Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
As this year’s Ramadan – the fasting period for all Muslims worldwide – begins, it provides an opportunity for Nigerians, particularly the Muslims, to re-examine themselves and reorder their priorities. Such an exercise is most necessary for the country to dislodge from its present near-comatose state, and move to a level befitting of a country with its resources and potential.
The Ramadan month is very apt for this re-examination because of its characteristics of tempering the pace of activities, through a weakening of the flesh and the strengthening of the spirit. It is not only a time for one to deny himself or herself, it is a time to inquire whether Nigerians, individually and collectively, have carried on in accordance with the tenets of God.
Of course, that inquiry is most likely to be resolved in the negative. The telltale signs of disobedience of the Almighty are all too glaring in the absence of the fruits of governance: the economy is dwindling and bereft of a direction; the people are groaning from the yoke of hyper inflation; there is social dislocation and psychological disaffection among the populace; jobs are not available and crime is high.
Most alarming is that the leaders appear to be so pre-occupied with unveiling the misdeeds of the past than indentifying and addressing the dangers that threaten the future. Despite its promise of change, the Federal Government is increasingly betraying a penchant for the superficial and its discomfiture for the fundamentals.
The Ramadan is essentially a time for all Muslims to be close to their creator; to go without food and drink from dawn to dusk, to intensify prayers and supplication to Allah; to appreciate the plight of the poor and consequently increase efforts to ameliorate the condition of the needy. Ultimately, it is a month of peace, of forgiveness of sins, of mercy and blessings from God, into which Muslims are mandated to key.
Indirectly, the Ramadan presents a potential for Nigerian leaders, many of whom are Muslims, to initiate humane policies that will rejuvenate the masses and lift them from the crass poverty in which they have been embroiled. If leaders had learnt anything from the previous Ramadan seasons, they would have done more to impact on the people and they would not be stealing the country blind as they have been doing.
Muslims are reminded that the Ramadan is a key pillar of Islam; and it is mandatory upon them to keep away from worldly pleasures (in addition to food and drinks) throughout the 30 or 29 days, depending on the sighting of the moon to herald another month. Only the aged, the sick and pregnant women are exempted. Those who missed the fast for any reason are required to make up for the days they missed after Ramadan and before the next one.
It is significant that Allah revealed the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammed – May Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him – during the Ramadan. This is again a time for Muslims to avail themselves of the teachings of the Holy Book, which are the ultimate guide to the religion and its faithful. To make the most of the benefits of the month, Muslims are expected to live in an exemplary manner, avoid quarrels and anything that can stain the sanctity of the fasting. Above all, they should be their brother’s keeper at all times.
While commending government and particularly the Nigerian Armed Forces for the achievement so far in checking the menace of Boko Haram sect, it is important to stress that neither the teachings of Islam nor the mandate of Ramadan permits anyone to kill, maim and abduct others in the name of Islam. The Federal Government should do more to stamp out completely those who carry out dastardly and criminal acts under the guise of Islamic evangelism.
It is instructive that President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to eradicate the Boko Haram and restore normalcy to the ravaged North East. Government deserves the support of all Nigerians in this regard. Importantly, the conception and nurturing of Boko Haram are the culmination of failure of government and governance over many years. Now is the time for government to reverse the trend and thereby prevent the emergence of militant groups in all parts of the country.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of government at this time is sincerity of purpose, rather than seeking to pull wool across Nigerians. This is a cardinal lesson of Ramadan because a person fasts in vain if he manifests goodwill but inwardly nurtures bad intentions. At the same time, Nigerians should come to terms with their individual excesses which have contributed to retarding the nation’s progress. It is not acceptable to simply heap all the blames on the government while turning a blind eye to individual malfeasance. The opportunity provided by the Ramadan to effect these corrections should not be wasted.
All Nigerians should use the period of fasting to offer special prayers for the families of those killed or missing in various insurgencies across the country. Particular prayers should be made for the recovery of school girls abducted in Chibok, and hundreds of others forcefully taken away in other places.
We wish all Muslims a fulfilling fasting season. Ramadan Kareem!