Press Coverage of Islam in Nigeria

Press Coverage of Islam in Nigeria


Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa

Research and Documentation Directorate, Government House Kano Nigeria[1]

Prepared for the International Conference on Fundamentalism and the Media Boulder, CO – October 10-12, 2006

Nigeria is unique because it has the largest concentration of Muslims and Christians living together in the world and it is also the most populous country in Africa. It is a federation made of thirty six states and a central government. It was created by the British by bringing together states and communities under one colonial administration. The British colonization began in the 19th century and culminated in the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. The country gained its independence from the British in 1960 with a parliamentary system that was overthrown by the military in 1966. The country was engulfed in a civil war from 1967 to 1970 and was under military dictatorship for thirteen years, democracy was restored in 1979 but it lasted for less than five years and the military took over. There were series of military regimes and the economy was dwindling because of dependency on oil revenue and the turbulence of the oil. This led to structural adjustment program and economic deprivation which gave rise to ethno-religious tensions because of differences exploited by various elite factions[2]. The country restored democracy after sixteen years of military dictatorship in 1999.

As a result of the restoration of democracy several ethnic groups began canvassing for one form of autonomy or the other and there was widespread turbulence. This made some analysts to wrongly predict doom for Nigeria[3]. One of such highly popularized analysts is Karl Maier who wrote the book called This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis. He was reported to be “always puzzled that Nigeria has not yet fallen, despite the fact that the house remains as deeply divided as when he wrote his book six years ago”[4]. The fact is that the premise upon which Maier based his thesis is flawed largely because he did not read enough, judging by his references[5]. The book was based on collated opinions, author’s observations and thoughts and not deep scholarship. Had the author availed himself of the facts on the history of Nigeria and the survival of states in the modern era, he would have convinced himself that, Nigeria would not easily disintegrate, as predicted by journalists. Basil Davidson one of the most prolific authors on Africa summarized Nigeria’s experiences in contradiction to Maier’s pessimism:

But miseries of one kind or another had tended to mask what was in fact a notable national success. Since breaking itself apart in a civil war from 1967 to 1970, this amazing country of some 100 million people, speaking a multitude of languages and with dozens of different ethnic loyalties, had somehow managed to arrive at a basic stability, even while the political air continued to be rent with tumults of dispute[6].

Similar to India, Nigeria has the potential of instability[7]. But this potential does not exist in isolation. Theorists of international relations have demonstrated that the survival of any state largely depends on the international system[8]. “The global system of states exercises pervasive influence in maintaining its component units”. It has been noted that “the potential for splintering is highest in Africa, and here the official diplomatic doctrine is most firmly against secession”[9].

This paper examines how the newspapers covered Islam in Nigeria by analyzing the press coverage of the Shari’ah when Zamfara State one of the northern states amended its penal laws to incorporated Shari’ah Criminal Law as interpreted by the Maliki School of Islamic Law as well as the coverage Kano Civil Disturbances of May 2004. The paper draws from earlier works[10] and it briefly treats the history of Islam in Nigeria and of the press as well as the similarities of coverage of Islam by both Western and Nigerian media.
Historical Survey of Islam in Nigeria

The earliest contact between Islam and the communities of the central Sudan which later form part of the country that became Nigeria was probably when the Umayyad refugees[11] settled in Kanem after the overthrow of their dynasty by the Abbasids. The refuges may have converted some of the people of Kanem[12]. The activities of Ulama and traders from Egypt and the Maghrib continued in this area after the initial contact and it resulted in the conversion of Umme Jilmi, the King of Kanem. He was converted by Muhammad b. Mani, “a Fezzani scholar”. This was perhaps early in the 12 century CE, because Dunama, the son and successor of Umme Jilme was drowned in the Red Sea on his way to Makkah for the pilgrimage in 1150 CE[13]. Mai Umme’s conversion was summarized in a Borno Mahram (letter of privilege) which claimed that Borno was the first Muslim country in the Sudan[14]. This claim should not be accepted uncritically because even in the central Sudan, Bagauda was an earlier Muslim King[15] because he flourished in Kano from the late 10th century CE, while the Borno King in question was in the 12th century CE. In fact Takrur, which is also part of the Sudan was “the first African polity south of the Sahara to embrace Islam”[16]. The exact time during which Islam came to Kano cannot be ascertained. The first Muslim ruler of Kano was perhaps Bagauda , thus making Kano Islam one of the oldest in the central Sudan . Borno gained its prominence as “the first Muslim” country of the Sudan because of its proximity to the orient thus it initially assimilated literary tradition which, gave it the intellectual edge. The proximity also gave Borno access to military hardware thus its initial hegemony over its neighbors. Borno’s intellectual edge remained even with waning of its military influence[17].

Shehu Usman Danfodio the most prominent Islamic scholar in Nigeria’s history led a Jihad in the 19th century which has been described as “the most important theme of our history in the last one hundred and sixty years has been the gradual process of unification” it was also “the first event of a truly nationwide significance in our history. Hardly any part of the country entirely escaped its influence”. This Jihad established the Sokoto Caliphate which occupied most of the area that later became Northern Nigeria and other areas that later became parts of Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. According to one of the most distinguished historians of Africa, the Sokoto Caliphate achieved economic success because of the outcome of the jihad which, “by giving Hausaland a polity appropriate to its economy … made it the most prosperous region in tropical Africa”[18].

The government of the Sokoto Caliphate was Islamic, hence Shari’ah was the only legal system acceptable. The leaders of the Caliphate namely; Usman Danfodio, Abdullahi Danfodio and Muhammad Bello wrote treatises on the idea of Justice based on classical Islamic sources. The Sokoto authorities maintained the jurisprudence of the Maliki School. There is no doubt that the Sokoto Caliphate was a success in the implementation of Shari’ah. Independent observers such as European travelers acknowledged this. For example Clapperton observed that:

The laws of the Qur’an were in his (Bello`s) time so strictly put in force… that the whole country when not in a state of war, was so well-regulated that it is common saying that a woman might travel with a casket of gold upon her head from one end of the Fellata dominions to the other[19].

European travelers also acknowledged the Islamic character of the Sokoto leaders even in the period of decline. One of such was Staudinger who wrote about the Amir al-Muminin of that time:

So, according to the standards of the country, the income of the Commander of the Faithful may be quite considerable but despite this fact he lives comparatively simply. The puritanism of his forebears is still alive in him; he is accessible, affable and not proud, even the poorest man is granted audience. He uses the bulk of his income in gifts to rich and poor, in rewards to officials, as well as in the exercise of his generous hospitality[20].

However there are Nigerians who have developed ideological hatred for the Sokoto Caliphate as noted by one reviewer who observed that:

The date when the Sokoto Caliphate was founded, 1804, now appears in much born-again literature as a major negative milestone in Nigeria’s history and, at least among the Yoruba , ‘the Caliphate’ has become a sobriquet for those social forces which prevented the assumption of office by M. K. O. Abiola , the winner of the presidential election of 1993. Such simple theological interpretations tend to preclude the complex political, cultural and economic analysis which Nigeria’s situation demand[21].

By 1903 the Sokoto Caliphate and its Emirates (provinces) were conquered by the British who established the colonial government. Muslims resisted this conquest and the attempt to impose European values by the conquerors as noted by Professor Gbadamosi “The Islamic character of resistance to British conquest in the North show clearly the anti-pathy of Muslims to western values”[22]. Lord Fredrick Lugard who led the conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate had also wished that all the Muslims of Northern Nigeria should become Christians. But he knew that was not possible, neither could he rule them directly thus he had to compromise and allow them to practice their religion and rule them through their “native rulers”. His intention of Christianizing the area was clear in his friendship with Miller , a fanatical missionary and a British imperialist. Dr. Ayandele has observed that contrary to the views expressed by some historians and Christian Missionaries Lugard’s anti-missionary feelings were temporary and by 1901 “he had befriended Miller and he promised in the same year to tell the Emirs that the missionaries were his “brothers” respected and valued by him and that they should consent to their coming into their country after the territory should have been “pacified””. He gave Miller permission to open mission station in “Katsina if its ruler would not object to a mission and it was on his way there in 1902 that Miller and Bargery stopped in Zaria to discharge imperial functions. Both of them had won Zaria for the British in the early months of 1902, before Captain Abadie captured the Namagwanchi”[23].

Lugard as an English imperialist viewed Christianity as a vehicle for achieving the British imperialist agenda this is contrary to later propaganda that he was against missionary expansion, and that he was a friend of the Fulani. Lugard was part of the imperial project because he believed as “an empire-builder” that “a Christian is more likely to be loyal to the British”[24]: The missionaries failed in their bid to convert Muslims to Christianity but they never gave up and they were committed to this goal through whatever means for example force as advocated by Dr. Walter Miller . Their desperation was observed thus:

However most, like Bishop Tugwell and Walter Miller , were only too anxious to enlist the military might of the colonial regimes to enforce conversion. In fact, in the West and Central Sudan , they failed by either means to convert any but a tiny sprinkling of Muslims to Christianity[25].

