Hisbah: In Defense of Information Minister

 

By

 

Jaafar S. Jaafar

jafsmohd@yahoo.com

 

 

March 2, 2006

 

 

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have visions. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet – Theodore M. Hesburgh

 

 

What would you do if your leader lacks visions, if your leader blows an uncertain trumpet, if the chief security officer of your state condones thuggery, if your governor and his chief publicist lied? Sule Ya’u Sule (Director, Press affairs to the Executive Governor of Kano state) and his boss lied. Information and National Orientation Minister, Mr Frank Nweke Jnr, did not lie.

 

       Before I dwell on the subject matter, I am sure I would be devoured if I set out to condemn Kano Hisbah without preamble. Let me restate as I earlier said in my previous essays that violent Hisbah of Kano is not part of Islam, and whoever denies this is against the fact that no fewer than 124 verses in the Holy Qur’an condemned violence and intolerance.  And any governor who says he is fully implementing Shariah this (unreviewed) constitution is living in the world of delusion and self-deception to the detriment of the masses that bear the major brunt of their mistakes and potraying our religion in not-so-good light. Abba Mahmud, respected Leadership columnist recently wrote about Shariah, and I quote ‘If Shariah is about social justice, moral uprightness, honesty in conduct, sincerity in leadership and promotion of common good then true Muslims support it and true Christians do not oppose it. But post-1999 Shariah project is achieving the wrong results because it is being championed by the wrong people, for the wrong cause and in a wrong way. Shariah is not about legal justice alone. It is substantially about social justice.’ Alas, it is not about social justice in this clime. It is more of deploying thugs to police the society. These governors chose what law to apply and what not to apply – because some laws contradict the constitution? Yes!

 

Imagine this: a minister and IG of police banned part of ‘Shariah’ from operation (note that it is only the violent Hisbah of Kano the Minister banned), and surprisingly, it remained banned! And Muslims all over the country fold their arms; no opposition comes apart from the Kano state government. Why did Muslims condemn confab lopsidedness but not banning of Hisbah? Is Kano State Governor (who claimed to be a paragon) the only Muslim in the country? I did not hear anything from Muslim associations nor from clerics. Assuming the Minister asked Muslims not to pray or fast, what do you think would happen (I don’t even want to think about the aftermath of my dangerous imaginations).

 

Hisbah is an organ in true Islamic society that is guided by the Holy Qur’an; not this clime where the champions of Shariah are those who violate it; not where they can not compel rich to give Zakkat to the needy, where you can not stone adulterer to death, because constitution says its not capital offence; not in a place where you can not treat the case of apostasy, not in a society that has legislators, not in a place where a ‘minister’ can ban part of the said ‘law’ (I don’t consider such charade Shariah).

 

I write this on the heels of the rantings of Shekarau’s sycophants, legal acrobats (including a professor!), henchmen and thugs relayed on local radio ad nauseum and published in the press ad infinitum condemning the Federal Authorities instead of showering accolade on them for saving their government from the brink of inevitable political conflagration. Some opinions were irrational, others hilarious some even overegged the pudding by saying it is because of 3rd Term. After the Federal announcement, and in what sounds like a counter-coup broadcast, the governor berated the Federal Government for the ban placed on Hisbah and described it as a fight to finish. Of all this, what irked me most was Sule Ya’u Sule’s cliché-ridden screed, abrasively captioned, ‘The Information Minister lied.’  Sule wrote that ‘the Minister pronounced Kano guilty of running an illegal Police Force, which he tagged a constitutional breach,’ he said. ‘That would indeed be right were the State Government truly running a parallel police,’ Sule stressed. Yes Hisbah is not illegal but their actions were outside the purview of Islamic law and constitution.

