From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
The Sultan of Sokoto and National President of Islamic Supreme Council of Nigeria, Alhaji Saad Abubakar II, has advocated for the usage of hijab by Muslim women without restrictions across Nigeria and total freedom of citizens to practice their religious as expected.
The Sultan stated this in Birnin Kebbi during North West zonal public hearing on the constitution review organised by the House of Representatives for stakeholders from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states.
Speaking at the opening session, the Sultan wondered why the use of the hijab should be controversial, stressing that followers of other religions must also be encouraged to adopt the practices and customs of their faith.
According to him, ‘the most important issue is the issue of religion. Almighty God created us to worship Him, and you must protect my rights as a Muslim in whatever form of documents you are going to bring. There are no two ways about it.
‘I must have freedom to worship Allah the way Almighty says I should worship Him. So, people make too much noise about Shariah and its implementation. It is all about our lives as Muslims from the day of our birth till we die… How do you protect the interests of Muslims that constitute over 50 per cent of this nation’s population, whether in the North, East,South or West?
‘I believe nobody should stop me from practising my religion and I must practice it to the best of my ability without tempering with other religious or freedom.
‘You can pick a stone and keep it in your home, that is the problem between you and your God, not me. There are so many cases where we have young girls who are denied the use their hijabs in schools. Why is it that the usage of hijab becomes a problem to those people who are not using hijab?
‘On the other hand, we should even encourage other persons of other religious faiths to do what their religious ordered them to do. And that is how we would live in peace. And we have been living in peace.’
The Sultan, who also spoke on the role of traditional rulers, charged the political class not to be afraid of giving traditional rulers constitutional roles, stressing that they (traditional rulers) have accepted the changes that took place since the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria and they are ready to help.
‘All of you know history that before 1914 there was no Nigeria. But there was Sokoto caliphate, Kanem Borno empire, Oyo Empire, Binin Kingdom. The amalgamation of all these led to Nigeria of today. They took power from the people and put it on the few civilians.
‘Why are politicians afraid of giving power back to the people they have been living and working with closely? We have accepted the changes and we are ready to help. The earlier we realise we can work together, the better for us. So, the political class should know that we are not in any competition with you. We are here to help and we are ready to help,’ he said.
The Sultan advised Nigerians to stop blaming Nigeria’s military for the constitutional crisis, encouraging citizens to ‘face the reality on ground’ and suggest whether to have new constitution or amended the existing one before 2023 general elections.
‘So, please, stop flogging the military; forget about what the military did and face the reality on ground. We have the constitution given to us by the military and the military made the constitution. The military also created the 36 states, created Abuja and moved the capital from Lagos State to Abuja.
‘The military had set up governments in so many states with the military appointment of 99 per cent civilians in the government and all of you agreed to it. So, stop flogging the military, look at the constitution – is it good for us or not? That is all.
‘If you think we need to change the constitution, this is the time. If you think we need to amend it, this is the time. But it is just two years to the 2023 elections. Can we afford a new constitution or should we make just little amendments? So that when the new government comes in, they can bring fresh faces and minds to fashion our new constitution. That is the questions I want you to think about here,’ he stated.
In his remarks, Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu noted that constitutional amendments are part of democracy and a constitution should continue to evolve in all democracies, particularly in the country where the democratic experiment was very young.
‘Our uniqueness should guide our constitutional amendment because no two countries are the same. Our country is unique in a number of ways, and are all important factors as some of them are advantageous and some are difficult,’ he said.
Earlier, the Deputy Minority Whip in the House of Representatives, Hon Adekoya Adesegun-AbdulMajid, who is the Chairman of the Birnin Kebbi Centre of the North West Geopolitical zone of the public hearing, noted that Nigeria was going through a period of unease and growing concerns across the country in regard to insecurity.
‘This is also in addition to entho-cultural agitations, all of which might not have been unconnected with the inadequacies in our present national constitution,’ he stated.
‘These inadequacies seek urgent redress and attention lest we are all consumed by the effects of our failures to discuss our common and collective problems as a people.
‘It is the need to address these deficiencies in our constitution that the National Assembly and, in particular, the House of Representatives under the leadership of Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, decided to return to our people across the length and breath of Nigeria with a view to seeking your voices, contributions, participation, and inputs in the proposed alteration of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
‘By this process, a thoroughly debated conversation will engender a constitution that we can truly call our own,’ he said.