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A tale of two dreamers

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WEEKEND with Ibraheem Sulaiman

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'Something has gone wrong with Nigeria. I am calling for non-violent  revolution, the kind of which Mahatma Ghandi championed in India. We need  people to embark on non-violent resistance. We simply need cultural  revolution.'  
—Maitama Sule

'Hausa land was in crisis for over 200 years and God brought Usman  Dafodiyo, who did not even seek for power. I have not lost my faith that God  can bring the person that will clean the mess we are in now.' 
—Adamu Ciroma

On Wednesday March 28,
2012, at an event in
Lagos, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule made the remark above. Mallam Adamu Ciroma made his in a press interview at about the same time. Both are politicians and statesmen of great accomplishment. Each is great in his own way. Maitama Sule enjoys a universal respect for his brilliance and eloquence, his bountiful and cheerful character, his disposition at once worldly and spiritual, his goodwill towards all, malice towards none. Adamu Ciroma earns his respect as a man of towering intellect, one that can be trusted. What is of interest in this discourse is the different solutions they seek for the common problem they perceive. Let us join them in a spiritual rendezvous in their quest for a way out for Nigeria.
We join Maitama Sule,  Dan Masani, in his encounter with Mahatma Ghandi, the man who conquered British Empire not by war but by peace; who gave India its character and its might. The Mahatma expresses pleasure to his guest that even after more than six decades his unique struggle is still being appreciated as a source of inspiration. Discussions goes on and on, the Mahatma wondering how a free and powerful nation like Nigeria could plunge itself into the abyss, Dan Masani expressing anguish. The meeting comes to an end, the host sees off to his guest, saying: 'You seek to know my source of inspiration throughout my struggle. Well, here is a book that tells all. I am sure that, as a Muslim, you will find it particularly interesting.' The book in Dan Masani's hand is, Mahatma Ghandi and Comparative Religion, by K L Seshagiri Rao.[1990]The portion which Mahatma Ghandi wants Maitama Sule to read runs, in part, as follows, where the author quotes C F Andrews:
'Mahatma Ghandi's profound admiration for the character of Prophet Muhammad, as a man of faith and action, deeply affected him. He was impressed to a remarkable degree by the nobility of the early Caliphate and the fervent faith of the first followers of the Prophet. The bare simplicity in which they lived, their chivalrous devotion to the poor, their intense belief in God's overruling majesty, all these things had a great effect on him. Following the example of the Prophet of Islam, Mahatma Ghandi has never for a moment separated the political from the spiritual, or failed to deal directly with the social evils which stood out before his eyes. Thus the Prophet's supreme, practical instinct as a reformer, combined with his intense faith in God as the sole Creator and Director of the universe, has been a source of constant strength and support to Mahatma Ghandi himself, in his own struggle.
'Whenever Mahatma Ghandi has turned from this political aspect of the struggle in order to gain strength for the great conception of suffering injury without retaliation, he has constantly taken the character of the Prophet's son in law Ali and of Hassan and Hussein for example. The story of the suffering of these descendants is indeed full of pathos. It illustrates "the irresistible might of meekness" which has always appealed most to Mahatma Ghandi. In his writings he often refers to the early days of the Prophet's mission, when he was despised and rejected by his own country men and was fain to submit to every form of humiliation in silence. Thus in his own way he has found the teaching of the Prophet of Islam fully compatible with the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, whereupon he lays such stress.'
We can now join Mallam Adamu Ciroma in his quest for Dan Fodio. Ciroma humbly introduces himself to the greatest man Africa has ever produced as a man with, quite rightly, formidable credentials: one time managing the voice of Northern Nigeria, at another time in charge of Nigeria's money, at yet another in charge of the nation's food. What happened to the Caliphate, he is asked. It was conquered by a great power from Europe, and it effectively came to an end, comes the reply. What happened to the Muslim Community which constitutes the very heart of Africa, is the next query. 'They are essentially fine but severely weakened.' 'Why, have they compromised Islam, have they severed their ties to God, have they succumbed to the earthly temptations?' 'They are trying their best.'
'Do you have a Caliph now?' 'Yes, but he does not exercise the powers of a Caliph, his powers having been abolished by the foreign power; nowadays he is appointed and removed at the pleasure of the government he serves; he is answerable to a chairman of his local government, who is answerable to a governor who is answerable to someone far away, very far away.' 'After the conquest by the Europeans and God gave you power, how did you lose it?'  'We were conquered the second time.'  'By who?' 'By money!' 'What are your ways now?'  'The ways of the Europeans, we have adopted their laws, their habits, their method of government and economy.' 'How secure is your Treasury?' 'Secure as a sieve!' Many more questions, many more answers.
Mallam Adamu Ciroma seeks permission to leave. Dan Fodio shows him a report concerning the justice system in Nigeria. It reads as follows. 'On October 7, 2010, an upper class woman, Cecilia Ibru, a bank chief executive who claims to be blessed with "a mindset that is dependent on God's inspiration", pleaded guilty to theft involving 2.6 billion dollars, or 400 billion naira. After much negotiation and reconciliation between her and government, an amicable settlement was finally reached, and she agreed, obviously with much reluctance, to forfeit cash and property worth 1.2 billion dollars or 190 billion naira, and go to jail for just six months. On April 10, 2012, a lower class young man, Maniru Abdulmalik, a 'motorcyclist', pleaded guilty to theft involving 500 dollars or 78000 naira. He 'forfeited' 250 dollars or 40000 naira to the police. No negotiation, no reconciliation, no amicable settlement. He was jailed for six months.'
Know that, as our Prophet said, Dan Fodio gives his parting words, nations are destroyed if they make a poor man face the full extent of the law if he commits theft, but let the rich, powerful man who commits a similar offense go free. I also heard that your nation is at war with its children and grand children, refusing to yield, glorifying war. You can never win a war against your own future. Moreover one war can lead to another. And tell your nation to prepare for the greater war ahead. It is the war which, according to the Quran, God always wages on nations which promote and justify economic exploitation of man by man. In our own case, when our struggle came to an end, there remained not a single ruler who did not lose his throne, and God turned over the entire region to those who were oppressed, who were considered weak, who were deemed inconsequential. God broke the high and mighty into shreds. To avoid that war, your nation must be ready for the arduous and monumental enterprise, as we did, following the way of Prophet Muhammad. We saw no other way.

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