There have been murmurs, if not widespread complaints about how the Kano State Hisbah Board (KSHB) is considered as anti-masses due to their recent and past policies and decrees. People have pointed to the fact that the elites in the society are being exempted from these laws. This is true because the ‘rich’ and powerful tend to show off these unlawful acts with brazen assurance. In their defence, while also in admittance to these facts, the Kano Islamic police justified their actions with the Islamic injunction that forbids followers from publicly reprimanding their leaders. They have not provided instances where they privately arrested the rich or their children, either. Weak defence!
It is important to understand the basis for the formation of Kano State Hisbah. And this is rooted in the name itself. Hisbah, an Arabic word and Islamic doctrine referring to accountability, entails the collective efforts to enjoin good and forbid evil. This is backed by the Holy Qur’an (Chapter 3 verse 110): Let there arise out of you a nation who invites to goodness and enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil: They are the ones to attain felicity.
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Hisbah in Kano was formed in 2003, during the Malam Ibrahim Shekarau administration. This was part of the then popular ‘adaidaita sahu’ societal re-orientation thrust of the administration, which also sought to enforce Sharia law in Kano State. The Islamic police are then seen as agents of enforcing good and forbidding evil. It is also pertinent to note that the interpretation of what is societally wrong depends on the interpretation by the Ulamas (Islamic scholars or jurists). This fact has birthed the controversies of who qualifies as Ulama and to what extent should their interpretations be considered valid, in Kano State and its environs. This is more so because of the differences in Islamic sects and their respective leaders.
With this, the Kano State Hisbah seems to be engaging in a clout contest with all news categories that are tilted towards the absurd and the Nigerian media (online and conventional), in their usual style are very much obliging. Their policies and task force are visibly aimed at ‘policing’ the less powerful members of society and on less pressing ‘ills’ of the society. Banning the use of mannequins and the meeting of lovers in public spaces, for any ‘justifiable’ reasons cannot trump the fact that divorce, out-of-school children and drug abuse have more far-reaching negative effects on our society, or on any society for that matter. As a matter of fact, any statistics brought forward places Kano State at the top for having a high divorce rate, a worrying number of drug abusers and an alarming number of out-of-school children compared to other states nationwide.
If anything, the vision and mission of Kano State Hisbah should be to drastically reduce these embarrassing numbers, which will in turn help reduce the smaller vices they seem to be going after. The Nigeria Police, the NDLEA (for drug law enforcement) already have their hands full and could indeed use some help in this never-ending fight. This is not to say that there are no efforts from the board in trying to reduce these bigger ills. But it is glaring that priorities are being misplaced and while above mentioned problems are directly and indirectly responsible for most of the problems affecting Kano State and its environs, from a sociological point of view, there seem to be no tangible results with the efforts in place to curb them.
For me, the KSHB is always in the news for the wrong reasons and this is doing more damage to them from a public relations point of view, attracting self-inflicted ridicule while giving a wrong meaning to what Hisbah truly implies. The KSHB has been misplacing priorities for far too long. Drug abuse, divorce and out-of-school children affect all strata of our society; they give birth to other problems. Any efforts in the name of policies or decrees that will bring about the measurable decline in these negative numbers (for drug abuse, divorce rate and out-of-school children) would be greeted well by everyone, the naysayers inclusive. This should be the main mission of KSHB, certainly not banning mannequins because they are believed to have the potential of sexually arousing a passerby or shopper. It is just bad optics.
Aliyu Sulaiman, freelance writer and banker, lives in Sokoto