Monthly Archives: April 2012

Woman Leadership in Islam: A Nigerian Perspective

I was at a conference organized by NMDC (Nigerian Muslim and Democracy Conference) on 14th April 2012. The theme was “The Political Future of Muslims in Democratic Nigeria”. This post is about one of the sessions titled “Muslim Women and Political Participation in Nigeria”.

A paper was presented and discussion followed. The attitude to Muslim Women Leadership in Islam is an interesting one, especially given the socio-cultural realities we find ourselves in recent history. Some Muslims see no difference in woman-leadership compared to man-leadership while others have basis to oppose woman-leadership. The latter group would rather not vote when all candidates are women. However, many Muslims fall somewhere between these two views.

To capture the situation, I will use four characters that were actually present. They were not the only participants but their contributions directed the discussion. The names are fictional (The choice of names is to clearly show sex of characters). First the discussion is presented summarized to capture the important elements at the cost of the statement’s precision. Secondly, I respond to the issues raised while accommodating for the attitude of Muslim-majority towards certain points of views.

Terms (for the sake of this post):
Sahih: Authentic, Reliable, Sound
Sunnah: The sayings, practices and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
Hadith: Report of the sayings, practices and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
Sahih Bukhari: The most venerated collection of Sahih Hadiths. Bukhari is the name of the collector
Companion: A Muslim companion of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

Discussion Scene

Asiya: (while presenting her paper… ) There is consensus among Muslim scholars that women can participate in politics. There is no Sahih Hadith that is opposed to women leadership.

Bala: I will like to look at a statement Asiya made which is that “there is no sahih Hadith that is opposed to women leadership”. Now we need to be very careful when we pass judgment on a Hadith. There is, in fact, a sahih Hadith in sahih Bukhari which says “A nation that has entrusted its affairs to a woman can never be successful.” The criticism on the Hadith is that the person who narrated it from the Prophet, called Abu Bakrah, was punished by Umar (A caliph at one time) for lying; and thus this Hadith will not be considered as sahih even though it is in a sahih collection. The implication of this is also that any Hadith reported by this Abu Bakrah must not be accepted, that would be unfortunate. Remember that all companions of the Prophet are considered reliable narrators of Hadith. Given the broadness of Hadith Sciences, one passing a judgment on Hadith authenticity must acquire the authority before doing so. We are talking about dismissing a Hadith for god’s sake! Hadith is only second to the Quran.

Carla: A good point by Bala. This criticism that Bala talks about was put out by the Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi. It turns out she is the only one (perhaps the first) to put this criticism in her book. Now this criticism is very popular but it all goes back to her book. Knowing the types of views Fatima Mernissi espouses, this criticism cannot stand; her views are deviant from Islam.

Carla (continues): The second line of defense used by supporters of women leadership is referring to the story of Bilqees (queen of sheba) from the Quran. The story tells us of Bilqees being a ruler. But that was before (and at the time) she met Suleiman (Solomon). But she wasn’t ruling after their marriage, hence after her conversion to the religion of Suleiman (Islam). What does that tell us about a Muslim-woman in leadership.  Finally, I agree with Bala’s point. I believe it is apt that we get scholars to look into this matter and issue a fatwa. They are better qualified to take such decisions.

David: Well, the reality of sidelining women from politics is that the society is neglecting half of its constituents. Even Abu A’la Mawdudi supported a woman political candidate in Pakistan. And it is not because he does not know the Hadith (which opposes woman leadership). He made a simple reasoning: decided to support her (over the male opponent) because she was going to support the values of Islam more. They simply decided on this criterion and they found the solution in a woman politician.

Carla pointed out that the woman that Abu A’la Mawdudi supported turned out to be failure of a leader. Carla’s point may be that if woman leadership is to be judge on precedent, the modern woman leadership has turned out a failure.  Perhaps Carla has ignored the vast library of male-leadership failure which history has been very generous; assuming that was Carla’s intent. Consensus was amicably reached which was that scholars need to sit and deliberate this matter further.

Approach to Response

First it is only fair to point out that the characters were responding to each other and therefore didn’t have much time to consider their statements before putting them forward. This may also leave them with the tendency of generalization, as can be traced in the conversation. Unlike me, I took everything in, came back, rested then started typing. Also, it may be that I have not understood their points properly but I try to capture what I understood as best as possible. Since I’m using fictional names, no offence may be directed at any of the real characters.