Dr. Walter Miller was “the most fanatical and perhaps the most dedicated missionary in Northern Nigeria in the first half of this century. An uncompromising, highly opinionated believer in the virtues of British civilization”[26] he “saw nothing good in Fulani and Islam”[27]. He was so obsessed with hatred that he advocated the use of force to remove the Fulani and install another group as he had caused the removal of Sarkin Zazzau . He wrote:

I am also incurably a believer in the ultimate use of force, occasionally with some who would withstand the coming of righteousness, and by fatal obstinacy bring on themselves and the country they rule nothing but ignorance, and sin and feudalism[28].

It was further observed that “So prejudiced against Islam did Miller become that he contended that Muslims were not as prolific as pagans and that their offspring were less healthy than those of other religious communities”[29]. So what happened to this great hater of Islam and a great contributor to the culture of religious intolerance and hatred in Nigeria? It was observed thus: “Hardly had he arrived in Northern Nigeria for two years than Miller became aware that he had been a dreamer in his hopes of converting the Hausa into Christians”[30]. Thus the inevitable fact that Christianity through missionary work will never conquer Islam except through force as history has shown, became clear as bitter as truth to Miller because: “On the eve of his death he admitted that Christianity would never convert Islam in Northern Nigeria and consoled himself with the hope that the destiny of Northern Nigeria would in future be in the hands of christianised well-educated ‘pagans’ of the Middle belt”[31]. Miller succeeded in installing the culture of hatred of Islam and the Fulani as demonstrated above. This culture has become apparent in the post-colonial period. This is perhaps what one of his successors meant when he wrote: “a man whose efforts were later to change the balance of power in the whole region”[32].

Both the colonialist and missionaries were committed to westernization and obliteration of Islamic values that do not conform to western values. Products of the major school in northern Nigeria “were not prepared to be intellectually inclined. They trusted the British and were friendly with them for they depended on them even on matters that affected the Sharia”[33]. Lord Lugard in collaboration with the missionary Dr. Walter Miller tried to destroy even Ajami (Hausa in Arabic script), which was the literary technology of the Muslims for centuries[34]. But perhaps the most important impact of secular education was “adoption of European ways, however trivial, that added up to the dissolution of Islam” in the state and the society[35]. Lord Lugard had wanted the Shari’ah “gradually be destroyed” and replaced with a “hybrid based on English law”[36]. But even during that period Palmer , one of the colonial officers acknowledged the misery which Lugard’s mission had caused and also the effectiveness of the Shari’ah before the colonial intervention when he stated that:

It is lamentably impossible to deny that in Hausaland the incident of crimes, notably theft, murder, robbery and burglary has grown worse instead of better since British occupation[37].

Even in pre-colonial Southern Nigeria in the Yorubaland Islam was gaining foothold and Shari’ah was becoming acceptable. Oba Momodu Lamuye of Iwo established Shari’ah in his domain and his town was administered according to its provisions from the beginning of his reign in 1860 to his death in 1906. Similarly Oba Oyewole of Ikirun established Shari’ah in his domain and it was presided over by a Qadi from Ilorin called Bako. There was also a Shari’ah court in Ede and the first Qadi was Sindiku. In Epe Shari’ah was operational and ranked second to Ilorin in terms of Islam, and Maliki Fiqh was the school followed by the people[38]. Even in the pre-colonial Ibadan, which some journalists[39] now regard as a counter force to Sokoto, the role of the Shari’ah was visible. The colonialists made efforts to undermine the Shari’ah in Yorubaland , as usual such conspiracies must have intellectual backing thus Anderson wrote in his Islamic law in Africa, that the Yoruba Muslims merely “practised Islam as a religion and not as a way of life”. This was far from the truth as indicated by the activities of some Obas in this paragraph. There is also more evidence to contradict Anderson. For example the Lagos Muslim community demanded for Shari’ah as early as 1894, when they:

Presented their demand for the establishment of Shari’a Courts and application of the Shari’a to the Colonial Governor of Lagos. For reasons to be given later the demand was refused but the Muslims continued their practice of Shari’a in their various Mosques, particularly in matters relating to marriage, child naming and funeral ceremonies. Some of them even applied the Shari’a in matters of inheritance, as we shall soon observe[40].

The agitation for Shari’ah in Yorubaland has continued for more than one hundred years. Apart from the report of Lagos Weekly Record July 1894, The African Messenger of 17th January 1924 also reported the demand of Lagos Muslims. In the 1938 Ibadan Muslim community “asked for and were refused the application for Shari’a”. Similarly the Muslim congress of Nigeria Ijebu Ode “wrote to the Brooke Commission on Shari’a with no result”[41].

It is therefore very clear that Islam was deeply rooted in the Sokoto Caliphate and other areas that became part of Nigeria. The agitation for Shari’ah is therefore not a new phenomenon as simplified by recent press reports.
A Survey of the Nigerian Press

The press is a very influential segment of the civil society and in a democracy it is considered as the fourth estate of realm because it is expected to promote the virtues of democracy such as justice and freedom. The print media in Nigeria is fragmented along ethnic, regional and religious lines therefore its ability to promote democracy is limited even though all the newspapers claim to be promoting it. This has led some commentators to note that the mass media has been a contributory factor to the culture of intolerance in the country through false reports[42]. Some sections of the media have been noted for their notoriety in biased reporting especially of ethno-religious conflicts[43].

Reverend Henry Townsend was the first to start a newspaper in Nigeria in 1859 called the Iwe Irohin in Yoruba language and it later became bi-lingual (English and Yoruba). It provided the missionaries the opportunity to express the views and propagate their ideas. The paper did not last long but it stimulated the establishment of some other newspapers and also set the standard for other papers to follow. Anglo-African was the first newspaper to appear after Iwe Irohin in 1863 others that followed were “Lagos Observer (1880), Lagos Times (later Lagos Weekly Record) 1891, Lagos Standard (1903) The Chronicle 1908 and the Nigerian Times 1914”[44]. All these newspapers were based in Lagos in Southern Nigeria some of them were in existence even before the Proclamation of Nigeria by the British Colonialists. Even during the early period of its existence the press was vibrant especially in the call for self government in the colonies before the advent of the nationalist press[45].

Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe founded the West African Pilot in 1937. He was both a politician and a trained journalist hence the paper was an advocate of his ideas. Other influential political journalists of that time were Andrew Thomas of Lagos Times, John and Horatio Jackson of the Lagos Weekly Record and Herbert Macaulay of the Lagos Daily News but none of them was as able as Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe who became the first Nigerian Governor General and later the first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria The nationalists used the papers effectively in their agitation for independence as noted by James Coleman: “The most potent instrument used in the propagation of nationalist ideas and racial consciousness has been the African owned nationalist press. In Nigeria alone, nearly 100 newspapers or periodicals have been published by the Africans since the British intrusion”[46]. Later Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and that of his party NCNC became mainly identified with the Ibo causes because this affected his image that of the party and the West African Pilot. When the Egbe Omu Oduduwa was established there was war of words between the West African Pilot which supported the ‘Ibo’ cause and the Daily Service that supported the ‘Yoruba’ cause[47].

In the North the British colonial Government established Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo in 1939 partly as a result of the rumor that they were planning to hand over Nigeria to the Germans. The first editor of the paper was the learned Abubakar Imam who was not only patriotic but cautious and resisted the intimidation of Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe who had wanted him to sign a memorandum on behalf of the people of Northern Nigeria he refused to sign because he was not a representative of the people. Imam nursed the paper with integrity and despite the fact that it was financed by the government “its criticism of colonial rule regarded by the conservative establishment as severe, gave a revolutionary dimension to the emerging nationalistic press and politics. Most educated Northerner were said to have ‘learnt’ their ‘politics’ from Gaskiya”[48]. He explained his role in Nigeria’s pre-independence struggle in his memoirs especially his role in the promulgation of the Richards Constitution[49].

Gaskiya was a socially responsible even though when it was launched the non-Muslims were suspicious. Although most of its readers were Muslims and it was edited from Islamic point of view it steered a “middle course and” avoided “giving offence to Christian readers the Islamic point of view has been moderate and many believe this policy has been successful in overcoming the fear of most Christian missions”[50]. The weekly Comet which was owned by Duse Muhammad Ali was acquired by Zik’s press in 1945 and it was transferred to Kano in 1949. It was a radical paper. Alhaji Magaji Dambatta one of the founders of NEPU (Northern Elements Progressive Union), which later took over the proprietorship was its editor in the 1960s.

During the first Republic (1960-1966) the press was highly politicized and partisan. The regional governments controlled by different parties established their newspapers. The most notorious were the Nigerian Outlook and the Nigerian Citizen published by the Eastern and Northern Regional Governments respectively. It has been noted that the press contributed to the collapse of the first republic through the pursuit of “narrow, partisan interest over and above the national interest”[51]. Dr. Fred Omu has also observed that: “In the major events of the sixties – the Action Group crisis of 1962, the 1962-63 and 1963-64 census, and the federal election of 1964 and its aftermath – the newspaper press provided a remarkable example of overzealousness and irresponsible partisanship and overzealousness”[52].

