Of goose, justice and equality, by Hassan Gimba

Let’s talk hope, by Hassan Gimba
Hassan Gimba.

The Arbiter

 “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” – Ernesto Che Guevara.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King.

There is an English proverb that says “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. Its older version is “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Basically it means what is right for one person is equally suitable for the other.

It is a proverb full of meanings. But it all dwells on justice and the impartiality of the law. Justice cannot be selective because selective justice cannot take societies towards stability. That form of justice itself is injustice. Equitable treatment is, without doubt, a prerequisite for ensuring justice.

There are many cases of selective justice in this country that sometimes you wonder if those behind them are well at all. There have been many instances of flip-flops that draw the discerning to query if we are equal before the law as it should be. Or the law is just being used to subdue the already downtrodden into compliance further. Lack of proper education has already dealt a blow to a majority of the citizenry, making them flawed and docile. Though when they react, it is always volatile.

Our rulers know that we are people with selective amnesia. So they play with us, hiding the iniquities of their class against the nation whenever appropriate. Just recently our judicial system regaled us with cases of Siemens and Haliburton and Dasukigate with some of the culprits coming to courtrooms in wheelchairs. Where are they and what is the status of the cases?

We no longer talk of our Chibok girls or Sadiq Ogwuche, the man who masterminded the bombing of Nyanya in the FCT on April 14, 2014, in which at least 88 Nigerians perished and over 200 others injured. Even recently, there were explosive revelations at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) but, well, just as we have not heard anything about the promised NNPC audit, so this case too might have gone with the wind. The failure to pursue cases of the infringement of the law only breeds more lawbreakers. At the end of it all, the government may lose control, and the nation will end up the loser. We are gradually seeing what Latin American countries went through in the 80s and 90s that made the world regard them as Banana Republics.

While not pursuing justice is a recipe for disaster, inequality before the law breeds malcontents and feeling of not being treated with fairness. A nation is to its citizens what a father is to his children. Just like a father is expected to hide his preferences and treat his children equally, a nation should treat its citizens with equality and fairness, irrespective of any natural or assumed differences. Death is death, and I see no reason why powers that be can stand still for a dead minister’s daughter and not for scores of terrorist slain citizens.

But unfortunately, Nigeria is a country that seems to be in love with inequality before the law. What is good for the goose here is never good for the gander. Take the case of Senator Ali Ndume and Rasheed Maina. Though different courts and different judges, something like that has happened which should have been a precedent. Senators Abaribe and Ekweremadu were instrumental in bailing Nnamdi Kanu, the irredentist.

You see, left me to me, both senators should stew in their juice. Why should a senator of the federal republic bail a man seeking the dismemberment of his country or one who took from it, for himself, billions that could be of benefit to millions? Why should even the courts set, among its bail conditions, the presence of a senator in such cases? A distinguished citizen of the federal republic bailing a separatist or a suspected thief? Haba!

Senator Ndume has been given bail after a few days, for ‘good conduct’, though. While I am happy for him, however, one may ask, how many inmates can be so rewarded for good behaviour even if they genuflect to everyone that passes them in the jailhouse?

We can only get it right as a nation when we treat everyone with equality. Our judicial system and law custodians must also treat people with equality concerning their crimes. An instance that need not leave the consciousness of good citizens has to do with a comparison between Shiites in Zaria and #EndSARS protesters. The Shiites were terminated in numbers by the army for blocking a road. In contrast, the #EndSARS protesters who blocked streets in Abuja for days got treated with awe. Was it an oversight, travesty of justice or just selective application of the law, assuming there is a law that says blocking of roads attracts summary execution? Some said it was because they touched the chest of a General. But a General, even though newly retired, was killed and cannibalised elsewhere without any retribution. So, where is equality before the law? Take note; I am not saying there should be retribution in the latter case. No breach of the law or extrajudicial killing is excusable.

