By Abdulkadir Abubakar
I listened with formal caution, quietude and rapt attention to all the arguments for and against the appropriateness of suspension (and later sack) of Ustaz Nuru Khalid (Digital Imam as he is fondly addressed by section of his fans). The damn fact is that sentiment has driven many of the supposedly objective minds to see the whole gamut of issues through the prism of personal preference or aggrandisement thereby reducing their take to a mere aimless rant or meaningless babble. On my part and without being immodest, I would like to clarify the matter to the best of my understanding and finally offer some words of advice.
To start with, it is a natural response for people to react with condemnation when the lives of innocent people are lost in the most barbaric manner indicative of the means and method deployed by the bandits during the attack on a moving train a few days ago. And the fingers are usually pointed at the government which controls the machinery of the country’s security. Given the fact that the first responsibility of any serious government is the protection of the lives and properties of the citizens, the government cannot be completely absolved when things turn bad. Therefore government must be questioned, its effort before, during and after the attack must be objectively evaluated, and explanations must be demanded on what has been done (or not done). This sequence of interrogations is pretty sure within the right of the citizens to ask. But in doing so, we should be mindful of the fact that all questions, enquiries and interrogations are aimed at putting our bearers on their toes and secondly to ensure that reoccurrence is avoided at all costs! A patriotic citizen should never turn the unfortunate saga into another political drama, appropriating blame to both victims and villains and making explosive statements that are dangerous and sometimes ridiculous.
It is observed along this line that, community leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, civil society organisations and many opinion columns have, in a strong-worded tone, condemned the mindless attack and called on the government to step up an effort to nip this problem in the bud. So using this scale, there is nothing wrong with Digital Imam’s sermon condemning the government in handling the security issues in the country.
From all intent and purpose, what compounded his problem and suspension and the subsequent sack was the manner he had been using his pulpit every now and then. The Mosque Committee as claimed by Senator Saidu Dansadau must have piled a dossier of evidence against him using a fine-tooth comb, particularly on the wrong usage of the pulpit. Personally, I am a regular follower of his sermons through virtual means. I have since concluded that digital imam has always been deploying wrong means to the right end or conversely, deploying right means to the wrong end. Even Senator Dansadau claimed that he called on the Imam severally to soften his position on certain issues but the Imam remained remorselessly adamant. To someone with a deep insight and first-hand experience of the security challenges of the country, Dansadau might consider the Imam’s rigidity to be utterly unacceptable and deeply infuriating. Even the super-duper patient Chair of the Committee might be tempted to take his pound of flesh when the time and opportunity comes. In addition, even the location of the mosque and the calibre of the congregants may not be ideal for the Imam to be pungently blunt and brutally honest using caustic words to force the government’s hands to swallow the criticism lock, stock and barrel. A crystal case of forceful conflation between strange bedfellows!
It is obviously clear that Digital Imam has crossed certain boundaries by calling on electorates to exercise apathy in the forthcoming elections in 2023. Granted, the Imam made these comments out of anger but the religious leaders should serve as light and guide to their followers, therefore sentiments should never be allowed to override their sense of judgement no matter the provocation! The imam should know that every sensible Nigerian is equally unhappy with the attack and the casualties left in its trail. But adding fuel to a raging flame could never be a viable option in Nigeria’s present precious situation. This soft position, which Dansadau and his ilk advocated for the umpteenth time and pursued vigorously with passion and every sinew in their being, is tantamount to compromise in the world of Digital Imam. Here is the bone of contention!
Now that the fate of the Imam has been sealed, and he got another appointment in another Masjid, he should be mindful enough to see and appreciate the difference between the real knowledge and bluff. The knowledge is to see reason based on the Holy Book (Qur’an) and authentic prophetic traditions and follow them religiously, while bluff is to see reason and follow your sentiments! Either way, there are consequences.
Politicians (especially in this season) are poised to play a murderous rat race with every single national issue. Some have effortlessly mastered the art of methodical fakery and trickery. Thus, to listen to their whispers is to throw off one’s guard in exchange for something less.
While praying for the success of the Imam in his new assignment, I wish that his new mosque will be operated by the standard code of Islamic preaching thereby avoiding turning the pulpit to be used for political activism.
Abdulkadir Abubakar writes from Katagum in Bauchi State.