The New Nigerian which replaced the Nigerian Citizen later became very influential during the military rule of 1966-1979 when it was taken over by the Federal Government along with the privately owned Daily Times of Lagos that was established in 1947. The Daily Times paper was non-partisan and moderate when it was first established and hence the politicians were accusing it of being pro-establisment. By 1964 it had grown to be largest circulating newspaper in Nigeria selling over 90,000 copies per day[53]. It maintained this position even in the 1970s until its decline and subsequent closure leading to privatization and its new look to be launched on October, 1 2006.

As expected of government papers the Daily Times and the New Nigerian supported government policies and during the civil war (1967-1970) they supported the Federal side against the rebel side. Colonel Ojukwu the rebel leader had signed an agreement with the Mark Press of Geneva a consultancy firm to coordinate his propaganda which was very successful and many Western papers carried biased stories and pictures of the “atrocities” of the Federal side[54].

After the civil war the press was very active in exposing the General Gowon’s regime “moral bankruptcy and paved the way for General Murtala’a patriotic intervention in 1975…..newspapers such as the New Nigerian, the Herald and the Tribune; magazines such as Afriscope and Times International” gave unflinching support to the “Murtala-Obasanjo regime in its patriotic effort at national renewal and assertion of African independence”[55]. The Daily Times was very robust and it even published the controversial debates of the 1979 Constitution. The New Nigerian had a very good print compared to other papers of that time and its editorial were authoritative and it remained a powerful voice through out the Federation even though it was published in Kaduna. The influence of these two papers began to diminish from the second republic with the establishment of more private newspapers especially the Concord established by Chief M.K.O Abiola of the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) who later left the party and turned against it. The Punch was in existence before the Concord and has maintained wide readership because of its tilt towards soft news and sensationalism. The Guardian[56] and the Vanguard have also become the most prominent privately owned newspapers outclassing both the New Nigerian and the Daily Times. Another very robust and controversial newspaper that became popular with closure of The Guardian was Thisday. Many soft-sell newspapers and magazines were established between 1990 and 1994 which were more of entertaining media and have made little contribution to the projection of the good image of the Nigerian nation[57].

During the military era the press was part of the vanguard for the promotion of democracy but as usual with all institutions there were also the bad eggs[58], who, promoted disharmony and were obstacles to genuine national integration[59]. Some ethnocentric politicians used the opportunity provided by the press to promote hatred. One of such prominent politicians was the late Attorney-General of the Federation Chief Bola Ige whose series promoted hatred against northern Muslims. He had no respect for Islam which he termed “so-called”[60]. He characterized the Fulani as Tutsi as a veiled call for their massacre in the Hutu style. He wrote in the Sunday Tribune of February 16, 1997 that: “Since 1960, has our bane not been that the Tutsis of Nigeria (Fulani) (who are minority of minorities – in population, in education, in management skills, in economy) have held Nigeria at the jugular, scheming political maneuvers that make them hold on to power at all cost and in all circumstances?..” He also wrote in the Sunday Tribune of September 7, 1997 that “the Tutsis of Nigeria cannot understand these simple axioms is that first, they are an immigrants uprooted group scattered all over Nigeria without any defined geographical boundaries, secondly their culture has been lost to a religious culture so-called which unfortunately does not enable them appreciate the culture of other people,…thirdly they are insignificant in numbers they have to attach themselves to others appear as part and parcel of those they parasite on;”. This posture of hatred of the late Chief Bola Ige led Professor Kole Omotosho to observe that: “Reading of an African writer and politician referring to a group somewhere as the Tutsis of some place insults the gruesomeness and the horror of what happened in Rwanda in 1994”[61].

The press misrepresentation of Nigeria’s history and social relations reached alarming proportion with the agitation for power shift from the ‘North’ to the ‘South’[62]. With the return of democracy in 1999 the press became freer and more vibrant. Many newspapers and magazines have been founded but most of them are based in the South in fact there are only two privately owned daily newspapers in the North, the Daily Trust and the Leadership. This imbalance has led to biased reporting of the events in the North and of Islam. This was very common in the 1990s whenever there was any ethnic or religious uprising it also persisted during this republic as there were many riots especially in Jos and the Yelwan Shendam massacre. It should also be noted that the Northern press is also fragmented along ethno-religious lines. A former editor of the Nigerian Standard accused the New Nigerian and later, Citizen magazine, of not protecting northern minority interests[63]. This was even though the Citizen magazine was highly professional and it tried to balance its reports of ethnic and religious disturbances that were prevalent in many parts of the North including the minority areas where some minority ethnic groups fought each other. The Southern press on the other hand tried to distort the reports and misrepresent the issues especially relating to Islam and the North and has continued up to this moment. For example the National Mirror of September 20, 2006 carried a front page story ‘Sharia: Army Capt. 2 Others Jailed For Drinking Beer’ with Gov. Sani Ahmed of Zamfara’s picture but the incident occurred in Niger State and story was covered on page 7. The intention was to straitjacket the Shari’ah to Sani Yarima who is now a presidential aspirant..
Nigerian and Western Media Representations of Islam

Herman and Chomsky (1988)[64] provided one of the best models of deconstructing the media technique that could be applicable to both Nigerian and Western media. They identified five filters that reinforce each to ensure specific agenda. The first filter is the commercial basis of the dominant news organization. In this case the interest of the owners is protected, any issue that threatens their survival and perpetuation profit wise is not fairly treated but anything that promotes their interest is promoted. Islam is a threat to the neo-conservatives in America and the West, because of their interests in military industrial complex, commodities (particularly oil) and banking-which is the usurious institution and all the three are closely related in a complex network that rules the world. There is no conspiracy theory about it. And in fact high caliber intellectuals of Jewish origin are now actively engaged in this discourse. The facts are there for anyone to see. Bankism the new religion of these global elite involves Muslims, Christians and Jews, all committed to stealing and holding mankind to ransom. In Nigeria it is the same story, pack all those against the Shari’ah and Islam and you can link them to this group, no matter how sophisticated their arguments they have link with one of the pillars of this group. In Nigeria the most vocal critics of the Shari’ah also advocated separating their discourse from their backgrounds but the message cannot be separated from the messenger.

The second filter relates to the influence of advertising, what do the advertisers want? It involves both their commercial and political interests if at all they are different therefore there “is a strong preference for content which does not call into question their politically conservative principles or interferes with the buying mood of the audience”. The third filter is reliance on government and corporate expert sources there is a symbiotic relationship between journalists and these sources because “they provide reliable flow of raw material of news, thereby allowing news organization to expend their resources more efficiently”[65]. Some of these raw materials could however be “sexed” we can clearly witness this from the Iraqi crisis although the Blair government denied, “sexing” the dossier. But “Lewis Moonie, the former defense minister who lost his job in the recent reshuffle, gave the game away” when he noted: “People seem to equate spin with lying. It is not. What we are talking about here is trying to put the best gloss on your case to ensure people accept it”[66]. In Nigeria everyone is aware of the crude way some interest groups and individuals try to use the media.

The fourth filter according to Herman and Chomsky (1988) is the role of “flak or negative responses to media content as a means of disciplining news organizations”. They include complaints and punitive actions, and may take “the form of letters, telegram, phone calls, petitions, lawsuits, speeches and bills before congress”[67]. Individuals and powerful influential groups and lobbies could produce them. The final filter is the political control mechanism for example the communist scare during the cold war era and now the terrorist scar, most Muslims, Muslim countries are now targets of negative coverage because of this.

Herman and Chomsky’s model could fit into the Nigerian media where most of the practitioners are purveyors of propaganda and could not be regarded as journalists. But in other places and also as it relates to some Nigerian journalists it would be safer to accept Stuart Allen’s suggestion of the need to “problematize, in conceptual terms, the operational practices in and through which news values help the newsworker to justify the selection of types of events as newsworthy at the expense of alternative ones”. This is necessary because among other reasons there is the similarity of coverage amongst various media and with the filter methodology there is the possibility of a kind of conspiracy theory. Allen drew factors affecting unspoken rules or codes that are applied by most news organizations. They are “conflict, relevance, timeliness, simplification, personalization, unexpectedness, continuity, composition, reference to elite nations, reference to elite persons, cultural specificity and negativity”. The “professional ideals of, impartiality and objectivity, are operationalized,” in ways that “they privilege the largely internalized journalistic standards appropriate to the news organization’s ethos and its priorities”[68].

It is therefore very clear that media operations are complex and are tied to the society. It would certainly be very difficult to expect the dominant Western media to appropriately represent Islam within the current context of geopolitical reality and the alliances of the neo-conservative political class and those who control the world economy. Similarly in Nigeria the Southern news media cannot expected to properly represent Islam. If there is more openness and space for discussion as provided by some institutions such as the British Council this could certainly influence relations between both societies (Western and Islamic) and make the discourse more fruitful in the long term. Al-Jazeera is the outcome of similar discourses in the past that called for more Arab media and openness and certainly it is now more “Western” than CNN if “Western” means openness and providing more time for discussion and not tailoring the opinion of the audience.
Shari’ah and the Press in Nigeria

The ideological inclination of any newspaper in Nigeria could easily be deconstructed[69]. In fact, the newspapers, their reporters and correspondents do not hide their prejudice. Hence, it wss not surprising that most of the Nigerian newspapers did not support the Shari’ah for obvious reasons and they had wanted to “kill” it. They consistently presented their position as civilized and the supporters of the Shari’ah as uncivilized and barbaric. One Nigerian journalist exposed these pretensions:

In the main, I think most of the anti-Sharia apostles have not shopped for new arguments and attitudes. More troubling is that they have not been totally honest about their grouse. Rather than let everybody know that their position is influenced either directly or remotely by a religious ideology; they pretend a certain hatred for barbarism or a passionate love for humanity. The religious or worldly ideology under which they hide have their own share of barbarity and inhumanity in the view of others[70].

