Home Opinion Deborah: The rule of law must triumph, By Sonnie Ekwowusi

Deborah: The rule of law must triumph, By Sonnie Ekwowusi

Late Deborah Samuel Yakubu

The rule of law must be allowed to triumph in the matter of the barbaric murder of Deborah Samuel no matter whose ox is gored. Therefore the Sokoto State police, State security agents and the authorities must not succumb to the cheap blackmail and intimidation of some Islamic fanatics and extremists who are now sponsoring orgy of arson and circles of violence in demand for the release of the suspected killers of Deborah.
Deborah was a 200-level female Christian student of Shehu Shagari College of Education (SSCOE), Sokoto State. Last week she was astonishingly stoned to death and set ablaze in the most barbaric, horrifying and animalistic manner by some fanatical Muslim students of the same SSCOE for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed (Peace be on him). Instead of listening to the voice of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III and other voices of reason who have been condemning the murder and calling for justice for Deborah, the Sokoto State Chief Imam, Dr. Sheikh Mansour and some Islamic fanatics and extremists are putting pressure on the police and the authorities to release the suspected killers of Deborah. The police and the security agents should not only ignore them but should move quickly to arrest them and charge them to court for sabotaging and obstructing the course of criminal justice.
 On its part, the Sokoto State Ministry of Justice must ensure that all the suspected killers of Deborah are swiftly charged to court for murder and executed upon conviction as stipulated in the law. I repeat: Deborah’s murderers should be rounded up, charged to court for murder and executed upon conviction. And if it is established that Professor Ibrahim Maqari, the Chief Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja and others had in any way aided and abetted the murder of Deborah they too should be arrested, charged to court for murder and killed if found guilty of murder. Nobody is above the law of the land.
The Sokoto State Chief Imam, Dr. Sheikh Mansour and Professor Maqari argue that jungle justice meted out against Deborah was aimed at defending Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him) and Islam. Hear Professor Magari “It should be known to everyone that we the Muslims have some redlines beyond which must not be crossed. The dignity of the Prophet (PBUH) is at the forefront of the redlines. If our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticised for addressing them ourselves.” Contrary to the assertions of Dr. Sheikh Mansour and Professor Magari, jungle justice is unacceptable in Islam. In any case, Deborah did not cross any Islamic redline warranting her murder. She neither insulted Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him) nor blasphemed against Islam before she was stoned to death. Like the conscience of the nation, Leah Sharibu, Deborah, merely publicly exercised her right to religious freedom before she was murdered. What was her “offence”? She ascribed her success in an examination which she sat for to Jesus Christ. And when violently ordered by the fanatical Muslim students around her to retract the name Jesus Christ, she refused to do so. That was all before they stoned her to death and set her body ablaze. She never insulted Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). She did not desecrate the Holy Qur’an either. She merely exercised her right to religious freedom as enshrined in our 1999 Constitution. By virtue of section 10 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, Nigeria is a secular State. Islam is not a State religion either in Sokoto State or anywhere in Nigeria. The import of this is that Deborah, like Leah Sharibu, was free to publicly reject Islam and embrace Christianity. She did so without insulting Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him). She merely publicly professed her Christian faith before they brutally murdered her.

 You see, you cannot force anyone to subscribe to your religion. God has created all of us and given us human freedom and expects us to freely exercise our freedom in one way or another. It is disappointing that clerics whose calling is to shepherd their flock to conduct themselves in edifying manner are busy inciting them to take to violence-to maiming, killing and destruction of property of the so-called infidels. By their fruits we shall know them. Violence has never been used to ultimately  solve any human problem. So, why unleash violence against others for refusing to profess your religion?. Although Muslims are enjoined to proselytise non-believers to embrace Islam and spread Islamic teachings, they are not enjoined to do so by force or through terrorism or through abduction or killing of human beings or arson. It is the obligation and duty of the Muslim community to enjoin its members to shun wickedness and evil (Holy Quran 3:110). 

