In December 1996, a Christian Igbo trader, Mr Gideon Akaluka was reportedly beheaded by muslim youths in the Northern Nigerian city of Kano. According to the report, Mr Akaluka’s wife was said to have torn a piece of the Islamic holy book to use as toiltet paper. But some muslim youths in the city went after the husband, who ran into a police station, killed and beheaded him and joyfully paraded with his severed head around the streets of Kano metropolis. When the incident happened I was no more than 18 and not only believed that he was not guilty as charged but deserved the mob justice that he got. But now looking back I over the years I am convinced that Akaluka was an innocent man and was unjustly lynched for a crime he never committed.
According to accounts of the incident, it was a little almajiri boy begging for food or on an errand that discovered the sacrilege. Other accounts claim that it was a’ mai ruwa’ or water vendor.I reached my own conclusion by putting my self in the position of the whistle-blowing almajiri boy.when I was a little boy growing up in the ancient city of kano, attending quranic school or makarantar allo, I, together with my peers hold anything written in Arabic as sacred. in our ignorance and naivety, we regard anything written with Arabic alphabets as ‘sunan Allah’ or the name of God. if walking along the street one saw a paper flying around with Arabic written on it even if it were a mere instruction manual we run after it and saved it from falling into impurity. frankly speaking we can not differentiate between the words of the sacred Qur’an and ordinary words of Arabic.
these are the reasons why I believe that Mr Akaluka was innocent:
1. there was no way the Akalukas would ever get hold of a copy of the Qur’an. No Muslim in Kano would ever sell them one even if they were willing to pay a million naira for it. Christians are regarded in northern Nigeria as impure and unfit to handle the holy Quran.
2.secondly, Akaluka was just your run of the mill Ibo trader and not an academician. I find it hard to imagine him as a student of comparative religion poring over pages of religious tomes. even if it were to be so it will be more tenable that he will opt for an English translation which is considered less sacred than the Arabic origina
, would be readable to him and would be unrecognisable to an almajiri anyway.
3. muslims and xtians clean up in different ways after toilet in Nigeria. While the latter normally use tissue papers or even newspaper pages the former use water and their fingers. And the idea that Akaluka was using the pages of the qur’an for such an unclean business must have inflamed passions beyond imagination. But, wait a minute. Using the pages of any book for such a venture is the clumsiest and most inconvenient enterprise in my opinion and even more so that of the qur’an. in Northern Nigeria there exist a very robust quranic hand copying industry done by seasoned mahaddata ( those that have committed the quran to the memory) in very beautiful kufic calligraphy. the paper used is locally called ‘holama’ a durable paper that looks like bond paper that is used for letterhead etc. using that to clean will only hurt your anus. Even the more recent more modern press printed ones coming from the middle eastern countries like Egyp,t Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are not suitable substitutes as tissue.
so what did the almajiri see?
Having dismissed the possibility of the Akalukas acquiring the qur’an for any purpose, methinks that what he saw was just the pages of an Arabic newspaper. The late 80’s and, of course, through out the nineties were turbulent times in the history of Islamic development in northern nigeria mostly fomented by representatives of middle astern countries like iran, Saudi Arabia Lebanon, egypt and even Libya.Ppropaganda materials were flying back and forth in the form of books, pamphlets newpapers and even hard cash and juicy scholarships( i too was a beneficiary) in an attempt to win over our souls. I could recall my free subscription for Sakon Musulunci, Mujuahidah, Mahjubah and Echo of Islam.
but why was Gideon Akaluka murdered in such a dastardly manner?
the ready answer that come to the mind even in academic circles was that he was a victim of the power struggle between the fiery cleric Mallam Zakzaky’s Islamic movement and the J.T.I. (jamaat tadjdeed islami) formed by his former disciples who broke away from his movement to form their own in Kano and such a sensational daring was their way of generating followers and making a loud statement that they were a force to be reckoned with.
But the real underlying factors are much more ingrained and go deeper than most pple will care to admit. In my sojourn around the world I have found that we practice in northern nigeria the most reactionary, conservative, static and redundant version of Islam that is only comparable to that of Afghanistan. Coupled with that is the irrational, illogic, hysterical and almost paranoid fear of our xtian compatriots. for instance I could recall when i was attending secondary school at Rumfa College there was this Arabic teachers of ours mallam Husaini Garba who once came to inform us of yet another xtian conspiracy to harm Islam. According to him there was a badge that pple pin to their clothes with Nigerian coat of arms and he told us that it had been discoverd that it had a hidden cross behind it that was visible if you removed the pin and that it was an attempt by xtians to make Muslims inadvertently wear the cross. And we all beleved him. Or the rumor circulating then that a miniature version of the quran had been produced by jews or xtians, depending on the narrator, and inserted in shoe soles so that muslims wearing it would unknowingly be ‘stepping’ on the quran.
sometimes these kind of bottled up rage are what is vented whenever there is a break down in law and order during riots and demonstrations.
i beleive that our pple need exposure so that they can see that things have gone beyond what hey think. All over Europe any one can easily walk into any bookshop and buy any Islamic materials without any hindrance. in many Muslim countries historic mosques are regarded as archaeological and architectural monuments visited from all over the world by pple of all denomination and sects. try taking a chsristian into the kano central mosque and see what happens.
But the biggest culprit is lack of education. UNESCO just noted recently that hausa women are the most deprived educationally in the world. according to the research it conducted in northern Nigeria, 97% of Hausa women between the ages of 17 and 22 completed less than 2 years of in school. imagine the kind of women those kind of women will bear. one would think that such a terrible prognosis is limited to western education and that Islamic education would be better. but that is even worse.
there are hardly any formal school for Islamic instructions apart from the informal’ makarantar allo’ run under the trees by itinerant mallams. everything is learnt by rote. the girls stop going after a few years to be married off. while the boys take to street begging or menial jobs. more than 99% of pple in the north can not understand Arabic the language in which most of the available islamic texts are written. therefore the clerics hold a complete and total monopoly over the interpretation of islam since very few pple can read the original arabic texts and challenge them. when i was in Egypt myArab friends will marvel at the fact that i can recite a large portion of the qur’an off head but can not understand arabic language. i tell them that i learnt it by rote just like the way we sing Indian songs without understanding a sentence of Hindi.
what most pple bandy around in the name of islam are learnt through hear say and old women’s tales. serious amends needs to be made but our leaders are there looking for power not for us but for the betterment of themselves and their family.