Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Nigeria and the sad sensationalization of sentiment-Bala Ibrahim

Once again, the season of sensation is upon us, this time around with a religious colouration that could cause consequential commotion. Yes, if the situation is poorly handled,  it has the potential of throwing the country into a crisis, a religious crisis.

Something sensitive is currently trending on social media and methinks, the need for caution is not only cardinal but of paramount importance, because it has to do with religion. It has to do with divinity. As such, we must treat with caution, extreme caution, I think. Failure to do so can cause confusion or even conflicts, that could force a face-first on the ground, God forbid.

In his analysis of religion, Karl Marx, the German-born philosopher, political theorist, economist, historian, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary, described religion as the ‘opium of the masses’, because, according to him, it distorts reality and numbs the pain of the proletariats oppression. Max identifies some important ways in which religion reaffirms this by creating and promising eternal life in heaven for those who follow and adhere to the beliefs in religion.

Because of such belief, anything that comes contrary is visited with resistance, disgust and heightened hatred. The reaction can even be obliterating where fanaticism has a base. Hence the need for caution, extreme caution.

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A few days ago, the Daily Trust, one of the respected media houses in Nigeria, put out a story, saying Nigerians, particularly on social media, have kicked against the signing of the Samoa agreement by the government of President Bola Tinubu. “The agreement, which has some clauses that compel underdeveloped and developing nations to support the agitations by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community for recognition, as a condition for getting financial and other support from advanced societies, has sparked a chain of reactions”-Daily Trust.

 Pursuant to that publication, I suppose, a video clip of a prominent Islamic cleric, who also has a wide followership and huge credibility, commenced circulating in social media. The cleric was unequivocal and emphatically pronouncing the vehemence of Muslims against the issue of same-sex marriage, the issue of which, according to him, is incorporated in the recently signed Samoa agreement by Nigeria. He cited the Daily Trust and Mahdi Shehu among those who are unhappy with the agreement.

Displeased by the trending brouhaha, the government put out a statement, through the Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris, saying the agreement was done in Nigeria’s interest. Minister Idris said Nigeria’s endorsement was accompanied by a Statement of Declaration clarifying its understanding and context of the Agreement within its jurisdiction, to the effect that any provision that is inconsistent with the laws of Nigeria shall be invalid.

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“Nigeria signed the Agreement on Friday 28 June 2024. This was done after the extensive reviews and consultations by the Inter-ministerial Committee, convened by the Federal Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning (FMBEP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ).

It was ensured that none of the 103 Articles and Provisions of the Agreement contravenes the 1999 Constitution as amended or laws of Nigeria and other extant Laws. In addition, Nigeria’s endorsement was accompanied by a Statement of Declaration, dated 26th June 2024, clarifying its understanding and context of the Agreement within its jurisdiction to the effect that any provision that is inconsistent with the laws of Nigeria shall be invalid”-Minister Idris.

For the avoidance of any ambiguity, the Minister highlighted something in particular,  saying, “Nigeria has an existing legislation against same-sex relationships that was enacted in 2014”.

If my English is not failing me, the highlighted portion of the Minister’s statement should quench every doubt with regard to Nigeria going into an agreement with same-sex marriage,  especially when juxtaposed with the letters of the overall statement.

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In fairness to the Daily Trust, I haven’t read anywhere, in the publication that I saw, where it stated in black and white, the exact portion of the signed Samoa agreement that runs contrary to the constitution of Nigeria, or where the agreement compels the subscribing countries to accept same-sex marriage. All I read was a vox pop, or samples of opinions from members of the public, protesting against the issue of same-sex marriage.

Also, neither the Daily Trust nor the respected cleric, was kind enough, to pinpoint the exact location of the clause, within the agreement, that lends credence to the suspicion that the Samoa agreement signed, would lead our country to the adoption of same-sex marriage.

It is  astonishing that the learned and well-respected Islamic cleric was laying his claim or source of information to someone whose credibility is questionable and one that is notorious for groundless information. This is one person from whom I would never buy a second-hand car because it would not come with a genuine and credible service history.

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In a situation like this, I think, the sensible thing to do is to hold the government accountable to the statements it puts out, by bringing out the grey areas of the agreement. I expected the respected cleric in particular, to confront the government with facts so that his followers can take up the challenge. Citing the names of some governors, without confirmation of where and on what they were talking is not convincing enough. They can easily say they were quoted out of context.

I was expecting to hear Mallam say, sections so so and so of the Agreement say so so so, which goes contrary to the religion of Islam. But he didn’t mention anywhere in the 103 articles of the Samoa Agreement. My guess is that Mallam was talking from a misinformed position, particularly when he said one of his sources of information was Mahdi Shehu. I don’t consider Mahdi Shehu as a credible source of information. And anyone who does so, stands the risk of being labelled, the agent of sad sensationalization of sentiment.

The aim is simply to use religious sentiment and set the people against the government. And that is bad.

Ibrahim, a media advisor writes from Abuja

 

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