RESILIENCE [FORGING AHEAD] Part XXXIV - By Bashorun J.K. Randle - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Monday, 21 December 2020

RESILIENCE [FORGING AHEAD] Part XXXIV - By Bashorun J.K. Randle

It was with considerable glee that John Cleese and Sacha Baron Cohen announced the scoop of the century by Resilience Television.  With bated breath, they announced that they had in their possession a video tape of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump declaring that he had set up a Task Force to accomplish the following tasks:

(i)                 Postpone the forthcoming U.S. presidential election until further notice.

(ii)               Postpone the United Nations 2020 General Assembly until further notice

and  (iii)  Ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic is over before Christmas Day

              (25th December, 2020).

Not only did the President refuse to emphatically deny the existence of the video tape, at a press briefing at the White House where the only item on the agenda was COVID-19 virus, Trump went completely off target.  He totally abandoned the carefully choreographed presidential steps as he made his entrance. Instead, he  diverted to the area reserved for the press and threatened to physically eject any pressman/woman who dared ask any awkward questions or demand retraction of the lies he has been spewing for the last three and the half years.  The president was clearly in a belligerent mood, perhaps due to an overdose of hydroxychloroquine !! 

Once he reached the microphone, he went completely off message and abandoned his carefully prepared script.  Instead, he launched a tirade:

“I have nothing against the United Nations.  But I tell you, we are ready to do what we did with the WHO (World Health Organisation) which should be rightly called the Wuhan Health Organisation.  I pause for applause.  Anyway, we can’t have all these foreigners bringing germs and virus into America.  It has been far too costly for America.  Now is the time to take care of America First.”

 

Then he dropped a bombshell.

“Just look at this video of the President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo  and his Vice-President, Hussein Kulmiye Afrah exchanging blows at a press conference.  Disgusting.”

 

Next, he swerved to Nigeria.

“I have just been briefed by my National Security Adviser, that in Kano, Nigeria, the death sentence has just been passed on 22-year-old Yahaya Aminu Sheriff who is alleged to have committed blasphemy.

 

“An intense argument recorded and posted in a WhatsApp group has led to a death penalty sentence and a family torn apart over allegations of insulting Prophet Mohammed, according to lawyers for the defendant.

Music studio assistant Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was sentenced to death by hanging on August 10 after being convicted of blasphemy by an Islamic court in northern Nigeria.

The judgment document states that Sharif-Aminu, 22, was convicted for making "a blasphemous statement against Prophet Mohammed in a WhatsApp Group," which is contrary to the Kano State Sharia Penal Code and is an offence which carries the death sentence.

The recording was shared widely, causing mass outrage in the highly conservative, majority Muslim, state, according to various reports.

"Whoever insults, defames or utters words or acts which are capable of bringing into disrespect Prophet Mohammed such a person has committed a serious crime which is punishable by death," according to a translation of court documents provided to CNN by his lawyers.

Sharif-Aminu, described by his friend Kabiru Ibrahim, as "kind, religious and dutiful," admitted charges of blasphemy during his trial, but said he had made a mistake.

Under Sharia law, a voluntary confession is binding, according to court papers.

Sharif-Aminu's lawyers, who became involved in the case only after his conviction, say he was not allowed legal representation before or during his trial -- in contravention of Nigerian citizens' constitutional right to legal representation.

According to the lawyers, the Sharia court adjourned his case four times because no lawyer came forth from the Legal Aid Council to represent him, likely because of the sensitivity of the case. The Sharia court is, however, statute-bound to provide legal representation.

Advocates from the Foundation for Religious Freedom (FRF), a not-for-profit organisation aimed at protecting religious freedom in Nigeria, which is representing Sharif-Aminu, told CNN he has also not been permitted access to legal advice to prepare an appeal against his conviction.

The FRF says it has lodged an appeal on his behalf in Kano's High Court, a common-law court with constitutional powers.

"The state laws he is accused of breaking are in gross conflict with the Nigerian constitution," said his counsel, Kola Alapinni.

