The news hit the country like a thunderbolt. It was that the Chief Imam of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Sheikh Adam Idoko, was kidnapped in the early hours of last Thursday (September 10, 2015).
To me, the news was galling as I could not imagine what the revered religious leader, richly endowed intellectually and physically, would be going through in the hands of his abductors. For a person that I met barely two weeks before the incident, the news actually threw me off-balance in an open-mouthed stupefaction.
That kidnapping is a menace that confronts Nigeria, especially in the Southern part of the country, is a harsh reality of our day. Since it began in late 2005, with the abduction of foreign workers as a means of drawing global attention to the “slavery and economic genocide” being perpetrated in the Niger Delta (as MEND claimed in the January 21, 2006 edition of “The Guardian” newspaper), kidnapping had dropped its humans rights and environmental activism toga to assume a deadly business venture by criminals.
No one is safe any longer and it is really unfortunate. Apart from politicians, kidnappers have turned their attention to entertainers, journalists, celebrities, business men, clerics and indeed everyone in the society. A crude joke told some time ago was that everyone should assess their kidnap value as most kidnappers would eventually ask for ransom. The ransom they place on your head is your worth.
As if the suffocating economic environment of the country is not enough stress on our national life, the fear of kidnapping has upped the ante. And the earlier President Muhammadu Buhari does something concrete about it through a robust security system that is proactive rather than reactive, the better for all of us. Nigeria should certainly not continue like this, a country where the cream of the society, scholars and clerics especially, are abducted with reckless abandon.
My pain is deep because I have known Sheikh Idoko since 2008 when I started rendering some services to the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC). Sheikh Idoko is one of the 25 Muslim leaders that make up the 50-member inter-faith body, equally distributed between Muslim and Christian leaders.
During those days, it was exciting to watch the leaders of our two faith communities, co-led by the Sultan of Sokoto and Cardinal John Onaiyekan, at work. It was interesting and gratifying to watch the two groups working together as one, engaging in joint intervention activities (like inter-faith action against malaria) and generally promoting peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationships in the country.
The Dalai Lama XIV once said: “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” This submission actually defines NIREC and what Sheikh Idoko devotes his life to: dialogue, education, knowledge and humane ways. He is a man of peace to the core and a bridge-builder in essence.
He was among the 22-man probe committee constituted by former President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate the violence that rocked Akwa Ibom State and other parts of the country after the April 16, 2011 presidential elections. The committee was chaired by Justice Ahmed Lemu, another member of NIREC. Sheikh Idoko has been contributing in various other ways to nation building.
A man with a burning passion for education, himself a product of the famous International Islamic University, Medinah, Saudi Arabia, it is little wonder that two of his children are First Class graduates of the Nigerian university system. Such a man committed to education, peace and national development should not be harmed by anyone.
Whatever the motive for this blight on Nigeria’s image again, I appeal to Sheikh Idoko’s abductors to treat him with utmost respect and release him from captivity immediately. It is very bad for Nigerians to be kidnapped at all but it is far worse to kidnap a leading religious personality. The federal government, through the security agencies, should not rest on their oars until this man of peace is released to his family.
May the Almighty God through His own divine intervention set Sheikh Idoko free and unharmed from the hands of his abductors. May He grant Nigerians peace and security so that regardless of wherever we are, we will be safe from the evil people among us.