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At last, civility is rising above religious bigotry

Education gives civilization and helps in the development of human minds and the capacity to tolerate others. I am impressed with Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state unscheduled visit to Shehu Sanda Kyarimi Primary School as early as 6.30 am.

According to the video narratives, the governor met Mrs Obiagelli Mazi, a teacher waiting for her students to come at 6.30 am. On enquiry, Governor Zulum discovered Obiagelli to have been teaching in the same primary school for 31years without any record of being promoted. Zulum gave Obiagelli N100,000 in appreciation of her dedication and ordered her condition of service to be reviewed. Obiagelli who is from Abia state but found her home in Jere local government of Borno state was promoted from a class teacher to an assistant headmistress within 24hours as a reward for her dedication amid insecurity. Her love is for her job is beyond survival, but a determination to be part of a community by giving herself to develop the young pupils.

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There is no way Nigeria will be battling with the records of the past killing of innocent Nigerians due to religious banditry and bigotry if leaders have made education that civilizes people their priorities. But we have placed ethnicity and religion ahead of civilization needed to make life better for Nigerians. While other countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil focused on education, industrialization and development post-independence, we concentrated on religion and ethnicity. No wonder we have the largest population of worshippers, yet with high poverty index. The result of our leaders’ focus and power wrestling is what we are earning with the Boko Haram, banditry and herdsmen killings across the country. I salute Governor Zulum and urge him to focus on educating his people and reward excellence. Afterall, Obiagelli origin or religion is not an issue for her service of 31years to be recognized in 24hours.

An event that showed a defeat of religious bigotry happened in Kano recently. In my article Kano versus Dubai-the difference, I wasn’t kind with the leaders who made my Kano the way it is and regularly travel to Dubai as their shopping and holiday haven. Dubai was once a desert, more deserted than Kano. The difference was a visionary leader who transformed the city to what it is today. It is not religion or ethnicity than transforms nations but the vision of the leaders and the people.

A young man named Isah Sulaimon met an American woman from California on Instagram a year ago. They started an online dating that culminated in the 46years old American woman, Janine Sanchez visit to Kano to ask for the hands of Isah in marriage despite the age difference. For Isah, a 23years old man who just finished his secondary school and lives in Panshekara, a suburb in Kano to have opened an Instagram account and found love is a sign of great civility in fear of Boko Haram. More indication of civility followed the visit of Janine when Isah parents did not object the request of the elderly mother of two to take their young boy away in marriage to California.

I was initially afraid of the unrest this could cause when the news broke out. If you think my fear is unfounded, you need to remember many Nigerians who had lost their lives in the numerous riots and killings linked to religious bigotry in the north of Nigeria since 1953. The memories of religious riots cannot be wiped out of the families of the victims of the Kafanchan and the Kano riots caused by the Mohammed Marwa (Maitatsine) and his Yan Tatsine followers. Those who lost their lives when the hell broke out following the German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke crusade still licks their wounds. Between 2000 and 2002, many innocent lives were lost when Sharia was introduced in Kaduna and during the Jos riots. We cannot forget the Miss World riot when Muslims Islamists murdered over 250 Nigerians across the north of Nigeria due to the article written by Isioma Daniel.

The list of the religious-related killings before Boko Haram in 2009 is endless and the victims aside being Christians and people of the other ethnic groups are Nigerians. We have used religion to kill ourselves. Thanks to our leaders who had focused on our difference and used the ignorance of the uneducated idle youth in the north to destroy and divide Nigerians.

Boko Haram has taken the lead since 2009 defiling the odds against the Nigeria state. The promise of the present administration to defeat the sect in weeks while campaigning for power is now a nightmare. The Boko Haram sect has turned our presidents since the days of Jonathan to people who issued condolence statements daily with empty promise to investigate and stop the killings of the poor and innocent Nigerians.

I first feared that the decision of Isah Sulaimon to make public his secret online dating by allowing Janine to visit Kano would lead to similar reactions because his action is Boko Haram. After all, Instagram and its usage by Isah is western education. But instead that witnessing riots in Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri and other towns against what would have termed a sin, the reverse was the case. No one sees the age difference between Janine and Isah as a problem. No religious group is demanding for the ban of the proposed marriage because Janine is a Christian and a mother of two children. Miyatti Allah has not issued a threat that no cow will be made available for Isah and Janine’s wedding ceremony. The Sharia police known as Hisbah was involved and no fatwa issued that the relationship is unholy. Isah’s rights to associate and be associated with was not questioned. The parents of the young Isah made a mild demand on their proposed wife and daughter in law. They wanted her to ensure Isah further his education in the United States and if possible, for her to convert to Islam.

I don’t care if you call the relationship a survival mechanism and see going to America to have subjugated our religious feelings. What I see is the heroism in the gut of Isah to embrace education beyond the walls of his school in Kano. In the middle of substantial threats against exposure to western culture, this young man has defied the odds to win an America lottery for himself through love. His motive notwithstanding, he has shown the true meaning of education. To be educated is to be able to get what you want in life legitimately without killing, maiming or violating the rights and lives of others. Isah will be going to America legally after his wedding because he’s not a religious bigot and uneducated citizen unlike most of the youths in his region.

Isha’s family and community will end up being the benefactors of the same religion many have been killed in the north for practising peacefully. It is the same America that has been condemned as infidels that will now be the home of Isah from Kano.

One takeaway from this event is the fact that our leaders and those who use their positions of influence to cause violence are not likely representing the interest of the people but that of their pockets. If someone has died for Sanni Abacha on the basis that he was a Muslim leader and head of state from the north, Abacha loots being recovered showed he was a leader for himself and his family.

It is time for our leaders to correct the failure of the past, especially in the north of Nigeria. It is time we stop producing large family we are not ready or cannot cater for except for the religious right for the breeding children through many wives. We should educate our children to see others as citizens, not as infidels because their faith is different. We should breed more Isahs who will be in schools and be educated beyond schools. To me, Isah Sulaimon’s gut and action is a score in favour of civilization and a defeat for religious bigotry created by the culture, and the craving for power by our leaders.

 

Babs Olugbemi

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