By Felix Oboagwina
President Olusegun Obasanjo it was who dissected political Sharia from religious Sharia. He made the distinction in those maddening days of 1999 when Zamfara State led the way to unilaterally pronounce and enact Sharia law. The Zamfara move shocked and shook a great number of people. It frontally affronted the Nigerian Constitution. Romancing Sharia looked like an aberration for a Zamfara that formed part of the 36 states making up Nigeria, a country whose secular Constitution in Section 10 warned that,
“The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.”
Zamfara belittled that proviso and bulldozed Islamic law into its statutes.
Tasked to lasso this bull in the china shop, Obasanjo kept his distance, saying that then-Zamfara State’s Governor Ahmad Sani Yerima was merely operating “political Sharia,” which would “fizzle out.” It did not. Soon, 11 other Northern states followed suit and adopted Sharia. Today 12 of the North’s 19 states continue to operate Sharia.
If it achieved nothing else, the implementation of the Islamic statute in those Northern states quickly turned fundamentalists into Oliver Twists and they agitated for more milestones to shorten the distance to their Islamic Eldorado. It partly explains Boko Haram and the zealotry today gripping the North in a stranglehold of terrorism. These theocratic Oliver Twists simply will not rest until they drown Nigeria’s secular Constitution in the waters of their parochialism. These fundamentalists’ sacred mission to achieve an unadulterated Islamic system of government, like that of the Taliban, scares Nigeria’s moderate Muslims and other-faith citizens who fear the descent to Afghanistan.
Now Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has upped the ante with a new policy that further tantalises the fanatics. The Governor of Kaduna State has fed the demons of fundamentalism with one more offering. His latest move is rooted in his personality makeup. El-Rufai, whatever pluses he has achieved in Kaduna, appears to have devoted his two terms as incumbent Governor to idolising two elements constituting his personality makeup –his Fulani heritage and his Islamic devotion.
In his “Fulaniism,” the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory has prioritised the dominance of the Fulani race above all others. Ask any Kaduna man. He will tell you that El-Rufai, as Governor, runs with an agenda that has idolised that ethnic stock. About 30 other ethnic groups, including the Minorities in Southern Kaduna and elsewhere in the state, have been systematically terrorised into silence by irredentist Fulani warriors pledging loyalty, dedication and devotion to the likes of El-Rufai. Some are foreign Fulani cousins from outside Nigeria. They hold no prisoners. In Christian-dominated Adara and Southern Kaduna, killings take place every cursed day. The Governor apparently props up the carnage by a policy to establish structures for strange, brand-new Fulani emirates where they never existed. The Adara king, Agom Adara III, His Royal Highness Maiwada Raphael Galadima, resisting the cantankerous move, paid for the audacity with his life. He was abducted and killed in October 2018.
As if that were enough, for his second term, the Mallam embraced the bizarre. The Governor, who won his first term on a Muslim-Christian ticket with Yusuf Barnabas Bala (a.k.a. Bala Bantex) as his Deputy Governor, this time around pushed a Muslim-Muslim ticket. He nominated a Muslim woman for his Running Mate and won. Guess whose ego that combination masturbated? Definitely not the Minorities nor the Christians nor the Liberals, his formula terribly up-ended the delicate Muslim-Christian balancing of the Kaduna polity, where both religions have a virtual parity in population. Since the First Republic, the Muslim-dominated North has seen Kaduna as headquarters and the Muslims would not brook a Christian on its driving seat. Governor Patrick Yakowa’s ascendancy (2010–2012) was an aberration, and the helicopter accident that killed him on December 15, 2012 always raised questions. Today, El-Rufai rules Kaduna with that insensitive, daredevil Muslim-Muslim configuration.
EL-RUFAI AND HIS FOUR-DAY WORKING WEEK FOR FUNDAMENTALISM
For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a Governor is declaring a four-day working week in his state. Last November, the Ahmadu Bello University-trained Estate Surveyor announced that his state, from December 1, would commence a three-day weekend. Subsequently, Ran Juma’a, Friday, the Muslims’ day of worship, would become a day of rest in Kaduna. It marks the first time, since the Amalgamation of the Southern Protectorate and Northern Protectorate produced Nigeria in 1914, that any part of the country would observe a four-day working week.
