By Dooyum Ingye

Recall that, on the 28th day of April 2020, Mubby (as his wife fondly calls him), was arrested in Kaduna on charges of “blasphemy capable of inciting public disturbance”. Following his arrest, only in October, 2020 had he been first allowed access to his lawyers. In December 2020, a federal court in Abuja ordered the Nigerian police to release Mubarak with compensation, yet the Nigerian authority stills keeps him in prison.

Mubarak Bala, was born in northern Nigeria, and brought up a Muslim. Due to the Islamic teachings he recieved in Kano, he grew up a staunch Islamic fanatic, embracing and supporting extremist Islamic ideologies of the likes of Osama Bin Laden. It is not uncommon in Northern Nigeria to see youths supporting such Islamic groups which are widely understood and regarded as terrorist.

Currently, northerners express support to the Talibans who just seized power in Afghanistan. And until recently when, as a disappointed Islamic scholar made us understand, Kano state relaxed its adherence to the teachings which encourage killing of blasphemers, we regarded it as a centre for barbaric and absurd Islamic teachings and practices.

In most local communities, little is known about atheism. In fact, it is strongly assumed that everyone believes in the existence of a god. Expression of disbelief therefore, not only spurs genuine surprise, but aggression and villification. In Islamic law, for example, the penalty for apostasy is death. At some point, certain events had made Mubarak question: his faith, the shahadah he swore, and the teachings he received. As with most religious families, this was not taken lightly, as they assumed that the shaitan swayed him from the right path. He was considered sick, and confined to a psychiatric hospital.

Mubarak’s father, a senior member of the Islamic religious authorities, ensured he remained in the hospital where he was forced to swallow those pills. The father connived with one of the doctors who tried to convince Mubarak that there is a god, and that he was just mentally sick. Fortunately for Mubarak, due to a doctor’s strike, he was discharged.

For declaring his disbelief and embarking on an online critical campaign, Mubarak is one of the most hated person from the North, more than even Abubakar Shekau, or any other criminal terrorizing the North. This explains why his continued incarceration is greeted mostly with joy and excitement. Although his adversaries did not get what they originally wanted– public execution– they make do with his incarceration. I somehow feel confident that even his father sleeps better at night nowadays, because he no longer has to contend with the posts of his son constantly questioning Islam.

Mubarak was arrested following a petition filed with the Kano Police Command by S. S. Umar & Co., in which Bala was alleged to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad in his Facebook posts in violation of Section 26(1)(c) of the Cybercrimes Act. This act criminalizes insult of any person due to their subscription of any belief. According to the petitioners, Mubarak’s posts are capable of inciting the Muslim community into public disturbance. These were however just trumped-up charges well-moulded to incite his arrest, and like a dog waiting for a ‘throw of the bone ‘, the Nigerian police swooped in and arrested him with a fervency and swiftness which they are rarely known for, and rarely for the best of reasons.

It is important to Note that firstly, the ‘supreme’ constitution of the Republic of Nigeria in Sections 38 and 39 clearly outlines the rights of citizens to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (including freedom to change their religion or belief). Secondly, Nigeria is a secular state or, at least, prides herself as one. The provisions of the constitution stand above the over-dressed Islamic laws manipulated to arrest and incarcerate Mubarak.

In the same spirit of opinion as the Humanist International, under section 35(3) of the Nigerian Constitution, Bala should have been informed of the grounds for his detention in writing within 24 hours of his arrest. But on the Mubarak case, the Nigerian authority has completely ignored the rule of law, from that time of his arrest to the 500th day.

While it is common sense that such an illegal practice should compel the government to set Mubarak free, the Nigerian government at the federal and state levels, led by Muhammad Buhari and Abdullahi Ganduje, have sadly maintained a largely disaproved silence which is interpreted as an indirect endorsement and support of Mubarak’s incarceration. This comes as no surprise to many a Nigerian who are aware and/or have suffered state-sanctioned brutality from security operatives.

Currently, there are many Nigerians languishing in jails and prisons across the country. In fact, the #EndSars protest opened the eyes of Nigerians to the evil committed by those saddled with the responsibility of protecting the public. As usual, in response, the regime replied with gunshots and victimization of those who supported or expressed sympathy for the protesters. Succinctly put, the government of Muhammad Buhari has secceeded in creating an unsurpassed profile of human rights violation in the political history of Nigeria.

Governor Ganduje of Kano state has refused to ensure the prevalence of the rule of law prevails because of his desire to be seen as khadimul Islam. This same Ganduje who has always taken sides with barbaric Islamic laws, to gain more political favour among a population known for extreme religious views. It was Ganduje’s unspoken carelessness about this issue that gave former CP of Kano, Habu Sani, a man ethically and professionally unfit for such a position, the drive to act as though Mubarak is a convicted criminal.

So far, no prominent political leader or academic scholar from northern Nigeria has called for Mubarak’s release. Even entreaties to get them intervene in the case have been generally unfruitful. The continued unlawful incarceration of Mubarak Bala, and the silent support of this government has given islamics fanatics the impetus to profile other atheists in the northern region for attacks. After the arrest of Bala, some of these fanatics infiltrated humanist groups online to identify, stalk, and harm humanists. Some of them have countlessly issued death threats to those who openly call for Mubarak’s release.

It would seem that Mubarak is alone, but he isn’t. We stand solidly with him, and we will continue to call out the Nigerian authority on this case, and demand for his release. It must be noted that silence enables the fanatic to shift the limitation of his/her acts. If we had kept mute when Mubarak was arrested, maybe, he might have been beheaded. However, our voices and pens have kept him alive so far. We must continue to speak for, and in support of, Mubarak and every humanist at risk. It is the duty of every human with a conscience to seek the end of human rights violation.

Today, as we remember Mubarak’s 500th day in prison, we must, as a foremost duty of conscience, write for him, speak for him, protest for him, and remember him.

(c) Dooyum Ingye 2021