Identity, Values and Muslim Marginalisation-1


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Identity, Values and The Thesis Of Muslim Marginalisation In Nigeria:

Engagement With Sanusi Lamido

-Part 1-




Ibraheem A. Waziri

ABU, Zaria



May 26, 2005




For almost three months now what occupied the mind of some of Nigeria’s best brains, especially from Northern part of the country, at home and abroad, speaking in remarkable French, English, Greek and Arabic, is the issue of Muslim marginalisation in the present political arrangement. When under normal circumstances ours should have been discourses on how to achieve further environmental sanitation in terms of social security; on how to map a cogent front in international diplomacy; on industrialisation; on ways forward in information and communications technology, to make the art of living here and hereafter most rewarding.


Sickening as this may appear, yet, in it is the true replica of the paradox inherent in the composition of the Nigerian Nation state. The famous Nigerian question is still that of how to become, not, how to continue to be. When on one hand its current president is seen in broad daylight handpicking those to work with, on the basis of their religious affiliation, on the other hand, opinion leaders, mindless of their utterances, are calling for a holy war, thereby heating the polity further. While Mallam Sanusi, the arrow head of the so-called “liberals” may think the present imbroglio ends with his triumph as he postulates in his Identity, Political Ethics and Parochialism: Engagement With Ja’afar Adam (1): “ If this is any comfort, it shows at least that for now, the northern political agenda is being set by the governors and politicians, not by fanatics and ethnic bigots.” The truth of the matter is it will not be long before something happen again or we have a Muslim president in the country and another fresh cry of regional, religious or ethnic marginalisation will spring up taking out of our time another three or more precious months. This is evident of Nigeria’s history. One does not need to read the historical journalist, Mohammed Haruna on The Politics Of Marginalisation, to know this, and only to God almighty we pray that we may be able to live through the confusion someday and create a nation with sound underlying unity base and philosophical attribution enough to give us focus to addressing important development issues like any other developed country of the world is doing.


I find reason to contribute to this discourse for two things. One, as I noted earlier, Nigeria is in its formative state of constructing a cogent national paradigm and it is essential that my constituency, which is essentially Muslim first, before any other thing, be adequately represented in the understanding of what should constitute the identity and values of New Nigeria. Two, to re-arrange the evocative symbols and make it appear crystal clear for Mallam to see why the northern religio-cultural establishment finds his opinions abhorrent and unrepresentative of its understanding of citizenship in plural societies. I will also try to go beyond and caution him  - at the risk of incurring his wrath again - on his methodology of pursuing discourses under wrong, – given the circumstances - antiquated diagnostic paradigm called deconstructionism. This is of course the main reason why I gave the article the subtitle: Engagement with Sanusi Lamido. Because Mallam always thinks disagreeing with him or an attempt to correct him, especially when done with enough art and substance, is equivalent to drawing a battle line with him and therefore calls for a wrathful attack. Victims of this angry attack in the recent past were among others, Danladi Mohammed for his criticism of Mallam’s thought on Muslim laws and its epistemology, he was pegged, The Intellectually challenged. Mohammed Haruna for disagreeing with him on the General Buhari campaign in the 2003 elections, he was dismissed as ignorant of the dynamics in modern economics (as if the language of economics is not English and the it was not for humans but Jinni). Myself, when I faulted his onslaught of the Sunni (The majority of the people of Northern Nigeria) convention of evolving Muslim laws in our debate on Apostasy, I was pegged a Pseudo Intellectual who committed a “blue murder” for a factual error of attributing the writings of Ali Shariati to Ayatollahi Mutahhari. Even though he could not provide reasonable explanation when I reduced him to the same level of Pseudo Intellectual by referring him to a similar factual error he once committed in attributing the writings of AlQadi Iyadh to Khalil, in an article he published in WeeklyTrust Newspaper years back under the title, Shari’a and Women Question. I had to let Mallam be for the respect, love and admiration I have for him as my elder in all respects, finding consolation in the good command of my conscience. One other victim most recently is Sheik Ja’afar Adam. On him the full-blown tool of deconstructionism was deployed, which made it easy for Mallam to totally disparage. This kind of approach, needless to say that it is area of application is limited to only writers and ideologues, is not helpful or in any case productive. It is antiquated and out of fashion among real scholars.