 

What is now of essence is the definition of Hisbah and the Police. Let me bring some points in one of Imam al-Ghazali’s works so that it would at least mediate in this definition crisis. Al-Ghazali (who can not be described as ‘non-apostle Shariah’) had outlined ten degrees of Al-Muhtasib actions and stressed that they should be applied gradually and with great care and consideration. However, more important to us here is number 10. It reads: ‘To enforce regulation by resorting to a cadre of POLICE (emphasis mine),’ Al-Ghazali wrote. But Sule, his boss and their ilk say otherwise. According to Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, police is ‘an official organization whose job is to make people obey the law (of constitution) and to prevent and solve crime.’ If the words I put in bracket is interchanged with the phrase ‘of Islam’ and the word ‘police’ is interchanged with ‘Hisbah,’ can’t one define Hisbah as such? For Wikipaedia, police is a public and private agent concerned with the enforcement of law, order and public protection. So if Nweke Jnr defined Hisbah as such what is his fault?

 

According to Sule, ‘HISBAH means PROTECTOR, an organization set up to protect people from committing sin or infracting on the commandments of Allah (italics mine).’ He added that ‘Hisbah is an organization that guides the conduct of the people on the dictates of Shariah law…’ So let’s make some replacement on the italicized words again. Assuming the Minister says ‘POLICE means PROTECTOR, an organization set up to protect people from committing crime or infracting on the dictates of constitution.’ Supposing he further added that ‘police is an organization that guides the conduct of the people on the dictates of constitution…’ is there any difference? Was it deliberate attempt to hoodwink the people into believing that Hisbah is not police? It is just like interchanging front tyre with the rear one. USA uses the names captain, colonel, etc as police officers. What would Sule say about this?

 

In a selfish use of poetic license that could not underpin his claim, this rather loquacious image-maker of the governor said that ‘the Harvard trained Minister does not know the real difference between a police force and a para-security (a fatuous portmanteau word to ‘bilk’ unsuspecting reader) outfit with no mandate to arrest, prosecute or detain offenders.’ Hear him again: ‘…Hisbah is rather meant to guide the observance of Shariah law and Shariah derived practices because in any community if laws are promulgated, there must be both the will and the means to POLICE it otherwise it would be flouted with impunity (emphasis mine).’ Why did Sule write ‘to POLICE it’ instead of his novel 419 invention ‘to PARA-SECURE it’? Apology to grammarians.

 

Mr Frank Nweke Jnr would bear me witness, he has lived most of his life in Kano and has known how Islam preaches modesty, tolerance and humility before this thuggery-supporting and ostentatious government came to steer our affairs. He had seen how we modestly perform our religious rites like prayer, burial and how simple our social life was. What is the essence of kitting Hisbah boys to look like police officers? What has that well-designed uniform got to do with Islam? Why the silly parade they observe before their commanders? What need have their vehicles of siren? What is the importance of spending millions (that could emancipate a large chunk of beggers that littered the streets of Kano) to buy stun guns to people who are not trained in the rudiments of weapon handling. What good on earth do you expect from people selected by local government chairmen instead of religious pundits?

 

Amazingly, however, Sule’s claim that Hisbah does not arrest, prosecute or detain offenders is not substantial. Hisbah (if you like, Kano police) arrest, prosecute, torture and detain offenders. I have seen the arrest and watched the proceedings of the kangaroo tribunal that impose the fine of N2000 to N5000 on the hapless Achabamen (some of whom have preferred the option of remanding the motorcycle for 6 months and retire to begging or crime). I have heard the cases of killings, maiming and brazen application of corporal punishments on both Muslims and non-Muslims. I can produce at least 3 persons I know (in my neighborhood) who escaped death by whiskers but with severe injuries in the hands of Hisbah. The question that they do not arrest and prosecute, it is only Kano State police commissioner can answer my question: did any of his boys ever arrest or prosecute any Achaba (okada) man that carried woman? I am sure he will respond in the negative. It was the job of this outfit Sule referred to as ‘para-security’ (or did he want to say parallel-security?)

 

Watching the proceedings of this unIslamic tribunal situated at Chief Magistrate Court, Court Road (that never quote a verse in the Qur’an to show that we are now guided by Islam) is like watching Russian roulette: Sheer madness coupled with ruthlessness. I have seen how poor breadwinners parted with their contingency savings (mainly meant for hospital and school fees). I have heard the trauma they had before owner of the motorcycle agreed to borrow them. I have witnessed some cases that some Hisbah men can not write the accused name properly but rather doodled and caused confusions. I feel for these poor Achabamen  (living hand to mouth) who have borne the rigours of the law that has no provisos. Injustice, lack of compassion, intolerance, ruthlessness and what not? All in the name Islam, I refuse to be sold to this notion.

