Freedom is a divine gift. It is the right to enjoy all the privileges or special rights of citizenship. The power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without. The whole concept of fundamental human rights of citizens proceeded from the inherent craving of man for freedom. God himself created man a free moral agent and did not compel man to serve Him. All the known greatest prophets of God who encountered God ended up presenting God as a choice to even His own people of the book (Bible). Joshua, after performing all the miracles of God, before all the Israelites, through victories in battles, until the children of Israel were settled in the promised land decleared, “Now therefore … choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”. Joshua 24:14 -15. It is ridiculous for men to compel fellow men to worship God from their own point of view, when God, who created man, did not compel man to worship Him. Religion, therefore, should be by conviction not compulsion. Conviction produces true worshippers, compulsion produces hypocrites.
The children of Israel tinkered with all systems of government, from theocracy to monarchy before arriving to the inevitable realisation that democracy is the best option for man. This is inspite the fact that they pride themselves as people of God. When Judges and prophets were in charge of government, in the name of God, the people realised that the children of those men of God were committing great atrocities more than the children of the secular men. They, therefore, rejected those children from succeeding their parents and opted for a monarchy. God obliged them. When the Kings took over power, they committed so much atrocities that God destroyed the whole nation of Israel and sent all of them to exile. On their return from exile, they opted for democracy, which is the modern acceptable system of government that respects the rights of the citizens, upholds the rule of law and guarantees that the people decide who governs them in a free and fair election. A former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who was found guilty of corruption, declared publicly that he was proud to come from a country where a sitting Prime Minister can be investigated. Little wonder today, though, they have one of the least land space and population in the middle east, they have the most superior governmental institutions and fire power in the whole region. Corruption is at its lowest ebb in Israel because of accountability of their leaders to the people.
Theocracy purports to be governed by the voice of God. When persons who are deemed representatives of God, give discordant tunes as to what God says on any issue and there’s no way to confirm which one God has said, because God is not physically with us, the people discarded every imaginary voice of God and decided that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Today, the era of any body hoodwinking the people with “thus sayeth the Lord” in governance is over. Convince the people with your policies and programmes not your religion. Any country that gives its leadership to such group is probably going to be doomed.
When Taliban was overthrown by the US in Afghanistan, after the event of 9/11, America tried to impose its own version of democracy on the deeply religious landlocked country. Democracy evolves and cannot be decreed overnight. The resultant government formed, saw freedom as an occasion to become corrupt. Freedom to steal. The armed forces formed were made up predominantly of the Northern Alliance, populated by forces that fought against the Taliban, before America’s invasion of Afghanistan. The majority tribe in Afghanistan is the Pashtun, while the emerging armed forces were constituted majorly by members of other ethnic groups apart from the Pashtun with the resultant effect that for twenty years of America’s occupation of Afghanistan, the government could not win the hearts and minds of the people. The government was seen as corrupt, while the armed forces formed were seen as dominated by other minor tribes. Immediately America announced its withdrawal, the Taliban overan the country in about 11 days.
The lesson here is that no matter how beautiful a system of government may be, if corruption is not tackled, the government may crumble. Another lesson here is that democracy must be home grown and must reflect the demographics of the people. Any system of government that does not recognise the ethnic, cultural, religious environment in which it operates may also crumble because it will lack legitimacy and popularity to govern. In Nigeria, we have a fantastic provision in Section 14 (3) of our 1999 Constitution called the federal character principle, which prescribes how a government should be composed in Nigeria in a democracy. It provides that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”. It will be a ruse for anybody in Nigeria to think there will be peace, unity, loyalty when there’s a perception of injustice, inequality and dominance of one ethnic, sectional, religious group over another or others. Any government that wants peace, unity and loyalty of all the groups in Nigeria should tacitly comply with the provisions of Section 14(3) of the Constitution.
Also it will be a day dream for any government in Nigeria to think of wiping out banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, robbery without first wiping out or reducing the incidence of corruption and election rigging to the barest minimum. We often forget that it is bureaucratic, judicial and electoral banditry that breed main street banditry. Money that ought to be for education and provision of infrastructures are stolen by the elites leaving the youths and the people ignorant, poor, hopeless and willing tools of recruitment by the natural criminals. Money meant for our troops fighting the insurgency and banditry in Nigeria is mercilessly vandalised by their Senior commanders, leaving them dejected and demoralised with some of them resulting to mutiny at times to ventilate their grievances. Thugs generated through electoral banditry always mature to kidnappers and terrorists when their politician principals dump them after elections. These were the same features found in the government and armed forces of Afghanistan that made them collapse after about 11 days of sustained bombardment from the Taliban after American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It is unfortunate that after the Taliban came back to power, they started towing the line of their former method of governance, despite their avowed assurance to the contrary. Any government that does not keep to its promises will soon lose the trust and loyalty of its people. They have given their leader the title of Commander of the faithfuls/Spiritual/Supreme Leader. They have declared Afghanistan an Islamic Emirate and vowed to govern by the dictates of sharia law. The rights of women have been rolled back to what they were 20 years earlier. It’s unfortunate that people don’t learn from history. Pakistan, an Islamic country, the most supportive backbone and first neighbour of the Taliban is a flourishing democracy that had even produced a woman, Benazir Bhutto, as Prime Minister, while Taliban is declaring that no woman will be appointed in the governing council of the country. As the Goodwill Ambassador of Nigerian women, I find this appalling. Today, Pakistan is a nuclear power and has not been subdued or subordinated by India with superior numerical and economic strength, while Afghanistan is a potential failed state. Taliban will be naive to think that they are meeting the same timid Afghans like they met 20 years ago that were willing to submit themselves unconditionally to their rule. Afghans have tested freedom and have acquired the zeal to match the Taliban in fighting for freedom with the same zeal the Taliban acquired power in Afghanistan by manipulating them in the name of God. You cannot be living in yesterday and expect to enjoy the benefits of today.
The problem in governing a country by religious laws is that inside each religion, there are denominations, inside each denomination, there are sects, inside each sect, there are groups, inside each group, there are individuals. Each individual has his own interpretation of what he thinks religion should mean. Since the ultimate power of the universe is invisible, nobody is sure who has the correct interpretation. This is why every serious modern government has removed religion from the state. In Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Nigeria vowed that the Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion. Any State in Nigeria which adopts a religious law to govern its state is desecrating the Constitution.The countries that have imposed sharia laws on their citizens are Islamic countries, yet they did not survive the implementation of the laws. Ask Sudan, where Muslims unanimously refused to continue to be governed by sharia because their venture into it had brought untold hardship and dismembership of their country. The Taliban’s interpretation of sharia is different from the ISIS-K interpretation of the law and is yet different from Al-Queda’s interpretation with the resultant effect that the country will soon descend into anarchy and may become a breeding ground once more for terrorists. Boko Haram in Nigeria even went to the extent of interpreting its own version of sharia to mean that “western education is an abomination”. This is inspite the fact that Islam and its Prophet advocated for the tenacious acquisition of knowledge and education even if it will take the learner to China. Those people imposing religious rules on others are simply doing so as a ploy for the acquisition of power and money. One wonders why a leader of a secular government should adopt the name, Spiritual/Supreme Leader. Are they leading men or spirits. God created the earth and gave it to the children of men. Nigeria must never tow this line. Spiritual Leaders should wait to die first before they ascend their own leadership in the great beyond to lead spirits. Nigeria is made up of human beings not spirits and we have chosen the government of the people not of the spirits.