One of the leading advocates of the school of thought that believed in deconstructioninsm was the 19th century French critic, Saint Beuve who believed, that to understand a writer  - and by extension any ideologue - it was necessary to know as much as possible about the exterior man, the details of his life. But Mercel Proust, another French writer/philosopher in the first half of the 20th century was able to convincingly argue, in his excellent essay, Against Saint Beauv, that this method  “ignores what a very slight degree of self-acquaintance teaches us: that a book is the product of a different self from the self we manifest in our habits, in our social life, in our vices. If we would try to understand that particular self, it is by searching our own bosoms, and trying to reconstruct it there, that we may arrive at it”. We can understand Proust speaking on ideologues if we should paraphrase the quotes to read: ignores what a very slight degree of self-acquaintance teaches us: that an ideology is the product of a different self from the self we manifest in our habits, in our social life, in our vices. If we would try to understand that particular self, it is by searching our own bosoms, and trying to reconstruct it there, that we may arrive at it.


This understanding has continued to influence textual and social criticism for decades. It also is the position shared by acclaimed writer, V.S. Naipaul, the Nobel Prize winner in literature, 2001.


What is unfortunate is the resuscitation of the old deconstruction tool in the late 20th century by some self-serving scholars who compliment the military wing – as Edward Said would affirm - of Western world in its so-called battle of supremacy in another dubious intellectual fraud known as “clash of civilizations”. In this new fight, intellectuals use Saint Beuve’s method on Muslim scholars of the past and present in order to strip the religion from its original mode of interpretation under the claim that, Mr. Islam Does Not Exist. That all interpretations, but essentially the mode, are relative to their times and exclusive to the persons who hold them at a particular moment in history (we will discuss this later). Several books have been written by scholars with the hope of annexing the interpretations of Ibn Taimiyya, Ibn Qayyim, Sayyid Qutb and a host of others to their times and situations. And many like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Ousman Kane are ready to use this tool in painting the opinions of scholars like Sheik Ja’far Adam Mahmud and some of our grand parents as too militant and antiquated compared to their modern ones.


But even without appealing to the substance of Proust’s argument one can see through the unproductive nature of the use of deconstruction tool when we choose to apply it on everything and everybody. It is then we will see that not only Sheik Ja’afar but also nobody has the right upbringing necessary to serve his people devoid of any sentiment. Taking Mallam for example, people may not likely limit their understanding of his arrogance to the fact that he was brought up as a pampered aristocrat. No. They will also remember that the institution, which he boasts of having come from, is an institution, which bestows and blesses its children with unlimited penchant for power. They do everything in order to get it. They kill their brothers, parents and sacrifice the soul and body of their subjects in order to get it( I am sorry please, I too am from this institution). How then can the masses of Nigeria trust that all what Mallam is doing is not in the hope of obtaining public recognition nationally and internationally to serve his smoldering ego in a season where power and public command is past receding away from the clone of our traditional institutions? Or is it not enough to conclude that Mallam is not truthful in his claims of being a defender of northern masses when his view of almajiri - the typical character of northern mass – as effectively demonstrated in his treatment of Sheik Ja’afar, is that of something disgusting, insignificant and incapable of being good at anything on any scale?


This is sufficient enough to have us believe that criticism is not best when done using this deconstruction tool. It only aggravates situations and makes us see ourselves as not trustworthy in the space of public service. I am not saying the tool is completely useless but it is not needed in the present northern Nigeria.