I will refrain from quoting Asma Barlas and Amina Wadud as much as possible because of the general attitude (of audience that were present) towards them may be apprehensive. This is deduced from the attitude towards Fatima Mernissi; who is probably bundled in the same category as the other two. I can’t say much about Fatima Mernissi but I know Asma’ Barlas writes and argues well, and has dealt with this issue extensively (and well I might add). In fact Asma’ Barlas repeatedly tries to clarifies her position as distinct from the “feminist Muslim”. She must have thought herself as a “Muslim feminist” instead. I think Amina Waduud has valid arguments as well, but I reserve my comment on her action when she led Friday prayers (including men). I will refrain from referring to these female scholars that induce apprehension.

Response to Bala

Bala rightly cautioned on the need for sincere work/research before evaluating a Hadith as weak or not. Due to the differences among scholarly opinions on the strength of a Hadith, there is basis for coming to different conclusions on any Hadith by different people. It should be recalled that even when Bukhari completed his collection he passed it to prominent scholars of the time to verify (including Ahmad ibn Hanbal) who identified four Hadiths as weak, but Bukhari maintained them because he was convinced they were not. Bukhari is also said to have recognized his human ability to err in his introductory note. Another fact is from the works of Hadith scholars that have come after Bukhari: about 80 out of 430 narrators found in Bukhari collection have been questioned or labeled weak transmitters; secondly, about 89 Hadiths have been identified to have some defect. This is not to bring down the esteem of Bukhari collection (especially relative to others) but acknowledge plurality of opinion concerning even the most esteemed collection. Thus I think careful research is a prerequisite but we are entitled to our decisions afterwards. (source of facts: Mohammad Hashim Kamali; Hadith Studies )

Bala made a point that (all) the companions of the prophet are considered reliable narrators. This unquestioned elevation of companions of the prophet is a foundation for Muslims of ahl-al-sunnah/ahl-al-salaf persuasion, and thus Bala’s argument may easily stand for a person of such credo. But due to the emphasis the Hadith science places on reliability (righteousness, memory retention etc) of narrators, it could be disastrous to take a whole generation and credulously permit their contributions. The methodology of Hadith science already gives many privileges to the companions. The first is that on the list of ranking reliable narrators, companions are ranked the highest; but they have to be reliable in practice. The second is in the categorization of Hadith Marfuu’ and Mawquf.

Marfu’ is a Hadith that is not explicitly attributed to the prophet but since it is related by a companion, who would have only learnt it from the prophet, then the Hadith is elevated to having been a Sunnah of the prophet. Mawquf is a Hadith with its chain of narration being suspended at the level of a (reliable) companion but not attributed to the prophet; Mawquf remains unattributed to the prophet usually because of the weight of the subject matter. This latter categorization shows that even in a companion-friendly Hadith science, the companions are not infallible.

Response to Carla on Fatima Mernissi

Carla took two positions: that the criticism by Fatima Mernissi should not hold; and that the oft-quoted reference to Bilqees (queen of sheba) in the Quran does not support woman-leadership but restricts it if anything. We will deal with the issue of Fatima Mernissi first then the issue of Bilqees.

Fatima Mernissi, the Morrocan Islamic feminist, had this to say about the Hadith opposing women leadership in four points:

  1. The narrator of the Hadith was Abu Bakrah, who was once flogged by ‘Umar ibn al Khattab for giving false testimony (thereby invalidating him as a reliable narrator according to the principles of Imam Malik).
  2. The words of the Hadith were supposed to have been said by the Prophet (saw) in regard to a change of power in Persia (an enemy nation about to be ruled by a woman).
  3. However, the Hadith was not pronounced by Abu Bakrah until some 25 years later, after ‘Aisha had been defeated at the Battle of the Camel (which she fought against Ali, a man).
  4. Mernissi argues that Abu Bakrah appears to have opportunistically fabricated the Hadith to increase his standing with Ali, who he had failed to support before the battle.

The points made by Mernissi (except point 4 which is clearly an opinion) can be verified by recourse to original research. Therefore whatever her standing (to orthodoxy) she and her verifiable-claims should be differentiated to arrive at the truth. Al Ghazzali made this point clear when he differentiates a potty from the content of the potty; people may judge clean water in a potty as filthy, even if it is brand new. But according to Imam Malik, it stands that if point 1 can be proven, then the Hadith (and all Abu Bakrah’s narrations) should be discarded. If point 2 is proven, it will contextualize the Hadith as referring to a specific historical event. If point 3 is proven, it will weaken the Hadith. There are two ways to go about proving these: recourse to Fatima Mernissi’s original source using her book reference OR recourse to biographies of Hadith transmitters (‘ilm tarikh wal ruwat) which is a rich subject on its own.

