By Ochereome Nnanna
Senator Smart Adeyemi is someone I have known at a close personal level for over 30 years. Between 1988 and 1989, we were both on the executive committee of the Niger State chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, in Minna, Niger State, as young men in our late twenties. The following year I moved to Lagos while Smart pursued his unionism career until he became the President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, 1999 and 2006.
He leveraged his office, struck it nicely with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, joined the then all-powerful Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and was elected senator representing Kogi West in 2007. Since then, he has been having a Tom and Jerry routine with Senator Dino Melaye, for that position. Adeyemi found favour with David Mark, the President of the Senate.
Mark, who was a military governor while we were still in Niger State, made Adeyemi Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja whe he was still in the PDP. Melaye had joined the now expired Buharimania bandwagon of 2015 and dethroned Adeyemi for the Kogi West seat. He also found favour with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and took over Smart’s office as the FCT Senate Committee Chairman. Today, Smart is an All Progressives Congress, APC, senator, while Melaye, who is now a PDP stalwart, is waiting for his time to have another go.
What brings Senator Adeyemi to my page today is his threat to introduce a bill on Mosaic and Sharia laws as a means of fighting the endemic corruption that is destroying Nigeria. At a retreat for the Senate press corps held in Lokoja last week, Adeyemi was quoted as saying: “Let us confront corruption. Very soon, I am coming back to the chamber to bring bills on ICPC and EFCC. I want to introduce Mosaic law, what you call Sharia. By the time you cut the hands of ten, 20 people in this country, nobody will steal again”.
Oh yeah? What a brilliant idea! Let us look critically into it and see if there is any substance in this proposition. Before bringing this magical wand of a bill, Senator Adeyemi must first of all make up his mind whether he wants to fuse the “Mosaic Law” or “Sharia Law” or both into the ICPC and EFCC Acts. These are two different juridical traditions. While the Mosaic Law belongs to the Jewish religion, Sharia Law is for Muslims. These are oil and water which do not mix. The best known attribute of Mosaic Law is “eye for an eye”, whatever you do to harm your neighbour will be done to you.
The best known attribute of Sharia Law is that if you steal, your hand will be cut. I have no idea what both traditions say about what will be done to you if you are “corrupt”, since corruption is more than just stealing alone. Let nobody misquote me as they wickedly misquoted former President Goodluck Jonathan that “stealing is not corruption”. You don’t have to go to the North where they have practised the Sharia Law for centuries before you see people whose hands have been cut, allegedly due to stealing. They are right here with us all over Southern cities (especially Lagos), begging for alms.
Lagos appears to be the preferred destination for these victims of the Sharia Law. Once they acquire their “short sleeve” or “long sleeve” they board the next cattle truck: destination Lagos! Sharia Law thus becomes a means of creating social burdens for others to carry. South Westerners also practise Islam, but they don’t cut anyone’s hands, to the best of my knowledge. I wonder why? Civilisation? So, in what way has the cutting of hands stopped stealing in the Muslim North? Boko Haram terrorists, criminal herdsmen and bandits practise stealing (of people, livestock, their lands and material things) as a means of livelihood.
Anybody’s hands getting cut over there? This business of cutting the hands of thieves appears to be reserved only for the poor: the stealers of goats, chicken and groceries. The law appears to catch only the poor, illiterate, hungry, destitute and vulnerable. But the rulers who steal directly from the people’s public treasury never get “cut” by it. I have never seen any middle class, let alone upper class, Northerner wearing “short sleeve” or “long sleeve”. The rulers, nobles and politicians of the North and their families live unbelievably opulent lifestyles amidst the stench of poverty and destitution, and not a single hand of theirs has been cut, to the best of my knowledge.
It is not the stealers of goats and chicken that are impoverishing our country. If only this law can prove that a senator caught stealing the people’s money through the myriads of allowances and “running costs”, which our lawmakers corruptly award themselves, will also have his hand sliced off then I will see the point. In any case, my own religion does not permit that I be governed with Mosaic or Sharia Law. I cannot see any substance in Senator Adeyemi’s proposed bill. It only reminds me of a time-honoured quote by William Shakespeare in Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
Politicians fed on our resources should weigh their public utterances with care because eyes are watching, and ears are listening. Senator Adeyemi and his co-travellers in politics should pick the courage and implement our laws as they are without fear or favour, and corruption/stealing will be controlled. Enough of theseBaba Suwe theatrics. We wait patiently to kill Senator Adeyemi’s Mosaic/Sharia Law bill. Let him bring it on.
Ochereome Nnanna is Chairman Editorial Board of Vanguard Newspapers