Yari, meningitis and God - How we missed the opportunity to address Nigeria’s unique hypocrisy (I)
Ichoose to view Governor Yari’s statement that God is punishing his people for their sins - especially of fornication - by killing hordes of them (including children), with cerebrospinal meningitis, a little differently. I actually support him. 50% of the way. I support his admonition against fornication - and perhaps adultery and total moral decadence. But I know for a fact that many hot parts of Nigeria usually suffer series of cerebrospinal meningitis attacks at the tail end of the dry season especially when the rain delays.
I believe the disease is enhanced by heat, so imagine the millions of poor homes with no electricity, no fan and definitely no airconditioning in his Zamfara State.
This is largely a poverty-related disease. It is also not a new phenomenon. Pfizer’s illegal experiments in Kano in 1996, was premised on finding a vaccine for this ailment.
Now let’s unpack the Yari statement. First, I was surprised. Yari is not an ordinary governor. He is the chairman of the Governors’ Forum. One may assume that the governors elevated to lead other governors must be somehow outstanding but maybe not. But his intelligence or lack of it is not my issue. I was more surprised that a problem such as ‘fornication’ is coming out of Nigeria’s shariah capital; Zamfara State.
Now Zamfara is one state many people I know dread to go. Those who travel to the north of Nigeria would however tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of. Northern Nigerians are some of the warmest people you could ever meet. Living among them could be a delight and most of the crisis there happen in the poorest places but for those who are affected, they have terrible stories to tell. Again, religious and ethnic crisis in Nigeria is almost entirely poverty fuelled or induced.
There came a certain Governor Yerima in the Obasanjo days. The bearded fellow (I saw that he had cut the beards and is looking ‘modern’ these days, just when I started to grow some), saw a vision that all that was required to solve his people’s problems was for them to ‘move closer to God’. And so he declared that the state will be governed by Islamic Law. People panicked. Obasanjo felt affronted, but quickly decoded that it was ‘political shariah’. The world press went into a frenzy. They would later tie that event with the commencement of our worst nightmare; Boko Haram, because somehow it is easy to link choosing to be strictly governed by Islamic laws and refusing to attend the oyibo man’s school or acquiring his ‘soul-contaminating’ knowledge. This is despite the fact that almost everyone on planet earth today relies on this knowledge, or more importantly, that the Islamic Civilization which succeeded the Ottoman Empire around the 16th Century, is very instrumental to the intellectual renaissance of mankind which has transmuted today to what is called “the white man’s science”. In other words, there is nothing ‘haram’ about most of today’s science, and certainly very little if anything is anti-shariah or Islamic law about it, because Muslims are right at the base of it’s development.
To get the story right, the Ottoman Empire succeeded the Byzantine Empire (otherwise called the Eastern Roman Empire), and headquartered in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). The Byzantine era was one of waste and decadence, drawing the attention of the Crusaders who were Christians and who believed that man should be solely guided by the Holy Books (their own version), and the need to cleanse the earth by force by fire. They captured the Byzantines and proceeded to install their own Empire which also fell under the same vices of wine, fornication (oops that word again), and the desire for gold, thereby completing another cycle of boom and bust. The Crusaders had however banished science and outlawed the intellectual achievements of the Greeks and Romans (remember Torquemada), which were only later restored in the Islamic Era, translated into Arabic and preserved in a way that the British Empire were able to build upon the bodies of knowledge. Before then, as early as the 8th Century in today’s Baghdad, Iraq, a khalifa, Abu Ja’far Al-Ma’mun, had taken great interest in science and studied the great works of the ancient kingdoms, causing a great scientific revolution.
I believe the disease is enhanced by heat, so imagine the millions of poor homes with no electricity, no fan and definitely no air-conditioning in his Zamfara State. This is largely a poverty-related disease
The international language of science was Arabic for more than 700 years, it could be argued. When the USA attacked Baghdad in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, I had a feeling they were after the history.
Furthermore, Muhammad Ibn Musa Al Khawarizmi (corrupted or anglicised as ‘Algorithm’) lived between 780AD and 850AD. He worked in what was called ‘The House of Wisdom’ (Bayt at Hikma), as a mathematician, geographer and astrologer. He is sometimes known as the father of mathematics. His greatest work - which he put together with Al-Kindi, another polymath, is known as “Kitab Al Jebr” (which Europeans now call Algebra). There is Ibn Sina (known in the West as Avicenna, one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the Islamic Golden Age). Other great influencers include Al Razi (known in the west as Rhazes), Jamshid AlKashi (credited in trigonometry with the Law of Cosines), Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi (the first to treat trigonometry as a separate discipline), Ibn Haytahm, who fused Algebra and Geometry and is reputed for what is today known as the Alhazen Problem, Ibn Batuta (a great explorer and geographer), Ibn Rushd (a great mediaval polymath who wrote on jurisprudence and logic whose name was latinised to become ‘Averroes’), Ibn Khaldun (acknowledged father of social sciences and economic theory), who was - together with Copernicus -influenced by the work of Al Biruni, a Muslim Persian polymath regarded as the ‘Da Vinci of Islam’. There was Muhammad Al Karaji, another Persian mathematician and polymath, who took Algebra further; by using mathematical induction to prove the binomial theorem. In fact, Columbus in his voyage to the New World is said to have had Muslim navigators and astrologers on hand.
The very concept called zero (cipher, originally from the Arabic word ‘sifr’), is another gift from the mathematicians of that era, just as what we know as numerals today in English is entirely Arabic, from figures 1 to 9. They are written almost exactly the same way. In the days that the religion barred people from reproducing the human form in drawings, the Arabs mastered the art of symmetric drawings. When next you are in an Arabicthemed place, try and notice the sheer genius of their art, which is fused with mathematics. And note that most of it was perfected thousands of years ago, when no one had the benefit of present-day computers. It is called ‘Geometric Arts’, fusing polygons and circles, and tessellations. with Tope Fasua