Mus­lims and the Na­tional Con­fer­ence: the case of blam­ing the vic­tim

Daily Trust - - SPORT - with Mo­hammed Haruna nda­jika@ya­hoo.com 08059100107 ( Text only)

Al­most ex­actly nine years ago this month I wrote the ar­ti­cle with the ti­tle above on these pages (pre­cisely on March 16, 2005) in re­ac­tion to the com­po­si­tion by Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo of his na­tional con­fer­ence. With Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan’s ver­sion, his­tory – the ma­nip­u­la­tion of re­li­gion for power – seems, ex­cept for the change in per­son­nel, to have merely re­peated it­self. In­deed only worse; the in-your-face brazen­ness of the stu­dent, com­pared to his now es­tranged mas­ter, in de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble mar­gin of Chris­tians (309 out of 497, i.e. about 62%) to Mus­lims (184, i.e. about 37%) in the com­po­si­tion of his con­fer­ence in a coun­try where, ac­cord­ing to the 2014 usu­ally re­li­able CIA Fact­book, the ra­tio of Mus­lims to Chris­tians to oth­ers is 50:40:10, truly bog­gles the mind.

The con­tro­ver­sial is­sue of the re­li­gious com­po­si­tion of this coun­try is a sub­ject mat­ter for prob­a­bly an­other day. For to­day the fol­low­ing is an abridged ver­sion of what I wrote nine years ago for its rel­e­vance to Pres­i­dent Jonathan’s na­tional con­fer­ence:

The con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the com­po­si­tion of the lead­er­ship and mem­ber­ship of the Na­tional Po­lit­i­cal Re­form Con­fer­ence has once again brought to the fore the im­por­tance of the mass me­dia in shap­ing pub­lic opin­ion and in pol­icy mak­ing and im­ple­men­ta­tion. When Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo de­cided to make vir­tu­ally the en­tire lead­er­ship of the NPRC Chris­tian and also de­cided to give them a nearly two thirds ma­jor­ity edge over Mus­lims in its mem­ber­ship in a coun­try he him­self says is 50:50 Mus­lim/Chris­tian, he knew he could count on the con­spir­a­to­rial si­lence, if not the sup­port, of most of the Nige­rian mass me­dia in his fla­grant breach of the same Nige­rian Con­sti­tu­tion he has sworn to de­fend. Clearly the pres­i­dent has not been dis­ap­pointed. Three weeks into the Con­fer­ence, there has been a deaf­en­ing si­lence from most of the Nige­rian mass me­dia over the pres­i­dent’s bla­tant act of in­jus­tice.

Worse still, those of us who have dared to com­plain about this in­jus­tice are be­ing por­trayed as un­rea­son­able. The Sec­re­tary of the Con­fer­ence, my good friend Rev­erend Fa­ther Mathew Has­san Kukah, him­self an ob­ject of the protest, al­beit not over his per­son, has even dis­missed the pro­test­ers as “ir­re­spon­si­ble”. To which an­other friend, but this time a scion of the Hausa-Fu­lani rul­ing fam­ily in Kano, Lamido Sanusi Lamido, has in ef­fect said, Amen. “Kukah”, he said in his tren­chant de­fence of the rev­erend fa­ther in the Daily Trust of last Mon­day, “is ab­so­lutely cor­rect. It is ir­re­spon­si­ble”.

Sanusi said his in­ter­ven­tion was to stop the de­bate over the com­po­si­tion of the NPRC from de­gen­er­at­ing into a purely re­li­gious af­fair. “An ur­gent Mus­lim in­ter­ven­tion,” he said, “is re­quired be­fore the de­bate be­comes one be­tween Mus­lims and Chris­tians.” Sam Ndah-Isa­iah, the edi­tor-in-chief of

Lead­er­ship, was cor­rect in his ar­gu­ment in his ar­ti­cle last Mon­day, ti­tled See­ing through

the pres­i­dent’s mis­chief, that the pres­i­dent did what he did to di­vide and rule Nigeria, the North in par­tic­u­lar. Like Sanusi, Sam was, how­ever, wrong to con­clude that the proper re­sponse to the pres­i­dent’s mis­chief was to have kept quiet, lest he achieved his ob­jec­tive. “Many of those talk­ing to­day,” said Sam, “have made the pres­i­dent’s day. They have helped him achieve his ob­jec­tive. The people are now di­vided, helped by the le­git­i­mate anger of those protest­ing.”

