Bravo Buhari, Shagari
A common habit among mot northern people is what the Hausaman call kunya, which is in a form is literally translated as shyness. This is the modesty that makes him conceal his personal interest in favor of others. It demands him also to quietly withstand the wrongdoing of others. In its extreme form, a mother would shy away from saving her child from a serious danger. The bottom line is the suppression of the individual’s interest in public eye in consideration to others. Closely associated with kunya is kara – literally meaning courtesy.
Kunya and kara are pre-capitalist values that are obviously praiseworthy in our traditional society. They serve to check and balance the selfishness of the individual to the benefit of the community.
But what do we do when the political imperatives of today compel us to live with an immodest partner? Our options are two: we either buy him over by our generosity or treat him with equity. The son of Abu Zayd in Assemblies of al-Hariri initially opted for generosity. His father once asked him, “what is the rule of thy conduct with thy people and neighbors?” The chap answered:
I am duteous to my neighbor though he wrong me; and give my fellowship even to the violent; and bear with a partner though he disorders my affairs; and love my friend even though he drench me with a tepid draught; and prefer my well-wisher above my brother; and fulfil my comrade even though he requite me not with a tenth; and think little of much if it be for my guest; and whelm my companion with my kindness..and complain not of wrong even if I am wronged; and revenge not, even though a viper sting me.”
Abu Zaid, who was notoriously known for his inclination to the worldly, was not impressed by the above stand of his son. He is rather inclined to equity. He said:
Alas! My boy, only he who clings should be clung to; only he who is valuable should be prized. As for me I give only to him who will requite; I distinguish not the insolent by my regard; nor will I be of pure affection to one who refuses me fair dealing; nor treat as a brother one who would undo my tethering rope; nor any one who would baulk my hopes; nor care for one who would cut my cords; nor be courteous to him who ignores my values.. For who has adjudged that I should be lavish and thou shouldest hoard, that I should be soft and thou rough, that I should melt and thou freeze, that I should blaze and thou smoulder? No, by Allah, but let us balance in speech as coin, and match in deed as sandals.. For how should fair dealing be attracted by injury?.. And when did love follow docilely after wrong? And what man of honor consents to a state of abasement? And I mete to a friend as he metes to me, according to the fullness of his meting or its defect.
The contrast may not usually be so sharp as represented above. I will prefer the advice of al-Motanabbi where in his famous poem, he said, advising Saif al-Daulah:
You control the noble-hearted by being generous to him;
but if you are generous to the evil-hearted, he will revolt.
From any viewpoint, the assertions of Abu Zaid and al-Motanabbi have relevance in the capitalist world of competition and individualism. It is more important in the politics of nations like ours in which the question of ‘truth’ and ‘right’ is relative and selective, just something to be defined by selfish interest and might. Especially in the realm of propaganda, it will be safer to use another couplet of Abu Zaid from his earlier introduced conversation with his son in Assemblies:
I hold not truth binding on me towards a man who holds it not binding on himself.
For quite sometime, I think religious and political leaders in the North, particularly the Muslims among them, have abided by their values of courtesy, moderation and modesty to an extent that has proved detrimental to their survival interest. If there is any crisis, such leaders are the first to be heard calling for peace. When others are peddling lies and casting aspersions against us, our leaders would prefer to remain silent, allowing the lies and deceit to be finally swallowed as facts. The slightest attempt to say their mind is regarded as tashin hankali – disturbing the peace. Thus today any northerner can be molested and no one, even among his fellow northerners, would rise to his defense. In fact there are northerners of questionable integrity and origin who are ready to do these dirty jobs for those interested in bringing such leaders down.
But it appears that our modesty is being stretched too far. As al-Hariri has asked: “what man of honor consents to a state of abasement?” Yes, what humiliation is worse than what this nation meted to Balewa and Sardauna? If Balewa could be considered bad, then the North should lose hope of having any leader acceptable to the south. How gullible have we been to accept the propaganda of the southern press that none of our leaders has ever measured as much as a dust particle on the balance of integrity? Since the 1966 coup no northern leader ever came out to bluntly support our interest. At the same time, others are free to speak their mind; yet they have never been adjudged to be unpatriotic.
