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Mohammed Haruna Is No Bigot!: From A Proud Yoruba Man And A Muslim Without Apology

09 April 2010

By Suraj Oyewale

Dideolu Estate, off Ligali Ayorinde street, Victoria Island, Lagos

Perhaps I would have had better results in my secondary school if I had not spent more time reading newspapers than my school notes. I remember being caught by daddy sometime in 1997 as a J.S.S 3 student at Offa Grammar School, Offa, Kwara state, when I skipped school lessons to go and read papers at the vendors stand. That was how early I have been following Nigerian newspapers. And I am not talking about reading cartoons.

Give me a fine analysis written in good grammar, and you will earn my respect, even if I disagree with your view. This explains why the parts of a newspaper I enjoy most are the column and opinion pages. From Tribune’s Festus Adedayo (Flickers) and Lasisi Olagunju (Lasgunju), to Punch’s Yomi Odunuga (Knuckles), Casmir Igbokwe (Musings from Cardiff) and Azubuike Ishikwene (Azu) and those big grammar writers in Guardian, my day was not complete without tip-toeing to Daddy’s room to pick his papers. That was in the late 90’s to the middle of last decade. At the university between 2001 and 2006, I remained loyal to Punch and their columnists, thanks to their online editions. During service year in 2007/2008, The Sun and Daily Trust were my daily companions in the North-Western state of Sokoto and that exposed me to the writings of Daily Trust’s Bala Muhammad, Mohammed Haruna, Mahmud Jega, Adamu Adamu, Idang Alibi, Farooq Kperogi and the Sun’s team of Louis Odion (he is no longer with them), Femi Adesina (Kulikuli), Funke Egbemode and a host of others.

The clinching of a job in Lagos after service year exposed me to the elitist ThisDay with their fine writers: late Stanley Macebuh, Simon Kolawole, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Chidi Amuta, Bisi Ojediran, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Dele Momodu (much as I don’t agree with his take on most issues), etc. With its website permanently bookmarked on my system, Daily Trust still has in me a loyal reader, if not for anything, because of their detailed supply of Abuja news and those columnists I itch to read every morning. The Nation, with its famed Commentariat (Olatunji Dare, Segun Gbadegesin, Mohammed Haruna, Gbenga Omotosho, Yomi Odunuga, Sam Omatseye, etc) completes my day.

At the risk of making ‘the address more lengthy than the content of the letter’, as my mother, may God continue to bless her, used say, the foregoing only sets on record my familiarity with the writings of virtually all Nigerian top columnists. This article was prompted by the accusations by some fellow readers of these columnists that Mohammed Haruna, who writes on Wednesday in The Nation and Daily Trust, is a religious and ethnic bigot. Haruna is not the only object of attack by these people, Dr. Muhammad Bala, also of Daily Trust, was equally accused of ethnic and religious bigotry. One writer, George Omonya, was even more unsparing, as he dismissed all Daily Trust columnists as religious and ethnic bigots.

In a world where many people turn reason on its head on the hearing of the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’, I am not surprised at the torrents of attacks Mohammed Haruna in particular, and other Muslims columnists in general, receives. Responding to Haruna’s piece, ‘Genocide on the plateau: the way out’, published in his column at the back page of The Nation on March 10, 2010, one Steven Wande, who claimed to be a junior journalist, said Haruna, who should be a model for journalists of his generation, ‘has lost his steam as a journalist. . . .and your (Haruna’s) dispositions on all issues have denied you(him) of such(deserved, as a senior journalist) honour and respect”.

Interestingly, that same article was the best another reader, Ola James, said he had read from Haruna, and, in a rather funny tone, he said he did not feel like ‘wringing’ Haruna’s neck for the first time.

These are just few of the avalanche of vitriols Haruna’s columns elicit almost every week, which he publishes at times.

In his Daily Trust column of Saturday, March 27, 2010, Muhammad Bala also published reactions of writers who accused Muslim columnists of religious fundamentalism.

While not holding brief for any of these columnists, I think the writers are being unfair to these columnists, obviously due to their tribal and religious affiliations.

In Haruna’s ‘Genocide on the plateau: the way out’ for example, he strongly condemned the actions of the Fulani herdsmen, calling it genocide that it was, but his offence was reminding us that when the Beroms killed almost as many Muslim Fulanis in the January massacre, nobody remembered to add ‘Christian’ when mentioning Berom, even as the whole incidence did not receive as much media coverage as it received when the Muslim Fulani struck.

Make no mistake, I believe the action of the Muslim Fulanis is most ghoulish and condemnable. Going on shooting spree in a village, wantonly killing innocent, defenceless, feeble women and children is, by all standards, height of cruelty. To the best of my knowledge, as I can see from his writings, Haruna also saw it that way. Where he differs with most other commentators (except maybe Reuben Abati, who also mentioned the gravity of Benom’s January genocide) is the failure of media to give balanced reportage on the whole issue. I agree fully with Haruna here.

Many readers have also accused Haruna of exhibiting ethnic bigotry in his writings. As a religious follower of and contributor to national discourse in the last one decade, one thing that amazes me is the way those of us at the lower side of the Niger confidently attribute all the problems of this Lugardian contraption to the North, while pretending as if we are also saints. Our own writers are free to label the north ‘parasitic’ or ‘blood-sucking’ while we easily label anybody that challenges this obviously erroneous belief as a bigot. A Christian analyst is free to quote the bible in secular analysis while a Muslim analyst that quotes the Qur’an is labeled a religious bigot. A Muslim CBN governor that knows the Qur’an (even though he has used it in the past to fight even his Muslim brothers) is easily labeled an extremist but nobody will remember one Erastus is an ordained pastor if he was made CBN governor, as he was made CIBN president. We are comfortable with a Bola Ige that never hid his loyalty first to Yoruba race before Nigeria, as Attorney General, not of his race, but the whole Nigeria, but anytime the name Muhammadu Buhari comes up in national discourse, we remember he is an ‘ethnic and religious’ bigot.

I am a proud Yoruba man and a Muslim without apology, and by this article, I do not intend to stir literary war of religion or tribe, as I’m not given to that, but important flaws in the way people look at issues, as pointed out in the way readers attack Mohammed Haruna and other Muslim columnists, need to be pointed, perhaps some people may re-examine their parochial mindsets. I rest my case.



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