TODAY’S article was originally scheduled for publication in this column, last Friday, September 25, 2020. That would have marked the 14th year of the commencement of ‘The Message’ column in ‘The Nation’ newspaper in 2006. But because of the well known instability of the circumstances of life, the publication of this article had to be delayed till today as developments keep propelling the column to wax stronger. The regular readers of ‘The Message’ are, thus, welcome on board of this yacht of enlightenment as it cruises ahead on its familiar voyage of advertency.
Ability to speak or write is a special gift from the Almighty Allah, which may become a hobby and then grow into a skill. Speaking, no matter how eloquently, cannot be as important as getting audience. So is the case with writing.
A speaker can be classified as an orator only by his audience. Radio and television broadcasters, as well as public motivational speakers, can attest to this assertion.
Similarly, an author or a columnist can be celebrated or denigrated only by his readers. Any writer who takes his readers for granted, therefore, can only do so at his/her own peril. Such a writer may not be qualified as an author or a columnist. And with time, his writings may fizzle out into a permanent oblivion.
Ever since yours sincerely started writing the column called ‘The Message’ in The Nation newspaper, in September, 2006, no week has passed by without a barrage of reactions coming to this columnist, in torrents, from its readers. Even on some occasions, when the column was not published, for one reason or another, readers’ comments and observations kept coming torrentially either in form of questions or that of probation. This is not just because I called the column a participatory one in its maiden edition but mostly because some readers who had long been familiar with the writings of yours sincerely, in Concord newspaper, since 1982, are not tired of the method with which the column is presented to showcase Islam to the world, in its true colour, every Friday.
After I left Concord newspaper in 1989, most readers of this column followed it to other Nigerian newspapers like Vanguard, The Monitor and The Nation. Some of them even followed it to some foreign magazines such as The Inquiry, Al-Afkar, Africa Now and a host of others including some academic journals. Thus, questions, observations and comments kept coming consistently into this column from various parts of the world in form of reactions. And, that trend continues till date.
First Meeting With The Sultan
On an unsuspected day, a telephone call came through my GSM handset with an undreamt surprise at exactly 11.50 am on the first Sunday of February, 2007. My first reaction, after picking the call, was: “please, who is on the line?” I enquired cautiously because the call came without an identity. And, in response, the caller simply identified himself as SA’AD ABUBAKAR! I immediately started to search my brain for a possible, previous familiarization with that name. But while doing that, I did not know that I was repeating the name Sa’ad Abubakar, in an inadvertent soliloquy, until His Eminence retorted: “Ah! Femi! Don’t you know anybody bearing that name?” Pronto! In my reaction, I said well, “the only person I can think of, that bears that name, is the new Sultan”. It was then that His Eminence said: “alright, this is the Sultan”. At that moment I became completely dumfounded. The only clear words that I could utter, thereafter, were “Your Eminence!” before I went stammering. I was so much overwhelmed by the ecstasy of that moment that I thought I was in a dream.
Then, with a tone of commendation, in that telephone conversation, His Eminence expressed profound appreciation for my modest contribution to Islamic propagation in Nigeria and said that he had been reading my column since the now defunct Concord days. He counselled me never to relent, especially, in calling a spade a spade as I had been doing, without minding whose ox could be gored. And, as the Commander of the Muslim faithful, (Amirul Muminin) in Nigeria, and the only Sultan in the entire continent of Africa, he showered me with special royal prayers and promised to be calling again in future.
That was one call that made, not just my day, but even my year. It was one reaction that confirmed an observation I once expressed in an article published in this column, about this Sultan, shortly after his installation.
By that surprise call alone, the Sultan added another feather to the wings of “FIRSTS’ which I had attributed to his royal personality in the mentioned article.
In my 25 years of experience in journalism, as at that 2007, I could not remember when any public figure of Sultan’s status ever made a similar call to me or any ‘common’ journalist of my calibre, except when seeking a media favour. And, here was a continental Sultan finding time to call a ‘bloody’ columnist on telephone to express his appreciation of the latter’s Islamic propagation efforts.
A Lunch with His Eminence
About two weeks after the above narrated encounter with him, on the telephone, His Eminence called again to invite yours sincerely to Kaduna, from Ibadan, for a familiarization lunch with him. And, at his temporary palace, in Kaduna, at that time, this great Sultan humbly sat down, with me, on a bare carpet, where we took a special lunch together. That was my first experience of magnificent royal conduct in Nigeria’s contemporary Sultanate.
Thus, by his personal conduct and public actions so far, since he mounted the exalted royal throne, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, has shown, by all means, an exemplary leadership for other Nigerian leaders, or aspiring leaders, to emulate.
With this Sultan, many Nigerian Muslims are reminded of the Caliphate time of Umar Bn Khattab and that of Umar Bn Abdul Aziz, both of who, with impeccable humility, entrenched unprecedented magnanimity in governance as a norm, thereby indicating that leadership was neither by vicious display of force nor by crude bully and animalistic brutality.
May the Almighty Allah be merciful with Nigerian Muslim Ummah by preserving the life of this Sultan with formidable protection and continued divine guidance for the good of this life and that of the Hereafter. We also pray that his glowing crescent of hope may never experience an eclipse. Amin.
Now, 14 years after the column named ‘The Message’ debut in The Nation newspaper, I consider it fair to refresh the memories of its original readers by recalling some spectacular reactions in retrospect if only to further confirm that readers, like customers, are kings and queens in their own rights. After all, it is only a novice, who claims to be a writer that will close his /her ears or eyes to readers’ comments even if such comments are incongruent to the writer’s thought and posture.
Ordinarily, as a columnist, I often feel psychologically elated whenever reactions to my articles from different conceivable angles, based on different interpretations and perceptions.
Some Relevant Past Reactions
It is a pity that lack of space will not allow the publication of as many reactions as possible. But the very few that can be accommodated here will suffice as of the qualities of those that cannot be published. Please, read on:
“Dear Mr. Abbas”,
“Good Morning! Your piece which appeared on page 42 of the Friday, May 9 edition of The Nation is timely, cogent and poignant. I always relish perusing your articles despite the fact that I am not a Moslem (sic). But the salient issues raised in your piece are worrisome and symptomatic of the magnitude of degeneration, loss of focus, lasciviousness and all sorts characterising Nigerian youths these days. Given the penchant of our media for the burlesque, outlandishness and the inanity, I am not surprised that your very salient issue didn’t generate the kind of attention it should have generated.
I am really worried at the state of the nation and the future of this country (i.e when you have youths that have discountenanced the essence of scholarship, tenacity, hard work, progression and decency). Look around you everywhere and all you see is gloom and comatose (sic). All we see are young musicians and comedians singing and talking gibberish and nonsense, winning fake awards and we are clapping that all is well. No! Nothing is well. The future of Nigeria lies not in these folks! We want youths that can stand up for the nation; youths that can be counted on to move the nation forward; youths that have socio-economic, scientific, intellectual, moral, conscientious, technological and political edge and strides!
This has been the object of my focus for some years now as I have tried to highlight some of these issues to Nigerian youths, but the message is just not sinking. I am highly demoralised when you see youth graduates who can’t read, who don’t even know what is happening anywhere, who can’t analyse simple issues and don’t even have any iota of ideals, ideas and ideology! When majority of youths start to venerate musicians, idolise scammers, revere corruption and celebrate men of questionable characters and opprobrious antecedents, then something is fundamentally and critically wrong. When majority of our youths readily accept what is morally questionable, socially wrong, economically immoral and politically aberrant (sic), then what hope is there for the nation? In those days, we used to look up to people like Obafemi Awolowo, Tai Solarin, Sekou Toure, Bala Usman, Balarabe Musa, Julius Nyerere, Adekunle Ajasin, Ayodele Awojobi, Mokwugo Okoye, Nguyen Gyap, Marcus Garvey, Agustino Neto, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara etc as role models. But now, its so disturbing and distressing that youths of today view footballers, Hollywood actors and actresses and political fraudsters as role models.
It just reaffirms what a popular Professor of Sociology espoused about 20 years ago that ‘Nigeria is dying gradually, because if youths are really the future of the country, I am telling you that Nigeria is virtually on life support. Just what is the way out of this impending morass? What is the solution to this abyss or nadir that we have inexplicably found ourselves today? The other day I was speaking to some youths on the essence of hard work and industry and some of these boys were openly deriding and jeering at me! I just shook my head in pity not at them but their future and the future of the nation. I need answers, what can be done? We need something practical, something pragmatic lest we are doomed!
Once again, thank you and God bless”.
Hello Mr. Abbas!
I do not miss your weekly column (The Message) because of its unique quality. There is always something new to learn from it. And, your language competently carries the weight of your thoughts. It is only through your column that I became a strong Muslim that I am today. Most of the well researched issues you discuss in your column weekly are never addressed in Friday sermons in our Mosques. Your vast knowledge of the West, the East as well as global current affairs has enriched my understanding of Islam tremendously. It has also confirmed that Islam is truly a complete way of life rather than a mere dogmatic religion. Please, train some younger ones who will continue the good work and do not relent in your efforts. God bless you.
The case of today’s Nigerian youths is like that of a plant. You can only reap the fruit of any seed you plant and not your wish. No nation wants to degenerate but the factors of degeneration always dictate the extent of a nation’s retrogression.
Any nation that deifies money is surely on the road to perdition. That is the plight of Nigeria where the emphasis is overwhelmingly on money. Everything including mere greetings is tied to money. The role of politicians in this does not help the matter. They publicly give the impression that money, and only money, is the issue in the country.
This has forced the youths to become desperate especially when there are no available jobs for most of them. It is rather pathetic that we expect our youth to be cultured when those who are supposed to be their role models are uncultured. By not serving as good examples for the youths we are ruining the future of our country. These youths are already wild. They need to be tamed. But the instruments with which to tame them are not there. All of us and not government alone must do something urgently. Otherwise, we are doomed as a nation. Thank you.
Sefinat B. Owoseni (Mrs.), Sango Otta.