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PRESIDENT AYATOLLAH IBRAHIM SHEKARAU?

By NBF News

Last Thursday, before an impressible but obviously, hired crowd, the governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, publicly declared his intention to run for presidency of Nigeria. The declaration which took place at the prestigious International Conference Centre, Abuja was carried live into the offices and homes of Nigerians through a live radio and television coverage and must have cost the long suffering Kano taxpayers, quite a tidy sum. Add the bill and logistics of hiring and ferrying thousands of unemployed youths from all the cardinal corners of the North West, as well as the prime time adverts that had inundated the airwaves, a full week before the barren event, then you would better appreciate how much the charade had cost.

As the North and their sympathisers (including me) try to make the point that the North deserves, in the spirit of honour, equity and natural justice, to complete the eight-year presidential tenure that was interrupted by the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, the aspiration by the likes of Mallam Shekarau to the presidency of Nigeria is a great drawback. In face of (the oft-unjustified) fears and widespread resistance to a president from the core-North, a suitable Northern candidate would be someone with a proven nationalistic and wholesale appeal who would banish every (real or imagined) fear and not a small-minded, intolerant and bigoted candidate who would elicit more fear, trepidation and even revulsion in the minds and psyche of the electorate, especially outside the North.

A president Nigeria needs now, more than before, must be a reconciler and a man or woman who understands and internalises the feelings and heartbeat of all the sections of the country. He or she must be a broad-minded Nigerian with the foresight and capacity to develop the country evenly, while devoting a lot of time, thought and resources to the redress of the historical injustices that have been meted to the certain sections of the country. It is, therefore, obvious that by his acts of omission and commission and by his psychological makeup and social outlook, Shekarau's quest for presidency is an unbridled act of insensitivity and an insult to the rest of us Nigerians.

In politics as in public relations, the element of timing is almost everything. Shekarau and his handlers obviously understand that and that is why any acts undertaken and statements made around any major political event carries a big weight and is usually targeted to make a point. Two days before the big act by Shekarau, members of his controversial Sharia police force impounded cartons of beer from traders and, in full glare of the public, made a big show of their destruction. The report on Page 11 of Daily Trust of Thursday, August 5th, entitled, 'Hisbah smash 80,000 beer bottles in Kano', gave graphic details of how 'over a dozen veiled female sharia police (women) destroyed 80,000 beer bottles with sticks amid shouts of 'Allahu Akbar!' (God is great)'.

A mental picture of these women veiled in pitch black dresses and fiercely wielding their 'big stick' easily conjures the image of an Iranian city under the siege of the ayatollahs. For those who are unaware, the Hisbah is the body of religious policemen and women which Shekarau had caused to be legislated into existence through the state House of Assembly to enforce Sharia implementation in Kano State, even as the nation and most citizens protested. Strangely too, the sharia legal code which should be restricted to the adherents of the Islamic religion is being forced on non-Muslims under Shekarau's supervision and in clear contravention of Islamic injunctions and our laws on freedom of religion which the constitution guarantees every Nigerian.

It should also be recalled that soon after coming to power in 2003, the Shekarau administration organised a march of religious fanatics from the gate of his Government House through the city, chanting religious slogans. In the course of that march, the mullahs, like Pied Pipers picked up fanatical adherents and almajirai urchins along the way, who beset on shops and businesses of innocent peace-loving citizens, wreaking havoc and death in the process. Following that, President Obasanjo despatched a letter to Governor Shekarau, complaining against the unacceptable and insensitive behaviour and threatened that he would impose a state of emergency on Kano State. Shekarau, in a haughty response, called Obasanjo's bluff, treating the warning and threat with unprecedented contempt and scorn.

It was also through deft statesmanship that Eastern governors and other leaders ensured that retaliatory measures against innocent Northerners living in the area did not happen. In the midst of all that, the then Ebonyi State governor, Dr. Sam Egwu sent a letter to his Kano State counterpart, complaining about the needless destruction of Igbo lives and property due to misguided manipulation of religion. Egwu had a reason to be concerned because Ebonyi State has a sizeable Muslim population as well as some Islamic institutions. The governor must have taken big steps to ensure that those did not also go up in smoke in the hands of equally fanatical and unreasonable Christian adherents. Again, Shekarau personally signed a letter which, in undignified language, thoroughly heaped insults on Governor Egwu. I challenge Shekarau and his people to contradict these facts.

People like Ibrahim Shekarau are throwing the spanners in the marvellous work that the likes the Sultan of Sokoto have committed themselves to for the benefit of better religious tolerance in this country. Alhaji Muhammed Sa'ad Abubakar III has in the last three years performed marvellously to bridge the gaps in religious suspicion and distrust between the two religions this country, having also became the first Muslim leader to officiate at a ceremony by CAN where he delivered a lead paper in April this year. His efforts are bearing even riper fruits through the instrumentality of Nigeria Inter Religious Council which he co-chairs with the CAN president. If people like Shekarau are not stopped, all these efforts will be in vain.

Mallam Shekarau is a big hypocrite by chasing with the hounds and running with the hare. The Kano State which he has administered for more than seven years has become a veritable shadow of a once ebullient and bustling city that he had inherited from succeeding development minded governors - military and civilian. His provincially-minded administration of fanatics has rendered the state prostrate and the citizens have even started blaming Muhammadu Buhari who they claim, had brought Shekarau to ruin their state.

Like Governor Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara did in his state, Shekarau has also been using the Sharia to camouflage his woeful incompetence and to pull the wool over the eyes of the citizens by exploiting and manipulating their honest and time-tested piety and religious fervour. They have largely given him their support and cooperation. But in return, they have received nothing but the collapse and degradation of all their institutions and legacies which had become the envy and cynosure of all the states of the North. For the lack of space, I cannot fully dwell on the depth and extent of this collapse.

One other aspect of this hypocrisy is that as he destroys alcoholic drinks, he collects and spends (or embezzles) the monetary proceeds from VAT that accrues from them. Yet another level is the fake impression that the consumption of alcoholic beverages in Kano is limited to the so-called 'infidels', by Ayatollah Shekarau's classification. Is it not also true that in spite of the hypocrisy of his administration, beer consumption, not being a crime under our statutes goes on unabated in Kano and other so-called sharia states, and in reflection of the multi-faceted nature of our country?

Is the consumption of alcohol the greatest haram in Islam? Is stealing not considered a greater sin which attracts the amputation of hands from the wrist as the punishment? That being so, how come that Kano State still has men and women in government with their hands intact, when those would have since been cut off for the billions that are routinely stolen from the coffers of the people, including the huge sums for the organization and running of his ill-fated race for the presidency of Nigeria?

The good people of Kano State deserve a new beginning after these eight primitive years of the locust under Ayatollah Ibrahim Shekarau. Definitely Nigeria does not deserve an ayatollah as its president - not now, not in future.