG Harun Ibn Sina takes this very seriously.
The likes of this Islamic police chief are further emboldened by a society where strategic national leadership positions are in the hands of powerful Muslims like Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Yusuf Bichi; the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, NSCDC commandant-general Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Abubakar Audi, Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd), National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) and Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. In the mind of the Kano Sharia Police chief, Harun Ibn Sina.
According to the Muslim North, there is no separation of religion from civic affairs and the state, as such participation in a national show like the Miss Nigeria beauty pageant is deemed illegal. Because religion says so.
In other words, it is the secular part of Nigeria that does that despite the national pride that the beauty pageant draws to Nigeria.
Whether the Islamic police, invited the parents of newly crowned Miss Nigeria or not for questioning, is not the issue but what it represents. Among which are the on-going inherent contradictions that exist between the Islamic and secular approach to nationhood. A nation with no common reference point in an atmosphere of pluralism only leads to a faulty unity and pretentious democracy.
Matters like the one of Garko, has again normalized divisiveness in Nigeria. Because of religion, she is being seen as a non-decent Muslim lady, which could be dangerous for her safety. The fact that she was present at the beauty pageant makes her a sinner. Incredible.
The economic benefit of her winnings is supposed to be a plus for the economically strangled North but that does not matter because of religion. Garko, who even wore a hijab during the pageant, won the beauty pageant and took home the prize of N10m, one-year residency in a luxury apartment, brand new car, and many brand ambassadorship opportunities. Yet, all this means nothing to Northern muslim Nigeria because she is acting from the other wing of the society, the secular Nigeria.
From the look of things, it appears that we have already built a psychological wall between the Islamic Northern Nigeria and the secular environs of Nigeria. Just waiting for a real wall.
So why using strategic placed appointments to stop the wall from being built? To ensure that fairness prevails in human life, as Islam recognizes through the concept of al-'adl (justice) and al-ihsan (benevolence) why the resistance? Is it because concentrated power is sweet?
I ask again, how does female discrimination on religious grounds enhance democracy?
How does the existence of a secular institution like the Nigeria Police, functioning under the 1999 Constitution, collaborate healthily with the Hisbah police with very strict Islamic values?
How does a wing of the country, Islamic North, that strongly oppose amending the constitution to facilitate State policing allow the practice of a religious state police like Hisbah? Even regional security outfit in the west, Amotekun was opposed by Northern Nigeria. What is the ulterior motive behind such reasoning?
Currently, how does theocratic ideology, Islamism especially, that is directly targeting liberal democracy and its values as seen in the case of Miss Nigeria, expand democratic state?
The Nigeria religious police, Hisbah approaches to national matters in economics, law enforcement, commerce, dressing, hair style, and association remain persistent, so why not just physically demarcate the Nigeria space?
If Northern Muslims for the most part say secular democracy is purely a Western concept imposed on Muslim spaces, to avoid the continued crisis of religious politic why not physically demarcate the Nigeria now?
As part of the divide, the Hisbah police as an agency established to enforce Sharia law in Nigeria’s northern states, fits well into Sharia’s based court system and customary courts of appeals at the State and federal levels.
As a matter of fact, Miss Nigeria is lucky that she was not presented before a Sharia court for civil misconduct.
The Sharia court system across at least 12 States, exist as part of rivalry with secular legal systems in secular Nigeria.
The impact of colonialism on the divide of Nigeria has left Nigerians to struggle unsuccessfully to clearly convey the relationship between religion and the state. The British colonialists in a psychological way bequeathed to the brand-new nation a secular regime at independence, and equally allowed Muslim North, to institute sharia legal order, a paradox that has left Democracy building an uphill battle. Nigeria seems to be retarding backwards awkwardly.
Nigeria, whether it is known or not, is in a state of silent psychological distress between the secular Nigeria, and Islamic Northern Nigeria, and as usual Nigeria’s identity crisis is again rearing its ugly head across the society.
It is time all of us to be less stupid about religion and region.
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, like him or not once summed up Nigeria’s reality in this way; “One of the challenges facing Nigerians is that we are so good at pretending. We bury our heads in the sand and just pretend that nothing is happening. But something is happening.”
We cannot continue to remain as a nation of pretext. A place that is always declaring public holidays through the lens of religion as if Nigeria is at unity and Nigerians are at peace.
John Egbeazien Oshodi who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government Consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional and Career Development. A former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at the Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African settings. In 2011, he introduced the State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and the Nasarawa State University where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. The Development Professor and International Liaison Consultant at the African University of Benin, and a Virtual Faculty at the ISCOM University, Benin of Republic. Founder of the Proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, Openness. Author of over 40 academic publications/creations, at least 200 public opinion writeups on African issues, and various books. He specializes in psycho-prescriptive writings regarding African institutional and governance issues.
John Egbeazien Oshodi wrote in via [email protected]