 

There was a time I was on Achaba en route for Hotoro; I came across a large crowd with Hisbah bus packed by the roadside along Sulaiman Crecent. I asked the Achaba operator carrying to stop and have a look at what was happening between the unruly mob and the proscribed Hisbah. Little did I realize that I was submerging in an ocean of stern-looking Hisbah boys. Initially, my thoughts ran a mere scuffle, but when I craned and my eyes meandered through the crowd, it was unmistakable gory face of a young man! Stun guns were being wielded and ‘shot’ at him like ordinary sticks, he was wrisling in pain and crying (writing this pathetic eyewitness account makes me weepy. If I were to write more, one can’t help but reduce to tears). This is not Islam, but the ‘Islamic leader’ condoned this violence despite the fact that Qur’an and Sunnah abhor. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: ‘Whoever (a Muslim) causes harm to dhimmee (non-Muslim) is also causing harm to me (Muhammad), and I shall be his opponent on the day of judgement…’ Going by this Hadith, I don’t know the status of those who cause harm to both.

 

On the matter of donating 32 pick-up vans, one truck, 20 motorcycles, bla,bla,bla… that Shekara’u (Father Christmas) ‘donated’ to Kano State police command, we all know the basis of this generosity. The donation came immediately after the governor received a terse warning in the president’s broadcast that declared State of Emergency in Plateau State. So it is reasonable to infer that the ‘donation’ (or is it corruption?) was meant to depict His Excellency Shekarau as a peace-loving governor. According to Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah, Shekarau had fuelled the retaliatory crisis (spillover of Yelwan Shendam crisis) of 2004 that gulped many innocent lives by allowing the zealots (who do not even know Islam) to demonstrate at that critical time. Many people like this writer really supported Attah.

 

On the matter of ‘training Jihadists’ and the ‘purported letter,’ let me state categorically that as I can not swear they didn’t, likewise I can not swear they did (despite the fact that I am attuned to the Commander-General’s politico-religious zealotry). In the same breath, I am appealing to federal authorities to release our illustrious sons who have fallen into the political trap of Mallam Shekarau. This preacher-turned Commander-General was very active in preaching and shaping our sense of morality, thus before this deceptive adminstration lured him (and his deputy) to accept the role of ‘Commander-General.’ He was once quoted as saying ‘I will not enter Government House except in a tank!’ But today he is redneck 4-star Commander-General with chauffeur-driven car and a fine motorcade, as well as a ‘guard of honour’ (I shook my head in dismay the other day as his fine convoy crept passed me down to the hitherto maligned ‘Government House’). I am sure if however released, he won’t be party to thuggery again. As a university don, academia misses a lot; as a religious teacher, Muslims miss a lot (a tragic brain drain, huh?). I hope the relevant authority will pay heed to my request – Free Chedi and Rabo now!!!

 

Since the epoch-making announcement of Nweke Jnr, that marked the unlamented demise of Kano Hisbah, Kano is living in harmony, no more thuggery, no more paranoia on the parts of Muslim and Christian brethren, no more hostility, no more torture, no more detention, apprehension had ceased. We are now the happiest people in Nigeria. Once again, thank you Minister. 

 

Back to Sule again, he had said that the clamp down on Hisbah was to return Kano to the Days of Darkness and Social Immoraliy. This is a slap on Kano people that are not known for immorality but trade, politics and Islamic scholarship (best in the South of the Sahara). Let me remind them lest they forget, it is the poignant memory of the dark days of Hisbah madness and executive rascality that would super-glue our minds till the end of the Darkest Days Kano Ever Seen – and they know the days I mean.

 

Jaafar, a concerned indigene of Kano, wrote in this piece from Kano. Email: jafsmohd@yahoo.com