Kano's State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje told clerics in Kano that he would sign Sharif-Aminu's death warrant as soon as the singer had exhausted the appeals process, local media reports say.

"I assure you that immediately the Supreme Court affirms the judgment, I will sign it without any hesitation," Ganduje said, according to Nigeria's Daily Post newspaper. CNN contacted a spokesman for Governor Ganduje several times for comment but did not receive a response.

Islamic scholar and cleric Bashir Aliyu Umar, who is not connected to the case, but said he had read the transcript of the court proceedings, told CNN, "No Muslim will condone it. People hold Prophet Mohammed higher than their parents, and when things like this happen, it will lead to a breakdown of peace because of mob action and attacks against the accused."

When news of Sharif-Aminu's alleged crime broke earlier this year, protesters marched to his family home and destroyed it, prompting his father to flee to a neighboring town, his lawyers told CNN. Sharif-Aminu went into hiding, according to Amnesty and his lawyers, but in March he was arrested by the Hisbah Corps, the religious police force that enforces Sharia law in Kano state.

Human rights organization Amnesty International has described Sharif-Aminu's trial as a "travesty of justice," and called on Kano State authorities to quash his conviction and death sentence.

"There are serious concerns about the fairness of his trial and the framing of the charges against him based on his Whatsapp messages," said Amnesty's Nigeria director Osai Ojigho. "Furthermore, the imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial violates the right to life," she added.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has also condemned Sharif-Aminu's death sentence. It said Nigeria's blasphemy laws were inconsistent with universal human rights standards.

"It is unconscionable that Sharif-Aminu is facing a death sentence merely for expressing his beliefs artistically through music," said the organization's commissioner, Frederick A. Davie, in a statement.

The organization released a follow-up statement saying it had adopted Aminu-Sharif as "a religious prisoner of conscience."

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and religion permeates every facet of life here, with prayers routinely said in schools and public offices. In addition to blasphemy, atheism is frowned upon by many in the majority Muslim north as well as in parts of the mostly Christian south.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over a crackdown on freedom of speech and expression, particularly when it comes to religion.

On April 28 this year, Mubarak Bala, president of the Nigerian humanist association, was arrested in Kaduna, another northern state, after allegedly posting a message on his Facebook page claiming that a Nigerian evangelical preacher was better than the Prophet Mohammed.

His family and lawyers told Human Rights Watch they have not seen or heard from him since. Bala remains detained without charge and has not been allowed to communicate with his lawyers or his family, according to USCIRF.

Nigerian playwright and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka is among those who recently sent a message of solidarity to Bala, following his 100th day in confinement on August 6.

"As a child, I remember living in a state of harmonious coexistence all but forgotten in the Nigeria of today, as the plague of religious extremism has encroached," Soyinka, a former political prisoner, wrote, "I write today to tell you that you are not alone, there is a whole community across the globe that stands beside you and will fight for you."

Sharia law has been practised alongside secular law in many northern Nigerian states since they were reintroduced in 1999. Nigeria's Sharia courts can also sentence those convicted of offenses to stoning, amputations, and flogging; while the former two are no longer carried out, "flogging is a quite common punishment for many crimes, particularly theft," according to the USCIRF.

Only one death sentence passed by Sharia courts has been carried out, according to Human Rights Watch. Sani Yakubu Rodi was hanged in 2002 for the murder of a woman, her four-year-old son, and baby daughter.

In 2015 and 2016 nine men and one woman were sentenced to death by hanging for insulting the Prophet Mohammed in Kano state, according to a 2019 research paper by the USCIRF. The sentences were not carried out.

In 2000, a Muslim man in the northern state of Zamfara had his hand amputated for stealing a cow. A year later, another man had his hand cut off after he was convicted of stealing bicycles, according to the same USCIRF research paper.

In the eyes of many Nigerians, the adoption of Sharia law is a violation of the country's constitution, because Article 10 guarantees religious freedom when it states that "the Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion."

