By Solomon Asemota, SAN, Chairman, National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF)
1. As a Mission Statement, the NCEF is committed to the Unity of Nigeria and the duty of the Leadership of the Nation to ensure that this Unity is not sacrificed on the altar of sectarian interests and biases.
2. In its exercise of the Biblical “Issachar Mandate,” the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) is purposed to draw national attention, as Senior Citizens, to the issues as they stand in Nigeria at present. The NCEF Press Release of July 2017, titled Correct Assessment of Situation in Nigeria, presently under contention by some Muslim groups, was sent as “non-violent communication” (NVC) to keep Nigerians abreast with the disturbing threats packaged no doubt, by Islamists (political Islam), to destroy NIGERIA as one indivisible and all inclusive Union State under GOD. NCEF position still stands on Truth as the only pillar of national strength and unity.
3. In the Press release, NCEF encouraged Nigerians to understand the “Time and Season”; to stand on common ground and be committed to “NIGERIA our country” where the citizens’ vision of NIGERIA as a true Federation will guide National Commitment and Governance at all levels; and in the exercise of Authority by National Institutions. We hope for a country where the citizen’s expectations of guaranteed Safety and Security, Justice for All, Equal Opportunity for all without discrimination, Freedom of Worship without compulsion and Movement without let or hindrance remain sacrosanct. Therefore, the exercise of power and authority must be with responsibility and accountability towards all citizens irrespective of tribe or tongue, religion or social status. It may be possible that some Nigerians are not able to distinguish the difference between Truth and Propaganda; and the Islamists globally would rather kill or commit suicide than see Truth come to pass. It is disheartening to note that Nigeria is moving dangerously close to a national “red line” where Truth is criminalized as “hate speech”.
4. With the foregoing in mind, the National Christian Elders Forum, (NCEF) is dismayed by the series of rejoinders that emanated from some Muslim organizations and some notable Muslim leaders all over the country to its Press Release of July 2017. The Press Release drew National attention to the threat posed to our corporate existence as a country by the JIHAD that has been launched in Nigeria by Islamists of Northern Nigeria. Some of the rejoinders are pitiable attempts to deny reality while some are plainly comical. Or else, how can one describe a rejoinder that called National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) “Northern Christian Elders Forum” and wondered what Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife was doing in “Northern Christian Elders Forum”. The writer conveniently, or otherwise, forgot that Dr. Ezeife is not the only Ibo person listed in the membership of NCEF. Except of course, the Islamists are signaling to the rest of the country that the current Nigeria is only for the Islamists. This may explain why all the key positions in Security and Education are held by Northern Muslims from selected Islamist enclaves (with the exception of JAMB held by a Yoruba Muslim) in flagrant violation of the Federal Character Principle enshrined in Section 14 (3) of the Constitution.
5. Despite the weighty issues raised in the Press Release, the NCEF is also at a loss to understand why the only recurring theme in all the rejoinders is “General Danjuma who was not present at the meeting”. For clarification, the list of names published with the Press Release was not the Attendance list at the meeting but the list of members of the NCEF. There were other members unable to attend the meeting but that does not diminish their participation in the NCEF.
6. Deception is the name of the game. The unwary and unsuspecting citizen is therefore lulled into a sense of false safety and security while disaster lurks around him. It therefore has to take a wary mind that is experienced in discerning the truth to see beneath the surface and correctly interpret the signs of the time.
REALITY OF JIHAD IN NIGERIA
Since the crux of the matter is the strenuous attempt by some Nigerian Muslim leaders to deny the reality of the ongoing Jihad in the Nation, the NCEF is compelled to make the following points clear in the consideration of what has now become a national debate. The NCEF is fully aware of the seriousness of these issues and wishes to share this information for the consideration of serious minds desirous of providing solutions to the myriad of problems confronting Nigeria. The NCEF has taken on this onerous task, not for the interest of the present Christian Elders most of whom are in the boarding lounge to eternity, but in the interest of the coming generations. Our Fathers bequeathed to us a peaceful Nigeria in 1960 and it is our responsibility to do everything within our power, to leave a peaceful, progressive and prosperous Nigeria for our Children.
NCEF shall be grateful to receive clarifications from Muslim leaders on the issues below:
i. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, in one of his video releases, said in 2012,
“… This war is not political. It is religious. It is between Muslims and unbelievers (arna). It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight. I warn all Muslims at this juncture that any Muslim who assists an unbeliever in this war should consider himself an unbeliever and should consider himself dead.” If this statement is not a declaration of Jihad, could Muslim leaders explain what this means?
ii. In 1989, Islam in Africa Organization (IAO) held a Conference in Abuja and amongst many other decisions, released a Communiqué taggedAbuja Declarations 1989 in which it affirmed that its purpose was “To eradicate in all its forms and ramifications all non-Muslim religions in member nations. Such religions shall include Christianity, Ahmadiyya and other tribal religions.” (In the original Declaration, the word Christianity was underlined.) Since Nigeria is considered a member nation, could what is going on be an implementation of this decision? Or, could we be corrected that the Conference never held in Abuja in November 1989 or such Communiqué was never released? We are also unaware of any rebuttal of the same statement by Muslims leaders.
