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Interfaith Dialogue ( 1 Aug 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslims and Christians of Nigeria Are Making Same Claims

By Muhammad Ajah

July 26, 2018

As different governmental and non-governmental organizations continue to talk tough and proffer solutions over the cases of indiscriminate killings and political marginalization in Nigeria, the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN) and the Senate have added voices on the two scourges partly militating against the development and peaceful coexistence in the country.

The SCSN was led recently by Sheikh Abdur-Rashid Hadiyyatullah and Sheikh Adam Abdullah Idoko to visit President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa, Abuja to express some of the concerns and worries of the Muslim Ummah of Nigeria. The team was made up of the Shurah members – the consultative team of the council, cutting across all Islamic organizations and notable Ulama across Nigeria including Jamilu Mu’azu Haidara and Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu scribe of Jama’atu Nasril-Islam (JNI). SCSN has Dr. Datti Ahmad as President and Mallam Nafiu Baba Ahmad as secretary general. Both were, however, indisposed to attend. The meeting also had in attendance some members of the Federal Executive Council, including the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, Minister of FCT, Muhammad Musa Bello, Minister of Information, Lai Muhammad, Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami as well as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

The council was frank to the President on two major things, amongst others, that are key factors to the challenges facing Nigeria. The two points, President Buhari noted in response, have been the claims of the Nigerian Christian counterparts. This meant that he is doing his best as the highest organs of the Muslims and Christians of Nigeria are making same claims. Buhari said that there are matters he would have tackled headlong and resolve immediately if not for democratic bottlenecks. He narrated his experiences as a military head of state and now as a democratic President. He sought for God’s guidance and continuous prayers from fellow Nigerians so that he can surmount the challenges and put lasting smiles on the faces of especially the Nigerian masses. On its part, the Senate was thrown into a rowdy session on Thursday July 19, 2019 over the long lingering allegations of lopsidedness in the federal appointments. Senators argued for and against it until they agreed to direct its committee on federal character led by Senator Tijjani Yahaya Kaura, to probe all appointments of President Buhari. The Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, supported by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, had sparked the argument by raising a point of order alleging favour for a particular region of Nigeria.

The federal character in Nigeria’s constitution stipulates:

  1. reflection of all ethnic and other sectional groups ii) the need to promote national unity, and

  2.  iii) command of national loyalty in that Government or in any of its agencies. And I wish to earnestly ask the Presidency and the Senate: Where are the Igbo Muslims in Buhari government or any federal government that has existed in Nigeria? That is not a problem, anyway, because they are “nobody” in their own fatherland and nation-building.

Though President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said that the allegation could only be considered as the personal opinions, but relying on another point of order, the Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, countered Ekweremadu on the point that where appointments may seem to favour a region in an agency, other appointments may favour other regions in other agencies. Saraki said that when the committee submits its report, the lawmakers would have a basis to make allegations, if the need is established. His intervention did not immediately douse the tension raised by members of the upper legislative chamber.

One of the points raised by the Shari’ah council was the killings that are being carried out across the country under different guises of banditry, farmers-herdsmen and gunmen. Religious crises have ravaged the country in the last 15 years. The security of lives and properties of the Muslim Ummah of Nigeria have been threatened with a conservative estimate of the cases of genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslims putting the lost Muslim lives at over 130,000, with properties worth billions of Naira. Muslims are killed in Jos, Sokoto, Zamfara and other parts of northwest.

Attacks on Muslims of Nigeria have been seemingly coordinated in the middle belt region under cattle rustling and banditry in Yelwan Shendam, Yamini, Mambila, Numan, Wukari, Wase, Kuru Jenta, Tafawa Balewa, Jos, Zangon Kataf, Kafanchan and the Zonkwa especially after the 2011 elections. The northeast has suffered most, thus the timeliness in establishing the North East Development Commission (NEDC) which requires appointment of competent persons of integrity as members of the Commission, to replace the “moribund and clueless” committee.

The council expressed serious worries over the “unbelievable” level of drug addiction among youths and women of Nigeria, most especially in the north. Statistics by the National Drugs Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) show Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, and Kaduna among other predominantly Muslim states, as the most affected areas involved in the menace in the whole Africa. More worries emanate that despite many reports of discovery of millions of cartons of Rohypnol by the Nigerian Customs, no arrests of the drug barons have been made or chemist/pharmacy shops closed, except in Kano and only a few hawkers arrested periodically. Why is this menace in the north? The council observed that the most effective way to destroy the future of any society is to target its youths and women.

The second point was the political existence of Muslims of Nigeria. Muslims, the council noted, have been partners in progress in the political development of Nigeria. According to the council, Buhari came to lead Nigeria as a messiah when “the ship was at the brink of sinking.” So, expectations from his government from both domestic and international community remain very high. Fighting corruption has been the most difficult task because of the depth corruption has eaten into the fabric of the nation. They thumped up the President for his courageous fight against the ‘monster’, but sought for better ways to deal with it.

They raised alarm on the level of disproportionate representation of Muslims in the Buhari government, especially in the armed forces, civil service, security and intelligence agencies. “It reached an unprecedented level, most especially during the Obasanjo administration, particularly in 2005. Regrettably, according to the group, despite the facts and the efforts in seeking justice from successive governments on this issue, up to date, the ugly trend has continued unabated and is even worse at the moment.” The imbalance, it said, has positioned the majority Muslim population of Nigeria in a precarious situation.

The council frowned at a situation where in many ministries, parastatals, the military and paramilitary, key and other strategic positions are lopsided as they are occupied by the Christians from the southern part of Nigeria. “We advice that the constitutional requirement of the Federal Character be strictly adhered to, in order to achieve equity, justice and fairness to all,” they insisted, saying that the need to redress the gross marginalization of Muslims has not received any serious attention to date. Muslims, it said, are not asking for any favours, undue preference or advantage. Rather, Muslims are only desperately seeking for justice and fairness in addressing the deliberate progressive marginalization of Muslims in all spheres of key public services. As for Muslims of the Southeast, they are completely excluded in Nigeria’s politics. It is unfortunate and does not portray Nigeria as a country which stands for freedom of religion and socio-political affiliations.

The council, however, acknowledged government’s efforts in revitalizing the economy, the primary school feeding program, the N-power and other poverty alleviation programs but noted that most families in Nigeria “cannot afford a single meal a day, not to talk of other necessities of life.” The council called on the President to “meticulously stick” to the teachings of Islam on peace, justice, compassion and truthfulness, even while believing that everything human has a limit. Members of the council prayed Allah SWT to guide, protect and provide the President with good health to continue to steer the affairs of the Nigerian state. They also prayed for peace, unity and progress of Nigeria.

With the claims of marginalization by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN), who are those in majority then in the Buhari-government? Maybe non-Muslims and non-Christians! Buhari is then vindicated. No citizen in Buhari’s government will claim to belong to any religion other than Islam and Christianity. On that note, the two bodies have, therefore, justified that Buhari is just, transparent and politically willed to take Nigeria to the Promised Land.