Dr. Sheikh Mansour and Professor Maqari cannot claim to know the Holy Qur’an  more than the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, who has since condemned the murder of Deborah. It is fanatics like Dr. Mansour and  Professor Maqari who bring bad name to Islam. Islam is a religion of peace. Islam abhors jungle justice. I am surrounded by many fervent Muslim friends and I have never heard any of them threatening to kill any Christian for any reason. 
Like in Christianity, human life is inviolable in Islam. Human life cannot be taken away in Islam except for a just cause. What is this just cause? Three of these causes are embodied in the Qur’an while the two additional causes have been stated by the Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him). The causes stipulated in the Qur’an are: First, when a person is convicted of deliberate homicide and thus the claim of retaliation is established against him. Second: when someone resists the establishment of the true faith so that fighting against him might become necessary. Third: when someone is guilty of spreading disorder in the domain of Islam and strives to overthrow the Islamic order of government. The two causes stipulated by Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him) are: First: when a person commits illegitimate sexual intercourse even after marriage. Second: when a Muslim is guilty of apostasy and rebellion against the Muslim body-politic. Except for aforesaid five reasons, murdering a human being is not permissible in Islam, regardless of whether the victim is a believer, a protected non-Muslim (dhimmi) or an ordinary unbeliever. (Read Surah Al-Anam Ayat 151(6;151-154)

Despite the foregoing Islamic teaching, some Nigerian murderers under the pretext of defending Allah, seem to have perfected the crime of killing their fellow brothers and sisters in Nigeria. For years, they have been getting away with such killings. For example, in 1995, Gideon Akaluka, a Christian, was beheaded in Kano prison for no reason other than the fact that he was a Christian. Till date, the killers of Akaluka have not been brought to justice. In 1999 major Islamic violent riots erupted in Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano, Minna and Jos claiming human lives.
In the year 2000, we witnessed the Sharia riots. Other violent riots seized Jos in 2001 and 2004. From 2005 to 2011, major religious and ethnic riots and killings had engulfed some major cities in the North.  On 18 December 1980 the “Maitatsine guerrilla war” engulfed the North claiming officially about the lives of 2,800 people even though the army was invited to stop the war. In 1982 or so, the Maitatsine “war” was again ignited in Bulunkutu, Borno State, Jimeta and Gongola, leaving in its aftermath the death of about 900 people. In 1984 some Muslim students of Bayero University started a religious riot which spread to Bauchi and Kano claiming uncountable heavy human lives. In 1985 a violet religious riot erupted simultaneously in about seven Northern States. While the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) debate raged in the country in 1986, a religious violence was averted in the North. By 6th or 7th of March 1987, the Kafanchan religious conflagration swallowed up Kaduna, Zaria and Kano. About 50 churches were set ablaze. The 90s were not safe either. Following the crusade organised in Kano in 1991 by a German evangelist Reinhard Bonke, another round of religious riots overtook Katsina, Kafanchan, Zaria, Funtua, Kankum, Tafawa Balewa, Bauchi and other  Northern cities claiming many human lives and leaving many people injured.

On  2 June 2016, a 70-year old citizen of Imo State called lady Mrs. Bridget Agbahime, and a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) was murdered in Kano for alleged blasphemy of the Koran. And barely 10 days later, Francis Emmanuel, a 41-year-old Christian, was almost stabbed to death in Kaduna for allegedly eating meat during the Ramadan. As if that was not enough, on the 9th of July 2016, Mrs. Eunic Olawale, a mother of seven who was also the wife of a Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) pastor was murdered in cold blood in Abuja by Muslim fanatics while she was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Between 2016 and 2020 thousands upon thousands of Southern Kaduna Christians have been killed in several renewed genocidal attacks carried out against the Southern Kaduna Christians. Between 2016 and 2022 thousands upon thousands of Southern Kaduna Christians have been killed in several renewed genocidal attacks carried out against the Southern Kaduna Christians.  In fact, over 15,500 Christians have reportedly been murdered in Nigeria since June 2015.   On 25 August 2016, eight students of Talat Mafara Polytechnic, Zamfara State were killed and set ablaze by fanatical Muslim students of the institution following a fight between two students of the institution. One of the two students alleged that the other student had committed blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed (peace be on him) and that eventually led to the killing and setting ablaze of the eight persons.