The Guardian was arrogant in its editorial titled ‘Shame in Zamfara’ in which it depicted the era during which the Shari’ah was practiced in some parts of the Muslim world as sad. According to this paper:

Many Moslem scholars are unanimous that the authority for Sharia derives from the Koran and traditions of Prophet Muhammad. The Zamfara amputation incident has no parallel in the times of the Prophet. There was the sad era when the law was applied in some parts of the Moslem world. But such medieval times cannot be repeated in the world now.

This attitude was not restricted to editorials, which are the official positions of the newspapers but the content of the newspapers are tailored to achieve the propaganda aim of indoctrinating the readers. In my earlier work I attempted to show this by studying two of the newspapers, The Guardian and Thisday who pretended to be national and democratic but were instead ideological, hence subjective in their coverage of Shari’ah.

The study covered three months’ (October, November, December 1999) coverage by the two newspapers. Ten days were randomly selected for each month for each of the two newspapers. Concerning The Guardian , I observed that[71]:

All the front-page items of the period under review were negative, to Shari’ah and they fit into the stereotype. The caption “ Presidency Summons Sani over Shari’ah” on the 17th October, one of the earliest in the period under review is intimidating and designed to scare supporters of the Shari’ah[72]. This type of headline in the papers may have succeeded in making Northern leaders scared. Thus after the launching The Guardian celebrated with a front-page headline on 28th October “Maccido, other Moslem leaders stay away”. Foreign involvement with the Shari’ah was given prominence by the Christian dominated press[73]. This was to insinuate that there were attempts to destabilize the government hence the front-page headline “Islamic Bank grants Zamfara $500 million loan”. The Zamfara State Government later denied this allegation. The bank does not even have that amount to give out as loan and later The Triumph reported the correct story quoting the Niger State governor[74].

Five out of the seven letters in the period under review were negative. The editors might have been selective of the letters that were published. This seems suspiciously so, since most of the opinion articles by the “Star writers ” of The Guardian who were members of the editorial board, were themselves negative to the Shari’ah. Some of the opinion articles and reports were shrouded in falsehood to mislead readers. For example in the article “The Sharia debacle and governance in Zamfara” on the 25th October by a Christian writer, Chukwudi Abiandu stated that: “Even Islamic experts like Alwalu Umar, a teacher in the Sociology Department at the Bayero University was quoted as saying that Sharia is not workable under a conventional legal system” but Awalu is not an Islamic expert and he might have been quoted out of context by Thisday that first carried the story and amplified by other journalists for propaganda against the Shari’ah.

The editorial under review was also negative. Of the four interviews three fit into the stereotype while only one was with Zamfara’s Governor Ahmed Sani . Dr. Lateef Adegbite is known for his pro-Shari’ah views, but the editors in the interest of their constituency “properly” packaged the heading of a reported interview titled “Adegbite warns against imposition on non-Moslems”. Toro a well-known northern Christian was also interviewed. Yusuf, a Muslim was interviewed presumably because his views were negative to the Shari’ah. Thisday also interviewed him in year 2000 perhaps for the same reason.

The section of the Ibru Centre in The Guardian was also strongly tilted to Christianity as expected. Four items on the Shari’ah were presented in this section. Three were negative. In one of them one of Nigeria’s leading anti-Islam Christian commentator, Reverend Kukah was reported as saying “Sharia is about political power”. The Guardian’s religious affairs reporter who is a Christian, also reported negatively about Islam. In fact he was actively involved in covering the activities of the Center. One of the items in that section on the Shari’ah was skewed and made unfavorable to the Shari’ah. The report was titled: “Create more jobs before Sharia”. The only favorable opinion article in that section was in the midst of active Christian propaganda, thus it might not have any effect on its readers.

Concerning Thisday I observed that[75]:

More than 60% of the items in Thisday editions studied during the period under review were not favorable to the Shari’ah and they are in conformity with the paper’s ideological inclination. Over 25% of the items were on front pages of the editions, which was an indication of the importance the paper attached to propaganda against the Shari’ah. The first item was a report on the opinion of a Muslim university teacher from Bayero University who said: “Shari’ah Law is not workable” this fits perfectly into the propaganda strategy of the paper especially in the light of his faith and credentials. The headline story titled: “Kaduna Residents Stage Protest Over Sharia” was misleading but it serves as historical evidence. From the caption it will be assumed that residents, irrespective of their religious inclination protested against the Shari’ah. However on reading the story the reader will find that the protesters were Christians. It is historical evidence because the Christians claim that Muslims staged demonstrations in support of the Shari’ah without Christian interference and that when the Christians decided to stage one, the Muslims responded leading to the February mayhem. This is far from the truth as confirmed by this story, which, shows that the Christians have staged a protest before February and nothing happened. The cause of the February mayhem was the violent manner in which the Christians started their protest but as usual the mass media they controlled gave a biased report.

Most of Thisday ’s “star writers” or columnists during the period under review were anti-Shari’ah and they effectively used the resources at their disposal for propaganda against it. For example Festus Eriye wrote:

Given that the row over the sharia (sic) will not disappear anytime soon because legal challenges are bound to come, it must be assumed that Sani would be spending vital time and resources putting out the fire he has ignited. In the meantime, the problems of hunger, poverty, VVF, river blindness, desertification, unemployment, illiteracy etc. would remain unattended to, while the governor chases martyrdom[76].

As usual propaganda is nurtured on falsehood and sustained by ignorant and bigoted audience. The anti-Shari’ah propagandists in Nigeria exploit the audiences’ ignorance of Islam to propagate false information. High profile intellectuals such as the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and journalists such as Amanze Obi employ this strategy. Since their patrons in the West regularly condemn the Taliban, all Muslims who want Shari’ah are condemned as ‘Taliban model’. Amanze Obi in his article titled ‘From Afghanistan to Zamfara’ wrote that: “The Islamic code in Zamfara derives from the ‘Taliban model’. With its insistence on sex discrimination and segregation, Zamfara, and by extension, other parts of Nigeria may be in for a new mode of seeing and knowing”[77]. As expected most journalists trained under Western Christian tradition arrogate to themselves the knowledge of what is good for everybody and they condemn anything that does not conform to Western Christian values. Take Okagbue Aduba’s arrogant antics he wrote that: “Like kids, Zamfara is just being foolhardy, heady, stubborn oblivious of the disaster, its actions portend. Lets leave Zamfara to its choice, its fate”[78]. Of the three articles on the opinion/comment pages two were by the editorial page editor and they were not objective. Other writers present the stereotype image as well. For example the article by Ayo Obe titled: ‘Zamfara Goose, Bayelsa Gander’ in which Zamfara was portrayed as a parasite because it is not “an oil producing state”. Most of the letters to the Editor were also not favorable to Shari’ah, which is an indication of either the type of audience of the paper or manipulation by its editors.

Thisday ’s coverage of Shari’ah from this study was less favorable compared to that of The Guardian . This might not be unconnected with the latter’s “use” of influential Muslims on its board and the fact that some Muslims are minor shareholders of the paper. It also wants to maintain its pretensions of objectivity and the self-acclaimed title of “flagship” of the Nigerian press.
The Use of Foreign Involvement Propaganda Against The Shari’ah

During the Shari’ah debate on there was an attempt to use Qadhafi against the Shari’ah by the Federal Government[79] in exchange for supporting Qadhafi’s idea of the African Union. Probably those who advised the government to use Qadhafi might have been persuaded by the way Qadhafi treated the Shari’ah with frivolity or even hypocrisy in Libya[80]. This is because it has been observed that:

In a perceptive article, Ann Mayer carefully studies the process of implementing Islamic Law in Libya during the early 1970s. She finds that the Libyan regime espoused the cause of Islamic law only as a means of acquiring political legitimacy. After studying the specific provisions of Libyan law, Mayer concludes that Qadhafi only affirmed Islamic law in principle and, in reality, actually devised legal provisions for enforcement designed to render purported Islamic laws ineffective[81].

Another possible frightful reason the government might have in using Qadhafi was to convince him to interact with the leaders of the Shari’ah movement, so that they could easily be blackmailed as “fundamentalist” and in that case they will become targets for liquidation. Probably the U.S. government who is a patron of the Nigerian government realized the danger Qadhafi will pose to their interests in Nigeria and they advised the Nigerian government against the idea[82].

