The name Isioma Daniel might not ring a bell but then do you recall this statement, “The Prophet Mohammed will not be able to resist the contestants of the 2002 Miss World Beauty Pageant if he saw them” the comment was placed in an innocuous section of a Nigerian daily on the 16th of November 2002. One week later Isioma’s quote would find notoriety in the hands of fanatical Islamic youths in the Northern part of the country. The results were portentous, the pageant was relocated from Lagos after at least 200 people had been killed in Northern Nigeria and a fatwa placed on Isioma. Pronto her employers, This Day newspapers spirited her out the country where she secured immigration status in Norway.
I remember sourly how the age long religious polarization that had claimed several lives in Nigeria was spiked by erstwhile Governor of Zamfara state, sani yerima who distastefully asked for her head on a saucer for impugning the holy prophet Mohammed. Benin Republic was her first place of refuge but for the fear of being quickly recognized. She had to seek the help of the United Nations High Commission for Refuge [UNHCR] which persuaded Norway to accommodate her.
Six years on, Miss Daniel, radiant and relaxed, has built a new life for herself. Although with a tinge of regret she often muses over the hundreds of lives lost over the incident. Equally disappointed is she over her rejection by her former editor, who has spurned her attempts at reconciliation.
Nonetheless an improbable situation six years ago has brought Isioma some good will. She now lives in total comfort in Norway where she is granted adequate security. So to now this female journalist who has the sword of Damocles hovering over her has attracted a large variety of supporters; her struggles have seen her being recognized as a brave young woman who dared to exercise her right of freedom of expression. Constantly she is feted by the Norwegian media and has notched up a good number of interviews on Norwegian television, radio and newspapers on an issue which once threatened her existence.
Isioma who works as a journalist with Stavanger Aftenblad, a Norwegian newspaper, is still passionate about the occupation that has caused her so much pain and isn’t thinking of plying another trade. She says she is not in a hurry to return home though deeply missing her family who she saw last year during the Easter celebration.