Dr Hauwa Mahdi, a former lecturer at the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, before going to be a senior at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, tried to answer this (the question of equality). She argued that “by the content of Sharia in Zamfara State, one can see where the new elite lays its emphasis: to threaten the poor and women to consent to their will. The point will be made by juxtaposing two kinds of theft and the punishment for each today. The Zamfara Sharia law says:

“Whoever commits the offence of theft punishable with hadd shall be punished with amputation of the right hand from the joint of the wrist; [when he/she has had their two hands and feet amputated, they shall] for the fifth or subsequent thefts…be imprisoned for a term not exceeding one year.”

In the application of this law, it seems the critical phrase in the definition of the crime is “movable property”, which led to the amputation of Buba Jangebe’s right hand. Two further clauses of this section could have been used if the Judges in the case of Jangabe had wanted to. It says amputation should be staved off “(c) Where the offence was committed under circumstances of necessity, and the offender did not take more than he ordinarily required to satisfy his need or the need of his dependents”.

As Abubakar and others had shown, before the new Sharia came into effect, millions of Nigerians suffered from poverty, illiteracy and exclusion. Given the burden of Jangebe’s poverty, did he deserve that punishment for the theft of one cow? Or was the intention of the elite merely to frighten the citizens of Zamfara into silence?

The punishments for those “entrusted with property or with any dominion over property” who breach that trust is mentioned in Sections 161 and 165. The first says: “Whoever dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his use any movable property, commits criminal misappropriation”. The second says: “Whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years or with fine or with both”. In the Zamfara Sharia Law, there is no instance where the misappropriation of public wealth invites any punishment which exceeds 15 years.

For example, Section 295. For a public servant dishonestly receiving money or property not due, the clause states that they “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and shall be liable to caning which may extend to twenty lashes”. Thus, although the value of what might have been ‘stolen’ may be much higher than in what is defined as theft, the offender who converts to his benefit in the case of breaching public trust only gets a prison sentence while the other thief loses her/his limb for life.

 Much ado about Black Friday

Friday, in countries such as ours that adopt Sunday as the first day of the week, is the sixth and penultimate day of the week. It derives its name from Frigg, the wife of Odin. Odin is a widely revered god in Germanic mythology and paganism. In Norse mythology, Frigg, Freya or Friia, the wife of Odin and mother of Balder, was a promoter of marriage and fertility. (Any relationship with why some Muslim marriages take place on Fridays?). Frigg was known to other Germanic peoples as Frija (in German) and Frea. Whatever it is, her name survives in English today in the word Friday.

The term “Black Friday” dates back to Friday, September 24, 1869, when the US gold market crashed, and Wall Street barons went bankrupt. Fisk and Gould’s actions left Wall Street barons bankrupt. Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, two Wall Street financiers, had bought large quantities of US gold hoping to make huge profits when prices soar.

Then in the 1950s, police officers in Philadelphia linked Black Friday to the post-Thanksgiving of the period. In America, the day after Thanksgiving has been the unofficial beginning of the holiday season since the late 19th century when President Abraham Lincoln designated the Thanksgiving holiday as the last Thursday in November. Large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city the day after Thanksgiving for the Army-Navy football game, creating chaos, traffic jams and shoplifting opportunities. And because they couldn’t take the day off, working long shifts to control the rough-and-tumble, they used the term “Black Friday” to refer to it.

Therefore, with all the shopping activities taking place the Friday after Thanksgiving, the day became one of the most profitable days of the year for retailers and businesses. At that time, accountants used black to signify profit when recording each day’s book entries (and red to indicate a loss). Therefore, the day became known as Black Friday or the day when retailers see positive earnings and profits “in the black.”

To encourage more people to shop, retailers began to offer deep discounts only available on that day. On the other hand, Black Friday becomes a day when consumers can save big money on a variety of items, from appliances to shoes.

Friday is, therefore, not an Islamic name because it is the name of the wife of a pagan god. Black Friday was also not coined with Islam or Muslims in mind.


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