One other thing that appears disturbing to me also is the way Mallam pulled those quotes from Sheik Ja’afar’s interview with Weekly Trust of 16th April, 2005, out of context, imposed a negative interpretations on them in order to hang the Sheik. The context in which Ja’afar spoke was that of Muslim marginalisation in Nigeria. The subject was the on going NPRC. Here is what Sheik Ja’afar said at the very begging of the interview in reply to the Weekly Trust’s reporter’s question:


WT: “What is your account of the Kaduna meeting?


Ja’afar: “First and foremost, the meeting was a true representation of Nigerian Muslims. The Hausa/Fulani were represented, the Yoruba were represented, the South-South and Southeast were representated by people like Sheik Idris Idoko, and others from the Midwest and other parts of Nigeria. It was a truly Nigerian Muslim gathering. Furthermore, all segment of Nigerian polity were also represented. The traditional rulers were there, professionals, Islamic scholars, politicians, technocrats, youths and students. The arena of the meeting became so full that speakers had to be provided outside the hall for the thousands of Muslims that attended. There were three different views proposed after heated debate on Muslim marginalisations in the ongoing National Conference.”


 For God Sake, considering this premise built by the Sheik, that took to account the interest of Nigerian Muslims how can the Sheik easily turn around, in the same breath, and suggest that Dangiwa and Mallam should be tribalistic? Nobody teaching religious values in Northern Nigeria would suggest that. After all the quotes Mallam pulled out were from a paragraph in which the Sheik sought to answer the charges that the entire struggle was Northern. He related how it started from the Yoruba, affirmed its Muslim root and went ahead to tell about his disenchantment on how others like Mallam and Dangiwa criticized everything. Actually there is no way one can get the interpretations Mallam gave to those quotes from the Sheiks interview.


One other wrong assumption made by Mallam was that of believing that for one to comment or participate in Nigerian politics one needs to understand what he called, the concept of citizenship in plural society, thus he concluded that Sheik Ja’afar, being a glorified almajiri is not competent to speak about politics in Nigeria. Mallam seems to forget that politics being a game of negotiation requires nothing for competence than ability to display a substantial amount of nuisance value. This is why Ganiyu Adams (glorified carpenter), Chris Uba (glorified house boy), Dokubo Asari(glorified school dropout) to whom the phrase, political ethics, sounds like Chinese, are more  influential in Nigerian politics than Mallam.  Why, then, not a glorified almajiri, with two degrees, who can become anything as a Risk Manager in any of the top ranking Nigerian banks? It is also noteworthy to observe that in the present Nigeria, if an international conference on peaceful coexistence were to be organized in places like Lagos, Anambra and the Niger delta region such conference will not be good enough if it did not give Ganiyu Adams, Chris Uba and Dokubo Asari, respectively, a voice. But such conference can hold in Kano without Mallam Sanusi and yet no one will bother. This is to show the extent to which characters that know nothing about political ethics can be more relevant than Mallam in political equations. It is a real world.


But if still we feel like insisting on the question of competence, then we will have to recall back Mallam Sanusi from the front of public commentary and allow others like Mohammed Haruna, Kabir Yusuf, Garba Deen Mohammed, who are professional journalists, who understand the profession in the way and manner it is practiced everywhere in the world,  as a purely sentimental front, to do the work.  People like Mallam then must remain in the banking sector and must not be allowed to contaminate the waters and spoil the show in the realm of our political life.


I will stop here for reason of space. I will, Insha Allah, in the recent future, take to the issue of identity, values and try to strip them off from embellishment in acade-mysticism since its said, intellectualism is the ability to simplify thoughts. I will also discuss the thesis of Muslim marginalisation in Nigeria and the reason why the Northern Muslim-cultural establishment doesn’t see Mallam as its true representative. The reasons are not grounded in lack of knowledge or mastery of sophistry; they are not also in lack of patriotism and belief in greater Nigeria; they are not also in fanaticism or political sycophancy, as many will tend to believe.






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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.