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Does Islam Hinder Development in Northern Nigeria?

Does Islam Hinder Development in Northern Nigeria?

I strongly believe that apart from the fact that the skewed structure of our unitary system of federal government hinders development in the whole of Nigeria, Islam as a religion-cum-political institution is partly responsible for the underdevelopment we have in Northern Nigeria? The kind of Islam that is practiced in Northern Nigeria limits individual freedom and by extension hinders the economic prosperity of the society.

I have explained in the past of how Islam is a totalitarian religion that cannot survive in an environment where it does not control the state. I also explained how Islam inhibits individual freedom and directs the totality of its adherents making them behave in an easily predictable manner. In conclusion, I stated that Islam is not just a religion but a political institution and as long as Islam continues to have such totalitarian control over its believers, it will continue to remain as a threat to the survival the state as in independent entity.

It is true that Islam is totalitarian. I do not have to go ahead to state how Islam dictates every aspect of the Muslims life (even down to how they should urinate and what they should sell in their shops!) to reiterate my point that Islam is an extremely totalitarian religion. This point is axiomatic and incontrovertible.

Islam does not only end at regulating how Muslims relate as individuals, it goes further to regulate them in how they should run their businesses and by extension how they should run their government. This is a focal point of my discussion today.

One of such examples is how Islam sees taxation. Islam has a ridiculous view on taxation that is completely incompatible with the modern capitalist view on taxation. The Islamic ideology on tax states that income should not be taxed, rather it is wealth that should be taxed. I do not know how to explain this but I believe what this simply means is that the state govt of Sharia dominated states will find it difficult to raise as much IGR through taxation because Sharia already puts a limit on taxation and the state (which is under the religion) cannot go above the religious recomendation. Islam has already limited the state on how much it can tax its citizens. It also even goes further to stipulate the maximum figure for taxation. While it is arguable that this is ridiculous in modern time, we must not forget that nine out of nineteen Northern states have Sharia as their legal system and by extension have adopted the Islamic taxation system too. This will be clearly explained in my analysis of Kano State (that has an acclaimed huge productive population and market but is unable to generate revenue from this population through taxation).

Another totalitarian effect of Islam on the people of Northern Nigeria is that it teaches the ordinary people to be contented (even in poverty) while their leaders live the opposite.

Many people would argue that Islam is not what I have described above but rather it is the leaders that has made Islam seem to be what I think it is. They cite certain Islamic countries as a justification to prove that Islam supports economic development of both the individual and the society.

I agree, however, we must understand that the Islam that we practice in Northern Nigeria is obviously not the same that is in practice in Egypt and Turkey. In fact, the Islam that we practice in Northern Nigeria is not the same that is practiced in Yoruba land of South West Nigeria. The North has refused to be progressive with their Islam. Whether this is a deliberate effort by their leaders is a topic for another day. There are obvious differences between a Yoruba Muslim and a Hausa/Fulani Muslim, there are also differences between a Yoruba Muslim society and a Hausa/Fulani Muslim society. This goes further to support my claim that the North has deliberately chose to practice a crude version of Islam that is not compatible with modern reality.You will also agree with me that a Muslim that has lived in Onitsha for years obviously ends up having a different view about money from his brother who has lived in Zamfara for the same number of years. One is away from the Northern Islamic teachings and is faced with practical economic realities while the other is not. It reflects in their orientation.

Just recently, the federal government attempted to site a film village in the Sharia state of Kano but surprisingly the state opposed and rejected the project on the grounds that such a project would promote immorality in the state. The film village was to be designed to have ‘a cinematography centre, a 400-capacity auditorium for training, hostel, sound stage, eatery block, three-star hotel, shopping mall, stadium, clinic, among others.’ And more importantly, it would have created employment for over 4,000 Kano residents and brought in in huge recurrent revenue for the state government. They rejected the project because Islam forbids such a project! Not even their educated Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II could intervene to save the project!

I have read somewhere in the past of how some Islamic scholars launched a campaign against an already existing company (new but yet to commence operation) in the same Kano because what they intended to produce was considered un-Islamic. At the end, the Islamic scholars won, the company closed down and left. There are several stories like that in Kano State.

If you do a comparative analysis between Kano and Kaduna state for example, you will see that Kaduna (which is smaller in both size and population) is far more progressive than Kano. The reason why this is so is simply because while Kano is chasing away people and investors from the city with its Sharia law, Kaduna is inviting people with its secularity. Kano should actually be ahead of Kaduna in every area but it chose to enter reverse gear when in the year 2000, it decided to join eight other states to become a full blown Sharia state even against the constitutional provision which forbids states from adopting a state religion. By adopting Sharia, Kano put the state govt under religious control and bondage. This is why an Islamic scholar can sit in his mosque and reverse a federal govt decision that affects the state even without consulting with the state govt and it will become effective.

