First Lady Counts Losses from Miss World Pageant...
From Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja, Ademola Adeyemo in Ibadan, Ndubuisi Francis, Tokunbo Adedoja and Samuel Ajayi in Lagos
Zamfara State government which on Monday passed a Fatwa or death
sentence on Miss Isioma
Daniel, a reporter with THISDAY who authored the controversial article
on Miss World Beauty Pageant was yesterday isolated by the Islamic
world as the Federal Government, the authorities of the Saudi Arabia
Kingdom, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) and Islamic
clerics across the country denounced the move.
truth behind the Miss World riots
By James Astill in Kaduna
"They will put you out of the churches; yeah, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think he offers God service," he began at the Rahama English Baptist church last Sunday.
Mr Hayab, the secretary of Nigeria's alliance of Protestant churches, chose his text well. During three days of rioting in Kaduna, ostensibly triggered by Muslim rage at Nigeria's hosting of Miss World, 58 churches were attacked and at least 215 people were killed.
Some of them were almost certainly from Mr Hayab's congregation. Instead of the usual 100 worshippers, only 18 people were there in the rubble.
The chaos last week was only the latest in a series of violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria, and by no means the worst.
Two years ago more than 2,000 people died in a month of religious rioting in Kaduna over the new state government's imposition of sharia (Islamic) law on the sizeable Christian minority.
This time there was someone less powerful to blame - the spark was said to have been an article in the national This Day newspaper making light of Muslim objections to the contest. Its author, Isioma Daniel, a 22-year-old Christian fashion journalist, suggested that Mohammed would probably have wanted to marry one of the contestants.
Everyone fulminated against Daniel - Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, Miss World's British organisers, Nigeria's fundamentalist leaders - forcing her to flee to America. On Tuesday, another northern state, Zamfara, issued a fatwa calling for her death.
But as this city of 5 million struggles with a strict curfew and still-smoking ruins, a different story is emerging.
Almost no one in Kaduna - Muslim or Christian - seems to have read Daniel's piece. Few have any knowledge of or opinion on Miss World. It was not until four days after the publication of the article that Kaduna's furious Muslim mobs organised themselves.
When they did, the state governor's residence, businesses and a campaign office set up for a bitterly contested forthcoming election were primary targets. Motorists displaying the governor's bumper stickers were torched.
"This [violence] had nothing to do with religion, these were purely political events," said Kaduna's governor, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi. "The article was repulsive to Muslims, and there are people here who saw that as an opportunity. They were shouting the slogans of election aspirants, circulating their posters. No, it was not about religion."
Nor was Mr Makarfi's response. He admits that many casualties were shot by soldiers trying to quash what amounted to a revolt. A spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross said it was "strange" that so many casualties had died of gunshot wounds in a popular riot.
In the Baraub Dikki hospital, the wounded say the soldiers fired at random. Mohammed Shuiabu, 20, blood still seeping from a bullet wound in his belly, said: "Soldiers shouted at me to run away but then they shot me when I did." He had never heard of Miss World.
After visiting the hospital on Thursday, Mr Obasanjo was uncharacteristically confrontational. "This situation has to be confronted," he declared. "A few people must be responsible. Who are these people?"
So far, more than 350 of the rioters have been detained and Mr Makarfi is promising more arrests. But it will take more than a few arrests to clean up Nigeria's violent politics, as his own career might suggest. He is currently being sued over his plan to move Kaduna's main medical polytechnic to his home town, Makarfi. It has been alleged that his family would benefit.
Kaduna's miserable slums, where most of the killing took place, make it achingly clear why Nigerians might kill to win political patronage. Sewage streams down streets where children play barefoot. This is despite Nigeria's annual oil revenues of £15bn and oil reserves which may prove larger than Iraq's.
Godwin Eze, 35, lost all his possessions when armed strangers, carrying cans of petrol, singled out his street in a largely Christian quarter. "Look at it!" he said, walking over the rubble. "My beds, my chairs, my gifts from when I got wedded. All gone. Now I'm trying to get out of Kaduna."
No one knows why the attacks began, though according to witnesses, it was a full day before the riots became overtly sectarian, when a Muslim mob burned the offices of This Day. Next, Mr Markarfi's supporters were attacked and, as if to disguise this, a few churches torched.
Finally, and for two long days, a religious war raged unchecked through Kaduna's poorest slums. "We have always been living together so you should never say there is religious hatred here," said Jummia Fagbay, a nurse at Gwamma Awan maternity hospital, which dealt with the wounded. "But the injuries ... they put a tyre round a man's neck. They set it on fire."
