This coming Monday (Jan. 17), Americans will observe a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most civic and honorable leaders in America's history.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, traveled to West Africa in March 1957 to attend Ghana's independence ceremony, with a focus on liberating the people from British colonial domination. A visit that inspired MLK to campaign more against the oppressive system in the US.
Today in Nigeria, as we have not seen before in naked terms, society is at its boiling point of entrenched fear, persecution, repression, oppression, bigotry, and severe rights violations.
I believe MLK Day is an excellent opportunity for President Muhammadu Buhari, who is a faithful Muslim, to reflect upon Islam's support for fair play, equality, and justice.
Here is a notable statement with which President Buhari began his presidency on May 29, 2015: "I Belong To Everybody And I Belong To Nobody."
As one with an interest in religious psychology, I once observed in the Quran, in one of its chapters, saying, "O mankind, we have created you... into nations and tribes that you may come to know one another [and not deny one another]." (49:13).
Indeed, the Almighty says that mankind is not only destined to exist as diverse peoples, but that we, as humans, should welcome this and keenly try to understand people who are different from ourselves. This message of diversity within Islam bears a remarkable resemblance to the themes of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
In many ways, MLK reminds us that if we truly want harmony in our time, we must act with justice. We must value impartiality and fairness. We must take up the rights of others with the same passion and determination that we pursue our own rights. We should widen our horizons and look at what is right for the world rather than just for us. These are the elements of justice in our times.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stated, "All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal. An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab.
The Holy Qur'an also stated, "And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors" (30:23).
In the Christian tradition, we are reminded of the following: "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors" (James 2:9).
King once said, "A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few."
Buhari is certainly not the first Nigerian leader to show inclinations towards entrenched partiality, systemic tribalism, and cyclical nepotism, but by all accounts, Buhari has turned the psychology of equality and opportunity upside down, and he is doing this publicly, boldly, and brazenly.
It is apparent that in the past, southern presidents and heads of state have engaged in nepotistic and tribalistic appointments. To an extent, I agree that the North has been somewhat neglected, resulting in the north’s economic and intellectual backwardness, and Buhari could be right in trying to make up for lost time, but he is overdoing it.
Buhari's apparent embrace of tribalism, ethnocentrism, localism, nepotism, narrow-mindedness, favoritism, religious bigotry, and anti-intellectualism is causing self-sabotage, and everyone is paying the price in the form of increasing helplessness, uprisings, unrests, violence, and insecurity.
These fatalistic thought patterns are, in fact, causing national security concerns, as those who feel victimized, and paranoid make life more difficult for his regime.
What Buhari needs to realize is that reactive or non-reactive violence is not always about the use of guns, knives, or bombs.
Coretta Scott King, wife of MLK, once said, "I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical needs is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. " So, I will say this to Buhari: today’s forms of tribalism, ethnocentrism, nepotism, narrow-mindedness, favoritism, and religious bigotry are different forms of violence, and these elements combine to make Nigeria insecure and almost unmanageable.
As such, we see thuggishness and violence towards others. Buhari's apparent spirit of domination and extraordinary power now encourages some of his ethnic and religious people to feel somehow exempt from mainstream norms of behavior.
Buhari’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, once said in 2019, for reasons best known to him, that Buhari's appointments of Fulani/Hausa Muslim allies and indigenes, especially into top positions, were to reward them for their huge contribution to the president’s victory in 2015; in other words, the appointments are not essentially based on merit. As Buhari has said, "I Appointed Those I Could Trust." Now even liberal northern Muslims are asking Buhari to embrace fairness wholeheartedly.
International, national, and local reports show that Buhari has deeply baked in tribalism, religionism, and regionalism into key sensitive institutions and strategic ministries. They are too many to count, but I will mention a few like the police, prisons and corrections, immigration, national security, civil defense, communications, accounting, information, customs, aviation, intelligence, judiciary, fire service, national park service, and national youth service corps. Buhari, in his own way, has assigned non-national security and academic-like positions to non-Muslim northerners, such as in education, auditing, health, and labor.
I smiled when Buhari recently said we need prayers in addition to guns to reduce the raging national security complications, but what he is not understanding are the infuriating psychological thorns like feelings of geographic rejection, emotions of regional marginalization, pains of ethnic fragility, and markers of leadership imbalance. These irritants culminate into emotional weapons and defensive pains, and certainly, they are not helpful ways to increase national devotedness and public faith.
In Buhari’s reign, ethnic, tribal, and religious lines of hierarchy have undercut highly revered values like equality and justice, and that is not how to push for national security and unity.
We know Buhari takes joy in sending good wishes to people and nations in celebratory moods. Well, in his message of good wishes to Americans, as they celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, he should understand more about the celebration.
Buhari needs to know that this unique American celebration is mixed with joy and sorrow, as it is a continuance of the struggle for justice, equality, and equity. I hope Buhari is shaken up by these thoughts and practices regarding fair play. I hope all these lessons make him more of a bridge-builder.
With only 17 months until he leaves office, I hope he begins to treat others, particularly easterners, with kindness and fairness. Long live President Buhari. Continue to rest in peace and power. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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. A Virtual behavioral Leadership Professor at the ISCOM University, Republic of Benin. Founder of the Proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien Open University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, Openness. Author of over forty 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.
Prof Oshodi wrote in via [email protected]