The Outbreak Of Yamoussoukro Syndrome In Kano


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The Outbreak Of Yamoussoukro Syndrome In Kano




Jaafar Jaafar 




July 11, 2006



 “Here in Nigeria,” Niyi Osundare wrote in one of his incisive essays in the 80s, “Yamoussoukro syndrome has been with us since the white elephant era of the oil boom.” Osundare was referring to the ‘criminal profligacy’ of African leaders in the name of religion. He was more specific on what he termed as ‘gigantic piece of insanity’ (Our Lord of Peace Basilica) built by late President Felix Houphoet-Boigny of Cote d’ Ivoire in Yamoussoukro, the president’s village, in the 80s. This 42-storey Basilica of Yamoussoukro had lavishly ornamented giant columns, tonnes of expensive Italian marbles, huge stained glass windows, dazzling lamps, you name it. It was even said that the Pope asked him to dwarf his own so as to be shorter than the Vatican original. While Houphoet-Boigny was piously embezzling over 165 million Pounds on the building of a ‘gargantuan shrine to the Catholic faith,’ a large number of the country’s population were starving; infant mortality rate was one the highest in the world; considerable number of people had no good supply of water, electricity, healthcare and education. In the same vein, a cumbersome foreign debt hanged on their neck.


Not being against the practices of my religion, but I ought to admit that (given the fact that my religion abhors profligacy) Yamoussoukro syndrome resurfaces in our political landscape when democracy and the attendant jumbo grants gave birth to our modern day “Shariah,” which is symmetrically opposed to what Qur’an and sunnah say but congruent with ’criminal profligacy’ of public funds in the name of God. I’m not referring to dual cost of running the government, to wit, Shariah and Constitutional. What I mean here is, constitutionally, we have Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. While on the other hand, we have Hisbah, Shura and Zakkat commission, etc. as part of Shariah. I’m indeed referring to the unnecessary expenditures and misappropriation of public funds in the name of Islam. No one, if they solemnly meant their words, and if they did not use Islam as a tool to deceive the masses or use religion to cover their incompetence and tell lies, would raise an eyebrow over the issue. Dear reader, is real Shariah in operation in Kano or Zamfara? No. But why do we still have to spend millions for dual running of governments? What good has Yarima’s, Saminu Turaki’s or Shekarau’s Shariah done to Islam that was not in place before their debut?


Our expectations were, as the true definition of Shariah says, to have a fair, just and judicious government and more egalitarian social order. We expected Shariah leaders to, like Umar bn Katab (RTA), live humbly, be close to us, be puritans, and be above board. But much to our downright disappointment, we find them totally opposed to these – their faith is always put to test. We find them arrogant, corrupt and bad leaders who live in fortified castles surrounded with guards in the midst of breathtaking abundance but denying us what they egoistically crave for themselves.


Believe it or not, this Shariah of today is however a stratagem for winning election. They are loquacious enough in grandstanding, telling lies but so taciturn and mealy-mouthed enough to tell us the gospel truth about Shariah. All the mosques they build, all the religious billboards they decorated the street with, all the religious largesse and embezzlement, all the “Shariah” bodies they created; are purely campaign machineries to secure poor man’s vote. What moral right, given that it isn’t for God but for vote, they had to justify such criminal profligacy in the name of God?


Aside wasteful nature of running the affairs their governments, there is their total contempt to Islamic principles and constitution. Once their failures are exposed, they seek refuge under Shariah. Or when we, within the purview of Islamic law, pick holes in their attitudes, they seek refuge under constitution. The case of Saminu Turaki in upper Shariah court in 2004 was good example.


What may have nudged me to write this piece is not unconnected with the enthronement of this rather strange syndrome above other needs of a common man. Just recently, our politicians completed their three years in office. Some governors had many projects like vast roads, healthcare facilities, schools, rural electrification and other social welfare programmes to showcase, but for the poor people of Kano, the story is different! The governor of Kano only beats his chest for what he termed as “full implementation of Shariah.” And his so called “human development project.” I have, as good Muslim, tritely said that I am not opposed to the real Shariah that even true Christians do not oppose. Yet I am opposed to what is going on in Kano today – profligacy and misappropriation of public funds in the name of Shariah. I do not understand the logic of spending hundreds of millions to sponsor politicians to Mecca while a considerable number of the population die of hunger, malaria, cholera, etc. I can not also understand the importance of erecting expensive billboards and myriad sign posts while a large number of people live in abject penury. Islam does not preach this.


I’m told that the billboards are plagiarised from Saudi Arabia which, unlike Kano, a federating unit and a suckling baby, is a sovereign country with abundant oil wealth. This is a country that also bid farewell to poverty. For the 25 million Saudis healthcare (including all the expensive surgeries that, in this clime, poor man counts his days because he can’t afford) is free – copy it! Education is also free at all levels – copy it! My dear state can not copy their modern and well-equipped hospitals but can wilfully copy ostentation to steal the limelight and show gullible subjects that they love God while inwardly, its VOTE they love!


Obviously Kano State never had a dearth of mosques but insufficiency of job, food, water, healthcare, etc. What is the logic of embezzling millions to mount fine sign posts (even though it praises Allah; its mankind and jinn Allah creates to worship Him not sign post!) our indisposed roads while potholes play devil with the hapless motorists? This act smacks of misplacement of priority. Why wouldn’t you repair the roads before you start the decoration? It is not the wordings on the billboard will give us vigour to worship but sufficient food. Even before the said “Shariah leaders” came, we have Islam firmly in place; also many mosques and Islamic schools built by individuals.


We also go to Mecca occasionally when Allah beckons us not when a politician wants to gratify his prodigal ego! They chanted God all the time, but they can not commit part of their salaries (or security vote) to decorate the town or sponsor hajj, yet embezzle the funds meant our upkeep! You should note that the pittance common man earns is largely spent on food not ostentation – guinea-brocade only comes to poor man’s mind when his stomach is replete with food. Islam is simple. Just as Adamu Adamu wrote recently: “…relieving person from distress is better than a thousand years of worship” And Adamu is dead right! Prophet Muhammad (SAW) enjoins the believers to pray only when they are satiated for them to have good attention on their prayers. Embezzling millions of public funds to sponsor party loyalists to pilgrimage, in my humble opinion, is tantamount to littering their way with petrodollar to Mecca (remember Musa Mensa, the emperor of Mali, who littered the gold of his empire to Mecca?).


There are monuments like IT project, Tinapa, independent power plant, modern state university, etc., good leaders leave for posterity to benefit, but not tricycles or sign posts that could wear out in no time. Let me repeat it again, I am not against morality or religious practices but opposed to our leaders’ criminal profligacy in the guise of Shariah. Please do something meaningful to usher a new dawn.



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