If you have watched the recent President Muhammadu Buhari interview with Aljazeera’s Mehdi Hasan on the programme UpFront, Aljazeera’s version of Stephen Sackur’s Hardtalk on BBC, you would noticed that there is a change of view by the president on Nigerian law. Towards the end the of the about 14 minutes interview, Mehdi Hasan asked the president that all important question the Nigerian media have refused to ask the man since and the question that gave the impression he was religious bigot.
Mehdi Hassan: “Boko Haram claim to support what they call Sharia Law, they stone women to death, and they have cut the hands of thieves…, do you yourself, I know you are a Muslim from Northern Nigeria; do you support the imposition of these types of punishment across Nigeria, because there is a quote from you from 2001, which you allegedly say, ‘God’s willing we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of Sharia in the country,’ Is that still your view Mr. President?”
President Buhari: “Nigerians, by the constitution have the rights to pursue any religion they want to. But there is a fundamental issue here. No religion advocate hurting the innocent. Boko Haram are finding it difficult to get volunteers voluntarily now. Because they can’t go and slaughter children in their sleep, kill people in churches, kill people in mosque, in motor parks, in…”
Mehdi Hassan: “Mr. President we all agree on that, I am asking you about punishment.”
President Buhari: “Will you allow me to finish please?”
Mehdi Hassan: “Please.”
President Buhari: “They can’t kill people, innocent people, and shout ‘Allahu Akbar’, they either don’t believe if God is great or they don’t know what they are talking about. This clearly, in the constituent where Boko Haram are executing people, cutting hands, stoning them as you mentioned, have understood that Boko Haram is anything but Islamic. This is very clear, we said it, we put it in writing, we mentioned it.
Mehdi Hasan: “You are very clear on that, I think we all agree that Boko Haram are not the godly people they claim to be, I am asking you about the punishment. Do you support the use of stoning for adultery, or cutting off of hands as part of Nigerian law, across Nigeria, as some say you support?”
President Buhari: “No, Nigerian law does not allow for that.”
Mehdi Hasan: “And you don’t want to change the law to allow stoning or any of these more brutal punishments to be brought in?”
President Buhari: “I cannot change it. I haven’t been voted by majority of Nigerians to change the Nigerian constitution.”
As you can see the president went round and round around the ultimate question and the question is simple. Of course if you don’t support the cutting of hands and stoning of women to death, as a leader, you would have condemned it when Ex-Governor Sani Yerima of Zamfara State chopped off the hand of a man who allegedly stole his brother’s cow. During the campaign at Eagle Square, Abuja, which I personally covered, I saw Sani Yerima all over Buhari at the center of the whole campaign.
Amina Lawal Kurami (born 1972) is a Nigerian woman. On March 22, 2002, an Islamic Sharia court (in Funtua, Nigeria in the northern state of Katsina) sentenced her to death by stoning for adultery and for conceiving a child out of wedlock. The person she identified as the father of the child was not prosecuted for lack of evidence and deemed innocent by the court without any DNA tests.
Another Sharia court sentenced a man to death by stoning for sodomy in Bauchi State, Nigeria. We have never heard President Buhari condemn this, instead what we heard and it has been confirmed by this interview that he said, “God’s willing we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of Sharia in the country,” in 2001 which he hasn’t denied.
To tell the Aljazeera man that the Nigerian Law does not support stoning and cutting of hands is a complete lie. The Sharia Law as some want to practice it and is being practiced in some Northern Nigerian states supports the cutting of hands, the stoning to death and death sentences of those who blaspheme against Islam, as we saw with the recent case in Kano where some 9 people were sentenced to death for blasphemy in June this year and President Buhari has been in power since May’ 29th.
I am not accusing the president of anything, but I must say such utterances as his in 2001, in my opinion, was responsible for encouraging and fertilizing Islamic extremism in the Northern Nigeria, the extremism which gave birth to the likes of Boko Haram before they evolve into what they are today, a menace to society, and we are all victims now, even the president. That he no longer believes in the cruel aspect of Sharia Law is refreshing.