BY ‘TUNDE THOMAS
The Chief Missioner of the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Ahmed, has dismissed the position of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN that Nigeria’s joining the Saudi Arabia military coalition was aimed at enthroning Sharia law and Islamise the country. An arm of CAN had onFriday, last week, raised the alarm that the development was part of a grand design to introduce Sharia law to tghe country.
In an Interview with VINCENT KALU, Sheik Ahmed, said such an allegation is self-serving for the elite in cassock and turbans. Excerpts
The Christian Association of Nigeria, penultimate Friday, raised the alarm over plans for fullblown Sharia law and Islamisation of Nigeria. What’s your view?
All issues in Nigeria are politically sensitive. That is the misfortune that has been visited on Nigeria by the elites, and their self-interests. To my mind, most of these people are disconnected from the generality of the Nigerian people.
The fear of domination either politically or religiously has always been high in this country and people have always raised the alarm and expressed fear that one ethnic group or the other was trying to dominate them by act of omission or commission; or one religious group is out to dominate the other, by act of omission or commission. In most of the cases, you find out that complaints are akin to crying foul when none exists.
When the issue of the introduction of Sharia started, it was like the country was going to be thorn apart. The man who introduced it was a member of the ANPP, and he was then in opposition to the ruling PDP. At the end of the day he ended up in PDP, and the same elites; the same opposition politicians embraced him, while the ordinary people were left in the middle.
It is unfortunate that CAN and PFN, especially the so-called Northern Christian Association of Nigeria and the PFN have always been raising issues which they are entitled to; everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but must be done in a factual manner, and will not be done to whip up sentiments or in manner that will heat up the polity.
The President may be a Muslim, but he campaigned and was elected by non-Muslims as well. In the last dispensation, the former President and those who worked him went to Jerusalem so many times to ask God to intercede on their behalves. Their going there didn’t Christianize Nigeria and the Muslims didn’t fear for Christianization of Nigeria.
When the United Nations wanted to vote on the independence of Palestinian state, I don’t think there was a plebiscite or consultations before Nigeria abstained from voting in that critical vote that robbed the Palestinian of statehood. The state of Israel was full of gratitude to Nigeria for that, and there was a sitting President who is a Christian, and the Muslims didn’t see it as an attempt to Christianize Nigeria.
Even though that was a departure from our foreign policy thrust, since the First Republic, we have always supported the Palestinian cause of freedom and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
I think that we would be better off not to read religious tone to every policy of government. We have heard enough of that, that membership of OIC would Islamize Nigeria; membership of Islamic Development Bank would Islamize Nigeria. Nigeria right now is grappling with the issue of insurgency in the Northeast part of the country.
I do not feel there was procedural error in the manner the President is purported to have allowed Nigeria to join that the Saudi Arabia military coalition. That happened not because of religion. There are so many military coalitions and alliances. There is one in the Gulf of Guinea, which I don’t think there was a Referendum or an Act of the National Assembly before Nigeria joined some of them. Politicians in cassock and turbans; I mean politicians hiding under religion should not drag the rest of us into an unnecessary religious conflict in order to protect their own enlightened political self interests. This is what I see at play. The ordinary Muslim in this country and the Christian in this country relate very well and they don’t have issues. Those elites get relevant by bringing issues, not to better the lot of the people but to divide them.
It is being argued that the Saudi coalition will throw up Nigeria as centre for Islamic politics and conflict, pitching Nigeria against countries like Iran, which supports Shiite Muslims?
Why do the people want to cry more than the bereaved? They are dabbling into something that they do not have understanding about. Everything is the politics of oil and Nigeria cannot extricate itself from the politics of oil. It is not the politics of religion, but the politics of oil that is going on.
The fact that the sanction imposed on Iran is being lifted, Iranian oil will enter the market legitimately and that tends to offset the apple cart. You know how vital oil is to many economies across the world, including Nigeria, which has oil as the mainstay of its economy. Alliances are being formed and negotiations are being carried out.
It is quite unfortunate that those who are making the analysis of Sunnis and Shiites do not know what they are talking about. The issue of Sunnis in Nigeria is a no issue and if anybody should complain, it should be the Muslims and not the Christians. There have always been minority Shiites in the country, and it doesn’t concern the Christians and it should not be a problem to them. Why should anybody be making analysis that Nigeria’s closeness to Saudi Arabia would draw the country into conflict.
Traditionally, from time immemorial, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have been very close allies, I’m not saying militarily. They have had relationship even before Nigeria was created because people go for Hajj every year. The analysis that Nigeria, being close to Saudi Arabia and because of that, draw Nigeria into Islamic conflict is nonsense. It is pseudo analysis.
You said Nigeria and Saudi have been allies in the fight against Boko Haram, some countries have supported in the area of logistics or condemned the group, but we are yet to receive any support from Saudi, and that’s why Nigeria’s joining the Saudi coalition became curious?
I don’t know what you mean when you said we have not received any support from Saudi. To the best of my knowledge, I’m sure if Saudi Arabia is supplying arms to us, that would have even caused much more uproar. Again, if Saudi is giving us money for military support, that would even set the country ablaze, as it would be interpreted to mean that Nigeria is about to be Islamised. If we continue to put forth this argument, and begin to see religion in everything, including the interview you are conducting now, some Nigerians will say that you are asking me this question because you are a Christian and I, a Muslim. You and I know that you are doing your job and you would equally ask a Bishop or Archbishop the same manner of questions. We begin to see religion in the workplace and not discipline; and that if any one misbehaves and when you punish him, people will say it is because he is not a Muslim or a Christian. If we start this way, we will not be able to move forward; we would not be able to progress if we dwell on negative perception and analysis of issues.
Remember when the Central Bank of Nigeria was introducing the non-interest banking, there was uproar that it was a plan for the Islamisation of the country. Everything about the Muslims is greeted with suspicion without critically analyzing it. I grew up to know the camp at the Lagos airport as Hajj Camp, but there is so much acrimony now and the Hajj is removed because of the so-called Islamization. It is now Pilgrims Camp. I don’t know of any religious groups who use that camp other than Muslims for the period.
We can’t go any way with this pathological hatred.
This is very unnecessary, it pervades every area of our national life. An Okada man hit a pregnant woman. Unfortunately, the Okada man is Hausa and the woman, a Yoruba, and that was the cause of the mayhem at Mile 12 Market that claimed many lives and properties destroyed. An Igbo man and a Yoruba man have a problem and for the Igbo, the Yoruba have come again or for the Yoruba, the Igbo are at it again. From there, it turned violent with the attendant bloodshed.
How long shall we continue with this? There is the talk of Fulani herdsmen, and that it is Buhari that is sending them because he is a Fulani man, and it is an attempt to commit genocide. That’s another nonsense.
That is how we shield criminals and provide safe havens for them. When pure criminality is associated with religion and ethnicity and then it becomes very difficult to prosecute criminals. I don’t see it in that way.