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Nigeria Police Force and martyrs in Offa (III)

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In the story of the people of Sabbath, like other stories told to us by the Almighty in the Quran, are eternal lessons for humanity to ponder. “There was a tribe that lived near the seashore. The Almighty and His apostle told them not to catch fish on Saturdays but they disobeyed the commands. They prepared holes and tanks and rivulets and dropped them near the sea where fish could be caught. Completely oblivious of the danger, fish came out in large quantities to the shore,, entered the rivulets and tanks through holes and were caught. Now instead of going to harvest the fish on Saturdays, the transgressors would wait till the following day, which happened to be Sunday. They would proceed to the sea shores early in the morning fully happy with themselves that they have not touched the fish on Saturdays. They thought they were could deceive the Almighty (Fal-iyyadh bihi).

Eventually they became prosperous as a result of their transgression of the injunctions of the Almighty. They started living a luxurious life. Historians have estimated the population of the town, or rather the village, to be around eight thousand out of which only one thousand complied with the injunction of the Almighty. The Qur’an narrates their story further: “O Muhammad (s.a.w) ask them (Jews) about the town which stood by the sea; when they exceeded the limits of the Sabbath, when their fish came to them on the day of their Sabbath on the surface of the sea, and on the day on which they do not keep the Sabbath, they did not come…We tried them because they transgressed.” (Quran 7:163).

Out of the thousand that complied with the injunction of the Almighty was a group that kept warning the transgressors of the punishments that await the transgressors. But the former did not enjoy the patronage of the majority. “And when a party of them said, why do you admonish a people whom the Almighty would destroy and chastise with a severe chastisement? They said (we do this i.e admonition in order to be free from blame before your Lord) and that they may refrain from evil)” (7:164). In other words, the Jewish community whose story is captured in this portion of the Quran can be divided into three: the transgressors or evil doers, the warners and proselytizers who constantly reminded the people of the promise and punishment of the Almighty and the non-players.

The non-players were those who occupied the third position. They were neither with the transgressors nor were they with the warners or callers to that which pleases the Almighty. The Almighty says again: “So when they neglected what they had been reminded of, we delivered those who forbade evil and we overtook those who were unjust with an evil chastisement. Therefore when they revoltingly persisted in what they had been forbidden, we said to them; Be (as) apes, despised and hated. (Quran 7:165)

The above story contains clear allusions to the reformatory mission of the Prophet (peace be on him) and the cause he was inviting people to. He was sent as the source of life and well-being for his people. He was there to tell them that if they failed to participate wholeheartedly in the task to which they were invited and remained silent spectators to rampant evils that would invite a scourge that would embrace them all. The scourge and retribution would afflict even those individuals who did not commit evils nor were instrumental in spreading them. The tragedy that occurred in Offa largely affected innocent Nigerians; such tragedies always have as victims the down-trodden and the oppressed. The righteous is usually not immuned from retribution once he is fated to be in the space where divine retribution is due.

Thus we commiserate with you- all those who have lost their loved ones in the carnage in Offa. We empathize with the Nigerian police force for bearing the brunt of the failure of good governance that this country has suffered since close to two decades ago. For those of them who led righteous lives while on earth, for those who were murdered in cold blood by those agents of darkness, for those who have led righteous lives while on earth amongst those victims, we pray that the Almighty rank them among His choicest servants where prophets and martyrs celebrate the beatitude of the Almighty.

But what lessons have we learnt? What lessons has the Nigerian Police force learnt? What lessons has our government learnt from this event? Are we going to stop those habits that have given our security outfits negative image? Are we going to begin to dignify that profession through our conduct and our speech either in Police stations or in the public sphere? Will there be no more “Offa” in our cities? Put differently, what have we done or are we doing to prevent the re-occurrence of this atrociousness in our cities in the immediate future?
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