This is the official blog of the Nigeria-based Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a human rights organization which promotes, protects and projects the rights of Muslims. This group condemns terrorism and all acts of violence. Its motto is 'Dialogue, Not Violence'
Monday, September 23, 2013
PRESS RELEASE ON PROPOSED NATIONAL CONFERENCE
23rd September, 2013
NATIONAL CONFERENCE MUST INVOLVE RELIGIOUS GROUPS
A 2-day National Political Summit on the Future of Nigeria was held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from 3rd to 4th September, 2013. It was designed as a precursor to a National Conference. The presidency, the National Assembly (NASS) and the media have also shown signs of positive inclination towards the conveyance of a National Conference.
It is the considered opinion of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) that a national conference is even belated in view of the various challenges facing the country. The worst communities are those in which the members shun dialogue among themselves. Everyone takes to fisticuffs at the slightest provocation. Such communities find it hard to coexist peacefully. This is the parable of our country, Nigeria. The fact that the idea of a National Conference has gained momentum in the corridors of power is a positive signal that Nigeria is now on the right track of peace and stability.
Yet there is a snag.The focus right now appears to be ethnic nationalities alone. To build a just, equitable and egalitarian society, the proposed National Conference must not bar any major stakeholder from participating and presenting its grievances and positions. In particular, Nigerian Christians, Muslims and traditionalists must be adequately represented. In view of the fact that most conflicts in the country have been traced to religious misunderstanding, any National Conference or Sovereign National Conference which sidelines these religious groups is embarking on an exercise in futility.
MURIC asserts that Nigeria as it stands today is a neocolonialist project serving the purpose of the colonial master and the imperialists alone. The parochial method employed by the colonialists who virtually eliminated all vestiges of Islam which they met on ground is the crux of the matter and this must be tabled on the floor of the planned national conference. This they did by using sheer force, divide et impera and so many other subterfuges until they almost totally destroyed Islamic institutions and landmarks.
As a result of this, Muslims in Nigeria of today feel alienated, ostracized and marginalized. Worst still, Muslims are stigmatized as fundamentalists, fanatics, terrorists, etc each time they seek integration into the Nigerian project. Of course this is a major grouse of Nigerian Muslims and it has informed most of the religious conflicts in the country.
To Nigerian Muslims therefore, our so called independence in 1960 was cosmetic, our republican status in 1963 was window-dressing and our democracy today is a monumental fraud.
MURIC asserts clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally that the British bequeathed to Nigeria a legacy which was heavily tainted with Christian coloration in all aspects of life: education, health, law and social perception. It was a deliberate attempt to keep us divided. But haven't we lived together long enough to know how to detonate the time bomb? Must we live with the nightmare of a colonial booby trap all our life?
It is therefore very clear that Nigeria needs a rigorous reintegration programme.Something is just not right. This 1914 amalgamation of a thing needs to be Nigerianised.Muslims are not integrated into the Nigerian polity. There is an urgent need to fully integrate the Muslims and give them the sense of belonging.
Muslims are still complaining today as they did more than a century ago. Yet nobody is listening. Muslims are prepared to live in peace with their Christian neighbours and of course with people of all other faiths and cultures. The National Conference is imperative but religious groups must be an integral part of it.
Finally, we suggest that representatives of the NASS should also be involved as participants in order to solve the riddle of holding a National Conference while we have a sitting NASS. Also, the timing must be properly set. The proposed National Conference must take off after the 2015 general elections, not before.
The rationale for this lies in the length of time needed for preparing a National Conference and the need to avoid a clash of interests while holding the conference and the election pari passu. A national conference is not a picnic. The Federal Government needs full concentration to plan and execute it successfully. But with the myriad of problems currently facing the ruling party, the Federal Government cannot effectively combine preparations for a general election with a National Conference. A word is enough for the wise.