 On 8 January 2020 Rev. Timothy Lawan Andimi, the then Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the Michika area, and, an ordained Christian minister at Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria., was shamefully beheaded. On or around the same time Michael Nnadi, a seminarian of the Good Shepherd, Seminary, and Kaduna was abducted from the Seminary and was brutally murdered. An eye-witness in the seminary and a friend of Michael recounted that on Wednesday 8 January  2020 at 10.27 p.m., he went to the room of Michael and suddenly there were gun shots all over the seminary which were followed intermittently by the following command in Hausa language: “Ja su waje, Alsaabiun…Kafirai, Ja su wa je! Alsaabiun…Kafirai !! (Drag them out…infidels!, Drag them out…infidels!!). Thereafter two heavily-armed men in military uniform entered the room where he and Michael were lying flat on the floor in great trepidation and seized their respective laptops and other personal belongings. Thereafter, the two men whisked them away to a waiting vehicle where Michael was later killed.

You can now see why it is imperative that the suspected killers of Deborah should be charged to court and be executed if found guilty. Apart from satisfying the demand of our criminal justice system, such punishment would serve as a deterrent to would-be killers of their fellow men and women. Reacting to the murder of Deborah, the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN) has stated that it is a criminal offence in Islam for any Muslim or group of Muslims to kill anybody through jungle justice. I completely agree with them. The universal fundamental right for humanity which Islam upholds and which must be observed and respected in all circumstances and at all times is the sacredness of human life. “Do not take a ˹human˺ life—made sacred by Allah—except with ˹legal˺ right. This is what He has commanded you, so perhaps you will understand” (Holy Quran; 17:33). In Islam, human blood is sacred and cannot be spilled anyhow. The first and foremost basic right in the Holy Quran is the right to life. “Whoever kills a human being without justification like manslaughter or corruption on earth, it is though he had killed all mankind” (Holy Quran; 5:32). “Do not kill a soul which Allah has made scared except through the due process of law” (Holy Quran; 6:151).
Islam forbids slavery and adduction. In the words of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money”.  The life, property and honour of non-Muslims (dhimmis) are to be respected and protected in exactly the same manner as those of Muslims. According to the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) Muslims who kill non-Muslims (dhimmis) will not even smell the fragrance of paradise. The Holy Quran stipulates that, “there should be no coercion in the matter of Faith” (Holy Quran 2:256).

 Islam recognises that all human beings are brothers and sisters. That they are descendant from one father and mother and therefore should not be killed. According to Holy Quran 5:3, “Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression”.  Islam teaches that no harm should be done to the civilian population during a war or conflict. The instruction of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) on this is this, “Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman”, “Do not kill the monks in monasteries” and “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship”. Once upon a time during a certain war, the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) saw a corpse of a woman lying on the ground and he said, “She is not fighting. How then came she to be killed?”.

All said, it is crystal clear that human life is sacred in Islam. It is clear that  wanton killing of non-Muslims by fanatical Muslims is against the teaching of the Prophet and Allah. And he who fights against Allah will incur the wrath of Allah the Almighty. We must understand that the spilling of the blood of our fellow men and women diminishes our own existence. The use of force in place of the rule of law is a recipe for anarchy.  Any religion ungoverned by the rule of law is dangerous to human society . Under the rule of law the judiciary occupies a unique place in safeguarding the rights of the citizenry. Such rights and regard for the rule of law are the bedrock upon which the society lays its claim to civilisation.

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