Everything is wrong with the death sentence slammed on nine Nigerians by a Kano Sharia Court for blaspheming the Prophet of Islam.
Abdul-Inyas, Hajiya Mairo and ‘’seven others’’ ( branded the Kano Nine, a hint at the iconic Ogoni Nine) allegedly said, at a religious assembly in honor of the Senegalese founder of their Taijaniyya sect, that Sheikh Ibrahim Naisse was greater than Muhammad. They were tried in hermetic secrecy, a situation said to have been warranted by the protest and arson of an angry mob in response to the arrest of the nine last month.
The nihilistic verdict was reportedly greeted by wild jubilation in some parts of Kano. The nascent state government issued a press statement praising the ruling with just about the same celebratory pitch President Obama welcomed the validation of his signature healthcare act by the Supreme Court of the United States. Kano’s one month-young governor could not miss an opportunity to surf the emotion of the rabble!
As a matter of principle, I am against the lethal idea called death sentence. I believe that there is no acceptable rationale for sanctioning the abbreviation of the existence of a human being in the name of law or justice. I hold that no crime is so abhorrent that it acquires the power to contaminate the very life of its perpetrator and qualify him for enforced damnation.
In an age that has witnessed the proliferation of animal rights campaigns and the virtual exemption of dogs from torture , it should be trite to say that the life of every human, law-abiding or felon, is innately sacred and inviolate. The commission of some heinous act doesn’t vitiate or nullify the sanctity of human life.
Even if it is satisfactorily established that a heinous offense had been committed, as in the case of a prolific killer, I believe that it makes no sense exacting revenge. That’s trading in the currency of the murderer. That’s capitulating to the belief system of the slayer.
The way to demonstrate that the society believes life to be precious and views murder as great wicked is to protect, not trivialize, the life of the offender. To honor his life is to positively affirm that we detest murder and that we can never be provoked into devaluing human life.
Yes, the death sentence originally sprung from the notion that certain crimes are in the extreme range. They represent manifestations of private depravity and an intolerable breach of the ethos of society, and deserve to be checked by the price tag of the most serious recompense possible. The destruction of the criminal was meant to serve as a threatening example, a potent deterrent: the fatal reward would bat down the lure of ephemeral temptation.
Many hangings, beheadings, and firing squads after, the scarecrow of the death sentence has yet to pacify the human race. It has not proved an effective disincentive to commit crimes punishable by death.
Indonesia, a country with death sentence culture, is still the favorite destination of every aspiring drug courier. Saudi Arabia, the beheading hub of the world, continues its practice because the punishment does not spook people from daring. China keeps executing its corrupt communist politicians in a bid to make the fear of execution the beginning of wisdom.
After experimenting with state-sanctioned executions and confirmed its futility as a tool for preserving modern social order, many countries have abandoned the practice.
More than that, the fair possibility that the judges, essentially fallible as all flesh and blood, could be led to err by their own susceptibility to subliminal bias, misreading of evidence, the manipulative performance of the clever prosecution lawyer; and that their blunder could form the basis for condemning an innocent soul makes the death sentence a dreadful thing. It is sobering to think that once the hangman has fulfilled the task, there is no room for reversal, no going back in time and space to apologize or recover the wasted life.
No crime will ever suffice as justification for the invocation of death sentence. But the charge of blasphemy must be the silliest ground to order human liquidations.
Death sentence as punishment for blasphemy is strategy to protect God and religion from the challenge of doubt or defiance. God, the version sculpted in the zealot’s mind, is a fragile character who faces a real risk of being destroyed by any token of human dissidence and disbelief.
Blasphemy laws are meant to secure uniform compliance. Everyone is under compulsion to profess that God exists and is possessed of the qualities spelt out in the creed.
But the irredeemable flaw of blasphemy laws is that they enthrone a caricature God whose survival and eternal relevance depends on the pillars of collective consensus. If one person voiced a question, God would be in danger of being demolished!
This warped theology construct makes humans assume responsibility for insuring God against human mischief.
Blasphemy laws presume that God can crumble in the face of a slur or a cartoon. That the invisible Being who authored the universe can be assaulted by the word or deed of a mortal. This is the actual blasphemy. Of course, it is a stupidly outrageous reason to slaughter nine human beings.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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