Miss World Contest Deepens the Nigerian CrisisBy Adetokunbo Abiola
The proposed holding of the Miss world contest and the Arrival of the beauty queens in Nigeria as well as the Violent protests which followed the contest have revealed deep cleavages which if not properly managed could lead to a permanent split in the West African country. When the Miss World contest was first broached, the predominant Muslim North was against it as it felt the event was not a priority to the Nigerian economy and that the spectacle of girls parading themselves in semi nude attires and prancing to an ogling audience is against the tenets of Islam.
Alhaji Lateef Adegbite, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (SCIA) has another reason for the Muslim opposition to the contest when he said it was an affront to Nigerian Muslims for the contest to hold in the month of Ramadan.
Other Muslims were not for it because Amina Lawal, the young woman slated to be stoned to death for having a child out of wedlock, was supported by a number of the beauty queens who vowed non-participation in Nigeria if Amina was executed. Says Ibrahim Khamil, an unemployed youth in Kaduna, scene of the scene of riots when informed about the comments of the queens: "To hell with the contest. Nigeria does not need it. And we will make sure it does not hold here." But for the predominant Christian South the event was an opportunity to showcase the tourism potentials of Nigeria and to enjoy some benefits through improved infrastructure, massive hotel revenues, television coverage etc. For instance, Rivers State, a co-host of the event, spent the sum of four million dollars on logistics while it lost the sum of seven hundred million dollars from the rescheduling of the event to London.
Contractors, understandably, were enthusiastic about the event as many supplied various items booked for the pageant and lost millions more as a result of the transfer of the contest to England. Cross Rivers State, another co-host, was happy at putting its internationally famous Obudu Cattle Ranch in top condition but lost all its investment and expected revenue as a result of the shifting of the event. Investigations revealedthat prior to the hurried departure of the beauty queens from Nigeria all the top hotels in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city, had been fully booked in anticipation of the beauty festival taking place in the most populous country in Africa.
The shifting of the contest, sparked off by a bloody riot over a report in the Nigerian daily, Thisday, deeply grieved the Christian South which expected another Nigerian success following on the heels of that of Agbani Darego, the immediate past Miss World. The riot spread from Kaduna to Abuja and led to the burning of houses, shops, the vandalization and burning of vehicles, the breaking of curfews imposed by authorities and the murder of people suspected to be Southern Christians.Investigation revealed that over two hundred and fifty people Died as a result of the riots, three thousand five hundred wounded and over a thousand people arrested over the issue. The writer of the Thisday report, Miss Isioma Daniels, the publisher of the newspaper, Nduka Obiagbena, as well as the editor, Eniola Bello, had the fatwa put on them by Zamfara State, the first Nigerian state to adopt sharia in the advent of the new Nigerian democracy. Reports have it that the state's acting Governor, Alhaji Mamudu Shinkafi, declared on November 25 at a frenzied rally in Gusau, the state's capital,that the writer of the purported blasphemous article as well as her editor and publisher should be beheaded. Isioma Daniels had to flee Nigeria for the United States while Mr Obiagbena had to resort to a series of daily apologies to Northern Muslims in the hope that the fatwa will be lifted. However, the action ofMuslims have angered the Christian South and there are talks herethat there should be a national conference which will serve as abasis for the future essence of the country.
Tired of the violence on the South by the Muslims Christians in states such as Abia, Imo, Anambra and Enugu protested and contemplated reprisals until they were stopped by security agencies. They were following Northern Christians in Kaduna neighborhoods such as Murmin, Gwari, Nasarawa, Trikaniya, Gori, Gora and Sabon Tasheb who attacked the Muslims as a reaction to being killed over the years by Islamic fundamentalists.
Says John Olatunde, a statistics student at the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos: "This country does not belong to Muslims alone. What is happening is that the Muslims are infringing on the other Nigerians. The people in power are not capable of putting their house in order. If you don't stop them now they will tell you the clothes to wear in public." For the Afenifere, a South West socio-political group, "the incidence of the riot is deep as it borders on the unity of the country and the sustenance of democratic practise in Nigeria." The Islamic fundamentalists have had their way in shifting the Miss World from Nigeria to London, but could this have been Achieved by widening the already deep cleavages in Nigeria? Events in the coming weeks and months will tell.
Copyright © 2002 Adetokunbo Abiola, Nigerian correspondent to Earthhope Action Network