Transcript CNN International Interview Sept 17, 2002 with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues is listed among the world's hot sites by the international newspaper, USAToday.


Nigeria's Sharia law and rights

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston, The Black Business Journal and

The issue of the implications of the Sharia law in Nigeria's nascent democracy has been a heated issue for debate. Hence, I'll address the issue in this maiden launch of my column for (some of which will appear in our print edition of USAfrica The Newspaper where I started contributing since 1996).

Only a few weeks ago, on CNN Internation's Q&A, Nigeria's president retired gen. Olusegun Obasanjo appeared on the program (as did USAfrica's Publisher Chido Nwangwu, who is an analysts on CNN Interntaional). The following comments by Obasanjo is revelaing and has opened up room for further discussions. We'll run excerpts from the CNN interview in bold text, and my commentary will follow:

CNN International anchor VERJEE: Let's talk about Sharia law in Nigeria. Do you believe that state governments in Nigeria should have the right to impose Sharia law?

OBASANJO: Of course. We have Sharia law in the constitution. Sharia has always been part of our life in Nigeria, and we have a federal form of government where you have the state governments being able to make their own laws. That's why they have their own executive. They have their own legislative. And they even have their own judiciary. That is what we have, and within the constitution they have the power to make law and to sustain their law.

VERJEE: As you say, a key element is Sharia law embodied in the constitution of Nigeria, but the imposition of that law, many say, is creating divisions within the country, causing thousands of Christians, for example, to flee. We've seen cases of sentencing of women to death by stoning, really dividing the country, creating religious strife.

OBASANJO: Well, the point really is this: one thing is to say that a particular judgment has been given. Another thing is to say that that particular judgment has been carried out. Log on for full text here:

But I believe that every state legislative assembly has the right to make some wrong-headed laws. I think it is time for our courts to assert their right to interprete laws as they relate to rights in our constitution. This is even more urgent in light of our past experiences with tyrannic regimes. Every religious people have a right to believe; what they do not have a right to do is to exercise plenary powers over individuals within a constitutional realm.

Let us say that you can practice Sharia institutions within the mosque and your immediate environment, but citizens have a right to challenge your ability to adhere to those practices outside of your mosque. The international coloration of these primitive practices of calling and/or executing via stoning another human being also make Nigeria (or any place, for that matter) look really backward!

U.S., Iraq the economy and politics

It is a saving grace for the U.S. that in times of policy confusion and atavistic foreign-policy activism there are a few media networks able to, at least, highlight contrarian positions. The truth is that Iraq is not the mortal threat to the US that the militaristic ideologues around the President have convinced him that it is.

The Sadam Hussein regime is despotic and cruel in many ways but it is not suicidal in a way to suggest that it will launch an attack or even threaten the U.S.

A Machiavelian analysis of the situation might aver that the administration is rushing to open up another front in the war on terrorism to steer the public attention from a dismal economic outlook on the home front and from the fact that a year after the terrorist outrage in New York and Washington D.C., we still cannot account for the top leaders of Al- Qaeda.

One year later, we see no end to the U.S-led war in Afghanistan to destroy that terrorist organization. Instead, President George Bush is leading the charge for another one in Iraq with a variety of reasons. I am not yet willing to accuse the administration of wagging the dogs of war to deflect attention from its poor performance on pocket-book issues. What is clear is that Bush and his team are on a wrong policy tangent.
David-West is a contributing editor and columnist for and USAfrica The Newspaper where his columns will appear; online on Thursdays. October 10, 2002

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Index of Founder's Notes (1)

Index of Founder's Notes (2)

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