The Christian Elders Forum (CEF) yesterday descended on the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III for describing Nigeria as a multi-religious nation. They insisted that Nigeria is a secular country.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) takes exception to the stand taken by the Christian Elders. CEF is trying to hoodwink the Nigerian public by making bogus claims. We challenge the Christian Elders to show us the word ‘secular’ in the constitution.
A secular country is one that does not recognize God or religion at all. Examples are Russia, China and other communist entities. But is that true of Nigeria? This is a country that recognizes the existence of many faiths. Churches, mosques and shrines thrive in their thousands while the Federal and State governments give official recognition to the spiritual engagements of the followers of all creeds.
To cap the edifice, the preamble of the Nigerian Constitution starts with the words, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under GOD…” This is an indubitable rejection of secularism. So how secular is ‘secular’Nigeria? It is sheer bunkum. We assert clearly, emphatically and unequivocally that Nigeria is a multi-religious nation.
MURIC affirms that the Sultan is right. Nigeria is a multi-religious nation. By describing Nigeria as a secular country, CEF ploy is to sustain the colonial game of Christianisation of the Nigerian structure. They are simply defending the actions of the colonial master. Based on the strategic approach of all belligerent elements and oppressors, that attack is the best form of defence, it is now in the character of Nigerian Christian leaders to be constantly on the attack.
The truth is that the British colonialists had forcefully entrenched Christian way of life on Nigeria. A few examples will suffice. Whereas Friday was our day of rest since the advent of Islam in Nigeria in 1085, the colonial master who came 800 years later (in 1842) annulled Friday (like June 12) and changed it to Sunday. Shariah was prohibited while Christian common law was imposed on us till today.
Hijab, which was an integral part of school uniforms for female students, was outlawed. Islamic Studies was trivialised while Bible knowledge was prioritized. The Christian cross was forced on us as symbol for the hospitals. The church choir gown became the officially recognized academic gown used during ceremonies in universities. It is also used by lawyers and judges in the law courts. We can go on and on ad infinitum.
Christian elders complain that Muslims are now occupying certain posts but they ignore all other sensitive positions being occupied by Christians. Were they on sabbatical in the days of former President Jonathan when General Ihejirika was Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral Dele Ezeobe was Chief of Naval Staff, Air Vice Marshall Alex Badeh was Chief of Air Staff? Were these people Muslims? Where were the Christian elders when all Jonathan’s ministers from the South West were Christians?
We appeal to the Christian Elders to allow their nomenclature to reflect in their actions and utterances. They should let Nigerian youths benefit from the wisdom of elders and not vice versa. We expect CEF to douse tension and not to heat up the polity. Nigeria has enough on its hands already and true patriotism demands that all hands be on deck to salvage the near-helpless situation. Let us squarely face the tangential and ignore the peripheral. Nigeria should be on our mind, not fishing for men or rabble-rousing.
MURIC salutes the Sultan of Sokoto for his self-control, unparalleled tolerance and robust appetite for moderation. We urge him to ignore all sorts of provocation and continue in his chosen path of statesmanship and responsible leadership.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)