In a parallel move the Yoruba Christian dominated southern Nigerian press tried to blackmail the Shari’ah movement of northern Nigeria by associating it with Qadhafi because of the latter’s poor image in the West. One of the strategies employed by the hostile media and individuals is to project that there is foreign involvement in the Shari’ah in an attempt to destabilize Nigeria[83]. The section of the press that has links with sources in the presidency has been most vocal in propagating this conspiracy theory. For example The Guardian reported that the government was preparing dossiers on foreign sponsors of Shari’ah and their Nigerian clients[84]. Another example of a move to tarnish the image of the Shari’ah by linking it with external influence was noted earlier in it the paper carried a front-page story that the Islamic Development Bank has offered Zamfara State a loan of $500m[85]. The bank does not have that kind of money to give one state. Zamfara State government denied the story. And the truth was made known when Governor Kure announced that the bank was to provide facility for some states The Triumph carried the report that:

Six states are to benefit from 60 million dollars (over N6 billion) facility from the Islamic Development Bank before the end of this year.

Governor Abdulkadir Abdullahi Kure of Niger state who revealed this during his end of the month parley with the press named the beneficiary states as Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Niger, Yobe and Zamfara states respectively.

According to Governor Kure, the loan, which is interest-free, to all the states would be disbursed at the rate of ten million dollars per each state.

The amount, he said was intended to enable the states execute various development projects for their people.

He however said the states have yet to collect the loan as they await the federal government to give them the guarantee, which will enable them to open credit line with the Arab bank[86].

Thisday demonstrated its linkage with presidency and intelligence sources when it carried a story on why US President Clinton will not visit Kano. And the paper also tried to link the Shari’ah with Qadhafi based on its presidency sources. This was the report:

…When the issue was brought to the joint security meeting between Nigeria and the United States, the officials of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA ) vehemently kicked against Kano being included in the states where Clinton will visit. The US security chiefs reportedly argued that since the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has been linked as one of the sponsors (sic) sharia in some Northern states, the security of the US president cannot be guaranteed in those states[87].

One of the magazines published by the Yoruba Christians in London alleged that: “every evil ill visited by a foreigner on that ancient city” of Kano has its roots in Qadhafi’s interference. The magazine linked the respected Council of Ulama to Qadhafi whom they alleged bankrolled the organization. The magazine further alleged that huge sums of money were offered to Kano lawmakers and that governor Kwankwaso was “threatened with impeachment”. As propagandists the publishers had to concoct lies to feed their audience. The writers lied that Qadhafi gave $300m for the construction of a university when it was only $3m. They associated Shari’ah with evil and southern Christians with industry:

To stave off the impending doom that might follow the introduction of the Sharia, Kwankwaso postponed the evil day by announcing that the law would only take effect in another five months. That day dawned in the last week of November last year, at the start of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting period. Four months later Kano is yet to recover from the capital flight brought about by the emigration of its large and industrious Christian population[88].

Adebayo Williams, the leading columnist of the magazine also alleged that Qadhafi “has been fingered as the main financier of several shadowy Islamic pressure groups and fundamentalist movements in Nigeria”. He described this as “profoundly destabilizing and capable of subverting Nigeria’s corporate existence”. He tried to link Qadhafi with some of the bloodiest riots. He insinuated by calling on the Americans to clap down on the “fundamentalist” he wrote that: “As a strategic protection of its own interests, America is unlikely to fold its arms and watch Nigeria descend into inferno of religious fundamentalism. It will crack the whip once the handshake goes beyond the elbow”. To people like him whom he described as “Westernized intelligentsia” even though Shari’ah is “fundamentalism” and “separatism” for their “almighty” America to take care of, it is still “the beginning of wisdom”. This is because it will deal with their mortal enemy the so-called “decadent feudal caste”. According to Williams, Qadhafi’s meddling “will hasten the creation of a separate identity and remove the ethno-regional block voting, which will hasten resolution of the Nigerian crisis in a way unforeseen and unforeseeable by Qadhafi. The rise of a truly modern nation-state and liberal democracy in Nigeria may well have the likes of Qadhafi to thank”. This is if the Americans allow Qadhafi because Williams had earlier warned that they would not allow Qadhafi’s “handshake to go beyond the elbow”. Only someone with the intention of spreading half-truths can make these amazing conclusions[89].

Some respected Christian clergy were also not left out in the conspiracy theories that certain foreigners wanted to use the Shari’ah to destabilize Nigeria Archbishop Onaiyekan was reported to have said:

I can understand that there are enemies of Nigeria abroad who do not want to see us united working to break up the country. Nigerians should not play into the hands of these foreign enemies because our strength, power and clout in the international community depends on the nation’s continuous unity and co-existence. We have lived together as brothers for over one hundred years, we need more unity now than ever,” the cleric asserted[90].
Press Coverage of the Kano Crisis of May 2004

Kano State is the most populous state in Nigeria its capital Kano is also the largest Muslim city in the African Savannah. It was the commercial center of the Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century when it succeeded in integrating commerce and crafts production consolidating the gains of centuries old weaving and leather industries. During the colonial rule it became dominant commercial center of the whole of Northern Nigeria and it attracted Muslim scholars as well as many non-Muslim traders, merchants and artisans from all parts of West and North Africa as a result of buoyant export oriented economy and good policies of Sarkin Kano Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero who was the Emir and the head of the Native Authority. It gradually became a cosmopolitan city although Sabon Gari area was segregated for the non-Muslims by the colonial government. Kano had has had its share of religious turbulences and upheavals since the Maitatsine riots of 1980 in which thousands of people and properties worth millions of naira were lost. There were also Muslim-Christian confrontations and riots triggered by several ethno-religious conflicts in other parts of Nigeria as well as others that were started locally. The notorious German Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke[91] caused loss of lives and properties in Kano when he attempted to proselytize after the Federal Government had denied entry to Ahmad Deedat a Muslim preacher who used polemics against Christianity. A Christian web posting noted Bonnke’s attempt as “Christian extremists whose quest for converts can come at the expense of peace. In 1991, the visit of German evangelist Rienhard Bonnke to Kano in a bid to convert Muslims touched off bloody rioting”[92]. With the return to democracy there was restlessness in Kano as in other parts of Nigeria the first riot was in 1999. In the 2001 a demonstration against US invasion of Afghanistan was hijacked by hoodlums and some Christians were killed, Churches and Mosques were burnt. The only bloody riot that occurred between 2003 and 2006 was in May 2004 and below was how it was covered by the press.

The killings in Plateau State have been going on since 2001 and there was no response by the state and the Federal Governments until the international media organizations began to consider it as a form of genocide and there were calls by the UN for quick intervention. The Plateau State government did not even send relief materials to the thousands of displaced persons who migrated from Plateau State to neighboring Bauchi and Nassarawa States. As the killings continued, corpses were brought to Kano. The Ulama decided to hold a prayer session at Umar bn Al-Khattab Mosque from where they moved to the Government House to present their complaints to the governor for onward transmission to the President of the Federal Republic. This was not the first time that demonstrators brought their complaints to the governor. There was an earlier one by the students who were against the commercialization of university hostels. While the demonstrators were at Government House under the leadership of the Ulama, some other people were engaged in violent actions in some parts of the town leading to destructions of lives and properties without the knowledge or consent of the Ulama. And were probably instigated by other interested groups as observed by Joe Nwagbara in an article posted in The press coverage of these events was typical of their sectional bias. One of the Muslim journalists complained to this writer of the pressure exacted on him by his Lagos office to report like other southern journalists. The reporter of The Guardian (Adamu Abuh in The Guardian of May 16 2004 in a story titled Kano: A City Under Siege) claimed that he and other non-indigenes who are even Muslims were not safe in Kano[93]. He also stated that: “there are persons within the government circles who are not happy with my reportage of the development. In time like this, what is most important is to be as factual as I can for the sake of posterity”. The Guardian made two headlines on the Kano disturbances on the 12th May 2004 and the 13TH May 2004, which had two stories on the front page. The news report of May 13 titled: They entered our house and stabbed my husband’s elder brother until he died was deliberately couched to arouse sentiments in the characteristic fashion of The Guardian, notorious for its anti-Islamic posture.

The Businessday of May 13, 2004 was one of the first newspapers to insinuate that the governor supported the riot in a caption: Obasanjo Meets Muslim Leaders Over Kano Riots: Governor’s Speech May Have Triggered Killings. This report was unlike the Vanguard report of May 13, 2004 titled: Curfew in Kano as 10 die protesting Yelwa killings, which stated amongst other things that: “Governor Shekarau also urged them to emulate Prophet Mohammed and allow peace to reign in the state, and promise to personally deliver their letter to the authorities”. Other newspapers such as Thisday, which had a lengthy report on the crisis, followed the typical South Western style of anti-Islamic reporting. Thisday news report posted to the web on 20 May 2004 titled: Governors Plead for Dariye, Meet Obasanjo Today contained a lengthy indictment of the Kano State Governor by the Governor of Ebonyi State. The report shows the partisanship of both the paper and the Ebonyi State Governor. While they were trying to plead for their Christian brother, Plateau State Governor who was removed by emergency declaration because of the crisis in Yelwan Shendam amounted to genocide by international human rights standard they made every unprofessional attempt to indict the Kano State Governor. In a characteristic manner of biased journalism typical of South Western press, there was no statement from the side of Kano State Government. The newspaper also paraded a story on the Emir of Kano, which was later officially refuted by the Kano Emirate Council.

