Christianity triumphed over its adversaries and managed to suck in the Roman Empire and its socio-cultural, political and legal order. Church and State have merged to become a monstrous leviathan. In the Middle Ages, as the world moved from the Dark Ages to the Age of Enlightenment, the (Roman Catholic) Church having prevailed over the Roman Empire ironically became an instrument to block human progress by rigorously reinforcing the rules against heresy and blasphemy. These rules and restrictions of heresy and blasphemy now instituted by the Church and the Roman Empire were stacked against the development of science and social progress.
So Galileo, the Italian scientist’s quest to prove the natural order of the universe by teaching and proving that the earth is spherical, clings to nothing but vast space and revolves around the sun which is one of the stars of the universe was deemed heresy contrary to the ancient truth that the earth was a flat sheet with pillars holding it up and was the center of the universe.
Galileo’s truth was gross heresy and he was blacklisted and convicted. Blasphemy by its ordinary meaning is the act of insulting or having contempt or no reverence for God. Claiming the attributes of God such as Jesus’ claimed power to forgive the sins that the Jewish authorities held against him as one of the grounds for crucifying him is another form of blasphemy. Having no respect for things of God such as books or holy objects could also be an act of blasphemy. But blasphemy is narrower in scope than heresy and has more to do with the spoken word even though it might be written like the note posted in the class platform by citizen Deborah which Islamic fanatics deemed blasphemous.
Blasphemy is an ancient act which should have no relevance in the modern world and this is where I believe Igbo cosmetology and ideas of God have more fundamental significance than any of the received religions in Nigeria for the Igbo believe that no one can fight for a God because God is more than capable of protecting His integrity and fighting His enemies. When we fight for God, it means that God is unable to fight for himself and at that moment God loses his essence and thus ceases to be God, the Omniscient, the Almighty and the Omniscient.
Thus, it is sheer ignorance to fight for God and the sooner the clerics educate their adherents and the Nigerian state uses its Constitution and laws to protect its citizens from accusations of heresy and blasphemy, the better. is for the country and the people. Galileo, the Italian’s scientific quest to prove the natural order of the universe by teaching that the earth is spherical, clings to nothing in the universe and revolves around the sum, earned him a bet on blacklist and conviction.
The Catholic Church’s inquisition against heretics and blasphemers and even Jews, especially the scattered Jews in Europe, leading to anti-Semitism and the resulting Zionist movement, are globally known historical milestones of the world. After World War II in 1945, when the United Nations instituted a new global legal order encapsulated in the Universal Declaration of Human and Peoples’ Rights, one would have thought that religious freedom would be the greatest right granted to man, but this has not been the case as can be seen in the various Islamic fatwas issued against suspected heretics and blasphemers.
Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Nigerian reporter for Thisday newspapers wrote something considered insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and Islamic religious bigots issued a fatwa to her and she had to be smuggled out of Nigeria to avoid being killed. When in 1988 the British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie published his novel “The Satanic Verses”, Ayatollah Khomeini and his Islamic Council of Iran slammed a religious death sentence and a price to execute him, we could have expected the world to go through the UN not looking the other way leaving these targeted individuals to the trauma of living in fear and shackled freedom.
The case of citizen Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a student at Sokoto College of Education, highlights the existential questions about Nigeria and its dysfunctional state and legal order. Is Nigeria a secular state with a constitution that recognizes and affirms the secular state and a constitutional framework that recognizes and enforces rules against religious bigotry, as Citizen Deborah does? Is a Nigerian citizen safe and able to practice their religion anywhere in Nigeria and have the right to hold opinions including religious ones? All these existential questions have been hanging in the air since 1966-1970 when the soldiers effectively subjugated Nigeria and imposed their will on the country and the heirs to this monstrous domain refused all pleas to negotiate and agree an accepted constitution by the people.
Citizen Deborah’s death, among several others that have occurred before, are the aftermath of the dysfunctional state and its abandoned constitutional framework that has failed to provide security and happiness to Nigerians. Perhaps the horrific death of Citizen Deborah is one of those human sacrifices usually required by the earth, or the gods or simply humanity to remake the world and restore a wounded and bleeding society by healing and healing it. . Didn’t it take the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to spread the good news of the universal kingdom of God on earth, Christianity breaking free from Judaism to proselytize for God in the world on the basis of love and of the universal brotherhood found in love? Didn’t it take Martin Luther’s excommunication and his Anti-Indulgence heresy to awaken Christendom to evangelism and apostolic missionary work outside of Europe?
Didn’t it take the murder of Martin Luther King for his anti-racial activism to force the United States to pass the segregation laws and several federal freedom laws to liberate blacks and other minorities to United States ? Didn’t it take the death of Walter Sissulu, Steve Biko and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela for 27 years to destroy the ideology of apartheid? Citizen Deborah is not the first person killed by Islamic fundamentalists and fanatics in Nigeria. In 1993, a more gruesome act against a Nigerian citizen called Gideon Akaluka took place in the city of Kano. Gideon Akaluka was an Igbo trader residing in Kano. According to the account of his murder, he chose and used a tract torn out (not by him) from the Quran to cleanse his baby’s anus after the child defecated on his shop premises.
His neighbor and business competitor sounded the alarm and without subjecting the citizen Gideon Akaluka to legal process, the Islamic mob of Kano pounced on him and killed him and in an act of bestiality beheaded him and placed his decapitated head on a pike and marched through the streets of Kano in a triumphant parade of religious bigotry and impurity. No one has been held accountable for this heinous crime. Recently, several people have been killed on the basis of blasphemy allegations, such as that of Ms. Agbahime in the same town of Kano and another female pastor from Kubwa district near Abuja who was killed because of her morning evangelism contrary to a certain Islamic bigot’s warning that she abstain. Nigeria is living a lie but the falseness of its existence is catching up with it. Nigerians deserve their freedoms otherwise the dysfunctional state and legal order will definitely collapse in the near future.
How can a country ravaged by Britain for more than a hundred years after which a pernicious, autocratic and neo-colonial dysfunctional state and legal order was imposed on it, can it be preserved by force and expect that does it last? Such artifice cannot survive the crucibles of truth. Barely four years after independence in 1960, this dysfunctional state collapsed and it took Britain’s direct intervention in 1966/67 to precipitate a civil war in which it used its vast diplomatic resources to push back the injured Igbo in Nigeria because the existence of the state of Biafra was a threat to British economic and geopolitical interests.
Since 1970 to date, the Nigerian state and society have suffered violent eruptions and enormous denial of freedoms as a more pernicious feudal and autocratic state has been forcibly imposed in Nigeria against the will of the people and this dysfunctional state and its autocratic constitutional framework are the taproot of whose promotion of religious fanaticism of Islamic fundamentalism and insurgency of which citizens Gideon Akaluka, Mrs. Agbahime and Miss Deborah Samuel are but statistical victims. No one was held responsible for having unlawfully killed his fellow citizen under the pretext of blasphemy.
May the death of Citizen Deborah be a wake-up call for Nigerians to rise up and fight for their freedoms, especially the freedom to hold religious opinions and beliefs. And let their government listen and restructure Nigeria on the parameters of democracy, freedom, universal brotherhood and egalitarianism.