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Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday in a Time of Ramadan

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By Ahmed Yahaya-Joe

The first picture was taken in Gianyar Stadium by Miftahuddin Halim on June 4, 2017. It features Bali United’s Hindu defender Ngurah Nanak, Christian midfielder Yabes Roni, and Muslim striker Miftahul Hamdi celebrating their team’s 3-0 victory over Perseru Serui FC in Indonesia’s premier league in their various faith postures. The moral here is on what conscientious teamwork can achieve irrespective of religious differences when we focused on the same goals.

As chronicled by Prof. John Paden in his 1986 epic biography of the Premier of the North, Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (1904-1996) appealed to Sir Ahmadu Ibrahim Bello, (1910-1966) in an open letter that as Nigerians, “Let us forget our differences.”

In reply, the Sardauna of Sokoto wrote back to the Owelle of Onitsha, “No, let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and a Northerner. You are a Christian, an Easterner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.”

Nation-building in such a diverse and complex entity like ours is not a picnic.

If so, how have we been missing it?

We have not carefully understudied the real nature of the class struggle and the true character of those involved in the elite dynamics of our nation, that is how.

Intense competition for power and the insatiable quest to dominate of our political economy has repeatedly resulted in the manipulation of religion and its first cousin, tribalism. No doubt, this has been detrimental to national integration and good governance.

That is why I feel personally convicted to make this intervention during this period of contentious political transition that coincides with our various times for annual spiritual exercise.

We must therefore strive to get our national life back after the recent cycle of elections. Unobtrusively, many relationships have been poisoned – seismic shifts and tectonic collisions. Gaskets burnt as angry words exchanged but neither irretrievable nor intractable as Lent and Ramadan offer us different opportunities for genuine healing albeit for the truly penitential.

Remember, it is just politics. The reason why for discerning minds, Rudyard Kipling (1910) remains instructive, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster; And treat those two impostors just the same.”

Holy Thursday commemorates the Feet Washing Act and the solemn Last Supper. Good Friday marks the end of a 40-day Lent season of fasting and other acts of self-denial including the transition from condemnation and crucifixion to redemption and reconciliation. Easter Sunday is for the celebration of resurrected life.

Why is Lent not compulsory and some Christians do not even bother to observe the prescribed days?

Desmond Mpilo Tutu (1931-2021) the South African cleric and Nobel laureate offers a unique insight;

“A man crossed the street and accosted a pedestrian, asking him, “I say, which is the other side of the street?” The pedestrian, somewhat nonplussed, replied, “That side, of course!” The man said, “Strange. When I was on that side, they said it was this side.” Where the other side of the street depends on where we are. Our perspective differs with our context.”

The quintessential Tutu, a theologian of note concludes on a broader scale of religious tolerance;

“Accidents of birth and geography determine to a very large extent to what faith we belong. The chances are very great that if you were born in Pakistan you are a Muslim, or a Hindu if you happened to be born in India, or a Shintoist if it is Japan, and a Christian if you were born in Italy.

“I don’t know what significant fact can be drawn from this — perhaps that we should not succumb too easily to the temptation of exclusiveness and dogmatic claims to a monopoly of the truth of our particular faith. You could so easily have been an adherent of the faith that you are now denigrating, but for the fact that you were born here rather than there.”

The second picture captures a captivating scene during a church service conducted by the Pope of Alexandria also Patriarch of All Africa, Tawadros II. It features the more traditionalist Coptic Orthodox ladies (standing) and their apparently Eurocentric compatriots (akimbo) without even the mandatory head cover but united in worship.

Racism is an issue in Egypt. It is their own version of tribalism. Not even onetime President Anwar el Sadat that led the Maghreb nation from 1970 to 1981 was spared negative profiling. Darker-skinned Arabs are predominantly from the South. They spill over to northern Sudan where in turn in southern Sudan the Arabs are of much darker skin. The moral is that everything is relative.

Meanwhile, the third picture is of a section in the Emir’s palace at Yadi Kasarau in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital from Prof. Moses Ochonu’s, Unity in Diversity: Palace Art in Nigeria (2008) predominately featuring the Northern Knot also known as Dagin Arewa. CK Meek in Northern Tribes of Nigeria, Oxford University Press (1925) establishes the Jewish link.

The same theme with its geometric origin in the Star of David is expansively reoccurring at the old palace at Garu also. Since the 15th century, former Gadawur’s nobility has been variously led by the Genawa, Wangarawa, Digawa, and Kanuri including the Fula 19th century onwards mainly drawn from the Jalligawa and Yalligawa clans when the Hausanized name, Dutse came to be.

Ibraheem Waziri writes on his tireless efforts to verify the Judeo-Christian background of Dagin Arewa in The Northern Knot: Its Origin and Significance published in The Leadership Nigeria newspaper edition on April 13, 2014.

The Dagin Arewa motif is prevalent in other palaces from that of the Sultan of Zinder (Niger Republic) to that of the Emir of Zazzau. It was adopted by Sir Ahmadu Bello as the coat of arms of the Northern Region government in 1959 and has been directly traced to the ruins of the 5th-century Basilica of St. Augustine at Hippo now Annaba in Algeria;

“I went to Arewa House, Kaduna but no one could tell me anything. I tried the Department of History, ABU Zaria, and they could not explain either. I asked an ethnographer, Prof. Abdallah Uba Adamu but he could not tell also. I asked many others until I found out from the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, and on a strong authority, that there was indeed Christianity here before Islam. I was told about Sarkin Gobir Mai Saka’andami (King of Gobir who wore a cross) in that light.”

The moral here is to better understand the present the further back you must look.

In conclusion, to you your religion is;

“It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

And to me my religion because;

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

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