"This issue of blasphemy is incompatible with the Nigerian constitution," Leo Igwe, chair of the board of trustees for the Humanist Association of Nigeria, told CNN.

"We hope this case will help Nigeria confront the biggest constitutional challenge since independence. What should take precedence, Sharia law, or the Nigerian constitution?"

Governors of the northern states, where Sharia law is practiced, argue that it applies only to Muslims, and not to citizens of other faiths. The FRF says it is working on six other constitutional cases which will challenge what it sees as government interference in Nigerian citizens' right to religious freedom.

One of these, on behalf of the Atheist Society of Nigeria (ASN), is against the state government of Akwa Ibom, in the country's southeast, for its involvement in the construction of an 8,500-seat worship center at its High Court.

The ASN says millions of dollars in state funding have been spent on the centre, which it says amounts to government interference in freedom of religion.

"The government has no business legislating on religions. End of story," Ebenezer Odubule, a founding member of the FRF told CNN.

The FRF says it has had to put some of its other cases on hold, to focus on Sharif-Aminu's case. It is also hampered by a lack of funding to fight new cases.”

In typical Trump fashion, the President of the United States of America proceeded to distribute to the press free copies of “The Tanzanian Times” with the following report on its front page:

 

“The President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, has cancelled a U.S.$10 billion Chinese loan.  He referred to the Terms and Conditions of the loan as one that can only be accepted by a drunkard (person).”

 

Donald Trump refused to take any questions.  He brought the press conference to an abrupt end when a top security officer whispered into his ear. Instead of a dignified presidential exit, he was whisked off into a more secure part of the White House where his security and safety would be guaranteed.  The press were amazed, amused, and dumb founded.  They concluded it was all showmanship just to catch the headlines and divert attention from the crucial problems facing the United States of America – “Black Lives Matter”/Racial inequality; poverty and unemployment; COVID-19 virus etc.

 

Just when the pressmen/women were about to call it a day and disperse, word came through that Donald Trump was on his way from the missile/bomb-proof underground shelter back to the podium.

 

To the astonishment of the press, Donald Trump proceeded to quote Howard Zinn (1922 – 2010).

 

“Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders.  Millions have been killed because of this obedience.  Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war and cruelty.  Our problem is that people are obediently filling our jails full of petty thieves while the grand thieves are running the country.  That’s our problem.”

 

It was all so bizarre.  The press were simply dumbfounded.  They were zapped!!

 

However, the President of the United States of America was not yet done.  White House protocol demands that it is only after “PROTOS” (President of the United States) has departed that members of the press can leave.  He carpeted the guy from CNN.

“How come only Fox News and Resilience Television have aired: “STRUCK OUT” ?

 

Donald Trump was clearly agitated as no sooner had the members of the press reached the exit of the White House, ready to swarm into the sublime embrace of the adjoining Park, Lafayette Park, than they were summoned back to resume the press conference.

 

It turned out that what was bugging the President of the United States of America was the front page report of “The Punch” newspaper of August 17, 2020.

 

 

Headline:      “BLASPHEMY:  US AGENCY KICKS AS KANO COURT JAILS 13-            YEAR-OLD BOY FOR TEN YEARS’. 

“The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has faulted the judgment of an Upper Sharia Court in Kano State sentencing a 13-year-old boy, Umar Farouq, to 10 years in prison for making derogatory statements toward Allah in an argument with a friend.

 

Farouq was convicted on August 10, 2020, by Aliyu Kanu, the same judge who sentenced a Musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, to death for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed.

 

Spokesman for Kano Region Justice Ministry, Baba-Jibo Ibrahim, said the court handed down the death sentence as enshrined in Islamic laws based on irrefutable evidence and the convict’s admission of guilt.

 

The Punch reports that although Farouq is a minor by Nigerian law and should not have been tried as an adult, Islamic canons regard anyone who has begun puberty as an adult.

 

Kano, a predominantly Muslim northern Nigerian state, has Islamic Sharia courts that function alongside civil courts and introduced Sharia law in 2000.

