The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has made certain demands in the ongoing national conference. This includes the establishment of ecclesiastical courts throughout Nigeria. There are other requests.
It is pertinent to note that this is the first time CAN has openly made such demands. We welcome these demands as they indicate a positive response to requests from the secretariat of the national conference and the call made by President Jonathan for all aggrieved and neutral groups to present their cases and requests. The latest submissions by CAN will no doubt move the dialogue machinery forward.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) have always asked Christians in the country to tell Nigerians what they wanted instead of always opposing what the Muslims want. It is our belief that if all stakeholders in the Nigerian project openly make their demands, the task of harmonizing our interests will become easier. We believe that demands which fall within the fundamental human rights of each group should be granted while no group should stand in the way of another so long as a group’s demand does not encroach on others’ rights. All groups should respect the ‘Live and Let Live’ golden rule.
It is in this respect that we are asking the national conference to approve CAN’s requests. We are not unaware the existing courts in the country which use common law are Christian courts. Even British Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed last week that Britain is a Christian country. Yet unlike the hostile stand of CAN when Muslims demanded Shariah law, Islamic banking, etc, Muslims are prepared to tolerate Christian courts so long as the latter will serve Christians only and no Muslim will be brought before them. This was also the argument of Muslims when they made demands but our Christian neighbours defied logic when they opposed it.
MURIC appeals to Christians in the country to see their Muslim compatriots as partners in progress. Can is also advised to change its mindset regarding the national conference as it is obvious that its delegates came to the conference singing war songs. CAN has a perception complex whereas negotiations and dialogues require open-mindedness to succeed.
An example is the avoidable controversy started by CAN’s false claim that Muslims in the committee on religions were 12 while Christians were 8, making the total 20 members. It is gratifying that the secretariat of the national conference has debunked the claim. According to the secretariat in a statement issued on Wednesday 23rd April, 2014, Muslims are 11 while Christians are 10.
MURIC is constrained to assert that although the secretariat was right on the total number of members of the committee (21), it erred regarding the number of Christians and Muslims. It is Christians who have the higher number of 11 while Muslims have the lower number of 10.
The search for numerical exactitude has revealed that Professor Layi Erinosho (No.7 on the list in the secretariat’s statement) whom the secretariat categorized as a Muslim is, indeed, a Christian. Professor Erinosho who hails from Abeokuta, Ogun State, is the secretary of the Social Science Academy of Nigeria.
But why was he listed as a Muslim? It will appear that wonders will never end in this ongoing national conference. The conspiracy against Nigerian Muslims in the national conference started with the manipulation of the list of delegates. It was so cleverly done that even President Jonathan was not aware that the number of Christians nearly doubled that of Muslims.
The same scenario of figure-juggling is emerging again from the secretariat.
MURIC calls the attention of discerning Nigerians and indeed the entire world to the mature dispensation and great patience manifested by Nigerian Muslims in this matter. We were shortchanged ab initio in the number of delegates. Our great leader the Sultan of Sokoto advised that instead of taking any rash decision, we should take our case to President Jonathan. This we did about four weeks ago. Nothing has been done to date in spite of the president’s promise to address the gross imbalance. We therefore remain oppressed.
Instead of the aggrieved Muslims to show aggression, it is the over-pampered CAN that is exhibiting unfettered belligerence and making false, baseless and unfounded allegations. Muslims have not been complaining before except when it becomes absolutely necessary. It is not because we are fools but because we care very much about the unity of this country.
There are so many issues, peripheral and tangential, over which the Muslims could have raised eyebrows but we keep quiet in the interest of peace and stability.
Contrary to CAN’s allegation that it was Justice Idris Kutigi who handpicked Nurudeen Lemu, a Muslim from his state as chairman of the committee on religion, it is didactic to note that the secretariat confirmed in its press statement that the chairman had actually excused himself from choosing the chairmen of committees. It is quite glaring, therefore, that if the Muslim chairman did not choose the chairmen of committees, he gave a free hand to his Christian vice to do so. Page 3 of the secretariat’s press statement says this much.
We advise the Christian body to infuse integrity and sincerity of purpose into its maneuvers particularly in the national conference because unless we are all transparently honest with ourselves Nigeria may come out worse than it was before the conference began. This is why we should not keep malice. Let us open up our hearts and declare charity for all.
Finally, we advise the delegates of CAN and those of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to remember that there are issues other than religion begging for attention in the national conference. These are issues on which both Christians and Muslims agree. We all want good security, regular power supply, good roads, efficient public health delivery system, effective public transport system, qualitative education, end to corruption, etc. Let us address these issues and stop whipping up primordial sentiments.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)