The South Western newspapers almost in unison carried the story that Emirs meeting under the banner of Jama’at ul-Nasril Islam have condemned Kano State Governor for the disturbances. The Trust newspapers did not carry the story so also all the credible broadcast organizations. Thisday in its lengthy report on the Kano disturbances titled Govs Plead for Dariye, Meet Obasanjo Today Egwu: Hold Shekarau responsible for Kano riot posted to the web on 20 May 2004 stated that:

Meanwhile, some Emirs and Muslim leaders in the North met at the Arewa House yesterday to deliberate on the Kano crisis.

The meeting presided over by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido was also attended by the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, the Emir of Zazzau, Dr. Shehu Idris, as well as the Plateau State chapter of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI). The leaders received briefings from some of the natural rulers on the Yelwa-Shendam crisis.

Sources quoted Bayero as having expressed his opposition to the protest march which later resulted in a bloody conflict, with the death of several residents.

According to the source, “the Emir of Kano told the meeting that in spite of his misgivings as well as similar warnings from some other Muslim leaders in the area, the governor went ahead to approve the street protest.

The Guardian of May 20, 2004 on page 3 also carried a similar report titled: Emirs, religious leaders query Shekarau’s role in Kano riots. The Punch of Thursday 20 May 2004 page 10 in a story titled Emir blames Shekarau for Kano crisis also reported that “a source who was privy to the Northern Emirs’ meeting, but did not want his name in print said the governor should be held responsible of the crisis”. The Daily Sun of May 21, 2004 was not left out with a caption titled: Emirs, Muslim leaders condemn Shekarau over Kano Killings. But it had carried a report titled: No fear of religious riots in Kano anymore, says Governor Shekarau on May 17, 2004 in which it highlighted the good temperament of the governor this was in a chat shortly before the recent disturbances in Kano the report noted:

On the surface, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State may not appear to be your kind of person. Many political opponents erroneously see him as unaccommodating and intolerant of opposing views. Some see him as difficult and out to frustrate the central government’s good intention at the national level. Even in the religious circle, not many may vouch for his actual role.

But listen to the governor and you will come out with a different impression. He is not one of pretenses as he calls a spade by its name. He has no apologies for all those who have deliberately chosen to misunderstand him[94].

Businessday of May 21, 2004 had a similar report on the purported northern Emirs meeting in its front page titled: Sultan, Emirs Indict Gov Shekarau Over Kano Riots: N/Assembly Ratifies Plateau State of Emergency. This newspaper in its mischief went an extra length to claim that:

Based on Ado Bayero’s presentation, the northern Emirs among who were the Emir of Gwandu, Mustapha Jakolo, Emir of Zazzau, Shehu Idris; Emir of Dutse, Idris Sanusi, resolved to send a strong worded letter to President Obasanjo on possible and appropriate stance to take against Governor Shekarau of Kano. It was learnt that the decision of the Emirs to write President Obasanjo on the actions of Governor Shekarau was to prevent an occurrence of the incidence in Kano and how the Federal Government could intervene to check the activities of the governor.

As stated earlier none of the papers above stated that their quotation was from any official statement but from a “reliable source.” They never crosschecked their facts with the other side of the story because they had an agenda. Their unanimity in quoting an anonymous source is a confirmation of their strategy in the South West to synchronize their news if they have an agenda and some times under the instruction of powerful political leaders. In this case, a section of the political class are bent on having a state of emergency imposed on Kano State and this led some observers to believe that the Plateau State is a test case for a bigger fish which could either be Kano or Lagos. The political manipulators almost had their way when this report was aired in Radio Freedom, which is a Kano based independent radio station on Friday May 21 and the people were enraged until the wise Emirate Council quickly denied the sinister allegation of the southern press. The Radio Freedom also had to renounce its story on Saturday May 22, 2004 claiming that it got it from a newspaper. The Sun intensified the CAN propaganda against Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau in a cover on Monday May 24, 2004 titled ‘Shekarau Help Rioters-CAN’ in the story, neither the governor nor any government official was given the right of reply. And it re-echoed the allegation that northern Emirs condemned the governor without quoting the refutation of the Kano Emirate Council that was aired over Radio Freedom on Saturday 22, 2004.

One of the main areas of disagreement between the sensational press and independent organizations such as the Red Cross is in the number of casualties. While the Red Cross and other foreign media were reporting less than fifty deaths, one of the earliest reports by the Daily Independent a Lagos based newspaper in its report titled 70 feared killed in Kano mayhem (posted on May 12 2004) was that over seventy people have been killed and according to some sources the reporter was not even in Kano at that time. The Vanguard story of May 13 2004 titled: Curfew in Kano as 10 die protesting Yelwa killings, also the Daily Champion posted to the web on May 12, 2004 had a similar report titled: Kano Boils, 10 Feared Killed – Govt Imposes Curfew This clearly shows the intention of the Daily Independent because none of the credible sources carried such a story. Even after the riots the Daily Sun in its editorial of Friday 21 May titled; The Plateau Emergency Option stated that: “The Plateau religious strife degenerated with reprisal killings in Kano where at least 60 lives were lost…”. As days go by the propaganda of the press intensified and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the extremist religious organization, also gave spurious figures of the number of those who lost their lives. CAN did not hide its intention of blackmailing Kano and calling for a state of emergency in the state so also many of the fanatical Christian columnists of the various newspapers drew similarities between Kano and Plateau States. The intention of CAN and other Christian extremist journalists is to make the figures of Kano casualties higher than those of Jos. None of the independent sources had put Kano deaths in hundreds while the CAN is claiming thousands but BBC reported that: “In 2001, more than 1,000 people died in religious clashes in the Plateau State capital, Jos”[95]. Since 2001 Plateau State has not known peace, yet they want to equate it with Kano State.

Many of the essays of southern journalists were poorly researched largely because of their avowed sentiment against Muslims and Islam so they never cared to crosscheck their facts. An example of poorly researched reports is the one titled: Madness in the North in the sensational magazine The News where Dariye was quoted as saying that the ‘Council of Ulamas’ sponsored ‘the 1978 Maitasine Riots in Kaduna also engineered other riots in the North”. This is the extent they can go in peddling ignorance. The Maitasine riot was not in 1978 and the Council of Ulama was formed long after the Maitasine riots. The News and Governor Dariye tried to link Kano protests with al-Qaeda in order to draw US sympathy. The reason of The News was that the protesters gave Bush and Sharon “great importance”. Because of their sinister motive they never cared to find out from any of the protesters why Bush and Sharon featured prominently. All they wanted to do was to link the protest to Osama bn Laden and the beheading of the American Nicholas Berg. One of the organizers of the protest gave their reason for condemning Bush, Sharon and Dariye as butchers of Muslims in an interview in Taskar Labarai program of Radio Kano monitored on Saturday 21, 2004. According to one of the organizers, the protest was initially planned before the Yelwan Shendam massacre. It was to condemn the American massacre of Muslims in Falluja and the Israeli killing of Shaykh Ahmad Yassin and many other innocent Palestinian women and children some of whom were Christians. There were similar protests all over the world against US occupation of Iraq. Even in the US the anti-war protesters are very active. The British foreign secretary has also condemned the Israeli killing of the aged Shaykh Ahmed Yassin. There was a similar protest in Kano in 2003 against US invasion of Iraq in which the scholars called for the boycott of US dollar. Therefore they had every reason to believe that their protest was going to be peaceful.

The aim of CAN and other southern journalists is to set the agenda so that the Federal Government could have an excuse of imposing a state of emergency in Kano. CAN said thousands were killed in Kano. And the CAN Chairman of Plateau State left his home state for Lagos where he was to draw sympathy from fellow Christian journalists who reported his inflammatory and unrepentant utterances. In one of such reports in Thisday posted to the web on May 17, 2004 titled: Killing in the Name of Religion, the Christian writer Roland Ogbonnaya reported the CAN chieftain as saying:

Pam, who was in Lagos last Tuesday to brief a selected media audience on what has been going on in Plateau State as regards the crisis, regretted that it was the Muslims that will attack first and run to the press and government, crying wolves. He said that Christians who constitute 95 per cent of the population of the state has suffered a lot in the hands of the few Muslims.

“It is not true that Christians attacked first in Yelwa. They have never come out to attack; they have been more on the defence. If Christians decide to attack, no Muslim will live in Plateau. If you count on the retired soldiers of the nation, the state has it and they are Christians.

“It was in the same Yelwa, that 46 people were killed in a church while taking refuge, it was in the same Yelwa that all houses owned by Christians were burnt. Now all the Christians in Yelwa have fled the place. That tells you that the people have been enduring. The news outside is that it’s the Christians that are attacking Muslims. Its all lies fabricated to curry sympathy.

He said the “problem in Plateau State has been so difficult to say what exactly is the root cause. A lot of people have known Plateau State as a peaceful place, a state that is cordial, a state that loves visitors. We did not have differences either of religion or tribal. Our parents lived peacefully with the Muslims.

“But of recent, people have witnessed some ugly situations that has engulfed the state. But I would like to state very clearly that the state is 95 per cent Christians and despite that we have lived with each other and have been very frank with one another, there was nothing like deceit. The thing is that if you don’t know the root cause, you won’t be able to tackle the problem,” he added.