Almost all the industrial estates in Kano have collapsed, although this due to structural problems associated with the unitary system, however, if you look at the two environments in Kano state, the Islamic (Sharia) and non-Islamic environment, you will observe that the non-sharia part (which is dominated by mostly Igbos) have more inclusive economic prosperity than the Sharia part. Sabon Gari is the busiest and most prosperous part of Kano state simply because the environment promotes individual freedom which in turn leads to economic prosperity. There are certain parts of Kano state where myself as a man cannot wear a short because Islam forbids it! I cannot walk freely with a lady and a lady cannot wear what she likes. In this 21st century Nigeria! In other words, Kano is saying ‘we do not welcome strangers here’. The Igbos have positioned themselves in Sabon Gari to take advantage of the opportunities that Sharia has created for strangers in Kano state. And they are doing this at a loss to the Muslim residents who Islam has forbidden from partaking in certain business ventures. I have to travel all the way down to the Igbo dominated Sabon Gari area of Kano each time I have to drink beer. Why? Because Islam forbids that I drink beer in any part of the metropolis. You won’t even find the beer to buy outside Sabon Gari!

If you visit Shoprite (Ado Bayero Mall) in Kano state, you will understand the effect of Islam in business activities. All stores in the mall are regulated. There are things that they cannot sell. I wonder how the mall makes profit. It is virtually empty most days. I once told my friends that this structure should have been sighted at Sabon Gari and they all agreed. And we all wondered how those shops would generate profit to pay their rents in such a dry environment. Even the movies at the cinema are regulated in line with Islamic laws!

Because Sharia opposes capitalism and high taxation, the people and state govts of agriculturally productive states are finding it difficult to generate wealth from their productivity. Small Anambra state with less than 20% of Kano population generates more IGR than Kano, the secret is in the maximization of the modern taxation system which Kano Sharia forbids. Kano state will not tax its people to build public infrastructure but it will gladly share from the taxes that people pay (including taxes on products Sharia forbids) in faraway places like Lagos and Port Harcourt all in the name of federal allocation. Is that not a hypocritical fraud? Kano state claims to have more population than Lagos but yet it cannot generate above N2Billion monthly. This is despite the fact that it has one the biggest markets in the country.

All nine Sharia states of Northern Nigeria fall into the poorest states in Nigeria. The Igbos (who are strangers) in Kano are more prosperous than the indigenous Hausa/Fulani people simply because they have created an inclusive free economic environment for themselves while the aborigines prefer to live in their Islamic contented life that promotes poverty.

There are other issues I would have loved to explain here in relation to my thesis that Islam contributes to the under-development of Northern Nigeria, but for now, I will stop here and continue later on by breaking the issues into different write ups. I will no longer write about Boko Haram and few other issues like I promised earlier, this is due to private advises.

One way I believe we can make these Northern states see the redundancy of their Sharia law and its incompatibility with modern economic realities is to cut them off from crude oil money. When there is no more free federal allocations for their elites to feed on, they would see the need to drag in even un-Islamic industries into their domain and derive taxes from their operations. A state like Kano will see the importance of taxation and dump its Islamic views. It will also see the need to make the state friendlier to strangers than to indigenes, at least for economic reasons like Kaduna is doing.

As long as we continue to provide free allocations to these Sharia states and their elites, they would continue to remain lazy and hold on to their traditional economic beliefs as true. They would continue to believe that it is the wish of Allah that they should not tax themselves because Allah has already given them crude oil through the skewed federal arrangement.

Because of the influence of Islamic religion in the society and its totalitarian impact, most of the northern religious leaders who by extension are also political leaders have used the religion to feed fat on the gullible people. Out of the 44 LGAs in Kano, it is rumored that the Emir of Kano owns three; it is through the federal revenues accruable to these LGAs that his Emirate is funded. These three LGAs get between N60 to N150Million monthly in federal allocations. The local people see nothing wrong in their Emir running their LGA like a private property because they consider their Emir as infallible. Most Fridays, Emir Sanusi preach to ordinary residents at the central Mosque about the need for them to live a contented life in line with Islamic beliefs but himself does not live a contented life. He drives a N130million Rolls Royce car, he has concubines and his daughters do not wear hijab in the manner the ordinary street girls are ‘forced’ to wear theirs. In their public schools, they have made English look like a haramic language and have made Arabic and Hausa the official language, thereby reducing the chances of those poor children been able to communicate and interact with the outside world, meanwhile, in the private schools where their children attend, English is the official language and they speak better English than some of us here in the South. They have also made begging seem like a cultural thing that is now normal for the Almajiris. How can begging be a normal thing? Which culture or religion promotes begging? Islam has made women in the North to believe that they were designed for procreation only while their mates are driving and dominating industries over here in the South.

You cannot save a people who do not yet believe that they need to be saved. Until traditional Islam grants individual liberty to its adherent in Northern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria will not witness any significant economic growth. You cannot separate individual freedom from societal economic prosperity. Only free people are capable of taking risks, making sacrifices, investing and planning for the next generation. The North needs to be free from its own religious bondage.

To be continued…

Tony Osborg


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