By Umma Abdullahi Getso
Such has become the usual pattern of events in our beloved Nigeria. It is often one moment of over-sensationalism of critical social issues, and the next of forgetting there was an issue at all. I am talking of that momentary overly dichotomized heated and often delicate debate. It is usually between the north against the south, Islam versus Christianity. At that moment, when our overdramatic instinct takes over logical reasoning, we unconsciously overblow our differences into a chasm and paint a picture of the impossibility of peaceful co-existence. When our instinct is in control, even the best of us may fall for that over-sensationalism, thereby being reactive and taking sides when we should be analysing the situation for what it truly is, a critical social issue, and forging a way out.
This is why it is best to refrain from acting when emotions are high and uncertain. Fortunately, nature does not abandon us to become prisoners of our instincts for too long. We all soon return to reality.
However, the problem with us, Nigerians, is that when we eventually reclaim our logical reasoning from the overdramatic instincts, we are faced with many more social problems that will not allow us to return to solving the initial critical issue. We simply forget and return to our normal life. And so, again and again, these critical social issues come back to haunt us, our society, our beloved country. And piece by piece, the fragility increases.
But we cannot allow this to continue. Since the unity and peace in our nation is non-negotiable, we must realistically face and tackle these critical issues. Therefore, now that the over-sensationalism has subsided, let us look into the unfortunate events that led to the painful murder of late Deborah with a view to proofing means of remediating the situation.
Before that however, let me make this clear. My stand in this matter is neither to condemn nor endorse. Reality is seldom straight out into just two parts. It is our instincts that like to dichotomize because doing so is intuitive, simple and it portrays conflict. In reality, there are many middle grounds. As regards this unfortunate incident, I stand in one of those many middle grounds. I stand to posit that the case of Deborah and the mob, is one of a failed society. Perhaps not in every way, but as far as the role of the society to instruct the young is concerned, Nigeria failed both Deborah and the mob. And it is not only the late Deborah Yakubu and her killers, but the Nigerian society continues to fail many more of its youths even today.
How is it possible, that a child birthed in a multireligious and multicultural society as Nigeria did not learn well enough of tolerance from childhood until adulthood, through basic education, secondary education and even down to the tertiary level? How? Is respect for elders and constituted authority no longer the centre of the African education, the very foundation of our family values? How is it possible then that our youths are now bold to utter derogatory and demeaning words against every and anyone, even including the well-respected and beloved Prophet of Allah (PBUH) without restraint, not in secret but in public domain? How is that possible?
Even in Europe, insulting the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) of Islam is a crime that may lead to jail!
Surveying comments under any thread for Deborah and the mob and seeing the easiness with which many more youths are ready to do this wrong, knowing fully well it is wrong and for just no good reason only goes to proof that something is fundamentally wrong.
Even worse and more worrisome is the cruel and unhuman manner in which Deborah was killed. As a mother, beholding the gory sight is bitter down to my stomach. With not less than over 100 verses dedicated to peace in the Holy Quran, the forbearance with which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) lived with people and the many Islamic teachings on peace, one cannot but wonder where Deborah’s murderers got their notion of serving death penalty in such a cruel manner from.
As a Muslim, I make bold to say that such cruelty does not in any way represent Islam. In fact, I refuse to accept the narration that the entire incident is religious. It is only those whose logical thinking is still held spellbound by instincts that will insist the ugly event is religious. This is only true when considered peripherally. Unfortunately, over-sensationalism adds fake credence to this perspective even though it is wrong. Such sensational narration will not include the part that some of the set of her friends that tried to steal her away from the mob where also Muslims.
When one considers the events leading to the killing of Deborah critically, it is obvious we are tackling a critical social problem other than religious. The critical social has at this time manifested itself in the form of religious misunderstanding. And this is dangerous for our nation. But the more dreadful thing is that there many more youths who are ready and willing to take to arms in defence of just about any ideologies without proofing its soundness. Social problems in Nigeria occasioned by bad leadership have pushed the love for our fellow countryman and countrywomen down the drain. Everyone is agitated. The media is enhancing dichotomy to make higher sales. And we are ready to buy their over-sensational stories by letting our overdramatic instinct take over logical reasoning.
For the many Deborah’s and mobs out there, we, the Nigerian society, must retrace our steps to correct our failures. We must help them to unlearn and relearn religious and cultural tolerance and peaceful co-existence, respect as core African family values. We must rekindle the love for fellow countrymen and countrywomen. We must educate our youth to be able to think for themselves and proof any and all anti-societal ideologies.
This should start from the home, our various families. Going forward, parents must reignite these lessons civility. In addition, the government may have to take deeper interest in enhancing the quality of family we are hatching as a society.
But it does not stop there. The religious leaders must rise to the task. First, every religious leader must understand the magnitude of their influence in reshaping the society. And they must capitalize on this understanding to impart the waning civic and civil values. The government may need to consider workable licensing policies for religious leaders to curtail incidences of misinterpretation and propagation of anti-society religious ideologies.
The government has the basic role of ensuring quality education. This is a right. But what can we say of a government that has kept about 2 million undergraduates on the streets for months? A government in which an individual carts away over N80 billion but cannot afford to settle ASUU. This is where the ultimate power lies with the citizens.
In order to pre-empt recurrence of the Deborah and mob incident, enlightened citizens must take a stand. A stand against media over-sensationalism. A stand against religious and cultural intolerance. Instead, the enlightened citizens must rise to educate their compatriots on how to identify and filter overdramatic stories and how to not be instinctively reactive.
Most importantly, citizens must take a stand enthrone credible leaders. Leaders that can mitigate the many social issues beguiling the Nigerian masses. Leaders that will ensure consistent quality education.