Need To Curb Ethno-Religious Intolerance

<strong>Need To Curb Ethno-Religious Intolerance</strong>

Our nation is beleaguered by several issues bordering on insecurity amid growing tension across the country relating to ethnicity laced with religious colouration. There have been several upheavals in the nation which were clearly sparked by the unnecessary disposition of religious and ethnic bigots.

It quickly comes to mind what the Maitatsine riots of the 80s stood for as we recall history. The proponent of that sect that caused rumble in parts of the North then, so believed in his doctrines that his adherents took their time to slay and kill anyone who would not accommodate their position. In the course of that misadventure, the leader, Mohammed Marwa and his followers were eventually crushed after a few years of holding several parts of Northern Nigeria to ransom. They believed so much in their doctrines that any slightest opposition attracted a death knell. However, that sect was terminated by the determined and fiery exploit of the security agencies at the time.

Originally Marwa was believed to be from northern Cameroon. After his education, he moved to Kano, Nigeria in about 1945, where he became known for his controversial preaching exploring the Qur’an. He was so eccentric that he spoke against the use of radios, watches, bicycles, cars and the possession of more money than necessary. That was the world view of one whose thought and position was sacrosanct.

To curb his excesses, history recorded that the British colonial authorities sent him into exile, but he returned to Kano shortly after independence. By 1972, he had a notable and increasingly militant following known as Yan Tatsine.

In 1975, he was again arrested by the Nigerian police for slander and public abuse of political authorities. But in that period he began to receive acceptance from religious authorities, especially after making hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. As his following increased in the 1970s, so did the number of confrontations between his adherents and the police. His preaching attracted largely a following of youths, unemployed migrants, and those who felt that mainstream Muslim teachers were not doing enough for their communities. By December 1980, continuous Yan Tatsine attacks on other religious figures and the Police compelled the Nigerian Army to take over the struggle of keeping him under control. Subsequent armed clashes with his sect led to the deaths of around 5,000 people, including Maitatsine himself.  

Disturbingly, there have been pockets of similar over-zealous and extremist sects with tendentious motives, aimed at causing national disharmony but none has been as determined and audacious as the relatively recent Boko Haram and other splinter groups of bandits identified under different banners now.

The Boko Haram sect and their associates believe they are fighting a jihadist agenda where their doctrines are infallible and inviolable against the standard norm where the nation’s constitution overrides any parochial and sinister interests. It is even inalienable for any group or individuals for that matter to challenge the sovereignty of the country at the expense of the whimsical intent of their leaders.

It is unwarranted that more Nigerians are wary of the dangers of being labelled by their ethnic background to be denied certain favours or to indeed risk being killed on account of their origin. Such anxiety is sweeping across the length and breadth of the nation and it is a situation that does not mean well for a nation seeking to put behind primordial sentiments.

We are averse to the recent divisive tendencies that have prevailed following the killing of Deborah Samuel, 200-level student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto. The nation has not been so polarised in recent time on any issue like it. While we do not delve into the legal nuances involved, we quickly urge that both the killers and their victims did not explore the essence of tolerance which should be an attribute so lacking in our polity today.

AljazirahNigeria counsels that in the spirit of give and take, all parties to any issue must exercise extreme restraint in offending one another’s religious sensibility just as it is utmost necessity to uphold the ‘sanctity’ of life.

Our traditional rulers, religious icons and custodians of our revered cultures must be steadfast in preaching the gospel of harmonious living irrespective of creed, tribe or religion. We were first human, before taking on any form of doctrinal persuasion.

We call for a common front in dealing with the various yet to be surmounted security and economic challenges instead of adding another flank to our numerous pains as a nation.  

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