Another interesting perspective is that the Hadith is a Fard Hadith (narrated by only one companion). Therefore all references to this Hadith goes back to one person; Abu Bakrah. Coincidentally Carla’s criticism of Mernissi is that Mernissi is the only one who claims that Abu Bakrah was punished for lying (and the othe three criticisms). We could say Mernissi’s criticism is a Fard criticism. But should this matter? Yes. Firstly, if Abu Bakrah is to be proven unreliable, then that Hadith cannot be taken as sahih. Secondly, in contrast to scholars of Hadith, the scholars of Islamic jurisprudence place emphasis on the number of separate chains of transmission (human transmitters) a Hadith goes through. They have made the distinction of Mutawatir Hadith and Ahad Hadith. The Hadith in question falls under Ahad Hadith, which makes it less reliable for drawing rulings. When we say women should not lead, we are deriving a ruling and thus an issue of jurisprudence.

It should also be noted that Bukhari and Mernissi could both be right yet, the Hadith may be faulty. Bukhari’s focus was on the chain of transmitters; whether they were reliable. Bukhari could have approved of Abu Bakrah for a number of reasons: high esteem of the companions, lack of knowledge on Abu Bakrah’s alleged faults, indifference to Abu Bakrah’s faults if insufficiently proved, not a follower of the principles of Imam Malik. Whereas Fatima Mernissi did not criticize the chain of transmitters, but she criticized the source (first transmitter). If the source is faulty, then the transmitters reliably transmitted a faulty Hadith.

Response to Carla on Bilqees

Secondly, Carla mentioned the case of Bilqees as unfit example for Muslim women because Bilqees was not a Muslim while she was a queen. That argument may hold. But in the context of this argument, it is not Bilqees’ example that matters as much but her capability/achievements. The Hadith by Abu Bakrah posits that a state/nation under a woman’s rule cannot prosper. But going back to the Quran (quote below)  we can see the graphical illustration of a prosperous nation under a woman. In fact everything mentioned about the nation seems very impressive except that they worshiped the sun; in other words their religion. Since Bilqees has proved capable, the Qur’an draws our attention to her faith. Perhaps capability should come before faith when Muslims are choosing a leader.

                The Quran gives account of the quoting the reporter telling the King Suleiman (Solomon) about the land (sheba) he had visited “I found (there) a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne. I found her and her people worshipping the sun besides Allah. Satan has made their deeds seem pleasing to their eyes, and has kept them away from the Path so – so they receive no guidance -” (Quran 27:23-24 Yusuf Ali Translation)

To further highlight Bilqees’ capability, Quran (27:29-35) shows her as a wise queen who consults her chiefs before making a decision. Consultation (shura) is a much cherished attribute of leadership the Quran (and Hadiths) encourage. Thus, we have the Quran showing us exemplary leadership qualities/capabilities… in a woman.

On a related note, I am yet to find any exegesis of these verses (and what follows) that Suleiman indeed married Bilqees OR that she was not ruling her kingdom after her acceptance of Islam. A probable source of these additions may be from Jewish and Biblical sources (Isra’iliyaat), which Muslims are cautioned against. I have been advised to check exegesis of Ibn katheer and Al Qurtubi because they are known to recourse to Hadiths and reason instead. I will check and then add to the comments section at end of this post. But why are these details of marriage or continued-ruling important? Carla pointed the answer in saying that Bilqees lost her ruling power after marriage to Suleiman. If they never got married, then it must have been simply a game of thrones. In Quran 27:36-37, Suleiman expressed that he was not interested in the throne but rather their submission (to the rule of God instead of religion of Sun worship). Perhaps Bilqees continued ruling her kingdom anyway.

Continuing on the controversial Hadith… Some may argue that in the Hadith, the prophet’s statement is for the future (from the time of the prophet). In that case, the Hadith may be classified with other Hadiths describing end of days… most of which do not stand to be used for legal rulings. This category of Hadiths is criticized by Hadith scholars as the Hadiths of story-tellers (because of its spectacles) or at other times under al-targheeb-wal-tarheeb (encouragement and discouragement). However the latter category is mostly for Hadiths on morals and warnings. Thus, a Hadith on future prophesy doesn’t not qualify to be used for legal rulings.

