"The girls (beauty contestants) had one sleepless
night, saying that if they were the cause of that violence,
they didn't want to be in Nigeria any longer."
Publicist, Miss World organization
Stella Din was the publicist for Miss World as the organization
prepared to bring the pageant to Nigeria. She is a Christian
and lives in Lagos.
One Sleepless Night
Two or three days before we decided to move the grand finale
of the pageant to London, Kaduna state -- which is about 500
kilometers away from where the (beauty contestants were gathered,
in Abuja) -- erupted in violence. And we now know that violence
... or those horrible things that took place, happened because
of some offensive publication which alluded to the fact that
if the Prophet Muhammad was alive, he would have taken one
of the girls for his wife.
The Muslims alleged and believed that statement was offensive,
it was blasphemous and they decided to vent their anger on
ThisDay, which was the newspaper that published the
offending article. It started off as a peaceful protest, and
before you knew what was happening, we're made to understand
that street urchins took over that protest. They started burning,
looting and killing.
We didn't want to make the girls feel as if they were responsible
for what was going on -- there were screaming headlines around
the world saying that the violence was a direct result of
the physical presence of the girls in Nigeria. A lot of the
girls felt very bad ... that more than 100 lives were lost.
The girls had one sleepless night, saying that if they were
the cause of that violence, they didn't want to be in Nigeria
The Specter of the Lawal Case
Before they came to Nigeria, (pageant contestants) knew there
would be the Amina Lawal situation to contend with. A lot
of them decided they were going to come to Nigeria to protest
the stoning to death of Amina after a sentence of death was
passed on her by a sharia court of law that had accused her
|Where I come from, you don't stone a woman -- you don't even stone a man -- to death, let alone a woman who has a little baby.
... Since the inception of the Fourth Republic, the democratically
elected government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, we have
had to contend with the agitation for the establishment of
sharia states in the north. Nigeria is a secular country,
and we understand that we are a (plural) society. By that
I mean that we have many Christians, Muslims, pagans, people
practicing the traditional African religion in Nigeria. The
constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria takes all
of that into consideration. It is for that very reason that
government has said over and over and over again that Nigeria
is a secular state.
We understand and respect the fact that the Muslims want
to be bound by an Islamic code. The Federal Republic of Nigeria
and the constitution has always recognized sharia. But what
it says is unconstitutional is the imposition of that system
of law as a religion of the state.
... This is a lady [Amina Lawal] who was ... found guilty of
adultery. The man she committed the sexual act with has gone
unpunished, she has had her baby and they have said that they're
going to wait for her to wean the baby before she is stoned
to death. Where I come from, you don't stone a woman -- you
don't even stone a man -- to death, let alone a woman who
has a little baby.
I find it hard to believe that in the whole of northern
Nigeria, Amina was the only one who was found guilty of committing
adultery. We're not all saints and we're not all sinners,
but it does task the imagination a bit to think that in one
state, it is just the one woman ... .
A Christian View of Sharia
I'm a Christian. That is not to say that I'm not sensitive
to sharia. It is not for me to say that "oh, I can condemn
the stoning of Amina Lawal because I think in this day and
age it is barbaric." I wouldn't condemn the sharia, because
to condemn the sharia is like condemning someone's Christian
beliefs, Anglican or Catholic ... . I won't condemn the sharia,
because condemning the sharia to some Muslims will probably
be tantamount to blasphemy.
I would say if it is going to be applied, let it be applied
the way it should be applied. There is no need to take one
or two things out of proportion just because it is politically
expedient. I think a lot of this boils down to politics. Because
people are fornicating every day, whether rightly or wrongly
so. It is not for anybody to sit in judgment on another person.
This is 2002 ... . If you keep on stoning women to death, adultery
will not stop, neither will fornication. But if you keep on
making women bear the brunt of what two consenting adults
have done, then it poses a problem.
A lot of people are enraged because you say that you are
going to stone a woman to death. No mention has been made
of the man who she was supposed to have committed the sexual
act with. She didn't do it on her own; it takes two to tango.
If it takes two to tango, why is one person being made the
scapegoat? That is where I am coming from, not just as a woman,
but as a rational, thinking human being, and that is what
seems to be enraging a lot of people.
| We really need to get back to the drawing table, search our souls, search our consciences, search our leadership and the quality of people we put as our elected officials, and to hold them to account.
Nigeria's Image Problem
We have a serious problem, which we need to address. A lot
of people are not looking at the big picture. We're still
looking at the small picture, that it was violence, it was
100 people that were killed in Kaduna. As a human being and
as a spokesperson for Miss World 2002, I regret the fact that
one life was lost, let alone 100. That is more than a tragedy
... . The fact that this incident marred the hosting of Miss
World 2002 in Nigeria has sent strong signals out into the
international community that Nigeria is not a country to be
taken seriously. We do have an image problem, and if we really
want to be ranked as first among equals, we have blown our
chances ... . We really need to get back to the drawing table,
search our souls, search our consciences, search our leadership
and the quality of people we put as our elected officials,
and to hold them to account.
A Fighting Spirit
The Nigerian woman is a very resilient and a very strong woman.
The Nigerian woman is someone who would bear her burden with
dignity, with grace. She would be elegant under fire, she's
strong. The Nigerian woman is a woman who you can rely on
to hold the family together when all the men are hard at work,
making money or doing whatever it is they do. The Nigerian
woman can be counted on to hold the fort. Unfortunately, Nigerian
women tend to be underappreciated, underloved sometimes and
But the strength of a Nigerian woman is that when you think
that she has given up, that is when she has started to fight.
That's what I honestly believe because I think that is the
kind of woman I am. I guess I speak for the millions of Nigerian
women who have risen above poverty, have risen above domestic
violence, have risen above discrimination in the workplace,
discrimination in the course of duty -- to make sure that
(we) remain in focus regardless of what the odds are.
NEXT - Amina Ladan Baki Mohammed:
Women's rights activist
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