But the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has condemned the blasphemy laws in Nigeria.

 

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan Federal Government entity established by the US Congress to monitor, analyse, and report threats to religious freedom abroad.

 

In a statement in reaction to the judgment, the US commission condemned the death sentence handed to Sharif-Aminu for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

 

USCIRF Commissioner, Frederick Davie, stated, “It is unconscionable that Sharif-Aminu is facing a death sentence merely for expressing his beliefs artistically through music. The US Senate should work swiftly to pass Resolution 458, which calls for the global repeal of heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy laws.”

 

Also, President of the African Bar Association, Mr Hannibal Uwaifo, described the verdict on Farouq as unconstitutional, calling on the Attorney General of the Federation to stop the Sharia court from making a mockery of Nigerian on the international scene.

 

Uwaifo said, “I call on the Attorney General of the Federation to step in and to stop this kind of sectional court from  making mockery of Nigeria. This is a country where people are stealing billions of naira and being given a pat on the back; then you say someone committed blasphemy, according to your own religion, and then you sentence him to death or sentence a teenager to 10 years’ imprisonment. I think we should stop making Nigeria a laughing stock.”

 

In the same vein, two civil society groups have condemned the Shari’a court verdict.

 

The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said, “What is coming out of Kano is a challenge to section 10 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. We know that the current Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, is more or less not interested in the secularity of this country.

 

What is going on in Kano is an attempt to restructure Nigeria through the back door to create a two-nation in one because the message they are sending to the international community is that there is a part of the country operating a different legal system.”

 

Speaking in the same vein, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the judjement did not conform with human rights conventions and treaties to which Nigeria was a signatory.

He stated, “Section 10 of the constitution prohibits the elevation of any religion as a state religion, so the Kano State government does not have the constitutional rights to legislate Islam as a state religion.”

 

What was strange was that it was Donald Trump himself who gave the order to the press:  CALM DOWN.

He then proceeded to show a video of:

“THE YORUBA SLAVE GIRL – SARAH FORBES BONETTA (1843 – 1880)

 

“Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a princess of the Egbado clan of the Yoruba people, is best known as the goddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Bonetta was born in 1843 in what is now southwest Nigeria. Her parents’ names are unknown as are the names of her siblings who were all killed in the 1847 slave raid that made Bonetta a captive.

 

Bonetta’s village of Okeadan was attacked by King Gezo of Dahomey, the most notorious slave trading monarch in West Africa in the early 19th century.  Intent on capturing slaves and killing those not taken, Gezo’s men seized the four year old girl.  For reasons that are unclear, the girl was not killed and remained at Gezo’s Court until 1849 when British Commander Frederick Forbes landed the HMS Bonetta in Dahomey to persuade Gezo to give up slave raiding and trading.  Forbes noticed the young girl and bargained for her life.  He persuaded King Gezo to “give” her to Queen Victoria, saying “She would be a present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites.” The girl remained with Forbes in West Africa for the next year during which she was baptized and given the name Sarah Forbes Bonetta.  Forbes wrote that “She is a perfect genius; she now speaks English well, and [has] great talent for music… She is far in advance of any white child of her age in aptness of learning, and strength of mind and affection…”

 

Sarah Forbes Bonetta was taken to Great Britain and met Queen Victoria on November 9th, 1850 at Windsor Castle.  The Queen was impressed by her intellect and entrusted her care to the Schoen family in Palm Cottage, Gillingham when Forbes died early in 1851. The Queen declared Sarah her goddaughter and paid her tutorial expenses.  Young Sarah became a regular visitor to Windsor Castle.

 

Less than a year after she arrived, however, young Bonetta developed a cough believed to be caused by the climate of Great Britain.  Queen Victoria arranged for her to be sent to what she believed was a better climate for Bonetta in Sierra Leone. There she was educated at the Female Institution, a Church Missionary Society school in Freetown. Bonetta excelled in music and academic studies but was unhappy prompting the Queen to bring her back to England in 1855.