James Usman, a Christian, said: "I don't know ... why this has to happen, but they are not my brothers now."
With religious differences inflamed by politics, even the most rational religious leaders, who signed a peace pact in Kaduna only three months ago, sound like firebrands. Mr Hayab, said: "This is the work of powerful people who want to get at the government by stirring up jobless people with religion." Then he added: "Ours is a God of mercy, theirs is a God of violence."
Abdulkadir Orire, the secretary general of Nigeria's organisation of Islamic groups, which yesterday ordered that the fatwa on Daniel be lifted, said: "True religion never touches thuggery, killing, vandalism. But where you have 70% of youths unemployed ... a devil can find work for idle hands."
But he is less moderate when it comes to the rights of Nigeria's Muslims to enforce sharia law.
"If democracy doesn't do what we are wanting, we have to do it the other way round. As Muslims, we have no choice."
Religious tensions simmer in Nigeria
Christian leaders have warned that they will defend themselves if the authorities cannot protect them, following the death of more than 200 people in religious riots last week.
It is not clear how many of the dead were Christian but mobs of Muslim youths singled out Christians for attack in both the northern city of Kaduna and the capital, Abuja. Groups of Christians reportedly retaliated in kind.
The riots were sparked by a newspaper report linking the Prophet Mohammed to the Miss World beauty contest, which some Muslims said was blasphemous.
The northern state of Zamfara says it has issued a "fatwa" or religious decree, calling on Muslims to kill the journalist who wrote the article.
Fashion writer Isioma Daniel is now reported to have left the country after resigning from ThisDay newspaper.
Colleagues say she is now in the United States, according to Reuters news agency.
On Tuesday, authorities in the northern state of Zamfara issued what they said was a "fatwa", urging Muslims to kill her for writing the article, which sparked religious riots in the northern city of Kaduna.
Many Kaduna residents are still living in makeshift shelters after fleeing the violence.
"If the government fails to protect us, our people will be left with no option but to defend and protect themselves by whatever means available to them," said the Anglican Archbishop of Abuja, Ola Makinde.
He was speaking at a press conference, flanked by other Christian leaders.
The Catholic Archbishop, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, said Christians were "tired of turning the other cheek".
He called on the government to arrest the Zamfara officials who had issued the "fatwa".
"That is a criminal act," he said.
"When somebody has sentenced a fellow Nigerian to be killed by any other Muslim anywhere in the world... that person should be held responsible."
The federal government has said the deputy governor of Zamfara had no right to issue a fatwa but no further action has been taken against him.
A fatwa is a religious decree which is normally made by an Islamic scholar but a spokesman for Zamfara state said that any leader could issue one.
Opinion is divided among Muslim leaders about whether the Zamfara fatwa is indeed valid.
Some say that because Ms Daniel has apologised and also resigned from her job, she does not deserve to be killed.
The new journalism graduate wrote an article in response to Muslim objections to Nigeria's hosting of the Miss World beauty contest, saying that the Prophet Mohammed would not have complained about the pageant and indeed, may have chosen to marry one of the beauty queens.
This infuriated many Muslims, who destroyed ThisDay's Kaduna office and went on to burn down churches and hotels last week.
Correspondents say this is the latest example of a split between politicians in the Muslim north and the federal government, which is largely made up of southern Christians.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, a born-again Christian, is seeking re-election next year.
Deputy Governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi told religious leaders in Zamfara state capital, Gusau: "It is binding on all Muslims wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty".
The speech was rebroadcast on local radio in Zamfara state, which was the first state in Nigeria to introduce Islamic law in January 2000.
The Miss World contest was moved to London after the riots.
A Muslim cleric in the capital, Abuja, said that Ms Daniel could only escape the death penalty by converting to Islam.
Hussein Muhammed told the BBC Focus on Africa programme that if he saw her, he would kill her, even if that meant going to prison because Islamic law is more important to him than Nigerian law.
"I would be willing to kill my parents for Mohammed," he said.
But other Muslim leaders have a different view.
"ThisDay newspaper has apologised on her (Ms Daniel's) behalf, so the fatwa has to be withdrawn," Kaduna-based Islamic scholar Ali Alkali told Reuters.
By James Astill and Owen Bowcott
Isioma Daniel, who studied journalism and politics for three years at the University of Central Lancashire, is understood to have fled Nigeria for the US before the deputy governor of Zamfara state announced the death sentence on the local radio station on Monday evening.