It is in this context that the recent vituperation of General Buhari and former President, Shehu Shagari, caught everybody by surprise, including my humble self. No words would express my jubilation when I heard Buhari’s unequivocal support for the shariah as expressed in the BBC. The interviewer was also surprised. He got more than what he expected. Hence, he ceased the opportunity to cleverly remind Buhari that he was a former head of state. When he said, “sir, in your position as a former head of state..” Buhari interrupted him and said, “No, in my position as a Muslim..”
The timely intervention of Shagari was in no way less interesting. The stand of the duo, but especially that of Buhari, would for the following week pre-occupy the government and its stooges in the media and public. But despite their effort, it is now clear who carried the day. Since the days of Babangida, Nigerians know that governance has become football; that is why Babangida was nicknamed ‘maradona’, a name he likes. The present government unfortunately is not doing much to change that image. So, who believed Okupe and the secretary of the Council of State, with all the ‘minutes’ they produced? Just a minute! Who called it ‘minutes’? What they produced was a draft that will become ‘minutes’ only after it is adopted during the next meeting of the council. On the other hand we have not heard Buhari lie before. It is thus safer to believe him and disregard the dribbles of ‘Ronaldo’.
But deep in my heart, I understood the dilemma of the federal government that Tuesday. It had to do something to stop the massacres of Muslims, particularly those in the East. The announcement succeeded in quieting Christians but it carried the risk of precipitating crisis in the Muslim camp. This is where the comments of Buhari and Shagari came in handy. Other comments that helped avert further crisis were the immediate refutations of the governors of Kebbi and Zamfara states. Reluctant governors like that of Kano had to also rush and announce the adoption of shariah. All these helped to give credibility to the strong voices of Kumo, Buhari and Shagari, not withstanding the ‘explanation’ of government.
Of recent I came across one of the few southerners that I respect for her objectivity. I always enjoy our discussions that often get lengthy, oblivious of what NITEL will bill us at the end of the month. In a conversation over the telephone from Lagos, she said: “Aliyu, so your people are now united on the shariah issue.” I inquired, “who are my people?” She replied, “Buhari, Shagari and even IBB, of all people.” I decided to ask further whether there is anything wrong with that. “Oh no.” she conceded and added, “but you know all along they have been presenting themselves like nationalists. They are now coming out in their true colors, each answering his father’s name.” I must confess that her eloquence in the last sentence was pleasant, very pleasant. Well, thank God that the nation now knows that they have colors to be identified with and fathers to be referred to.
The double standard of Nigerians could sometimes be appalling. No one has yet pointed a finger to Ojukwu. This was a man that took the pain to travel all the way to Kaduna where he delivered an extremely inciting speech to the Christians there just before the crisis. Well, the northern Christians are now telling us a different story. One of them, a reverend living in Umuahia and who escaped being roasted alive simply because he is a northerner, was saying that he is “confused.” On their part, the Igbos in Kaduna, who had everything to lose, can now return to the Ikemba, their prodigal warlord, and request for compensation.
Yet irresponsible stooges of government even here in the North had the guts to chastise Buhari. Kunya forbids me from mentioning their names here. These are those who enjoy being branded as nationalists. They saw the whole thing as part of the on-going cold war between Buhari and their masters in government. They were not courageous enough to point a finger at the cause of the trouble, people like Ojukwu.
I would like to cease this opportunity to express my appreciation to Sheikh Abul Fath of Maiduguri and Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi when they, also for the first time, went public to promptly tell the government that Shariah is irrevocable. Equally impressive is the resolution by the council of ulama in Kano, who added the spice of restructuring. If our ulama and umara had stood by this tradition, of telling the government the bitter truth, the country would have been a better place.
In conclusion, while we will continue to practice kunya and kara among ourselves and at personal level generally, it is pertinent to know that in politics we have no option but to copy from the philosophy of Abu Zaid in the following verse:
And I measure to a friend as he measures to me, according to the fullness of his measure or its defect.
So cheers to Buhari, Shagari, Kumo, Dikko and all others that came out to promptly speak their mind and ours as well, regardless of their position in the society. Bravo.