By Farooq A. Kperogi
This week, I wanted to write on Charles Soludo’s now suspended “Strategic Agenda for the Naira” from a transnational perspective. I also wanted to comment on the personality and politics of the man himself, based on a few episodic encounters I had with him when he was Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Economic Matters and when I worked as a researcher at the Presidential Research and Communications Unit.
But more than that, my informal research on the academic and scholarly profile of this vain, attention-seeking narcissist has left me more than a little puzzled. Is the man nearly as intelligent and academically accomplished as he has been cracked up to be in the Nigerian media? Does he REALLY deserve to be a professor? What is he professing—and where is he professing it? And shouldn’t we closely scrutinize the academic credentials of a man who says he got his master’s degree and Ph.D. in just four years (in Nigeria!) and became a “professor” a few years after that, with very few, if any, peer-reviewed academic journal articles to his credit?
Should tawdry, poorly articulated, conceptually flawed, non-peer-reviewed and thematically repetitive pamphlets and monographs published by international NGOs and the IMF/World Bank (and not scholarly publishing houses) be the basis for judging anybody’s scholarly productivity—and for promoting him to the rank of professor?
But just while I was coalescing my thoughts on this mysterious man whose false charm has held everybody—or almost everybody— prisoner in Nigeria (it has become a hackneyed refrain in the media, for instance, to precede every comment on, or even criticisms against, the man by noting that he is a “first-class brain”), I stumbled on a story that might well encapsulate a growing trend: the exploitation of “Sharia” by Nigerians to seek asylum in Europe.
First, it came to light that the Nigerian-born first black mayor of an Irish county, Rotimi Adebari, had lied to Irish immigration officers seven years ago about the reason he sought asylum in Ireland. He said he sought refuge in Ireland to escape religious persecution in his home state of Ogun in 2000. He was reported to have said that Muslims were killing Christians in his state, and that he and his family of four decided to seek sanctuary in Ireland because their lives were in danger.
This was, of course, a barefaced lie that merely sought to exploit the insularity of most Westerners where matters of the people of developing countries, especially Africans, are concerned. We all know that there was a religious upheaval only in Kaduna in 2000. Ogun State, in fact, has no history of Muslim/Christian clashes. Well, the man is now a mayor in Ireland.
This week, it came to light again that another Nigerian economic refugee identified as Felix Eugenne, is telling an even more brazen lie to immigration officers in Italy. He said he had impregnated a Muslim girl by the name of Fatimah in Niger State and that, in accordance with Sharia law, he was billed to be stoned to death when he mysteriously bolted from the prison! And some Italians believe him.
If only these people cared to know just a little bit of Islamic jurisprudence, they would have realized that the punishment for fornication in Islam is NOT death by stoning; it’s symbolic public canning. And non-Muslims are not subject to it.
But that’s not even the most shocking lie. When did this incident allegedly happen? Wait for it—1994! Yes, it isn’t a typo. It’s 1994—when General Sani Abacha held sway as head of state and when Sharia had not been introduced in any part of Nigeria!
I have decided to reproduce the entire news item below unedited. One can only imagine how many more Nigerians are lying in the name of Sharia to get refugee status in European countries. Their cases appear to have been helped by the high-profile international media coverage that the Safiya Hussaini and Amina Lawal trials attracted. Anybody who says he has been condemned to death by stoning by a Nigerian Sharia court is now believed—or so it seems.
I think this is another sophisticated mutation of 419 scams. I wager that the next issue Nigerians seeking asylum in European countries will exploit is homosexuality. They will claim to be homosexuals who are being persecuted and threatened with death because of their “sexual orientation.” That will appeal to the sentiments of Westerners to no end. Homosexuality is now a “human rights” issue in the West, and the “plight” of African homosexuals is top on the agenda of the powerful Western gay lobby. Well, enjoy the story below. I leave you to make your judgments. See you next week.
Italy: Nigerian Christian facing stoning prays he can stay
Turin, 24 August (AKI) - A young Nigerian Christian man, Felix Eugenne is anxiously awaiting a decision on 3 September from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on whether he can remain in Italy. He is facing deportation to Nigeria and death by stoning for having sex outside wedlock with a Muslim woman.
Magistrates in Nigeria sentenced Eugenne, 27, to death by stoning preceeded[sic] by public flogging. His crime was to have had sex with his girlfriend Fatimah, who is a Muslim: a double offence in Niger state, where Islamic law is in force.
Nigeria's constitution upholds the secularism of the state and its legal system. But in Niger state and 11 other states, mainly in the Muslim majority north, Islamic law is applied.
Eugenne's family property was torched by his girfriend's[sic] relatives when they found out Fatimah was pregnant, and Eugenne and his father were thrown into jail.
Eugenne was imprisoned and given 21 public lashes for several days. He had been sentenced to 21 public lashes for 21 days before death by stoning, but says he managed to escape when his mullah-jailer left his cell unlocked one day.
The mullah had his throat slit in a public square as an "exemplary" punishment, Eugenne said. He managed to flee Nigeria and reach Italy aboard a container ship in April 1994.
Via diplomatic channels, documents and photographs, Eugenne's main lawyer, Anna Rosa Oddone, has verified his story. A spokesman for her law firm told Adnkronos International (AKI) they were optimistic that Eugenne would be allowed to stay in Italy.
The UNHCR in Italy, which has representatives from the UN, the Italian government and the police, will rule on whether he can obtain refugee status, political asylum, or humanitarian leave, meaning he could stay in the country initially for up to 12 months.
If his recourse to UNHCR fails, Eugenne can apply to the Italian courts but will have to do so in absentia, as he will be deported immediately.
The region of Piedmonte's regional administrative court previously threw out Eugenne's case, ruling that it was beyond its jurisdiction.
Eugenne has been working as a casual labourer unloading goods at a supermarket in the Italian city of Turin, and working as a hairdresser in his free time.
He has no idea what has become of Fatimah, his child or his parents and his other relations. He fears that any attempt to contact them could be fatal for him.
Italy has helped save two Nigerian women sentenced to lapidation under Islamic Sharia law. Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for having a baby as a result of consensual sexual relations while divorced, had her sentence overturned and was freed in 2003.
Safiya Husseini who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in 2001 but was later acquitted on appeal and in 2002 was made an 'honorary' citizen of Rome.
The story is found here.