Deborah, Ignorance And The North

Some weeks ago, I got into a simple analysis with a very senior journalist. I was complaining about the increasing number of northern children in alms begging down South. I told him I was worried that the leaders of the region would allow the number of “out-of-school” children to increase by the day. The man corrected the semantic implication of the phrase, “out-of-school”. It was a simple exercise in semantic analysis. He said those children I talked about “are not out-of-school children but “not-in-school children”. That is novel. He explained further: “The out-of-school children were probably in school before they dropped out. The ones you are seeing on the streets begging have never been to any school at all. So they are not in-school children”. The North has them in numbers. And when the region can no longer contain them, it finds a means of shipping them down South in their thousands. Check your neighbourhood and you will see them as they are offloaded from trucks that convey them down South.


The “not-in-school” children, we agreed, could be more dangerous. But the recent event has shown that there is no difference among them. Whether “out of school”, “not-in-school”, “unwilling-to -be-in-school” or “already-in-school”, the indoctrinated children of the North are the same. Some of them showed their colour last Thursday, May 12, 2022, when they lynched Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto. Deborah, who had an altercation with some of her classmates on their school WhatsApp group platform, was accused of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Nobody verified the allegation before the accused was adjudged guilty and subsequently summarily executed in the most Hobbesian manner ever. According to one of her classmates, Deborah was flogged, stoned and set ablaze. Those who carried out Deborah’s murder are students of a college of education and not the common Almajiris on the streets. What does that tell you?

But the students of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto who killed Deborah and had her cremated are not the real culprits. The leaders of the North, those who ensure that over the years, such a retrogressive reasoning as killing for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is sustained through a large number of badly indoctrinated youths, are the real murderers.

The greatest problem which every Nigerian must begin to get acquitted with is the fact that from the 1995 decapitation of Gideon Akaluka in Kano, to the 1999 slaughtering of Abdulahi Umar in Kebbi or the 2007 necklacing of Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a teacher of the Government Day Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State by her students, all in the name of blasphemy against the Prophet (PBUH), none of the murders has cogent justification in the Holy Quran. From the first chapter, Al-Faatiha to the last, An-Naas, there is no single clause where Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) ordered anyone be killed for denigrating him. A friend, a good Muslim that one could vouch for, sent a material to our old school platform. In the material, there are three instances, where the Prophet (PBUH) was personally insulted but he never fought, killed or allowed anyone to do so on his behalf. I produce here one of such instances where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came under personal physical attack but did nothing to avenge the attack:

“Anas (RA) said, “I was walking with the Messenger of Allah(PBUH), and he was wearing a Najrâni cloak with a rough collar. A Bedouin man caught up with him, then violently pulled him by his cloak, causing the cloak to tear, and leaving its collar [hanging] on the neck of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). I looked at the Messenger of Allah’s neck, and the cloak’s collar had left marks from how roughly he had snatched [it]. Then, he said, ‘O Muhammad, order [them] that I be given from the wealth of Allah that you have!’ The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) turned to him, smiled, and then ordered that he be given something” (reference: Riyad as-Salihin 644). The question we all should ask is: why were the “redlines” not redressed in this account? In this record above, the Prophet (PBUH) had his robe torn by an aggrieved follower, who after the ‘sacrilegious’ act, asked that the Prophet (PBUH) should bless him with some of the wealth the Messenger of Allah had and the Prophet (PBUH) obliged! Is it the same Prophet and leader that some people would rather kill for?. If the Prophet exemplified this level of humility, perseverance, forbearance and temperance, who then is master over those who encourage killing for blasphemy? Who determines what is blasphemous: the Prophet or his followers?

The Bible in John 14:15 says: “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. I ask again: where in all the Surahs of the Holy Quran did the Prophet (PBUH) command his followers to kill in retaliation for any wrong done to his name? It is on record that even when the Prophet’s (PBUH) uncle and the wife openly mocked him and ordered their servants to throw filth on his person in public, the Messenger of Allah maintained his peace. Why? Because the Prophet (PBUH) held on to the admonition of Allah which says: “Be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.” (Surah Al-Muzzamil 73:10). The Prophet (PBUH), as the true Messenger of Allah (PBUH) listened to the one who sent him, saying: “You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves, and you will surely hear from those who were given the scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah that is of the matters requiring resolve.” (Surah Ali Imran 3:186).

Truth be told; the killing of Deborah or other victims before her has nothing to do with Islam or the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). What we have playing out in the North is the depravity of some untrained minds and fundamentalists. The Almajiris we see all over the cities, towns and villages are products of the wickedness of the elite class that has held the people down for too long. If the Almajiri culture is Islamic, how many children of the northern elites are on the streets begging? Where did we get the culture of begging when the Great Prophet (PBUH) himself in Sahih-al-Bukhari 1401, says: “By him in whose hands my soul, if one of you were to carry a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it, that would be better for him than begging a man who may or may not give him anything”? The not-in-school children who witnessed the beheading of Gideon Akaluka 28 years ago are now parents. Either they or their own kids participated in the killing of Deborah last week. If we don’t pray hard, their own children will be the head cutters of the future!

The North and its leaders must know that the world is changing fast. A time is coming soon, when killings like the one of Deborah will be hugely resisted. While it is gratifying to note that the majority of Islamic scholars and traditional rulers over there have risen in condemnation of the barbaric act, I daresay that mere condemnation and appeasement may not suffice in future occurrences. How do you justify that after killing an innocent young lady, the killers still had the temerity to storm the streets in protest against the arrest of the suspects?

Are the Sokoto youths on the streets saying that the one who made a video of how he killed Deborah and set her ablaze; displaying the matches he used in the process, should go scot-free? Are they saying that those who sent threat messages on the class WhatsApp platform should not be interrogated; that Deborah should just die and be buried and consider herself lucky that her remains were found?

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