Both Sanusi and Sam seem to as­sume that na­tional unity is an end in it­self and so no amount of in­jus­tice can jus­tify any act that un­der­mines it. The huge irony of this as­sump­tion, at least on Sanusi’s part as Fa­ther Kukah’s de­fence at­tor­ney, is that Kukah him­self does not share it. On the con­trary he seems to de­test it with a pas­sion. “God,” he said the other day in a paper he pre­sented last year at the Con­fer­ence on

Peace or­ga­nized by the North­ern Gov­er­nors’ Fo­rum, “is a God of jus­tice and there­fore can­not let in­jus­tice into His Sanc­tu­ary. We are un­der no obli­ga­tion to pro­mote peace, if that peace is not founded on jus­tice…”

Fa­ther Kukah went on in that paper to say whereas the duty of re­li­gious lead­ers is to point out the right way, that of politi­cians is to pro­vide the ve­hi­cles to take us to our des­ti­na­tion. And if politi­cians pro­vide rick­ety ve­hi­cles, re­li­gious lead­ers, he said, have a duty to raise hell against such a con­trap­tion. No fair-minded per­son, not even Sanusi in spite of the pas­sion of his in­ter­ven­tion, can say that the ar­chi­tec­ture and struc­ture of the ve­hi­cle Obasanjo has pro­vided for the Na­tional Con­fer­ence are sound.

Sanusi ques­tions the as­sump­tion that “there is some­thing like a ‘Chris­tian’ or ‘Mus­lim’ po­si­tion in a na­tional Con­fer­ence…” He ques­tions the as­sump­tion on the grounds that there are di­vi­sions within the reli­gions them­selves. Surely, how­ever, Sanusi knows that di­vi­sions within people of the same faith, tribe or re­gion, has never stopped them from hav­ing com­mon po­si­tions on is­sues that are ba­sic to their iden­ti­ties. For ex­am­ple, no Mus­lim, whether he is Ma­liki, Shafi’i, Han­nafi or Ham­bali, or what­ever, will re­ject Sharia or sub­scribe to the doc­trine of sec­u­lar­ity.

In case Sanusi is not aware, one of the hid­den agenda of the con­vener of the con­fer­ence is to fi­nally ban­ish so-called po­lit­i­cal Sharia from the Con­sti­tu­tion, through some sleigh-of-hand. For, among the amend­ments a com­mit­tee un­der Pro­fes­sor Jerry Gana, the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal ad­viser, is propos­ing there is one which says “If any other law, cus­tom­ary or re­li­gious prac­tice is in­con­sis­tent with the pre­vi­sions of this con­sti­tu­tion, this con­sti­tu­tion shall pre­vail, and that other law shall, to the ex­tent of the in­con­sis­tency, be void”. This amend­ment is meant to re­place sec­tion 1 (3) of the ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tion. The dif­fer­ence is the seem­ingly in­nocu­ous phrase “cus­tom­ary or re­li­gion

prac­tice”, a phrase that has been smug­gled into the pro­vi­sion be­hind the back of the con­sti­tu­tional re­form com­mit­tee chaired by Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Ibrahim Mantu.

Even though a Mus­lim can­not re­ject Sharia as long as he be­lieves in Is­lam, such a Mus­lim mem­ber of the Con­fer­ence may or may not stand up for so-called po­lit­i­cal Sharia. But any Mus­lim mem­ber would be fool­ish to think that a non-Mus­lim mem­ber of the Con­fer­ence will go out of his way to de­fend a Mus­lim’s car­di­nal be­lief in Sharia.

“Many Mus­lim North­ern­ers, the present writer in­cluded,” says Sanusi, “do not care about the re­li­gious iden­tity of com­pe­tent Nige­ri­ans ap­pointed to an of­fice what­so­ever, SO LONG AS THEY CON­SIDER THEIR CON­STITUENCY TO BE THE WHOLE NA­TION IN THE CON­DUCT OF THEIR OF­FI­CIAL FUNC­TIONS” (Em­pha­sis mine).

Sanusi is right that re­li­gion, or for that mat­ter, re­gion or tribe, ideally should not mat­ter in such things. But he him­self has en­tered a sen­si­ble caveat about the be­hav­iour of pub­lic of­fi­cials. He has also ad­mit­ted that there is no such thing as an ob­jec­tive per­son. In­vari­ably we are ob­jec­tive only to the ex­tent that we know we can­not get away with our prej­u­dices. The way the Na­tional Con­fer­ence was com­posed, the ma­jor­ity can eas­ily get away with their prej­u­dices.

This is why our Con­sti­tu­tions since 1979 have em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of govern­ment re­flect­ing the federal char­ac­ter of the na­tion in its con­duct and com­po­si­tion. The rel­e­vant sec­tion in all those con­sti­tu­tions ob­li­gates govern­ment to “(en­sure) that there shall be no pre­dom­i­nance of per­sons from a few states or from a few eth­nic or other sec­tional groups in the govern­ment or any of its agencies.”

It bears re­peat­ing that Obasanjo bla­tantly vi­o­lated this pro­vi­sion as far as the re­li­gious char­ac­ter of this coun­try is con­cerned and it amounts to adding in­sult to in­jury for any­one to say those who have com­plained

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