Pius Adesanmi: The Sharia that I love

by Pius Adesanmi

Proponents and lovers of sharia law in the Sharia Republics within Nigeria have a siege mentality. There is this sense that the rest of Nigeria is against our “way of life” and we are often told to mind our business when we drag our unwanted mouths and noses into sharia issues.

Alas, my mouth and nose go wherever they please in matters Nigeriana and at a time I exclusively determine.

I had wanted to comment on a minor sharia issue which surprisingly escaped the national radar in January but Baba’s stay in London and the repeated insults we suffered from his supporters who insisted he did not owe us explanations distracted me.

The last time I intervened in Sharia, I said I was interested in a sharia which can cut of Jangedi’s hand for stealing a cow in Zamfara, cut off Sani Ahmed Yerima’s two hands and two legs if found guilty of the public funds EFCC said he stole as Governor and cut off the penis of any man found trafficking in ten-year-old girls.

Some Sharia philosophers came to that thread – I thank them for respectfully trying to illuminate us – to explain why sharia could authorise the chopping off of Jangedi’s hand while not prescribing the same punishment or worse for corruption or looting of state funds by the high and mighty.

I forget now how they made the fine distinction between stealing a cow and looting of public funds in Nigeria’s corruption industry but their submissions boiled down to the fact that there is really very little sharia could do to practitioners of corruption such as Governors, Ministers, Reps, Senators and other public office holders in the Sharia Republics because looting and misappropriation of public funds belong in a different order – or some argument to that effect.

I remember saying at the time that I wish it were possible for us to leave those fine distinctions to them. Unfortunately, we are all part of an at once symbolic and material entity called “a body politic” or an “imagined community”. If you cut off Jangedi’s hands, it affects me. If you find a rationalisation in the same law for why amputation does not extend to corruption and I see the high and the mighty getting away, it affects me. It affects that body politic to which I belong and you cannot hide under the cover of “it is our business”. I’m afraid, it isn’t. Your fine distinctions are your problem but the symbolic violence of such fine distinctions is my problem so you cannot say that my mouth is unwelcome.

Which brings me to what happened in January in Sokoto. Ogbeni Aminu Tambuwal’s daughter was getting married to Mohammed Mangal. That is the union of two extremely powerful families at the top. There was musical performance at the wedding in violation of sharia law. The sharia police moved in and swiftly arrested the musical instruments. The DJ escaped before he could be arrested.

I will never understand the big men in the North. Back in the early 2000s, they were the ones who defied Obasanjo and imposed sharia law. If you go back to the archives, all the voices screaming sharia were Ogas at the top. The ordinary people, the commoners were absent from that agitation. The same big people – Governors, Senators, Ministers, big big Federal Government Ogas – who screamed for Sharia law have never been able to bring themselves to live by or respect it. They are the ones always in violation of sharia without consequences.

Sharia says certain kinds of music are haram. A state Governor gathers other state Governors, Ministers, Senators, etc, at the wedding of his daughter to play precisely the infidel music of the corrupt and hell-bound Western world.

The Hisbah moved in and arrested the musical instruments and declared the DJ wanted. You see, this is where I have issues with Sharia. Those who rented the DJ and his instruments were in the room. Governor Tambuwal was there. Babachir Lawal was there. Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali was there. Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was there.

Why were these enablers of music haram not arrested, marched to the pitch of Giginya Memorial Stadium in Sokoto and publicly flogged? Instead, musical instruments were arrested and a hapless DJ was declared wanted.

A few weeks later, the musical instruments were burnt.

The sharia that I love would have made no discrimination in punishment between the DJ and the Governor and his powerful guests. If you were planning to flog the DJ, start with Aminu Tambuwal, Babachir Lawal, Mansur Dan-Ali, and Hadi Sirika. Go and flog them publicly and you and I will be in business as compatriots.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada

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