 

In January 1862, 19-year-old Bonetta was a guest at the wedding of the Princess Royal Victoria, the eldest child of the Queen.  In August of that year Bonetta herself was given permission by Queen Victoria to marry Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, a 31-year-old wealthy Yoruba businessman from Sierra Leone.  The couple married in an elaborate wedding at St. Nicholas Church in Brighton, England.  Sarah arrived at the ceremony in an entourage that included ten carriages.  The couple lived in Bristol, England briefly before returning to Sierra Leone.

 

While Davies continued his work, Bonetta began teaching in a Freetown school.  Shortly after the marriage, she gave birth to a girl and was given permission by the Queen to name her Victoria.  The Queen also became young Victoria’s godmother.  In 1867 Sarah and her daughter visited the Queen again. For Sarah this would be her last visit.  Her cough continued and she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  Bonetta had two more children but died in 1880 at the age of 37.  Queen Victoria continued to provide for Sarah’s daughter.  She supported young Victoria’s education and gave her an annuity.  Young Victoria continued to visit the royal household for the rest of her life. Many of the Bonetta-Davis descendants live in and around Lagos, Nigeria.”

 

What ruined what was developing into a peaceful evening was the insistence of the CNN representative that their host should respond to CNN’s

“BREAKING NEWS”

 

President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen predicts Trump will not return to the White House after spending Christmas at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Cohen spoke with MSNBC host Ari Melber about the president's possible endgame plans as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to enter the White House on Jan. 20.

"After Christmas, he usually comes back January 5th, January 6th. He likes to go to Mar-a-Lago," said Cohen. "I suspect he won’t even come back to Washington. I don't believe he's going to go to the inauguration because he himself fundamentally cannot sit in a chair knowing that the cameras are on him and that the world is looking at him as a loser. He cannot do that."

Trump has contested the results of the election since the evening of Nov. 3, raising unproven allegations of fraud in the 2020 election.

Cohen, who touted his knowledge of the president's behavior, referenced Trump's baseless claims regarding the validity of former President Obama's birth certificate.

"Everyone needs to take a chill pill," Cohen warned. "Donald Trump talks a lot of nonsense. The Birtherism. 'I have my investigators there in Hawaii. Look what we found out.' It's all a lie, 99.9 percent of everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. He's not going to stay in the White House past January 20th. They will remove him. He knows that."

Cohen called on Trump to concede the election but voiced doubt that he actually would.

"He does not have enough inner strength in him to be gracious," Cohen concluded. "He needs to keep his base rallied around him. He's going to say for the next 30 years that they stole the election from me. I'm the rightful president. He's going to keep his MAGA army active and engaged and going to constantly blow this dog whistle and be a menace."

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, wrote in a statement on Tuesday that the Trump campaign plans to roll out a leadership PAC in the president's name.

Though Murtaugh said the plans for the PAC had been laid out before the projected loss for President Trump, the move is likely an effort for Trump policy to retain influence over the GOP as the administration appears to be on its way out.”

 

To Trump, life was a game and all that mattered was winning.”

 

Donald Trump was in rage, full blast.  All he could mutter was:

“You all know that Michael Cohen is a pathological liar.”

 

While frantic efforts were being made to restore peace between  “POTUS” (President of the United States) and his journalist guests, Resilience Television switched to the front page report of “BusinessDay” newspaper of August 18, 2020.

Headline:      “WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF RESCUING NIGERIA” –                      Na’Abba.

 

“A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba has revealed that there were ongoing consultations among some elite politicians toward setting up a new political movement to rescue the country. In a television broadcast, Na’Abba, who is a co-chairman of the newly formed National Consultative Front, claimed that Nigeria was now a failed state, while describing the current administration as being incompetent and irresponsible. He listed unemployment, insecurity, economic hardship as some of the areas where the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has failed and proven its incompetence, adding that Nigerians were now poorer and more disillusioned with the state of affairs in the country than at any other period in the history of the country.

