Incidents reported since last Sunday indicate that tempers are flaring up among the poor of northern Nigeria. When people get desperately poor, they become dangerously wicked. Religion is only a smokescreen. It’s the economy, stupid!

Thus, at Pandogari, Rafi LGA of Niger State, a young man, Methodus Emmanuel, was murdered by wretched creatures erroneously branded “religious bigots”. His offence?  “Blasphemy.” The “religious violence” that followed claimed at least 12 other lives. Other “bigots” were, on Thursday, visible in Kano where they slaughtered a middle-aged woman known as Bridget Agbanwe for committing “blasphemy” during an argument. The murderers struck inside Kofar Wambai Market in Kano, butchering somebody’s wife and somebody’s mother with cursed knives and daggers. The maggots in human skin were about slaughtering her husband also, before the police intervened.

Eyewitnesses have confirmed that Mrs Agbanwe did not blaspheme Prophet Muhammed or Islam in any way. What happened was that some of the dirty assassins were washing their genitals in front of her shop and she asked them to move away. Then they started shouting “Allahu akbar” and invited other ignorant bigots to slaughter her. They raised her severed head in celebration before they disappeared into a “mob”.

It is the same way they killed Mr Gideon Akaluka in December 1994 in Kano. The easiest way to get rid of an “infidel” is to hang a charge of “blasphemy” around them. That would earn the murderers protection from fellow brothers in high places.

If the hoodlums were sure they were defending their religion, why did they run away? They should have stood their ground and got ready to prove their case beyond doubts. But they knew they were criminals – only the guilty are afraid. It’s the same way Boko Haram operates: killing in the name of religion. Is it surprising that, as at the time of this writing, Atiku Abubakar was the only northern leader who had condemned the murderers of Emmanuel and Agbanwe? When Boko Haram started, they remained silent until the evil reached their doorsteps also.

My Muslim friends have assured me that the Koran nowhere recommends death for a blasphemer, and that it’s a culture the murderers borrowed from political leaders with extremist views as in a nation like Pakistan. I only wanted to confirm what I already knew: no religion condones violence of any form. Any preacher who tells his followers to fight for God by killing other people must have descended from Satan. In any case, I can’t imagine any sane person who would prefer a murderer to a blasphemer. So even if blasphemy is evil, murder is 100 times worse.

We read in the news that some of the hoodlums have been arrested both in Niger and in Kano. But will they ever appear in court? None of the dirty pigs that have murdered people in the north over “blasphemy”, since the 1980s, has been sent to jail, much less executed in public to serve as a deterrent to would-be assassins. Many believe that even the “herdsmen” arrested recently for murders at Nimbo (Enugu State) will receive a similar treatment: After a week or two in police cells, they are left to roam freely. The conclusion always reached was that it was a mob action; nobody was held responsible.

Any attempt to hide the identities of the suspects will be resisted this time round. The governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, and that of Kano, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, must accept responsibility for what happened in their domains, until they make the murderers available for prosecution. I wish they could gather the smelly miscreants and sever their heads in a public place. Their miserable corpses would then be thrown to hungry lions in a nearby zoo or left for birds in a thick forest. Such treatment would send a message to other wretched hoodlums who hide behind religion to commit heinous crimes.

Methodus Emmanuel and Bridget Agbanwe won’t die for nothing. Reporters will be waiting at the courts where their killers will be charged. However, the governors of their home states (in the south-east) should do justice to their memories by ensuring that the ill-bred urchins face the desired punishment. They should give the governors of Niger and Kano close marking. Meanwhile, I’m waiting to read the statements of Emirs in whose emirates these dastardly acts were committed. The right response of everyone who feels disturbed is not to scold the murderers in public and then protect them in private. The right thing to do is expose the murderers and ensure that they receive deserving punishment. A killer should be killed.

I just hope this is not a plot to disintegrate Nigeria. Boko Haram is transforming to “herdsmen” and could be the current executioners of “blasphemers”. The Niger Delta has erupted in violence again, cutting oil exports by more than 50 per cent. Agitations for Biafra have been unceasing; many were killed on Biafra Day (May 30). Pressed on all sides by these agents of disintegration, Nigeria appears helpless.

Hardship caused by poverty tends to raise tempers. It is in times of distress such as these that the poor often quarrel among themselves. As hunger belabours their stomachs and the good things of life (electricity, for instance) get scarcer, they become more aggressive and dangerous. Many are tempted to steal, rob and kill. A little disagreement could set off bloody riots.

Perhaps, not everyone understands that. But I do. That’s why I warned in this space, this time last year [“Nigeria’s Breakup: Danger Still Looms”, June 7, 2015], that “the greatest danger facing the country, and which may lead to its breakup, is the economy”. In the same column, however, I advised: “To avert a disaster, it’s up to our current leaders to enthrone justice and peace while working to rebuild a shattered economy. Unfortunately, a hungry man is an angry man; he wouldn’t listen to any gospel until he fills his stomach. So? Let the reforms start from there –the stomach.” I’ve often warned of a “stomach revolution”.

Faced with a prolonged depression, the Nigerian economy may not be able to take more punches. The present times call for more work on the part of leaders. The Presidency and state houses ought to be briefing us on a daily basis. We need to be assured that we still have a country.




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