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“Bingohari”: What is in a name?, By Jaafar Jaafar

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“Bingohari”: What is in a name?, By Jaafar Jaafar

NEWISSUES, Abuja

In the days of yore, I recall our Muslim neighbour had a fiery dog named John. The neighbour, whose name I can’t recall, would either tongue-click or call the pet by its name, John, to sic it on a prey or a neighbourhood scamp.

I suppose he never knew John (the Baptist) is the name of Prophet Yahya bn Zakariyya, one of the 25 ranking prophets of Allah.

A Hausa Muslim man will name his dog John, Bush, Clara but the same person will take offence if others chose to name their dogs Buhari, Sanusi, or Tijjani. If it is against the culture of Hausa man to give his dog Arabic name, other people see nothing wrong in that.

A few days ago, an innocent Nigerian citizen, Joachim Chinakwe, was subjected to harassment, arrest and incarceration after naming his dog “Buhari”, supposedly after country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari.

According to a report, an alien (a citizen of Niger Republic) dragged the poor Nigerian to the police for desecrating the name of the president, or in another account, the name of the plaintiff’s father. To a mob of fanatical supporters of the president, it is sacrilege for a pet to be so personified with their political deity’s label.

The police, notorious for eye service to ruling governments, shamelessly arrested, locked up, manufactured charges and arraigned citizen Chinakwe in court. The case, as if a case of genocide, was later transferred to the office of Assistant Inspector General in charge of the zone. The overzealous police did not stop at that, they murdered the poor dog in cold blood. This is the highest cruelty and infringement of rights I have heard this year.

But what is in a name ‘Buhari’ that this hapless citizen is suffering for? Looking at the etymology/origin of the word “Buhari” (originally written as “Bukhari” or “al-Bukhari”), one finds out that it is the name of the inhabitants of the town of “Bukhara” (the present-day Uzbekistan) under the old Persian empire.

Northern Muslims adopt the name in reverence to Muhammad bn Ismail, a famous collector of the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who was from Bukhara town.

In Arabic literature, a warthog, a sloth or even a vulture that originated from the town of Bukhara can bear the “Bukhari” moniker. It’s like saying German Shepherd or Alsatian dog, bearing the name of Alsace, a French-German border city. Pray, what is Chinakwe’s fault in naming his dog after a town in far away Asia?

Forget Mr. Chinakwe’s account that he named the dog Buhari because the president is his hero. Assuming he named the dog Buhari out of disdain or hatred for the president, where in our laws such action is criminalised? If in our culture we look down upon dog, other cultures see dog with respect. We should respect the fact that while the cow is an important part of Hinduism, cow is important of our delicacies. While the Hausas don’t eat dog, its meat is delicacy in Calabar and Jos.

I always go with Sir Edward Tylor’s definition that culture is that “complex whole” covering all spheres of human life, including religion. If you do not have this sense of respect for culture, we will never live in peace. What is happening in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara, Kano, etc is clear reflection of intolerance. In the Day of Judgment, Allah will not hold you responsible for allowing somebody to name his dog “Buhari”. According to the teaching of Islam, how well you conducted your ibadah – worship – is your pass to heaven.

Owing to the intolerance of our people and absence of the spirit of culture relativism in our psyche, we hardly look beyond our parishes. Even among Islamic sects (or even movements), there this intolerance over tolerable behaviours or actions of others. I recall sometime in January 2004, there was a clash over slaughtering and eating of horse meat during Sallah celebrations in Sokoto. While some Muslims see horse meat as halal, others see otherwise – and they all have points, according to Islamic teachings, to bolster their arguments. For goodness’ sake, why will there be a bloody clash over eating of even the horse dung?

Reading the president’s spokesman, Garba Shehu’s ludicrous statement on Chinakwe’s arrest yesterday further irked me. According to him, the president is simply laughing at the ordeal of a citizen of his country who was unjustifiably arrested on trumped up charges. “The President must be having a good laugh over this whole thing,” Mr. Shehu said in a terse statement.

I often wondered, isn’t Buhari the person we told the world that he had gone over his dictatorial past and turned over a new leaf? During campaign, it was convenient for them to gleefully heap all manner of blames related to rights abuses on the government in power, but the same agents are now absolving their government of series of human rights abuses taking place under its watch. A leader takes responsibility for the actions of the agents of state, which he can hire and fire at will. As the saying goes, the buck stops at the president’s desk.

From the arrest of investigative journalist Ibanga Isine by the SSS last year, to the incarceration of a blogger Abubakar Sidiq by EFCC earlier in the month, the detention of peace campaigners Ambassador Umar Bolori and Aisha Wakil by the Nigerian Army last week, down to the recent travails of citizen Chinakwe in the hands of Nigeria Police, the president has truly proved his critics right on issues of human rights violation.

 

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