Wednesday, April 2, 2014


3rd March, 2014

Bishop Bagobiri said yesterday on the floor of the ongoing national conference that Muslim affairs dominate Nigeria’s constitution. He laid particular emphasis on the occurrence of the words ‘Islam’, ‘Shariah’ and ‘Muslims’ several times in the constitution without any mention of ‘Christ’ or ‘Christianity’. 

The bishop’s comment exposes the hypocrisy of the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). A Yoruba adage says when a child rejects pounded yam in the evening, his parents will tell him how his mother was married. Bishop Bagobiri has stirred the hornet’s nest.

We recall that Pastor Tunde Bakare had earlier requested that nobody should bring matters of religion into the conference. The same Christian leaders who said religion should not be brought into the national conference are now the ones making reference to a perceived preponderance of Muslim affairs in the country’s constitution.    

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) affirms that Christian delegates came to the national conference with an anti-Islam mindset. There is strong evidence in Bishop Bagobiri’s diatribe that our neighbours have a perception complex.  

For the records, we remind CAN that the Muslims had established their own way of life 800 years before the advent of the Christian colonialists who forcefully converted them and robbed them of their identity. This is a crime against humanity for which the Christian West which now claims to be the ‘champions’ of freedom and democracy has not accounted for.

Instead of redressing the injustice done to Muslims by the colonialists, successive Nigerian governments have ignored the complaints of Muslims regarding the coercion and intimidation of Muslims in a Nigerian environment which is thickly painted in Christian colour.

Every aspect of life in Nigeria is dominated by Christian culture. Saturday is a work-free day in Nigeria to allow Seventh Day Adventists to worship. Sunday is free for the rest of Nigerian Christians but Friday which is the Muslim’s major day of worship is ignored by the government. Thursday and Friday which were the work-free days in the pre-colonial era were eradicated with colonial fiat. The colonialist’s sense of justice would not stomach sharing and equal rights for Christians and Muslims. Allah-given and fundamental human rights of Muslims were usurped without any qualm.

This gross violation continued even after independence. Nigeria is therefore not truly independent. Nigeria as it stands today is a neocolonialist project serving the purpose of the colonial master and the imperialists alone. To Nigerian Muslims, our so called independence in 1960 was cosmetic, our republican status in 1963 was window-dressing and our democracy today is a monumental fraud.   

Today Muslims have become endangered species. Everything has been done to eliminate all vestiges of Islam in the land. Western education dominates our learning without tolerating Islamic education parri passu. The legal system tolerates civil Shari‘ah only in the North. An illegal and categorically anti-Islam dress code operates in the banking sector, the judiciary, the medical profession, public schools, etc. Only marriages conducted in the church or registry are recognized and the registries boldly hang frames of the picture of Jesus (peace be upon him). January 1st of every year is a public holiday but the government shuns 1st Muharram.   

This glaring religious apartheid must be revisited at the ongoing national conference. The Nigerian system does not accommodate Muslims and their religion. Muslims are treated like aliens in their own country. Although democracy is all about inclusiveness and participation, that of Nigeria is a horse of another colour.

It is neither inclusive nor participatory. Shari‘ah, Islamic banking, Islamic dress code, Islamic marriage, Islamic education, Islamic holidays, etc, are all excluded simply because they are for Muslims. MURIC pronounces Nigeria guilty of religious profiling and stigmatization of Muslims.

We warn that by attacking Muslims and their religion, Christian delegates in the national conference are playing into the hands of politicians. We fear that this conference is getting embroiled in religious controversy and primordial sentiments.

This chaotic situation fits into the Federal Government’s gameplan, namely, to use the conference as a tool for securing tenure extension. The national conference is a mere kite. Otherwise why did a government that was opposed to the idea of a conference ab initio suddenly show interest? The interest was announced on October 1st 2013 and it took off in March 2014.

Coming at a time when the ruling party was suffering from dwindling fortunes, we strongly suspect that the government flew the national conference kite as a diversion, a saving grace and a gimmick in escapism.  

Nigeria did not have enough time to plan this conference and we have started muddling things up. Nigerians were not given enough time to study the list of delegates before the conference began and there was no referendum where the citizens could have made choices. All this is happening a few months to a general election. We smell a rat.

The solution to the religious imbroglio is for the national conference to allow Christians and Muslims to freely express their minds, to study the needs of each religious group and treat both equally by giving each one exactly what the other enjoys. The conference must watch out for any group that insists on blocking the way of another from getting what it is already enjoying. The rule must be ‘live and let live’.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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