Response to David on Mawdudi

As for Mawdudi’s decision to support a woman politician, it seems on a reasonable criterion. Someone at the conference (where all this happened) concurred with Mawdudi also by telling me that Mawdudi chose the lesser of two evils. I don’t believe there was any evil, at least discernible to us, there were just two candidates who were yet to prove themselves. Oh one is controversial because “history” doesn’t record a lot of “her” type of stories.



Filed under A Day at X

Your Aspiration for 2015 is Ill-Adviced: Open Letter to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari

This is an open letter from Salihu Moh. Lukman to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Leave your comments.

Your Aspiration for 2015 is Ill-Adviced: Open Letter to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari

Sir, I am a citizen of Northern Nigeria and by my training and upbringing, I am taught the virtues of respect for the elderly and obedience to leaders. Coming from Zaria, I have grown up to understand that trust and honesty are important pillars for leadership and this leads to dissent as a result of leadership failure, which always find legitimacy in the absence, or perceived weakening, of these pillars. This leads to the rise of injustice and descent to immorality and criminal conducts in society, giving rise to crisis of confidence.

On December 31, 1983, when you spearheaded the overthrow of the Alh. Shehu Shagari led Second Republic, one of the justification for the coup was the ‘crisis of confidence afflicting our nation’. The reality before us since 1999, as Nigerians, is that we continue to face this crisis of confidence. In fact, if your coup speech is to be replayed, word for word, it will reflect present national conditions. And like in 1983, the yearning for change is evident in the conduct of our politicians which you so lucidly captured in your 1983 speech as follows:

“It is true that there is a worldwide economic recession. However, in the case of Nigeria, its impact was aggravated by mismanagement. We believe the appropriate government agencies have good advice but the leadership disregarded their advice. The situation could have been avoided if the legislators were alive to their constitutional responsibilities; Instead, the legislators were preoccupied with determining their salary scales, fringe benefit and unnecessary foreign travels, et. al ,which took no account of the state of the economy and the welfare of the people they represented. As a result of our inability to cultivate financial discipline and prudent management of the economy, we have come to depend largey on internal and external borrowing to execute government projects with attendant domestic pressure and soaring external debts, thus aggravating the propensity of the outgoing civilian administration to mismanage our financial resources. Nigeria was already condemned perpetually with the twin problem of heavy budget deficits and weak balance of payments position, with the prospect of building a virile and viable economy.

“The last general election was anything but free and fair. The only political parties that could complain of election rigging are those parties that lacked the resources to rig. There is ample evidence that rigging and thuggery were relative to the resources available to the parties. This conclusively proved to us that the parties have not developed confidence in the presidential system of government on which the nation invested so much material and human resources. While corruption and indiscipline have been associated with our state of underdevelopment, these two evils in our body politic have attained unprecedented height in the past few years. The corrupt, inept and insensitive leadership in the last four years has been the source of immorality and impropriety in our society.”

With very minor editing and emphasis, these would aptly describe our reality today. The only fundamental difference was that, unlike in December 1983, our political reality today is in spite of your active partisan involvement. Active partisan involvement to the extent that you were the strongest opposition Presidential candidate and one of the political parties that contested the last general elections (2011) was a party you organized, promoted and field candidates for the elections. The party today has a serving Governor for Nasarawa State, Senators, House of Representatives members and many members of House of Assembly in many states under the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The fact that based on performance or conduct of these elected CPC representatives, I can not differentiate them with PDP representatives is the source of my worry. I am therefore writing you this letter as a contribution to the process whereby we must critically evaluate our actions and honestly provide leadership to the process of moving our people and nation forward.

Let me quickly admit here, in the effort to move our people and nation forward, our primary task must be to develop the capacity to fight oppression and injustice. This requires a capacity to live above board, in other words the capacity to live exemplary life as a source of moral authority, if you like discipline, which has today come to be strongly associated with your leadership qualities. To that extent therefore one would expect that the CPC state government of Nasarawa will be a model and a source inspiration for Nigerians. Alternatively, we should have a situation where CPC legislators would be “alive to their constitutional responsibilities” and would not be “preoccupied with determining their salary scales, fringe benefit and unnecessary foreign travels.” Unfortunately, we are not able to make this assertion. Perhaps, it is still very early since there is still three years ahead of us.

It is with these issues in mind that I believe it is important I write you. Your recent declaration as reported by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on April 13, 2012 to the effect that you will be contesting the 2015 elections compelled me to, not just write to you, but make my views open to the public. In making my views open the public, I am conscious of my limitations as an ordinary citizen and to that extent therefore, my views will not enjoy the benefits of wide publicity and acceptability.

