“Believers, when an ungodly person brings to you a piece of news, carefully ascertain its truth, lest you should hurt a people unwittingly and thereafter repent at what you did.” ( Qur’an in Verse 6, Chapter 49)
The dictum that “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” typifies the behaviour and character of some of the leaders in the corridors of power in this country. They behave arrogantly despicably, recklessly and carelessly to issues that have the potential of putting this nation on fire. Their actions calls to question whether they really have the interest of this nation at heart.
When the high in society speak so lowly using gutter words, displaying an unimaginable level of arrogance simply because they can subvert the course of justice. When they use the borrowed time we gave them to speak down on us with contempt, forgetting that the transient powerful positions they are holding at our instance is fleeting, soon they would come to us bowing asking for more time. We as stakeholders in the Nigerian project must not scum to their lies. We must rethink how we chose those who become our leaders. We must not allow them to deceive us one more time again.
The question whether Governor Wike of River state truly demolished the mosque or not as alleged should not be of concern to us right now. What should be of worry to us is how did the whole situation almost got out of hand.
Those who started the whole debate ought to have known the issue has the tendency to implode, caution, maturity, fact-checking on the part of those who broke the news would have saved the nation the irritating tensions generated by the fake news.
When I first set out to write this article my initial opening paragraphs were subjective. My thoughts were affected by the fact that my religion was at the crossroad. My sense of judgement was tainted by my beliefs.
In spite of all these I decide to take some steps backwards to check my facts. I learnt to do this back in my journalism class, where I was taught about the concept of the social responsibility of the press.
While verifying my sources in the pursuit of writing this article, suddenly Governor Wike appeared on television at the site of what was supposed to be the demolished Mosque and the rest was history.
By the time I return to continue with the article I had to rewrite my initial opening paragraphs.
However, this does not mean the issue is settled rather it created a new window for a national conversation. Any serious person or entity knowing the complexity of our country ought to have imagined the consequences the fake news would generate in a multi-tribal cultural and religious society like Nigeria
Governor Wike must accept the fact that some of his past utterances helped in the believability of the fabricated news. His unguarded utterances fanned the feelings in the people to contemplate, he could order the demolishing of the mosque.
As a public figure, a politician, he ought to be circumspect in his utterances. He may be the governor of River state today who knows tomorrow. As a politician, one day he may be out there seeking for a higher office, is he not worried this type of utterance may haunt him in the future?
Nigeria is a country made up of more than 250 tribes with several religious groupings, maybe one day he might need the votes of those he is denying them the right to a place of worship, a privilege guaranteed to them by the constitution. The same Constitution that gave him the power to be the governor of River State.
Some few days after the breaking news Chief Edwin Clark, a respected elder Statesman was conversing for the next President to come from the Southeast. He was questioning the rationale why some people are advocating otherwise. This is what said;
“after it has been zoned to the North, after eight years it will come to the South and I am surprised at those who are now talking nonsense, people wanting to become president of Nigeria from certain southern area when the whole of the East, which is a very vital part of this country, no matter whatever anybody says, the Southeast is a very important part of this country before and after independence, you cannot push them aside.
“You just cannot. They must be considered in any rotational matter about the presidency for 2023. It is funny somebody just coming out, saying that rotation is abolished, that it does not exist because one competent or intelligent fellow is needed.
“Are you telling me that the six zones in Nigeria that there is no zone that cannot produce competent, transparent, intelligent people to run the affairs of this country?
They are not funny and not talking nonsense Sir, this is Nigeria of the 21st century. The zoning arrangement is not a written law, democracy thrives on consensus and numbers, ascendancy to any political office is achieved through alignments and re-alignments, not just wishes or claims on subterranean rights.
The truth is, actions by your people does not give comfort to people from the other regions to surrender their lives to those who at any slight moments of discomfort calls for the dismembering of this country.
Cashing on the ensuing controversy some politicians and other religious organisations who are interested in re-laundering their battered images went to press without checking their facts formulating all sorts of hypothesis.
The Governor of Kano State Gandollar threatened to take Wike to court for demolishing the Mosque. He made this statement through his Chief Press Secretary who said Ganduje, described the “sad story of Mosque demolition in Rivers state as shocking and promised that necessary lawful action must be taken over the happening. ”
Governor Wike has since responded to Ganduje’s threat, through his media aide, Simeon Nwakaudu, that the Kano state governor should be reminded that he, Wike, is not a dollar bill Ganduje can pocket” sheepishly and recklessly”.
He also accused the Daily Trust and the Nation Newspapers over the falsehood that a Mosque was demolished in Port Harcourt. A story fabricated by one Alhaji Tobacco for obvious mischievous political reasons.
Senator Shekarau who was at one time the Governor of Kano State, said, “Wike’s claim that Rivers is a Christian State is pathological. It suggests that not only are the people of Rivers State 100 per cent Christians, but Muslims and adherents of other religions from other parts of Nigeria cannot make Rivers State their home. It also insinuates that Rivers State operates a government, a constitution of its own, different from the Nigerian Nations ”
The Chairman National Council of Islamic Affairs the Sultan of Sokoto in a carefully worded statement condemned any action by anyone who could order the demolishing of a place of worship when he said this;
“unless it is based on mutual understanding and for the purpose of an agreed upon public interest and common good (maslaha), the demolition of a place of worship, either synagogue, church or mosque, is provocative, condemnable and unacceptable under whatever guise.
The Deputy Secretary-General of the council, Prof. Salisu Shehu, also said “the council had refrained from making a public statement on the controversial demolition of the Trans-Amadi Mosque in Rivers State because it has not concluded its investigations.
“In this regard, the council hereby calls upon Muslims to continue to exercise restraint and to avoid taking laws into their hand while it handles the matter and prosecutes it to its logical conclusion.
“The council wishes to further assure the Muslim Ummah that it will go to any length and will never relent in pursuing the matter and ensuring that it is resolved peacefully and just-fully,”
This is how to show leadership in the face of tendencies that could ignite hate and reprisal actions that may break the peace
Nigerian has gone through such turbulence. The main causes of the conflict that led to the Nigerian civil war were religious, cultural, economic and ethnic tensions between the Igbos who are from the eastern part of Nigeria and the Hausas who are from the northern part of Nigeria.
We must not allow some misguided group under whatever persuasions to re-live that part of our darkest national history. What we are facing today is far greater than what happened in the 60s.
Every Region has it’s fair share of the conflict, from the Boko Haram in the North East, the Fulani Herdsmen conflict spreading to all the regions, kidnappings, the restive Niger Delta youth, the harsh economic realities, poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, uneven distribution of wealth that are threatening the basic foundation of the nation.
The powder keg, the nation is sitting on waiting for a trigger, if care is not taken will explode in our faces. The choice is therefore up to our leaders to lead responsibly or push the country to the abyss.