iii. In a 154 page Research Report conducted by Arne Mulder in 2015, the researcher affirmed that over 13,000 Christian places of worship (Churches) have been destroyed in Northern Nigeria as at December 2014. Under what condition do Muslim insurgents destroy Churches if not Jihad?
iv. On the 4th of February, 2017, the United States Congress affirmed that the most dangerous nation on earth for anyone to be a Christian is Nigeria. The implication is that Nigerian Christians have become endangered species in a country in which they constitute over 50% of the population.
v. According to the Global Index on Terror, the 1st and the 4th most terrible Islamic Terrorist organizations in the world operate in Nigeria. Boko Haram is 1st while the Fulani Herdsmen is 4th. If these terror organizations are not fighting Jihad, what then are they doing in Nigeria?
vi. Under the present administration, every key and sensitive position in National Security is held by Muslims from the North, in outright violation of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. Also early in the life of this administration, we recall that more than 95% of senior army officers retired from the Military were Christians. In NNPC, only recently, more than 95% of the new appointments into senior management positions are Northern Muslims. Taking these developments in conjunction with the lopsided appointments in National Security, is one not confronted with the inevitable conclusion that there is a deliberate attempt to emasculate Christians, Southerners and other non-Muslim population of Nigeria verifiably by intimidation and force which are stealth Jihad?
vii. Despite unconstitutionally appropriating all security positions to the Muslim North, the Fulani Herdsmen operate with impunity in mostly Christian areas, killing, maiming, raping, and destroying without any arrest, without any prosecution. If this is not complicity of the Muslim dominated Security services, are we then to conclude that the Nigerian security units are so incompetent that they cannot successfully engage insurgents after the Nigerian Army successfully prosecuted a Civil War?
viii. We recall that in 2011 in Harvard, USA, his eminence the Sultan of Sokoto who is also the President of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, was reported to have said during a public function,“I do not recognize any Nigerian Constitution and the only Constitution I recognize is the Koran”. By virtue of Section 38 (1), the Constitution guarantees freedom of Religious conviction while Sharia through its law of “Ridda” forbids it with capital punishment. It is clear there is a huge conflict between the Democratic values of the Constitution of Nigeria and Sharia in the 1999 Constitution. The late Justice Mohammed Bello said, at a lecture in Kaduna, “Section 38 (1) of the Constitution ensures for every person the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, whereas under Sharia,“ridda” (change of religion) is a capital offence. Consequently, the offence of “ridda” is inconsistent with Section 38 (1) and by virtue of Section 1 is unconstitutional.” Therefore, when the President of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs said in a foreign land (which is in itself a treasonable statement) that he does not believe in the Nigerian Constitution (which guarantees freedom of religious conviction), but he believes only in the Koran (which forbids freedom of worship through Sharia’s “ridda”), could not the statement of the Sultan be interpreted as an endorsement of Jihad?
ix. Added to the above are the big questions begging for answers. Who is funding and equipping the Islamic insurgents? And more importantly, who is shielding them from prosecution?
x. We would not wish to belabor these issues but rather appeal to the distinguished leaders of Islam, who have stepped forward to be identified, to join us in putting Nigeria first. Nigeria is a Secular State according to Section 10 of the Constitution, but a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. The diversity in the country should be harnessed for progress and prosperity and not resisted thus leading to disintegration of the country. It is wishful thinking for anyone to imagine the possibility of imposing one religion or one culture on 389 Ethnic Nationalities.
We are not Muslim and thus require an explanation as to why the Ahmadiyya were regarded as heretics unaccepted as pilgrims to the Holy land. Why was it necessary to “require prospective pilgrims to prove some years back that they were not Ahmadiyya members before arranging for their visas for the hajj”, thereby regarding Ahmadiyya as non-Muslims and denied hajj? Even though we may not agree with the methods of the Shiites, their fundamental rights must be respected and court orders concerning them must be obeyed. The NCEF is not opposed to Islam, but Islamism (political Islam) as all Islamists are Muslims but not all Muslims are Islamists.
Retired Christian Generals are concerned because they participated in the 1967 – 1970 Civil War and do not want another war. We know that it is stealth jihad that gets Christians to antagonize other Christians for the benefit of Islamists, so it did not surprise us that Wike and Jonathan are now being blamed for the reform of the Curriculum for Basic Education.
We affirm that CAN President’s statement on this subject is valid.
The need to achieve a livable country for all is mirrored in the following statement that outlines the long standing opposition of non-Muslims to the ploy by the British to assist the Muslims achieve their aims of dominating Nigeria.
After amalgamation, Kirk Greene wrote “by the middle of 1914 the situation came very near to boiling over when the Times of Nigeria accusation bluntly alleged in its leader ‘The Hidden Meaning’ that unification was synonymous with a sell-out of the South. ‘The amalgamation of 1914’, it asserted, ‘is, broadly speaking, the conquest and subjugation of Southern Nigeria by Northern Law. Northern Nigeria system, Northern Nigerian laws, Northern Nigerian land laws, Northern Nigerian administration, must be made to supersede every system in Southern Nigeria.” [Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria: A Documentary Report A. H. M Kirk-Greene pg. 24]
Stealth jihad has been able to achieve the conquest and subjugation of Christian Southern Nigeria with the Middle Belt as bonus, a feat the British were unable to achieve for Muslims in Nigeria.