Consistent with my upbringing, I intend to state my views honestly, truthfully and with the utmost respect to your person. Also, consistent with the training of my parents and teachers, I will, with the best of intentions, convey to you my feelings with high sense of obedience to you as a 70 year old person who has not just paid his dues but has remained the only surviving leadership model for my generation. I say this with every sense of responsibility and conscious of the fact that I am not a member of your party and did not vote for you in the last general elections. In fact, I am a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and contested the 2011 elections as the Senatorial Candidate of the party for Kaduna North.

I am sure with this disclosure you may be tempted to dismiss my views. However, being the leader you are, I also expect that you will at least read the letter before you pass your final judgment. I will therefore proceed to state why I believe your declaration to contest the 2015 Presidential election will not lead us to the desired changes we all aspire for Nigeria.

First, like I infer above, your party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is not different from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In fact, the truth is that it has been taken over by what I can call the PDP virus based on the fact that the only serving Governor of the party was a member of the PDP and only decamped to your party after being denied the opportunity to contest on the platform of the PDP. As a result, his team (Commissioners and members of the State House of Assembly) are predominantly PDP.

In addition, the representatives of the party in the National Assembly (Senators and House of Representatives) have not differentiated themselves from the dominant conduct of PDP members. They have in fact joined the PDP club of legislators to enjoy fat salaries and benefits. They are part and parcel of unaccountable and corrupt legislative order whose business today is predominantly to resort to blackmails and intimidations with several reported allegations of corrupt practices. Arising from this, we have a national assembly that is unaccountable, whose budget is known only to its members. It is not only CPC representatives that are accomplices to this ugly reality. Representatives of ACN, Labour Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and all other opposition parties are equally guilty.

The second issue is the fact that the result we have today is a product of the way your party recruited its candidates for the 2011 elections. I am one of those who sincerely believed that you lost the party at the point of its formation because you were not able to control the process that led to the emergence of leaders of the party. This gave rise to a situation where those who emerged as the leaders of the party at national, state, local government and ward levels are people with the same orientation of PDP, orientation driven by the greed and lust for money and power that has dotted our political landscape today.

On account of this, the party leadership openly courted and facilitated the emergence of known PDP members as candidates of the party for the 2011, people whose value is completely at variance with what you stand for and represented. There are of course other situations where people that may not be PDP but are known to have openly fought against you between 2007 and 2011 in your former party, All Nigeria People Party (ANPP), people who have undermined your leadership and sabotage your cause, became the dominant players in CPC based on the opportunistic strategy of winning elections. Many have won the 2011 elections with your endorsement and are today as guilty as the PDP people you are spearheading the fight against.

The third issue relates to your inability to convert your mass followership into electoral victory in states and other levels. I expect the response that this is on account of PDP rigging machine. I believe there is PDP rigging but I also believe that the PDP rigging machine overpowered your popularity because of internal poor party administration, which led to cases of injustice. The case of Katsina and Kano states are good example. It is clear that your party lost the Governorship election in Katsina State because of mismanagement of the party primary. Otherwise, how do you account for a situation where the CPC won majority seats in the State House of Assembly and National Assembly but lost the Governorship election? If the party can defeat PDP at those levels, why was it not able to defeat the PDP at the level of Governorship?

The case of Kano is worse. Being a state where the CPC was very popular, it was a tragedy that the party only contested the Governorship and Presidential elections. This is because all the candidates for House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate virtually withdrew from the contest on account of perceived injustice to Alh. Mohammed Abacha who won the party primary but was asked by the party national leadership to withdraw for Col. Lawal Ja’afaru Isa.

Related to this, is the recent case of Kebbi State. Citizens of the state were shocked when after winning a court verdict from the electoral tribunal nullifying the 2011 gubernatorial elections and ordering re-run, the CPC leadership in the state, including the gubernatorial candidate decamped and withdraw from the re-run election. The ACN gubernatorial candidate also did the same. This was possible because the CPC leaders are in the first place PDP in content and substance but finds their way into CPC in order to pursue their greed and lust for power and money.

My fourth issue has to do with the failed attempt for the merger of opposition parties under the National Democratic Movement (NDM) initiative in 2009 and the alliance between the ACN and CPC in 2011. Without going into details, the accounts that is open to the public was that you opted out of the merger negotiations having succeeded in registering the CPC. With respect to the failed alliance of 2011, the account was that while the ACN was ready to withdraw its Presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in favour of your candidature, the CPC refused to concede the position of Vice President to the ACN.

All these accounts have not been refuted by either you or the CPC leadership. If anything, they were rationalized. Now my worries have turned to fear. This is because I have so many questions that are bothering me. These are: now that you have declared to contest for the 2015 elections, will you have a new approach in the runoff to 2015 or it will be another repeat of the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections – experience whereby ordinary citizens have very high expectations that you will be able to provide leadership for the electoral defeat of PDP? Will your campaign be driven by the same team of administratively incompetent and politically naïve and deceptive people who have failed to develop a national outlook and expand your support base to cover all parts of the country?

This leads me to my fifth point Sir. As a northerner, to that extent do you intend to use your aspiration to first throw up credible contestants for political offices in the North, contestants that upon winning elections would spearhead the socio-economic and political development of the region? Remember, your political presence alone is a determinant of who win and lose elections in most parts of the 19 states of Northern Nigeria. This will not be an issue at all if your party leadership, your campaign team and other candidates that would be fielded by your party are to have the same coloration or even resemble to your values. Unfortunately, this is most probably not going to be the case. The truth is that most of the members of your party’s leadership, your campaign team and party candidates are PDP in every respect. Some of them are even worse than PDP. They will not only emerge as candidates of your party but they will be promoted by you and aided to win elections.

I make this argument with the benefit of experience. It has happened in 2003, 2007 and 2011. You will recall that in 2003, ANPP defeated PDP in Kano with your blessing. It is now history how the ANPP government in Kano between 2003 and 2011 mismanaged and squandered public resources to the point where the people had a sense of missing the PDP government of 1999 – 2003, which partly accounted for the second coming of Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, no thanks to the mismanagement of internal processes of your party, CPC. Similarly, Alh. Isa Yuguda won the 2007 governorship elections in Bauchi with your support. Again, it is now history how Isa Yuguda defected back to PDP shortly after the 2007 elections. Since the emergence of the CPC government in Nasarawa following the 2011 elections, there have been speculations around the Nasarawa governor, Tanko Al-Makura planning to go back to PDP. Although there has been constant denial by your party leadership at both state and national levels, this speculation has remained stubborn.

What this point out is your inadvertent contribution to the phenomenon of bad governance in Nigeria. This needs to be addressed. And looking at the simplistic way you announce your declaration to contest the 2011 elections, it is important we draw your attention to this fact. I call it simplistic because it doesn’t come with critical evaluation of your experiences and a commitment to change the way you played politics in 2003, 2007 and 2011. If that happens, the result is most likely to be the same – the PDP will again overpower all opposition, including your very humble self and our tragedies and woes will continue.

My sixth point, relates to the fact you will be 73 when the 2015 elections will be conducted. Looking at your personal life, I believe you are sincerely troubled by the absence alternative leadership in the country and this is what propels you to continue to offer yourself. In evaluating this issue, I think it is really unfortunate that our national situation is almost pushing you to follow the inglorious path of the Robert Mugabe’s and Abdullai Wade’s of Africa. With the administrative incompetent and politically naive team that you have, the probability that your Presidential candidature for 2015 will be overpowered is very high.

What do we do therefore? Do we simply just surrender to PDP without a fight and to that extent ask you to withdraw your interest in contesting for the 2015 Presidential elections? If we ask you to withdraw, would that not simply translate to abdication of our responsibility to our people? What are the options before us?

Sir, these are not easy questions to answer, yet we must answer them convincingly. First, we must on no account surrender to the PDP. On no account should we allow a situation where we inadvertently facilitate the rule of PDP in anyway. To that extent therefore your aspiration to contest the 2015 Presidential elections must be discouraged because of two fundamental reasons. The first is that the same altruistic reasons driving your aspirations will not regulate the structures of your campaign and would not be able to fight against the emergence of greedy and corrupt politicians who will be embraced by you and supported to win the elections. The second reason is that your aspiration would blur our peoples’ vision as they will not be able to see beyond you.

I therefore submit that our society will benefit more without your aspirations for 2015. In the circumstance, it is my hope that you will consider changing your role to that of leading the negotiation process towards strengthening the capacity of opposition parties in Nigeria. Events in nearby Senegal should serve as a source of inspiration. To strengthen opposition parties in Nigeria would require a strategy that would throw up completely new candidates at all levels in 2015 including the Presidential elections. Your moral authority to serve as the facilitator of this will engrave your name in the sands of Nigerian history as one nationalist who sacrificed everything, including his personal aspirations to ensure that the monster called PDP is defeated.

I am convinced that members of CPC who are pushing you to contest don’t wish you well and you should not listen to them. In the event that you listen to them and contest the 2015 elections, in the manner you did in 2003, 2007 and 2011, history and future generations of Nigerians will be justified if they turned out not to be kind to you. In fact, for those of us in the North, we will be justified to be aggrieved with your decision, especially given the quality of leadership your aspirations has nurtured and imposed on our people at other lower levels.

My conclusion therefore is to remain a member of the ACN in spite of my respect for you. In remaining a member of the ACN, I am conscious of the challenges facing all of us in the North. Part of it includes the fact that arising from my inability to join your party, I will remain a political orphan in my constituency with greater probability that my candidate will not attract your support no matter his/her credential and therefore may not win election. Unfortunately, my party (ACN) leadership at national level appears to be operating in a comfort zone and as a result may only start prioritizing the development of my party structures in my constituency when it is too late.

Admittedly, I must recognize that the problem of administrative incompetence and political naivety, which define your party, CPC, also gets manifested in different ways in my party the ACN. One of the ways it gets manifested is the inability to recruit new membership in other parts of the country outside South West and Edo. While it is a reflection of the failings of many of us from outside the South West and Edo to encourage and nurture positive disposition towards the development of party structures, it must be recognized that the dominant approach is to look in the direction of aggrieved politicians in PDP who may have resources to expend in the development of structures of the party.

This is a fundamental problem because what it means is that our opposition parties in Nigeria, inclusive of your CPC and my ACN, share the same political culture with the PDP, culture which you aptly describe in your 1983 coup speech as resulting in problems of indiscipline and mismanagement of resources thereby leading to loss of confidence. Therefore, at this stage, what should occupy our attention, is not individual aspirations but that of sanitizing our parties such they are distinctively different from the PDP and in 2015, without you contesting for the Presidency, a credible Nigerian can be thrown up. In addition, with your towering charisma, you are the best person positioned by history to facilitate the unity of all opposition parties in the contest for 2015.

The element requiring the unity of opposition parties must not be taken for granted especially with the experience of 2011 where information available to the public was that CPC/ACN failed because Pastor Tunde Bakare, your running mate, refused to accept to step down. I am convinced that it was your tacit prodding that encouraged Pastor Tunde Bakare to adopt a hard line stance and refused to consider making the much needed sacrifice. I am also tempted to argue that it was your towering charisma that gave Pastor Bakare the courage and cover to be able to undermine a patriotic national calling of the time.

Many would also emphasise the point that my national leadership also undermined the patriotic national calling of that time by failing to forgo their demand for the substitution of Pastor Tunde Bakare with their nominee. These are all true but very convenient arguments. My position is that the alliance couldn’t have worked out because of two factors. I believe the parties negotiating the alliance (CPC/ACN) were not deeply committed to the negotiations and to that extent hardly see the negotiation in terms of defining the kind of government that would have taken over from the PDP. In other words, if there were discussions of programmes, they were secondary. As a result, the main focus was just the 2011 elections.

This leads me to a more substantive issue, which informs my objection to your aspiration to contest for President. To the ordinary people, their belief is that if you win the Presidency you will be able to fight against corruption and injustice in the country. Given the configuration of your party CPC and all those directly driving your campaigns and aspirations, it is debatable if you can be able to fight corruption as a President. This is the crux of the matter and all those who are quick to cite your performance as Head of State between January 1984 and August 1985, should ask themselves the following questions: does your campaign team and current CPC leaders share your vision and have any commitment to fighting corruption? Do they even have any difference with the PDP you are fighting? Can you be able to replicate the same governance policies and approaches under the 1999 constitution as amended?

As my elder and leader, I will urge you to sincerely answer these questions. I am convinced that given your honestly will not allow your personal aspiration to influence your answer. I am also convinced that your aspiration is more challenging for those of us in the North. Therefore, I must admit that your aspiration also means a challenge for the political survival of many of us in the North. Without any doubt, it also raises question about the capacity of politicians in the North to assert their independence. Rather than follow the bandwagon, I draw inspiration from Mallam Aminu Kano’s 1950 Memo where he proclaimed that “I have seen the light in the far horizon and I intend to march into full cycle, either alone or with anybody.” The task therefore for many of us from the North who genuinely want to move our nation and society forward, to be able to follow the direction of the far horizon and march towards the full cycle. Whether it is a journey we will make alone or with other fellow patriots, it is a task that is necessary and politically obligatory for our survival. I do hope you will reconsider your decision and give us leadership in this journey. Otherwise, as your loyal children, we have learned the appropriate lesson – go against the current in the service of fatherland!

Salihu Moh. Lukman

People and Passion Consult Ltd

Suite 301, Zeto Court

No. 3, Oshogbo Close

Off Emeka Anyaoku Street

Area 11, Garki


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The Honest Plumber

World economic growth is exponential compared to the world economy before the industrial revolution. As expiry dates are stamped on processed food, product obsolescence is a necessary ingredient in non-edible consumer products. Conspiracy theorists say that the reason the cure for AIDS is not in the market is because it is more economically profitable to have people on subsistent drugs than a one-time cure. In face of the fast rate of obsolescence it doesn’t seem like a bad idea; economically. Consumerism is at its highest fueled by the vicious cycle of quick obsolescence.

How does an entrepreneur differentiate themselves and stand out in this fast-paced economy? The solution lies in finding an element whose demand cuts across economic ebb. This demanded element is to be incorporated in one’s products (or services). This is one way to insulate your business from obsolescence.

The Nigerian market is as precarious as the sea. Even within the same industry, there is no consensus of what works (or rather how it works). An example in Telecommunication is the success of MTN Nigeria compared to Airtel (formerly Econet, Zain, Vmobile, Vodacom, Celtel). However there is one constant that could be asserted with high probability: the business environment lacks trust. Dishonesty and trickery have been currencies in their own rights. You could say that the Nigerian market is saturated with dishonest dealings. Thus honesty is a scarce and highly demanded element. (This is expected in an unequal society)

Episode with A Plumber

Last month, I had the opportunity to supervise a plumber’s work. We got chatting and I initially called it small-talk; because there was no particular subject of interest just hitting here and there. Some minutes in to the conversation, I realized our talk had a pattern; which is that the plumber is an “honest man”. He would always find a way to slip in the claim that he is honest. By default, you expect both agent and client to be dishonest; but I thought he was new to the biz and still had some decency he stubbornly wants to protect by repetitive assertions.

This is some of our conversation snips (rendered in non-pidgin English):

Me: Where were you working before coming to Abuja?

Plumber: I was in my hometown. I was not my own boss so I prefer it now. I didn’t like that my boss was not as honest as me.

Me: Do you know where I could get a de-ironizing liquid?

Plumber: I don’t know it by that name but if not for my honesty, I would collect your money, buy any cheap liquid, come use it so that you can’t return it. Then I would ‘ve made something for myself… but thank God I am not like that.

Me: How is this fuel subsidy removal hitting your business?

Plumber: My brother, we are managing here in Abuja. People still have money here but they are less trusting. Me, I get clients because they know I don’t cheat them.

Me: How much for the waste-pipe?

Plumber: We (plumbers) normally collect N800 but since I am not like that, I will tell you the real price which is 700 Naira.

“Honest” People from Around the World

In Malaysia, Sikhs are renowned for honesty. A Tamil taxi driver told me on one occasion that he trusts a Sikh in business unconditionally. A Chinese taxi driver told me the same and added that he trusts a Sikh way more than he trusts a fellow Malaysian-Chinese in business. When I did meet a Sikh, it seemed the honesty label had gotten to his “humble” head because kept on talking about how dishonest his competitors are (implying his honesty). Might I add, the Sikh was quite reliable in the service he offered.

An American comedian said: “Only a Black American Father brags about doing things he is SUPPOSED to do”. He elaborates saying that a Black American father would boast about being there for his kids and providing for them. Niggah Please! That is yo Job! (The comedian actually said this bit). That is one more “honest” archetype in the Americas.

My Plumber and his Country

Like the comedian’s subject, my plumber brags about doing something he is supposed to do anyway; that is being honest. Being “honest” in Nigeria now is hardly more than a marketing tool. When service men say it now, it is just like telling me you are the best. Of course you are the most honest of them all (sarcasm). And indeed if you are, you are also the most conceited of them all. A meaningless chant in rap these days is “I am keeping it real”, in Nigerian service market it is “I am honest”.

What is to become of a country where Honesty is a scarce comodity? So scare, almost a myth in the business environment where it is so desperately wanted that clients are purposely credulous to pursue it when offered. We all want to desperately believe honesty is alive. Here’s an idea, let us start being honest in business dealings. Not because our morals or religions demand it from us, but so we can make our deeply hidden fantasy a reality.

Next time you go to a mechanic, plumber or trader in the market, watch out for their self directed praise songs. It may be as obvious as Heavy Rock, as subtle as Chinese Flute, or as improvised as Jazz. Stay honest!

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