 

 “We have had to watch in dismay, shock and disappointment our dear country slide into anarchy. The country is drifting, virtually no sector is working; the rulers seem irresponsible and incompetent,” Na’Abba said. According to him, “Unemployment is at unprecedented level and the loss of lives is at a dismal level with scores of Nigerians being killed on a daily basis. Our indebtedness has reached an alarming rate with poor state of social infrastructures.

 

The feeling is that of disillusion, and the feeling among Nigerians is that the days are numbered.” Speaking further, the former lawmaker said the current state of the country was unacceptable to Nigerians, stressing that it had necessitated the current move by political like-minds to come together to form a new political movement to rescue the country from impending collapse and give succour to Nigerians.

 

“Our political structure has not been able to rise up to the challenge; it is unacceptable. We would initiate a national political action where the citizens would get their basic needs and fulfil their potentials. We as Nigerians of conscience have decided to take urgent action to challenge our unfortunate situation. We the National Consultative Front would commonly pursue the task of rescuing the country from collapse. This would be achieved through nationwide consultation and mobilisation,” he added.

 

On the back page of the same paper was the distressful report from Ghana.

Headline:      “U.S.$1 MILLION REGISTRATION, OTHER                                 CONDITIONALITIES TOO MUCH FOR NIGERIAN                        TRADERS IN GHANA”

              ……….We are ready to come back home, says traders’ association               leader.

 

President of the Association of Nigerian Traders in Ghana, Chukwuemeka Nnaji, says majority of Nigerian traders in Ghana cannot afford the $1 million and other conditionalities that small businesses are being asked to fulfil to continue doing business in the West African country.

 

As a result, the Nigerian traders have asked the Federal Government of Nigeria to engage the Ghanaian authorities  by leveraging on the ECOWAS protocol. Nnaji, who spoke on a radio programme, Political Platform, on RayPower FM (100.5) on Tuesday morning, said if this diplomatic engagement fails to yield the desired result, the traders would be willing and ready to return to Nigeria. He insisted that the conditionalities put forward by the Ghanaian government were above the capacity of most Nigerian small businesses operating in that country.

 

According to Nnaji, the conditionalities include payment of $1 million or its equivalent in share equity, employment of at least 25 Ghanaians, and not operating in areas where Ghanaians have their businesses. “These are too much for us to fulfil. Majority of Nigerian traders in Ghana cannot afford $1 million,” he said on the programme monitored by “BusinessDay” in Lagos. He lamented that the registration charge was raised from $300,000 to $1 million, adding:

 

“We have raised the ECOWAS protocol with the Ghanaian authorities, telling them that we’re West African citizens and should not be treated like other foreigners, but they have insisted that in spite of the ECOWAS protocol, their law is king.” Nnaji, who painted a pathetic picture of Nigerian traders in Ghana, said their shops and business premises are being locked up despite having business permits.

 

On what he thinks the government back home can do, he said, “We want the Nigerian government to engage the Ghanaian authorities on the basis of the ECOWAS protocol. But if this fails, we plead with the Ghanaian government to give us some time to pack our loads and go back home.”

 

The ECOWAS protocol agreed to by the member states in 1979, which are in phases, stipulates the right of ECOWAS citizens to enter, reside and establish economic activities in the territory of other member states. The first phase deals with the right of visa-free entry; phase two deals with the right of residency, and phase three concerns the right of establishment in another member state.

 

The first phase has been fully implemented. The second phase, the right of residency, has also been implemented, given that citizens had obtained an ECOWAS residence card or permit in fellow member states. The third phase, the right of establishment, is still under implementation in most member states.”

 

To cap it all the television station aired what it described as “Lessons Being Learnt.”

“Miami police outclassed every police organisation in the world.  When protesters came with gun blazing, they all went on their knee.  The crowd began to cry and joined them.  Asking for forgiveness melted many hearts – especially those who carried placards along with guns to protest –

(i)                 Justice For George Floyd

(ii)               Stop Killing Blacks in USA

(iii)             Black Lives Matter.

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