By Ingye Dooyum

Nigerians have a penchant for reacting -sometimes a little too drastically – to events, concepts and ideas from around the world. To use local parlance ‘Nigerians sabi carry other people matter for head’. When an act of injustice is committed in other countries, we rise up en-masse to demand for justice; and when the rights of person(s) are denied or violated in other countries, we demand restoration and respect for them. When people of other nations are massacred, we pour out our anger collectively on the perpetrators.


Throughout history, the Nigeria government and her citizens have played commendable roles to set things right in and for other countries. Nigerian Muslims and Christians deploy every word to express their disapproval of the maltreatment of people who share their faith in other countries. But Nigerians are mostly active about defects in other political systems. When it involves a Nigerian at home, the fashion is to dig up reasons why it would be difficult to speak up. Silence from Nigerians is the reaction that has greeted Mubarak Bala’s incarceration.


It was only last month that Nigerians hit the social media, protesting the murder of African-American George Floyd by a Police officer in Minneapolis. The Nigerian social media sphere was filled with the #Ican’tbreath hashtag passionately shared by Nigerians. Today, it is Mubarak Bala, his wife and few months old baby who can not breathe, and Nigerians are mute. Nigerians pay lip service to the incarceration of Mubarak Bala because he logically challenges and exposes the falsity of religious doctrines.


Mubarak is a Nigerian humanist who was arrested over two months ago in Kaduna, and transferred to Kano where he is being held incommunicado. The Nigeria Police are punishing him to appease the Islamic establishment, as they have refused to allow him access to a lawyer, his family or medical attention and up till now, he is yet to be formally charged him in court. While the Kano state Police is violating his rights, Muslims in Northern Nigeria has threatened to kill Mubarak Bala if the state does not adequately punish him. But then, punish him for what without a fair hearing in court?


Mubarak’s crime is, in the words of Leo Igwe, the de-mythologization of Prophet Muhammad and criticism of Islam. The thing is, Africans did not only inherit economic and political colonial structures, but heinous, imperialistic religions -Christianity and Islam- which have enslaved the minds of her citizenry.


Over the years, Mubarak has embarked on a fervent campaign to de-mythologize the prophet-hood of Muhammad who Muslims have always presented as a holy and perfect man. As an ex Muslim, Mubarak Bala attempts at honestly stripping bare the reverence attached to Muhammad by using the evils the latter committed in his lifetime in the name of Islam. Muslims do not want this; there are certain aspects of Muhammad’s life they would prefer kept secret and/or silent, but revered still.


Mubarak, through his online posts, have been able to present Muhammad quite as the bloodthirsty, lying, evil, and pedophilic leader that he is, and nothing angers Muslims more than the most objective scrutiny of their Prophet. More like a coercion-and-fear relationship with a narcissist, I think.


Mubarak Bala, seeing the imperialistic nature of Islam, has tried to break this link which ties the subconscious of Nigerians to that of Arabs, making them assimilate the Arab way of life without question. Nigeria Muslims have vehemently refused to interrogate their faith in order to attain mental liberation. Rather, they wish Mubarak death for exposing a belief system which confines Northern Nigeria to an unstable and poor state.


In the midst of all these, Mubarak has been left to stand alone. Little do they know that the decolonization process will be defeated if Nigeria scholars shy away from encouraging debates about foreign religions which have held Nigerians captive. It is unfortunate that Nigeria scholars have turned a blind eye to the plight of Mubarak Bala.


Leo Igwe captures the absence of these scholars thus ‘even African scholars and politicians who agitate and clamour for the decolonization of Africa have not denounced the arrest of Mubarak Bala. Africanists and Pan-Africanists have not uttered a word to condemn this outrageous development and a classical betrayal of the decolonization project.’


The complicity of our silence, and that of the mainstream press to Mubarak’s ordeal is terribly baffling. Even those educated on the workings of law and government have kept quiet to the tyranny of the Nigerian Police; we have ignored a hashtag advocacy for #MubarakRightsMatter and this is wrong in so far as the foundations of the Nigerian state is rooted in democratic traditions.


Nigeria cannot talk about a maximalist democracy if she comfortably suppresses the rights of her citizens. Today, the Christian brigade laugh at Mubarak also, little knowing that in the eyes of a fanatical Muslim, all non-Muslims are chickens to be slaughtered to honour Allah. We stand to lose much by keeping silent. Our democratic experiment and collective existence stands threatened by a barbaric and evil belief system.


We must speak up!


(c) Ingye Dooyum 2020