AN APPEAL TO THE UMMAH
ON OBASANJO'S AND ABUBAKAR'S MISBEHAVIOURS
By Orok Edem
Editorial Note of Introduction
Orok Edem is a Nigerian essayist who uses satires to discuss weighty matters, thereby exposing hypocritical conduct of public officials. In this essay, he takes up the contentious issue of resource control of the oil petroleum wealth of Nigeria's Niger Delta. Through decrees, military rulers -- including General Olusegun Obasanjo -- appropriated these resources to the Central Government, denying those in the Niger Delta whose lives and lands have been damaged by oil exploration any significant share. When Niger Deltans complained and agitated for a fair share of the oil wealth, President Olusegun [Aremu] Obasanjo and his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, dragged the littoral states of the Niger Delta to the Supreme Court, which is dominated by Muslim judges who were appointed by military rulers before the former military ruler Olusegun Obsanjo became a civilian President in 1999. Obasanjo's Attorney General asked the Supreme Court to rule that the littoral states have no share of off-shore oil, based on a definition and a decree made by military rulers. Not surprisingly, the Supreme court ruled in favour of the Federal Government. However, when President Obasanjo got into political trouble, with a threat of impeachment hanging over him, he has now reversed his position, saying that the distinction between off-shore and on-shore petroleum oil should be discarded. He has accordingly sent a bill to the Nigerian parliament asking for the abolition of this false distinction to be enacted into law. However, conservatives in his Vice President's constituency in the Muslim North are believed to be working against Obasanjo's new position.
Orok Edem's satire ties the misbehaviours of President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as well as the apparent bias of the Nigerian Supreme Court, to the tenets of Islam which, he shows, have been violated by these public officials.
25 September, 2002
Indeed all praise belong to Allah, we praise Him, seek His aid and His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evils of our souls and the evils of our actions. Whomsoever Allah guides, there is none to misguide and whomsoever Allah misguides, no one can guide him. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone. He has no partners and I testify that Muhammed is his slave and messenger.
My dear brothers and sisters, I come to you again to report the leaders whom you anointed the Khalifas of Allah over us. I am referring to Aremu Obasanjo and Abubakar Atiku. I ask you all to bear witness that these men are untrustworthy, because the Holy Quran says: "Allah does command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between man and man, that you judge with justice".
I hold forth that I do not need to list out all the hypocritical conduct of these two men so entrusted by you to rule over us, but refer you to the Hadith of the Prophet as reported by Abu Hurairah: "The signs of the hypocrites are three: when he speaks, he lies; and when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is charged with a trust, he becomes dishonest".
The Ummah should remember that even though the Shariah, confers on the rulers the right to legislate, this right is not absolute, but all legislations must be compatible with the texts, spirit and general principles of the Shariah.
Which brings me to the reason of this second appeal to you. I had earlier called on you to ask your son Atiku Abubakar, to pay the people of the Niger Delta their due, instead of threatening them with extinction. An appeal to the Umma (1) But, instead of paying the thirteen percent as at when due, our Khalifas have gone to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, peopled by both believers and unbelievers and won a judgment arrogating to the Nigerian State, wealth that does not belong to her, according to the laws of the Sharia. But as the Hausa saying goes: "One who has swallowed a pestle shall sleep standing". Aremu and Atiku will not know sleep. Even though they have sent a Bill to the National Assembly to correct this injustice, we heard that there are rumblings from Adamawa State, the home state of Atiku against such an act. Are there Muslims in, or, from Adamawa State?
The question to the Ummah is: What does the Shariah say about Resource Control?
I would start answering this question by bringing up the vexatious interpretation of land ownership by Aremu. The Shariah recognizes that land is owned by people and not the State and that it can be transferred by inheritance. I challenge any member of the Ummah to refute this. It is interesting that Al-Hassan ibn Salih, Abu Thaur, and Abu Yussuf prefer the view that rikaz [we will come to this later] is not necessarily owned by the owner of the land, except when it is claimed by the owner. It goes on to assert that "in such a case, his word will be the final one because he has the right over the land". This tells us that eminent jurists have visited the topic of land ownership and the ownership rights of any wealth found on and beneath it. Would I be right to say that the clamor for Resource Control is an Islamic imperative, and anyone who stands in its way is going against the words of Allah as outlined in the Fiqh us-Sunna?
If the Nigerian State claims that it needs the oil wealth of the Niger Delta, because of its poverty, and the exhortation of Allah that we should be our brother’s keepers, then what the owners of the land and seas of the Niger Delta owe the Nigerian State is zakat or alms tax, which would be that portion of the wealth of the Niger Delta meant for the poor of Nigeria.
Zakat constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam. The Quran exhorts At-Taubah: 103, authorizes the Prophet, Peace Be Unto Him [PBUH] to take a stipulated amount of alms from the believers' holdings, in the form of obligatory zakat, or a voluntary, unstipulated amount zakat of tatawu. The Hadith also confirms from Abu Kabshah al Anmari that, the Prophet, PBUH said: "I swear upon three things and ask you to memorize my words: Sadaqah taken from a property never decreases it". The scholar Ahmad, also relates that the Prophet PBUH once said, "Pay zakat out of your property for truly it is a purifier which purifies you." Are we in the Niger Delta refusing to pay zakat? Capital NO!