A respected Muslim leader’s view may well represent the other view of decent Muslims who are as appalled, as us, about the activities of Islamists in Nigeria. A report inThe Guardian of Saturday, September 2, 2017, states “Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar enjoined the Muslim faithful to join hands in tackling the nefarious activities of extremists bent on destroying the humane virtues of Islam. In his sallah message to Muslims, Atiku advised Muslims to reclaim the religion which is being hijacked by violent extremists whose atrocities portray Islam in bad light. The Waziri Adamawa expressed sadness that the activities of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency group have economically destroyed the north, in particular the north-east, and disrupted its social life. “As a citizen of the north-east, I have a firsthand experience of the impact of terrorism on our people’s daily lives,” he said. He called for rigorous scrutiny and vigilance to guard against the influence of extremism, including exposing innocent students and followers to their virulent ideas. Atiku advised parents to be wary of letting their children follow any preacher and thereby, falling victims of indoctrination, warning that poisonous ideas are as destructive as a bomb. While wishing Muslim leaders a happy and hitch-free celebration, the former vice president said they should show increased commitment to peaceful coexistence and tolerance in line with the demands of the Muslim faith and Nigeria’s diversity. According to him, love and peace should not only be preached, but must also be put into practice for the sake of sustaining the peace in the land. The former vice president advised Nigerians to eschew religious bigotry, and condemned politicians who use ethnic and religious sentiments to gain power. According to him, identity politics based on religious loyalties rather than competence and commitment to unity is a threat to the nation’s democracy and progress.”
We hope the hardliners and Islamists will hearken to Atiku’s plea and allow peace to reign in our country.
We have this message for our Christian and Muslim brothers throughout Nigeria: We have over the years built Nigeria which presently is in danger of dis-integration as a country. More importantly no Christian or Muslim should allow himself to be a proxy or facilitator for agents of disintegration. Unfortunately, Nigerians are presently the most agitated humans on the planet mainly because of the unsettled nature of their daily existence occasioned by terrible occurrences caused by insurgents in our otherwise richly endowed and peaceful country. We also behave as fake as opposed to authentic people and this is the real reason why our country is lawless relying on alibi rather than facing reality because of Jihad (stealth and conventional) being inflicted on the people. Nigeria is our Home, we have no other and we all must treat our home as sweet home and not like the proverbial “coast” where we go to work to return to our home. We have to make Nigeria our sweet home.
The NCEF hopes that Muslim leaders and organizations that have stepped forward to respond to the Press Release of July 2017, like Mr. Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, Prof. M. M. Nguru, Prince Judge Abdul Jabbaar Bola Ajibola SAN, Professor Dawud Noibi, Alhaji (Dr) Sakariyu Babalola, MUSWEN, MURIC, and others, would consider these issues again. Tens of thousands of Nigerians, mostly Christians, have been murdered by religious insurgents. The murderers of 74 years old Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme in Kano were discharged and acquitted in a Kano court! According to World Watch Monitor, over 60% of global casualties as a result of religious persecution are Nigerian Christians killed in Nigeria. Muslim leaders have to do more to persuade us that JIHAD has not been launched in Nigeria. A Yoruba adage says, “We shall not accept insanity with religion”.
Since amalgamation of 1914, only feeble attempts were made to promote Nigeria from a country to a nation. The struggle for spoils of conflict – jihad – has resulted in fierce contention responsible for the present position enumerated above. To transform Nigeria from a country to a nation requires a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to enable those responsible for abusing the country have the opportunity of confessing and ask for forgiveness. The rots are too bulky to be swept under the carpet.
The NCEF joins the multitude of Nigerians calling for the Restructuring of the Nation to comply with True Fiscal Federalism. As an immediate step, the repudiation of the 1999 Constitution with its conflicting dual National ideology of Democracy and Sharia should be effected and as an immediate alternative, a return to the 1963 Republican Constitution of the founding Fathers of Nigeria. After all, the Republican Constitution of 1963 was unilaterally scrapped by the Military and not by a National Referendum. Since then, the Nation has ceased to experience qualitative progress. After years of interference by the Military within the body politic of Nigeria, it is prudent to take the Nation back to the drawing board in line with a notable proverb which says, “If going forward becomes impossible, at least you can return to where you are coming from.”
Our founding Fathers left a good foundation for us. We can return to source.
The NCEF calls to mind the spirit and letter of our Independence National Anthem wherein we as a Nation stated that, “Though tribe and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. The Independence Anthem further prayed, calling on, “God of all creation, grant this our ONE request. Help us to build a Nation where no man is oppressed … to hand on to our children a banner without stain.”
Our banner has not only been stained but seriously drenched in the blood of innocent citizens whose souls are crying out for redress. The Government owes Nigerians and God a duty to redress and atone for the blood of the innocent Nigerians that has been shed.
God bless Nigeria.