The ban on Sheikh Abdul-Jabbar

In modern civic societies institutions of the state are established and necessary laws promulgated to promote peaceful coexistence and protect individual liberties. Fundamental human rights including right to dignified life, freedom of thought, religion and association considered sacrosanct in this system, are codified in the constitution which elected government officials at all levels take a solemn oath to protect.

In this form of social contract, layers of rights and responsibilities for the citizens and the society are stipulated. Where disagreement between parties concerning the application of these rights and obligations arise, it is competent courts of law that have the sole power of prescribing what the correct interpretation is. In these events the obligation on any office holder is to be neutral and objective while mediating to reach an agreement through constructive engagement. Where this fails then recourse should be made to seeking exhaustive legal redress where the role of the executive arm is reduced to implementation of the court orders within the confines of the extant laws.

In places where the institutions of the state are weak, people with vested interest usually collide with weak political office holders to give themselves and their creed undue advantages at the expense of the other groups. Where this is seen to infringe the rights of the other parties, dissatisfaction ensues which could lead to unrest. It is in this light the pronouncement by the Governor of Kano state, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, concerning the ban order against the peaceful religious activities of Shaikh Abdul-Jabbar Nasir Kabara can be considered to constitute a serious assault on the explicit constitutional responsibilities of the occupant of that very important seat, as well as a dent on the reputation of the institution of state government and serious threat to democracy, rule of law and peaceful coexistence of the good people of Kano state and the nation at large.

Instead of promoting tolerance, dialogue, and reciprocal respect for citizens’ rights and honour, the governor in contravention to the universal principles of justice and fair play threw his executive might in favour of one side of the disagreement against the other without giving the latter any chance for fair hearing and transparent arbitration by an objective and independent party that is competent to decide on such intricate doctrinal dispute. It is instructive to note that although Ganduje bears the epithet of Khadimul Islam which means the “servant of Islam”, the governor is neither known to be a religious scholar nor was he elected, even if he is one, to adjudicate on issues of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. But instead of treading the path of reason and universal justice of engaging the accused, the governor was shown reiterating all the unfounded allegations against Shaikh Abdul-Jabbar Nasir Kabara by his detractors among the preachers who gathered in Africa House that fateful day.

In a press statement issued on February 4, 2021 by Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, the exclusionist logic of these preachers received an official backing, leaving everyone bewildered as to how they were able to blackmail the governor to key into this dangerous path. It is shown in the press release that some preachers including Alkali Mustapha Nasir Kabara, Dr Bashir Aliyu Umar, Professor Abdullahi Saleh Pakistan, Shehi Shehi Maihula and Sayyadi Bashir Shaikh Tijjani Usman Zangon Barebari were unanimous in positing that there was no place of dialogue and engagement on issues at hand and that the only option they recommend is show of force and heavy handedness.

This is coming as Shaikh Abdul-Jabbar as a responsible citizen has been open for scholarly dialogue with any person disagreeing with his viewpoints to intellectually examine the assertions he makes, which by no way are new to students of Islamic sciences. The statement concluded by noting that the clamp down was greeted with applause and commendation by Sultan of Sokoto and Wazirin Katsina. It is no coincidence that similar frantic efforts by this type of preachers led to violent attacks against the Shi’i minorities in Sokoto with tacit approval of the Sultan and in the same Kano with Governor Ganduje himself admitting responsibility for the extrajudicial killing of innocent citizens. Unfortunately, the radar is now on a section of Kadiriyya movement under Shaikh Abdul-Jabbar.

One wonders why such fear, resentment, and campaign of calumny to a lone voice represented by Shaikh Abdul-Jabbar even as his opponents, the Azhab of modern times dominate the air waves of the electronic media, operate multitudes of mosques and centres within Kano state and the country at large and enjoys unprecedented support by apparatus of the state. Why can’t they live and let live? But instead enjoy monopolizing the public domain of ideological discourse and feel insecure from any alternative reading of religious texts, abhor logical argument and rational engagements. Why are they always manipulating the commonwealth of the institutions of government to gag other citizens and stifle their already muffled voices?

Sheikh Abdul-Jabbar has in a clear patriotic and civilized move approached a competent court to seek legal redress to this brazen injustice. In what appears to be a rethink after realising that the governor was misled and had goofed in his recent missteps, another statement conveying acceptance of dialogue with Abdul-Jabbar by a group of clerics and the state government was released on Sunday February 8, 2021.

To ensure a level playing ground however, the State Government should have lifted all the unlawful bans and restrictions on Sheikh Abdul-Jabbar’s activities and freedom of expression. It should also have restrained all the opposing preachers from continuing in their attacks and unilateral judgment against him prejudiced with malice and deliberate falsehood, but none was implemented. Having known the position of the various stakeholders in this saga, none of those actively involved should be an arbiter in the process of the dialogue. The dialogue should also not take a form of inquisition or subtle attempt to achieve the overt aim of decimating an alternate view to the predominant superficial and selective reading of the reference Islamic texts.

Finally, this should remind the state government of the need for listening to all, the imperative of respecting every body’s rights and the necessity to act according to the dictates of reason and democratic norms for the interest of peace and harmony in the state. Other religious groups are encouraged to learn to live with the realities of pluralistic and civic societies. We also call on the citizens to stand up for justice and jealously work hard within confines of the law to protect our nascent democratic institutions, peaceful coexistence, and national security. It is not about Sheikh Abdul-Jabbar, but about all the peace-loving citizenry. This is because he may be the victim today, but who will be the next target?

Samba writes from Kano.