He further explained that the Muslim militia that attack Christians are acting out the Islamic agenda. He noted that since 18th to 20th centuries “there has been plans to dominate and Islamise Plateau State. You also remember that it’s only Plateau among the northern states that was not conquered by the Jihadists and that grievance has been there. After the jihad all other wars have been brain war and the political position of Plateau State and those things have given rise to the physical war you now see happening. It’s not just a few Muslims in Plateau. If we only live with the Muslims in Plateau, we will live peacefully.

“Presently as I am talking to you, Kano State is controlling about two local governments in Plateau State. I don’t want to go into details. Wasse is made up of people from Kano, and we have the story of how they got there. So whatever happens in Plateau, Kano is interested,” Pam stressed, while condemning the role of the emirs.

The statements of the CAN Chairman above need no explanation as it showed the reasons for tension in the state and who inflames it. When was the Wase chiefdom established he never stated? The insinuation is that it is a recent creation. But the truth is that was created in 19th century and the first chief was the Madakin Bauchi Hassan (1820-1826) who consolidated Bauchi’s rule in the area whose inhabitants the Basharawa were hitherto under the influence of the Jukun. Abdullahi (1826-1848) who took the title of Sarkin Dutsi because of the hills of the area succeeded him. Wase was separated from Bauchi Emirate in 1902 after the British conquest and its chiefs henceforth became known as Emirs. They have no connection with Kano. Apart from the fact that Hassan who established the chiefdom was martyred while defending the Caliphate. When the Kanuri under Shehu Laminu invaded Kano and were defeated by Sarkin Bauchi Yakubu who took away the symbolic Kanuri drums that are still in Bauchi. The Emir of Wase Abdullahi who took office in 1948 was also known as Maikano. The people who bore that name were given the honorific soubriquet because of the influence of Sarkin Kano Abdullahi Maje Karofi (1272 AH/1855 to 1299AH/1882) who was one of the greatest Emirs of the Caliphate. One historian commented on the administration of the Emir of Wase Alhaji Abdullahi Maikano as “an example of good government in difficult times. The Emir has continually placed welfare of his people, predominantly non-Muslim above all other considerations”[96].

The CAN Chairman also stated that they have many retired soldiers, which could be the reason for the massacre of many Muslims in Yelwan Shendam, a situation that attracted the attention of international human rights groups. It was very surprising that the southern press did not give prominence to the reports of the international human rights organizations on the Shendam crisis and even the concern of these organizations on the lack of care of human rights while quelling the riots in Kano by the security agencies did not receive the required attention. Therefore there was little or no report on those killed or injured by bullets of the security agencies except in the Daily Trust, the article by Joe Nwagbara. But the Human Rights Watch carried a full report published in London on May 17, 2004 titled: Nigeria: Police Shootings Compound Violence in Kano Authorities Should Ensure Police Only Use Lethal Force as a Last Resort in which it stated that:

Nigerian police deployed to quell violence between Muslims and Christians in the northern city of Kano have used excessive force and may have committed dozens of unlawful killings in the name of restoring law and order, Human Rights Watch said today.

There is no doubt the press has an important role in a plural society like Nigeria that is aspiring to be democratic. It has made positive contributions during the struggles for independence and democracy during military dictatorships but has been less positive under democratic dispensations. The Nigerian press has been mostly incapacitated by the interests of its owners and it is dominated by propaganda hence most of its predictions have not been based on knowledge. The Nigerian society has not disintegrated as predicted by its dominant sections. The statement attributed to US President Thomas Jefferson who was reported to have said: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers ”[97] could be a right description for anyone who depends on Nigerian newspapers. This is because they are advocates of the views and opinions of their proprietors and sponsors. Their representation of Islam is largely based on interests and not knowledge and could not withstand scrutiny as the analysis in this paper has shown.

Democracy is the solution to this parochialism of the Nigerian Press because most of the issues that caused turbulence are being negotiated in the political arena. And despite all sad predications the Nigerian state has remained under civil control since 1999. This is a credit to the present Federal Administration as this republic (1999-2006) is indeed the longest in Nigeria’s history. All destructive elements should be resisted by the international civil society because of Nigeria’s importance to Africa and world stability[98]. The consequences of destabilization as predicted and propagated by parochial journalists cannot be contained by anyone. They have also been proved wrong largely because their predictions have been based narrow interests that have not taken into cognizance the complexity of the Nigerian society that has been undergoing gradual integration over several centuries[99]. Their characterization of Islam and the Shari’ah have also been proved wrong as the Shari’ah is also negotiated in the political sphere hence it does not lead to perpetual disharmony in fact as in the case of Kano State there is more social harmony with the Shari’ah implementation and the Governor for the first time has appointed an Ibo Christian as a Special Adviser without any celebration by the parochial press.


Abati R. and Dafinone J. 2002 (eds) Alex Uruemu Ibru: The Daniel from the Lion’s Den Guardian Press Limited Lagos

Adamu, S. 1994 ‘The Press and Nigerian Unity’ in Mahadi A. et al (eds) Nigeria: The State of the Nation and the Way Forward Arewa House Kaduna

Adamu, A. U. 2003 ‘Sunset at Dawn: Colonial Policy and Muslim Hausa Education in Northern Nigeria, 1900-1910’ in Hambolu, M. O. (ed) Perspectives on Kano-British Relations (Gidan Makama Museum: Kano, Nigeria)

Ado-Kurawa, I 2000 Shari’ah and the Press: Islam versus Western Christian Civilization Kurawa Holdings Kano

Ado-Kurawa, I. 2002 Domestication of the Shari’ah in Nigeria Trans West Africa Kano

Ado-Kurawa, I. 2004a Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and the Press: An Analytical Review Trans West Africa Kano

Ado-Kurawa, I. 2004b Islam Nigeria – UK Road Tour: Representations of Islam in the Media Trans West Africa and the British Council Kano

Ado-Kurawa, I 2005 Nigerian Politics and National Political Reform Conference Tellets Lagos

Akintunde, M. with Moyela, M 2001 ‘The Colonel’s Weird Ways’ Africa Today April The Magazine’s cover that month was ‘Qaddafi eyes Nigeria’.

Allen, S. 1999 News Culture Open University: Buckingham and Philadelphia

Ayandele, E. A. 1966 ‘The Missionary Factor in Northern Nigeria’ Journal of Historical Society of Nigeria III 3

Best, C. 1996 Press Development in Nigeria: A Comparative Analysis Midland Press Jos

Bala, G. 2001 ‘A Critique of Theories and Theorizing in Social Sciences: Special Reference to Islamic Political Experience’ American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 18: 2 Herndon USA

Barkindo, B. 1983 (ed) Kano And Some of Her Nieghbours Ibadan

Bidmos, M. A. 1993 Inter-Religious Dialogue: The Nigerian Experience Lagos

Bukar, S. and Kallamu, N. 2001 ‘A Ploy to Kill the Sharia’

Clapham, C. 1996 Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival Cambridge

Clapperton , H. 1829 Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa London

Clarke P. B. 1982 West Africa and Islam London

Cohen, S. P. and Ganguly, S. 1999 ‘India ’ in Chase, E., Emily, H. and Kennedy, P. (eds) The Pivotal States: A New Framework of the US Policy in the Developing World W. W. Norton and Company New York and London

Coleman, J. S. 1986 Nigeria: Background Nationalism Broburg and Wistrom Benin

El-Fadl, K. A. 1992 ‘Book Review of Law and Islam in the Middle East’ by Deslie Hilse Dwyer (ed) in American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 9: 2 Herndon USA

Gbadamosi , G. O. 1967 ‘The Establishment of Western Education Among Muslims in Nigeria 1896-1926’ Journal of Historical Society of Nigeria IV: 1: 98

Hackett, R. I. J. 2003 ‘Managing or Mediating Religious Conflict in the Nigerian Media’ in Mitchell, J. and Marriage, S. (eds) Mediating Religion Conversations in Media, Religion and Culture T&T Clark London and New York

Haynes, J. 1996 Religion and Politics in Africa London

Hiskett , M. 1994 The Course of Islam in Africa Edinburgh

Hogben, S. J. 1967 An Introduction to the History of Islamic States of Northern Nigeria. Ibadan.

