…this unfortunate incidence is a pointer to the fact we cannot start to rejoice that Shekau and his hosts have been defeated when we still have deadly zealots among us who could heartlessly seek to pass away their criminal acts of murder under the guise of religion.
There are many angles to the tragic story of Mrs. Bridget Agbahime, the woman who was killed by zealots who accused her of blasphemy at Kofar Wambai market, Kano city, last week. But, given the volatility of religious issues in Nigeria, it is better we collectively advocate justice for the slain woman and tackle the demons amongst us, rather than go into issues that could trigger ethno-religious or interregional skirmishes.
First, a critical look at how the story was reported in some sections of our local media is important. By this, I’m referring to news platforms that captioned the story as, “Angry Muslim Youth Behead Igbo Woman In Kano For Blasphemy”.
No doubt, the story was purposed to expose the dastardly, barbaric and heinous act of some inane zealots, and also to advocate that justice is served accordingly. Conversely, the captioning of the sensitive story in a way that makes it capable of throwing a section of the public into chaos or inciting one group against another deviated from the core ethics of journalism.
Saying that Agbahime was Igbo when we are aware that such information could trigger fatal reprisals in South-East Nigeria, and by implication endanger the lives of innocent Northerners and Muslims living in that part of the country, brought the reporting of story in some parts of the media to an all-time low.
Again, given the ongoing secession threats and agitations for the realisation of the state of Biafra in the South-East, the inclusion of where Agbahime hailed from is a disservice to peace. Besides, of what profit is a story that misleads the public and ignites national crisis, even if it draws huge traffic to platform on which it is published?
Apart from the aforementioned reasons why mentioning Agbahime’s place of her origin in the report was wrong, the fact that she was killed extra-judicially by some misguided folks who accused her of blasphemy in an attempt to excuse their fanaticism, already makes the story a sensitive one. For this reason, the story ought to have been reported in way that it would achieve its utmost aim of exposing the crime and getting justice for the victim without promoting hate between Northerners and Southerners, Christians and Muslims.
More importantly, the ugly incident vividly reveals the faces of the Shekaus hibernating amongst us. We might play the ostrich by denying this, but we cannot deny the bitter truth that religious intolerance and violent zealotry births terrorism.
The incident becomes more scary and disturbing when one considers the fact that people were listening and watching how a heated religious argument morphed into the gruesome murder of Agbahime right in a “market”. Come to think of it, do we assume that the people at the scene of the incident countenanced what the murderers did? Or were they so scared that they lost their voices? Also, to imagine that some persons among those who witnessed this barbaric act could not raise the alarm to save the helpless woman, which makes one wonder how many so-called “blasphemers” may have been silently killed in the past.
In addition, this unfortunate incidence is a pointer to the fact we cannot start to rejoice that Shekau and his hosts have been defeated when we still have deadly zealots among us who could heartlessly seek to pass away their criminal acts of murder under the guise of religion.
In sum, beyond verbal condemnation of this crime and the award of compensation of the Agbahimes – and the families of those who were also killed at Pandogari, Rafi Local Government Council of Niger State – her killers must be duly prosecuted to serve as deterrence to other violent zealots. Perhaps, by the time those who lynched Agbahime rot in jail, other zealots and sympathisers would realise that the right to the life of a Nigerian – be he/she an atheist, a Christian, a Muslim or a pagan – is not subject to what they believe in or not.
Importantly, we must also learn to co-exist peacefully irrespective of our differences.
Ahmed Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja.