Humanity has left us and we are now a bunch of monsters living as humans. We now take lives as though those lives belong to chickens. We slaughter with pride and no mercy. As sacred as life is and should be, that of Deborah Samuel was dastardly taken away from her by hooligans.
Freedom of speech and expression is enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria but that freedom is far from the realities of Nigerians. People are maimed at will and no one is held responsible. Sam Nwaoko of the Nigerian Tribune Newspaper in his column of May 14, 2022 titled “Murdered Deborah and the miseducation of Northern Muslims” blamed some of these atrocities to the lack of education in the North. I took the pleasure of sharing with you, have a good read below.
Murdered Deborah and the miseducation of Northern Muslims
MANY Nigerians would be learning about the existence of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, for the first time. It wouldn’t be a good first impression for this 52-year-old institution of higher learning. When this college opened its doors in 1970 as Advanced Teachers College, many who are parents today – and many of the people all over who would be smearing the institution with all kinds of foulness – were not even born. There must have been so many other things about the college over the decades. Its alumni would look back with varied feelings. They might recall the time students’ unionism had thrived there. The Kegites Club might have held gyrations there; it might even have had an Ilya as part of the vibrant Northern Hemisphere of the socio-cultural club. There would be nostalgic remembrances of feats by the college and its past, but the presence of the college has been enmeshed in an ugly row of religious intolerance. The college has become super prominent because of the gruesome murder of Deborah Yakubu.
Deborah was, until Thursday, 12 May 2022, a student of the college. She was stoned to death allegedly by a mob of her fellow students for alleged blasphemy against the Holy Prophet of Allah. Deborah had reportedly vehemently kicked against the posting of religious materials by other students to a WhatsApp group to which she belonged, believed to be that of students of her class. Going by a voice note said to be hers, she had reacted in annoyance to the posts and said things that her accusers considered blasphemous against Prophet Muhammad.
Another report claimed that she was killed by a mob in the college for daring to contend, in an online argument, that she managed to pass her examinations, which she was said to be writing at the time of the incident, with the help of Jesus. “She (Deborah) was having an argument with some of her schoolmates over their ongoing examinations and when she was asked how she managed to pass her exams, she said it was Jesus. She was asked to withdraw the statement and apologize, which she refused to do. The school security officers intervened, and took her to their post, but they were overpowered by the protesting students who brought her out and killed her. After killing her, her body was burnt on the school premises.”
Yet another report of the circumstances that led to the stoning to death of Deborah held that the events that culminated in her death had been brewing since the month of Ramadan when the college was on break. It had smoldered through the period but did not die. There was an online altercation in their WhatsApp group, the third report said, during which she allegedly blasphemed Prophet Muhammad. “When they sighted her at school today (Thursday 12th May 2022), all available Muslim male students surrounded her and started stoning her. They continued until she fell. They made sure she died and subsequently set her body ablaze.”
Barring the gaps in the reports, one outstanding thing lacking in the accounts is not about how Deborah was killed, that is an established pattern. It is also not about how others who had gone the same way as Deborah in our religiously volatile North met their end. The reports highlight, in vivid reality, the obvious miseducation of the ever-ready stoning mob found in northern Nigeria. Their religious education, in no small way, shows a lack of humanity and that is one area in which we would need the Ulama to step in and help the country. There is no contending the entrenched position that Islam means peace, but there are acts by some adherents of the religion which bring this assertion to disrepute. From a distance, and going by Islam as seen practiced in the Southern parts of Nigeria, the intent of any teacher of the faith that could pass for a member of the Ulama, is not to teach his pupils to kill at will. A body of Muslim scholars recognized as having knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology would know that Islam recognises civil authorities and would encourage Muslims to be law-abiding. Islam teaches the sanctity of human life. So, where does the teaching that we should descend into blinding violence and kill for the sake of Almighty Allah and his holy Prophet come from? Who is fuelling this miseducation and for what purpose?
Of course, we would be foolish and insensitive not to recognise our religious differences and defer to them as often as we should. It is sure naivety for you to toy with the sensitivity of people of the same faith or who do not share the same faith with you. The same goes for cultural and other differences. However, because of the kind of education given to millions in the North over the years, Nigerians have been made to perpetually walk on eggshells when the issue is religion. A common example is the air of tetchy volatility of religious matters that makes all who visit the North to be wary of the grounds they step on. There is a thin line between what could kill you and otherwise – the case of a child walking with death without realising it.
At Easter, Sterling Bank did what many people considered despicable. Easter is the height of Christian celebration; Easter, the resurrection of Christ, is the hub of the Christian religion. Sterling Bank Plc saw the need to greet Christians at Easter, and the bank also felt that the best way to celebrate with Christians was to compare the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to the yeast-induced rising of ‘Agege bread’. The bank published that insensitive message on Twitter but took it down soon after it saw the angry reaction of Nigerians. People showed how much they abhorred the message but, not by rioting or killing anyone, or burning of property. The bank did not have any of its branches across the country under any threat. Yet there were protests and reactions, so much that the Advertisers Practitioners of Nigeria (APCON) announced that it would sanction the bank. That type of protest and reaction cannot resonate with the kind of education some Islamic clerics give their followers. Education makes a lot of difference. But what type of education?
For the sake of ‘Whataboutism’, arguments have risen to the hilt in many quarters, and comparisons cited of the dastardly reign of terror unleashed on the South East region by the destructive and condemnable activities of IPOB. There is no mincing word that each (tribe, religion, geo-political zone) has its own shortcomings, but the degree matters a lot to the cohesiveness, growth, and development of the country. Violence is condemnable everywhere and every time.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar III, has condemned the killing of Deborah. Muslim media practitioners have condemned the killing and described it as ‘not Islamic’. The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has also condemned the killing. Both religious leaders have charged the state government and the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators. They are criminals who have stepped out of the bounds of Islam to give the beautiful religion a bad image.
Most out-of-school children in Nigeria are in the North. There appears a deliberate design to keep children out of school so as to perpetually use them for political purposes. The statistics are frightening and there doesn’t seem to be any conscious effort to change the status quo. (Tribuneonline)
What better excuse could one give for that act of barbarism? However, unknown to them, Deborah’s demised turned out as a turning point for the family as popular Port Harcourt-based cleric and Founder of Omega Power Ministries (OPM), Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere gave the parents of Deborah Samuel, a mini estate of 14 flats and a car.
The pastor, Apostle Chinyere redeemed his promise on the arrival of Deborah’s family to the state after they honored his invitation. He took the visibly emotional family to the mini-estate and handed the keys to the flats, assuring them of lifetime ownership. According to Chinyere, the gesture was to alleviate the effect of the loss of their daughter. We pray this goes a long way in helping them recover.
Author: Kangmwa Gofwen
Lagos Bureau Chief, Nigeria