News of the fatwa was delivered as the Miss World organisation, which has evacuated its contestants to London, confirmed the beauty pageant will now go ahead on December 7 at Alexandra Palace in London.
The choice of Nigeria as host nation was dogged by controversy from the start. Half a dozen contestants boycotted the event in protest at the decision by one of Nigeria's 12 Muslim majority northern states to order the stoning to death of an unmarried mother.
On November 16, the national ThisDay newspaper printed a comment piece by Ms Daniel, a 21-year-old features writer, which examined arguments for and against the Miss World contest and asked whether it would benefit the country's economy.
It considered the genesis of the plan to bring the event to Nigeria. "As the idea became a reality," she wrote, "it also aroused dissent from many groups of people. The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria and ask them to revel in vanity.
"What would Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from one of them. The irony is that Algeria, an Islamic country, is one of the countries participating in the contest."
Mention of the Prophet Mohammed's susceptibility to female allure inflamed Muslim feeling across northern Nigeria. In the riots that followed, Christian and Muslim gangs roamed the city of Kaduna, murdering families of the opposite religion.
Ms Daniel resigned from the newspaper the day after her article appeared. Despite a series of front-page apologies, protesters torched ThisDay's office in Kaduna.
The fatwa was announced by the deputy governor of Zamfara State, drawing comparison with the infamous decree by Iranian religious leaders.
"Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed," Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi declared after regional politicians and Islamic leaders met to decide the sentence. "It is binding on all Muslims, wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty."
Yesterday, the information minister of Zamfara, Umar Dangaladima, confirmed this was the state's policy: "It's a fact that Islam prescribes the death penalty on anybody, no matter his faith, who insults the Prophet."
Earlier this week, President Olusegun Obasanjo pinned the blame for the riots on "irresponsible journalism", though he conceded that "what happened obviously could have happened at any time".
ThisDay's editor, Simon Kolawole, was detained by the secret police on Saturday but is expected to be released shortly. Nduka Obaigbena, the editor-in-chief and chairman of ThisDay, said he had sent a team to Zamfara "to clarify the issues" with the state authorities.
One of her journalism lecturers in Preston, Geoff Ward, described Ms Daniel, who left in June 2001, as a "delightful personality and an attentive student".
Rachel Grant, who shared a house with Ms Daniel for two years, has kept in touch. "She's a lovely person who isn't afraid to speak her mind," she said.
"What Isioma wrote has been taken out of context. It's been interpreted in a different way by fundamentalists and other people. She's not the sort of person who would want to incite hatred. She wanted to reveal the truth and defend justice."
Zamfara was the first of 12 states in northern Nigeria to reintroduce the strict Islamic, or sharia law since the end of military rule three years ago.
In London, the organiser of the Miss World pageant, Julia Morley, pleaded for forgiveness for Ms Daniel, saying she had "already apologised and admitted it was a very irresponsible thing to do".
Miss World will be screened in more than 130 countries but there are currently no plans to show it on British television.
The Nigerian embassy in London has dismissed the fatwa as unconstitutional.
"It's one of these over-zealous statements," a spokesman said. "The state government has no authority in this matter. There's a proper system of laws in Nigeria."
Kaduna Riots: Makarfi vows to expose sponsors
Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State has vowed to expose those he called the sponsors and ring leaders of the recent riots in the state. Makarfi made the remark when the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Garba Madaki, paid the government and people of the state a sympathy visit.
He declared: "We have reports to show that the crisis was not religious but politically motivated with criminal tendencies.’’
He said that "the perpetrators would be fished out and punished according to the laws of the land. Already, we have arrested and prosecuted more than 350 youths involved in the crisis and we are zeroing our investigations from confessions made by the arrested on the sponsors,’’ the governor said.
He added that it was most unfortunate that some enemies of democracy hijacked the legitimate complain of the citizens to unleash such magnitude of mayhem and evil on the state and nation at large.
Makarfi told the minister that normalcy had returned to the state capital as people now went about their normal businesses. He added that the curfew was still in place "so that the security operatives can sustain the relative peace’’.
The minister, who said he was sad at what befell the state, condemned the act and asked the governor to expose thosebehind the crisis .Sponsors — 3
"They think they can destabilise us? We should show them that if in the past those behind other crisis were not punished, these ones would not go free."There are indications that the crisis was sponsored byenemies of peace,’’ the minister added. The minister visited some hospitals where some of the wounded are receiving treatment for burns and machete cuts.
More than 180 people were killed in the crisis.