May I humbly remind the Ummah that, Islam is a way of life and not just a religion. It is through zakat, that the Shariah handles the distribution of wealth and the fiscal policies of a State as it affects its economic, moral and spiritual climate. The general idea is to discourage wealth concentration in a few hands to the detriment of the majority. All these wealth Amwal al Fadilah so collected, should be kept at a central treasury - the Bait al-Mal. They are not supposed to be kept by Abacha, Abubakar, Aremu nor Atiku, in their personal bank accounts. Since the bulk of the oil wealth zakat has been distributed amongst a few Yarribas and their friends in the Ummah, we beg to say that they are disrespecting the message of the Quran, that says: "And render to the kindred their due rights, as [also] to those in want, and to the wayfarer, but squander not [your wealth] in the manner of a spendthrift".
Zakat rests on a higher pedestal than taxation and the Holy Quran elevates it to the level of salah because of the way it is collected without any trace of oppression. I ask you: Oh brothers and sisters of the Ummah, is the exploitation of oil wealth in Nigeria today without oppression? It is an acknowledged fact in Islamic law, that the land owners, the laborers and the owners of capital jointly share in their production and benefits. The law of Allah declares: Do not devour one another’s wealth by false means. Quran, ch. 2: 188.
There is no where in Shariah, that the State is allowed to forcefully acquire the property of its citizens and then pay them a stipend. It is the other way round in Islamic jurisprudence and any Muslim who knowingly aids and abets this falsehood, is going against the teachings of the Prophet PBUH.
Islam has enjoined zakat on crops, livestock, minerals, gold, silver and treasures. The Shariah enjoins the State to collect zakat on buried treasure and precious minerals [madin]. This type of zakat is called rikaz, which is derived from rakaza, which means - to be buried, it is generally used to describe objects buried in the pre Islamic period long before our brothers, Bala Usman and Sanusi Lamido’s ancestors migrated to what is now known as the present day Nigeria. The scholar Ahmad holds that everything dug from the ground, whether created in it or buried by man, and which has value are subject to zakat. This corroborates the statement attributed to Abu Huraiah: The Prophet PBUH said "There is no compensation for one killed or wounded by an animal, falling in a well, or because of working in mines: but, one fifth [khums] is compulsory on rikaz".
I repeat, the Prophet PBUH has stated that the Niger Delta is entitled to eighty percent of its wealth. The amount payable on the rikaz is one fifth. This one fifth payment known as khum is levied on both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It becomes due anytime it is available and would not require the completion of a year of ownership [hawl] i.e. it is not necessary for it to acquire the state of nisab.
What I am trying to point out to you the Umma, is that, even if Nigeria was an Islamic State, what we in the Niger Delta owe Nigeria would be a possible variation of three kinds of taxes that do not make up the total eighty seven percent of our oil revenue presently being expropriated by the Nigerian State in your name. They are: Jizzyah an annual tax levied on non Muslims citizens living in an Islamic State, Kharaj, which is a tax levied on the producer of the landed property owned by the non Muslim in an Islamic State, and Ushr which is ten percent of the yield from our land and waters. All these do not add up to eighty seven percent., and for the non Muslims reading this appeal, the Muslims themselves are not exempted from taxation. Therefore, what the Nigerian government is doing is Un Islamic, and any Muslim who benefits from this injustice is a munafiqun.
Another contentious issue is the Offshore deceit introduced by our Khalifas. Fortunately, the Sharia and most Islamic scholars have dealt with this subject. Ibn Abbas stipulates that zakat is not payable on anything extracted from the sea, because it is has been thrown out by the sea. Therefore, the Nigerian State is acting against the rulings of the Shariah when it goes ahead to expropriate all minerals mined from the sea as hers, and all the Muslim members of the Supreme Court of Nigeria should hide their heads in shame and beg for forgiveness for going against the injunctions of Allah.
Dear brothers and sisters, even if we claim that after the civil war, the Nigerian State rightly fought and won the battle for Resource Control, the Nigerian State is only entitled to Khumus, which is a certain percentage of what a Muslim army gets as ghanimah [booty] and, or, Fay’ which is the property captured from enemy forces without fighting any war with them. This also applies to petroleum resources. And this has been pegged at one fifth, by the injunction of the Holy Quran.
Do I have the right to appeal to the Ummah? I would answer this by referring to the saying of the Prophet PBUH: "Whoever hurts a Dhimmi, I shall be his complainant, and for whosoever I am a complainant, I shall ask for his right on the Day of Resurrection". He also reiterated: "One who hurts a Dhimmi, he hurts me; and one who hurts me, hurts Allah". This view has been reinforced by the eminent Muslim jurist Ibn Abdin [d. 1836 A.D.] who have argued that Muslims are given a greater responsibility to protect Non Muslims and since the persecution of the weak by the strong is regarded as one of the greatest crimes in Islam, the Ummah would be failing in their duty, if they fail to support the abrogation of the Onshore-Offshore dichotomy brought about by Aremu and Atiku.
Finally, I call on you once again to call these duo to order, and to make sure that you do the right thing come 2003.