Iliffe, J. 1995 Africans: The History of A Continent Cambridge

Isichie, E. 1983 A History of Nigeria Longman Essex

Kukah, M. H. 1993 Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria Spectrum Ibadan

Lugard , F. 1965 The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa London

Maier, K. 2000 This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis Spectrum, Ibadan

Mohammed, A. S. 1999 Chief Bola Ige and the Destabilisation of Nigeria CEDERT Zaria

Moody, J. E. 1990 In the Heart of Hausa States Volume 2 Paul Staudinger

Mora, A. 1989 (ed) Abubakar Imam Memoirs Northern Nigerian Publishing Company Limited Zaria

Newman, J. L. 1995 The Peopling of Africa: A Geographic Interpretation New Haven and London

Niven, R. 1970 The War of Nigerian Unity Evans Brothers Nigeria Publishing Lagos

Okunola, M. 1993 “The Relevance of Sharia to Nigeria” in Alkali N. et al (eds) Islam in Africa: Proceedings of the Islam in Africa Conference Spectrum Ibadan

Omu, F. 1978 The Press and Politics in Nigeria 1880-1937 Longman London

Palmer , H. R. 1928 Sudanese Memoirs ‘The Kano Chronicle ’ Lagos Government Printer

Peel, J. D. Y. 1996 ‘The Politicization of Religion in Nigeria: Three Studies’ Review Article Africa 66: 4

Rasheed, A. 1995 ‘The Nigerian Media and the Shaping of a Nigerian National Ideology in Isa, L. J. (Colonel) (ed) Not in Our Character: Proceedings of the National Seminar on the Appraisal of the Social and Moral Image of the Nigerian Society Kaduna State Government Kaduna.

Rashid, S. K. 1986 ‘On the Teaching of Islamic Law in Nigeria’ in Rashid, S. K (ed) Islamic Law in Nigeria (Application and Teaching) Islamic Publications Bureau Lagos

Smith, A. 1976 ‘The Early States of the Central Sudan’ in Ajayi, J. F. A. and Crowder, M. (eds) History of West Africa vol. I. Longman Ibadan

Tilde, S. A. 1999 ‘The Press and the Shari’ah’ Conference paper

Trimingham, J. S. 1962 A History of Islam in West Africa

Usman, Y. B. 1987 Manipulation of Religion Vanguard Press Kaduna

Usman, Y. B. and Abba, A. 2OOO The Misrepresentation of Nigeria CEDERT Background Brief Zaria

Williams, A. 2001 ‘Riding out the desert storm’ Africa Today April 2001

Yahya, Dahiru 1993 ‘Colonialism in Africa and the Impact of European Concepts and Values: Nationalism and Muslims in Nigeria’ in Alkali, N et al (eds) Islam in Africa: Proceedings of Islam in Africa Conference Spectrum Ibadan

Yusuf, H. B. 1995 ‘Junk Magazines: Media’s Sore Thumb’ Isa, L. J. (Colonel) (ed) Not in Our Character: Proceedings of the National Seminar on the Appraisal of the Social and Moral Image of the Nigerian Society Kaduna State Government Kaduna

Yusuf, B. 2002 ‘Media Coverage of Ethnic and Religious Conflicts in Some Parts of Northern Nigeria’ in Ali., M. B. and Jika, A. (eds) Mass Media and National Development: A Book of Readings Mubin Kano

[1] All views expressed are personal and not official government position.

[2] See Usman 1987 for extensive review of manipulation of religion and its critique by Haynes 1996: 214-231 and Bala 2001: 43-51

[3] As argued in an earlier work Ado-Kurawa 2005 from the next paragraphs was taken.

[4] Yusuf, K. 2005 ‘Privatization: From public to private monopolies’ Daily Trust March 21, 2005

[5] Maier 2000: 305-310

[6] Davidson 1992: 313

[7] Cohen and Ganguly 1999: 43-46

[8] Clapham 1996: 16

[9] Young 1993: 81 and 82

[10] Ado-Kurawa 2000, Ado-Kurawa 2002, Ado-Kurawa 2004a and Ado-Kurawa 2004b

[11]Trimingham 1962: 114

[12] Trimingham 1962: 115. The Sefawa dynasty founded by the legendary Syf Ibn Dhi Yazan were ruling in Kanem before they were driven to Borno by the Bulala in the late 14th century CE where they remained and flourished see Hogben 1967: 162-178 and the more critical study by Smith 1976: 152-196

[13] Isichei 1983: 304

[14] Clarke 1982: 67

[15] Palmer 1928

[16] Newman 1995: 112

[17] See Barkindo 1983

[18]Iliff e 1995: 171.

[19] See Clapperton 1829: 206

[20] Moody 1990: 27

[21] Peel 1996: 611

[22] See Gbadamosi 1967: 98 emphasis mine.

[23] Ayandele 1966: 515 emphasis mine.

[24] Ayandele 1966: 514

[25] Hiskett, M. 1984: 222 emphasis mine.

[26]Ayandele op. cit. p. 512 emphasis mine.

[27] Ayandele 1966: 513 emphasis mine.

[28] Ayandele 1966: 513 where W. Miller : Manuscript p. 46 was cited. The bold emphasis is mine.

[29] Ayandele 1966: 513 where C. M. S. G3/A9/01 Miller to Lugard 29/7/1903 was cited.

[30] Ayandele 1966: 519

[31] Ayandele 1966: 519 where W. Miller : An Autobiography Zaria 1953, p. 24 was cited. The bold emphasis is mine

[32] Kukah 1993: 4

[33]See Yahya 1993: 19

[34] Adamu 2000: 17

[35] Hiskett 1994: 125

[36] Lugard 1965: 556

[37] Rashid 1986: 91

[38] Okunola 1993: 24-29

[39] For example Abbati, Rueben “The second Jihad” in The Guardian where he tried to show that Ibadan was a counter force to the Jihad of Shehu Usman Danfodio.

[40] Okunola 1993: 25

[41] Okunola 1993: 28

[42] Hackett 2003 where Bidmos 1993: 21 was quoted

[43] Yusuf 2002: 144

[44] Best 1996: 13

[45] Best 1996: 14

[46] Best 1996: 20 where Coleman was cited

[47] Coleman 1986 : 346

[48] Best 1996: 50

[49] Mora 1989: 104-112

[50] Best 1996: 69-70

[51] Adamu 1994: 469

[52] Omu 1978: 248

[53] Best 1996: 86

[54] Niven 1970: 158

[55] Adamu 1994: 470

[56] Established as a weekly in February 1983 became a daily newspaper on the 4th of July 1983 see Abati and Dafinone 2002: 9

[57] For more on these magazines see Yusuf 1995

[58] Ali 2002: 84

[59] Rasheed 1995:91

[60] Mohammed 1999: 11

[61] Omotoso, K. 2000 ‘A Nigerian argument’ The Guardian p. 49

[62] For more information on this misrepresentation see Usman and Abba 2000

[63] Yusuf 2002: 155

[64] As cited by Allen 1999

[65] Allen 1999

[66] Richard Norton-Taylor ‘Tell us the truth about the dossier’ The Guardian of London July 15, 2003 see also Russ Baker ‘All Spin All The Time’ Friday July 11, 2003 published by TOMPAINE.COM Russ Baker is a New York based award wining journalist.

[67] Allen 1999

[68] Allen 1999

[69] Adopted from Ado-Kurawa 2002

[70] Adio 2000

[71] As stated in Ado-Kurawa 2000: 349-353 with few modifications

[72] As observed by Tilde 1999

[73] See The Guardian on Sunday March 12, 2000 front-page story ‘Govt. Prepares Dossier On Sharia Sponsors’ also cited above.

[74] Triumph April 14, 2000 front page.

[75] Ado-Kurawa 2000: 358-360

[76] Thisday November, 12 back page. Emphasis mine.

[77] Thisday November 3, 1999 p.12.

[78] Thisday November 1, 1999 back page just like the report of the center for religious freedom cited above.

[79] Bukar and Kallamu 2001

[80] Although some writers are of the view that Qadhafi wanted to implement the Shari’ah because of his superficial declaration during the revolution (Ubah 2001: 329-330).

[81] El-Fadl 1992: 269

[82] This information was obtained from a member of the independent committee on Shari’ah implementation in Kano.

[83] Tilde 1999.

[84] See for example The Guardian on Sunday front page March 12 ‘Govt. Prepares Dossier On Sharia Sponsors’ which states: “Besides, the Federal Government is also said to have identified an Arab leader who has been implicated in an intelligence report to the effect that if the North declares a republic he would build and link Kaduna refinery with a crude line from his country”.

[85] The Guardian 7th November 1999 front page.

[86] The Triumph April 14, 2000 front page.

[87] Thisday Tuesday, July 25, 2000 pp. 1-2 Emphasis mine.

[88] Akintunde with Moyela 2001: 23. The Magazine’s cover that month was ‘Qaddafi eyes Nigeria’.

[89] Williams 2001: 21. From the title of the article it is clear that the author is invoking the desert storm strategy against northern Nigeria. In the paper he confirmed his anti-Islamic sentiment by lumping diverse Muslims (Sadam, Turabi and “Osaka” Bin Laden) as enemies of the West simply because they are Muslims to buttress his support for Huntington’s “unassailable” thesis of clash of civilizations.

[90] The Guardian 3rd April 2000

[91] Hackett 2003: 57 reports his effort to Christianize Africa from Cape to Cairo

[92] News Africa at

[93] He is not the first Muslim to be used by The Guardian. I have made similar arguments in Ado-Kurawa 2000 where The Guardian initially used northern Muslims when it was first established.

[94] Emphasis mine


[96] Hogben 1967: 38

[97] DSC Publication 1991 Legal Deskbook Lagos p. 401

[98] The Economist March 5, 2005 pp. 39-40 has shown that the world cannot contain a destabilized Nigeria see also Ado-Kurawa 2005: 15

[99] See Usman and Abba 2000

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *