“Here is the period, in human life, about which we had been carefully admonished through the words of Ubayyi Bn Ka‘b and those of Abdullah Bn Mas‘ud; Here is the predicted era in which the truth (as foretold), would be totally rejected while falsehood and rebellion would be loftily upheld with deceptive glorification; Should this period be allowed to linger beyond now, without a positive change, the world could zoom into a stage where the bereaved would rather smile than cry over the demise of a deceased relative and parents would rather cry than rejoice over the birth of a new baby”. By an Arab poet
In the life of any serious-minded person, every day is the beginning of one end or another. Such an end may be positive or negative, depending on the mode of operating the activities therein, based on the intention of the operator. And, the world continues. But, surely, the impracticable Machiavellian theory of ‘the end justifies the means has no moral basis in any environment where the fear of Allah is considered as the climax, rather than the beginning of wisdom.
Ordinarily, the planned article for publication in this column, today, is not what you are about to read here. If published, as planned, it would have been for the celebration of a very rare exemplariness of qualitative leadership in the unique personality of an eminent Nigerian whose enviable profile can neither be queried nor challenged in the archive of history.
Although, due to his humanitarian nature, that personality does not believe in celebrating birthday ostentatiously, in a society like ours, where artificially endemic poverty has virtually become a crushing claw for most Nigerians, even in the midst of plenty, nevertheless, his impending attainment of 65 years of age next Tuesday, August 24, 2021, calls for a celebration of royal exemplariness in him. The modest lifestyle of this personality, despite the ‘blue blood’ in his veins, is an incontrovertible attestation to the exemplariness that eminently qualifies him to be the Nigerian man of the century.
That exemplary personality is no other person than His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, and President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). Whoever wants to know what qualifies him for that assertion in this 21st century should keep a date with ‘The Message’ column in ‘The Nation’ newspaper next Friday, in sha’Allah.
The title of today’s article, in this column, was not coined by yours sincerely. It was rather culled from the late Dr. Tai Solarin’s style of writing while he was alive. In his heydays as a versatile columnist, in the Tribune newspaper, Dr. Tai Solarin, a renowned educationist and atheist, had a way of casting the titles of his articles to suit his ideas and thoughts, as well as to attract the conscious attention of his readers. One of such titles is the one adopted here today. It was the title of an article he wrote in 1974 as a reaction to General Yakubu Gowon’s U-turn on his earlier promise to restore democracy to Nigeria in 1976.
In that year (1974), General Gowon surprisingly turned round to renege on that landmark promise by announcing to Nigerians, in a nationwide television broadcast, that returning power to civilians in 1976 was unrealistic after all. He did not specify any new date for restoring democracy to this Africa’s foremost country.
The above-narrated scenario was what prompted Tai Solarin to write his famous article titled “The Beginning of the End”, in reaction to General Gowon’s audacious military assault, fortuitously hauled at the Nigerian populace, at a time when the general yearning for democracy was almost at its peak in the country. And, incidentally, that article was the premonition that culminated in a military coup that swept General Gowon out of power, unceremoniously, in July 1975 after nine years in office as a military Head of State. That episode was a beginning of an end to Gowon’s regime and the rest became history.
How Abuja became Nigeria’s Capital
It was the same Tai Solarin that wrote another article titled “I will bomb Lagos”, in 1975, which led to the idea of changing Nigeria’s capital city from Lagos to Abuja. In the latter article, Tai Solarin did not only describe Lagos of then as unbefitting to any civilized country in the world, as capital city, he also said he would have bombed it (Lagos) with the intention of rebuilding it if he was the Head of State. Characteristic of him, Dr, Tai Solarin did not stop there. He also gave a vivid geographical and environmental description of a place in Nigeria’s Middle Belt called Abuja which he recommended as the country’s new capital.
Through that famous article, which captivated many Nigerian elites, at that time, Solarin could be called the initiator of the change of Nigeria’s capital city. And, that was why he was appointed as a member of the Justice Akinola Aguda panel that worked out the modalities for the establishment of the new federal capital called Abuja. Today, the same Abuja is being seriously threatened by certain miscreants who do not care about the implications of their actions even as we hope that such actions will not constitute the beginning of another end.
When an article was first published in the Message column, under this same title (“The Beginning of the End”), in 2013, by yours sincerely, it was warranted by the circumstance of that time which was similar to the ongoing experience in Nigeria, today. However, the focus of that (2013) article was more on corruption through manipulation of figures in public offices and untamable greed of certain politicians for stinging to power with political bile, by all means. That time can be called a season of ridiculous letter writings that exposed the true natures of Nigerian politicians.
The First Letter
That time was tagged the season of Letters’ because of the barrage of tendentious and damning open letters flying across the wishes and interests of certain political, economic, and religious demagogues who seemed to be married to ephemeral politics of transient power.
First among those letters was from the then Governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who, for a patriotic reason wrote a probing letter to the Presidency on September 25, 2013 reporting the failure of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to remit 19 months proceeds of oil sales to the Central Bank as statutorily required by the constitution.
According to him, the total quantity of Nigerian oil that was sold between January 2012 and July 2013 was 594.02 million barrels and the unremitted amount of money accruing from the sale of that quantity was $49.8 billion which amounted to N8 trillion. Mallam Lamido said the total amount of money remitted so far within the mentioned period constituted only 24% of what ought to be remitted while 76% could not be traced by the CBN. Based partly on Sanusi’s revelation and partly on his own personal observation, the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Aminu Tambuwal, openly accused President Goodluck Jonathan of reluctance or unwillingness to fight corruption. Many other well-meaning Nigerians spoke on the matter in the like manner.
As a columnist, yours sincerely also wrote about it in this column. Thus, those who dogmatically believe, albeit ignorantly, that religion and politics are on two parallel lines that should never meet can now see why Islam is rather a total way of life than a mere dogmatic religion. In Islam, the theory of ‘giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ holds no water because both Caesar and whatever he portends to own belong to God alone who never slumbers nor dies. For instance, in a situation where public funds are brazenly stolen with impunity in the public glare, Muslims cannot and should not keep silent even if the thieves claim to be Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once counseled Muslims about this kind of situation through one Hadith.
He said: “Whoever sees something obnoxious among you should change it (physically) with his hands. If he is incapable, let him change it with his tongue (by condemning it). And if he is still incapable, he should then endeavour to change it with his mind (by praying for its stoppage)”. He however added that “the last option signifies the weakest form of faith”.
In a situation like the one currently being witnessed in Nigeria, should religious people, especially Muslims, keep silent and watch helplessly how their future is being eroded by those who do not care about other people’s lives? It is rather an iniquity for Muslims to keep silent in the presence of tyranny, oppression, and criminal acts. From whichever angle such crimes are viewed, they will eventually be discovered to constitute the beginning of an end.
The Second Letter
The second letter was written to President Goodluck Jonathan by Ex-President, Olusegun Obasanjo, on December 2, 2013. It was a kind of epistle loaded with undisguised missiles of allegations that came frontally to the nation through the media. The main gist of that letter contained allegations of corruption, bad governance, and insecurity. It was heavily pregnant with political bile the summary of which can be called a tit for tat. The contents of the letter are a bundle of messages that conspicuously outweighed the messenger. And reading carefully between its lines, the letter can be compared to a pot trying to paint a kettle black. In a nutshell, the addresser and the addressee can be described as two sides of an un-spendable coin.
Although the contents of that letter generated a loud brouhaha across the land, it ended up as a mere rhetoric with which Nigerians had long been quite familiar. If anything sounded strange in that letter, it was the allegation of a killer squad leveled by the addresser against the addressee. In that allegation, Chief Obasanjo accused Dr. Jonathan’s Presidency of planning to descend on about 1000 political opponents and other perceived enemies of the government. Funny as that episode might sound at the time, it was a beginning of an end. The only seeming issue of interest in that letter, however, was the washing of the supposed leaders’ linens in the open which the populace watched with unbridled embarrassment. It gave the impression that the only expected legacy from the crop of the 21st century Nigerian leaders was nothing more than despair in spite of the rare opportunities those so-called leaders had in preserving the tranquility of the country. What lesson could the youths have learnt from such ridiculous political rancour engendered by the calamitous greed of politicians, based on selfishness?
To Nigerian politicians, sadistic political drama can never be strange. But the peculiarity in that open letter writing case was the tacit mobilization of the suffering masses as archers deployed to forage around on their feet while the shameless political gladiators remained gangling on horses.
Like an accursed nation, Nigeria has the misfortune of engaging misfits, in the name of leaders, to pilot their affairs, especially in a very cloudy environment. Or how can one classify a situation where two supposed national leaders decided to strip naked for competitive dance in a marketplace and expected sellers and buyers in that market to clap for the winner.
If this period in Nigeria still looks like the beginning of another catastrophic end, its genesis should be traced to the shameless leaders we had in the recent past with the intention of grooming sailors who are in possession of effective compass with which to cross the bubbling Atlantic ocean of life without any further disastrous accident. God save Nigeria!