Undoubtedly, the Mallam is pandering to ultra-religionists hankering for a work-free Friday. In fact, in some Muslim-dominated states, after mosque prayers on Friday, markets and offices shut down. This case obtains in the Muslim-dominated parts of the North, even up to Abuja and Ilorin in Kwara State.
Ironically, the Harvard-trained administrator excused the policy with the unconvincing words that, “This measure is designed to help boost productivity, improve work-life balance and enable workers to have more time for their families, for rest, and for agriculture.”
That less work would result in more productivity stands logic on its head clearly. For one, Kaduna suffers from pronounced financial and educational deficits, deficits worsened by the recent COVID-19 lockdown. In fact, Kaduna parents have already kicked at the four-working-day policy on the ground that it would further squash their children’s education. They have a point. The West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results for 2020 placed Kaduna 16th of 36 states, with 40 percent candidates from the state notching up to five credits inclusive of English and Mathematics. Abia State topped with 82.8 percent that year.
DEFICITS IN REVENUE AND PRODUCTIVITY
That a state running on a budget deficit will adopt a fewer days’ working week bewilders sanity. For one, it underscores the laid-back indolence and entitlement mentality acquired by some states whose sustainability depends on offerings from the Monthly Federal Allocation. Kaduna State’s 2022 budget of N233 billion, the Governor announced, would be funded from internally generated revenue of N67.26 billion. That means only 28.8 percent of Kaduna’s budget will be sourced internally, while the lion’s share of N165.74 billion will come from federal allocations (partly made up of N24.9 billion VAT). However, going by the recent litigations over the Value Added Tax, that source becomes dicey. It will depend on the Supreme Court’s final ruling on the case being pursued by key VAT generators like Lagos, Rivers and Ogun state who are fighting to have their VAT earnings excluded from the common purse. They want earners to be keepers. The 17 Southern governors support the move, while 19 Northern governors, including El-Rufai, have opposed it.
Meanwhile, the harsh VAT debate raises a fundamental question. What moral right would Northern states (whose Hisbah police hunt down and destroy beer bottles in the name of the Sharia law) have to share in VAT proceeds coming from states permitting alcohol production and consumption? Should tax from alcoholic drinks not be taboo too to those states making alcohol business a taboo? Does it not amount to robbing Peter to pay Paul? Under El-Rufai, the Hisbah police that enforce Sharia law have also been destroying places doing beer business.
Similar questions naturally trail Kaduna’s adoption of a four-day working week. Should a state that works four days and embraces leisure on the erstwhile fifth working day be entitled to revenue from others who put their shoulders to the plough for five days? Does it not amount to “Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop?”
El-Rufai’s three-day weekend has created a contradiction, a paradox, an incongruity, an absurdity that flies in the face of, not just global practice but, global “best” practice. All over the civilised world, the workweek runs from Monday through Friday, with the leisurely weekend fixed at Saturday and Sunday. Only an infinitesimal few do otherwise. Even God performed the work of creation in six days. On the seventh day, the Creator rested! That is one day of divine rest.
However, the lurking danger is that El-Rufai’s move could trigger off a domino effect. Like the case of Sharia, many Northern states may amplify this innovation into a bandwagon, and allow ethno-religious sentiments drown the commonsense demands of their socio-economic distresses.
With his instituting a four-day working week, Mallam El-Rufai, as Governor Yari did with Zamfara’s Sharia, is taking Kaduna State, and indeed the North, on another ride on the back of the insatiable tiger of religious fundamentalism. Today, Zamfara that started Sharia has lost its peace, convulsing under the deadly fever of terrorism.
Before it ends up in the beast’s belly again, can the North be delivered from this misguided ride on El-Rufai’s tiger of ethno-religious fundamentalism?
* OBOAGWINA, AN AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST, SENT IN THIS PIECE FROM LAGOS. HE MAY BE REACHED VIA: firstname.lastname@example.org