For a while now, I have followed your utterances, Prof. I have complained privately about your divisive positions and utterances on issues that I consider very unnecessary. Sometimes, I have been tempted to think that you are an attention seeker and a rabble-rouser, but why would a distinguished professor of Islamic studies seek attention? Absolutely unnecessary. But let me point out some of the utterances and positions I have found disturbing. The utterances are at the both national and Lagos State levels, but let me focus mainly on Lagos State.
You led a protest to Alausa over “lopsided” political appointments in favour of Christians by the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo- Olu. Many people know that the Lagos State Civil Service has more Muslims than Christians, but no Christian, to the best of my knowledge, has led any protest to Alausa. I heard of a Lagos State civil servant who was born into a Muslim family. At a point, he left Islam after becoming a “born again Christian.” The last time I heard about him he has gone back to Islam to “fast track” his promotion in the Lagos State Civil Service. I took the information with a pinch of salt. As far as I am concerned that is his personal decision, nothing to do with the Lagos State Civil Service. As long as they do their job well, I have no issues with Muslim or Christian civil servants.
Alhaji Lateef Jakande who served as an elected governor in 1979 and his successors following the exit of the military and the return of democratic governance, Bola Ahmed Tinubu(1999) and Mr. Raji Fashola(2007), were all Muslims. They were followed by Mr Akinwunmi Ambode and Mr Sanwo-Olu, both Christians. Jakande conceived the metro line. It was truncated by the Muhammadu Buhari military government in 1984. Since the return to democratic rule, all the civilian governors played their parts in keeping hope alive with regards to the metro rail which recently became operational in the state. Both Christians and Muslims enjoy the service. A Muslim conceived it, a Christian brought it to reality. What is good is good; it is colour blind to religion.
What I find surprising in your position and pronouncements, Prof, is that you are a Yoruba man. Yoruba land is the epitome of religious tolerance and cohabitation. A husband can be a Muslim, while the wife is a Christian. In fact, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, the wife of the President, is an ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, while Mrs. Emmanuella Fashola, is a practising Roman Catholic and a communicant. Religious tolerance made them to allow their wives practise their Christianity unhindered. That is probably why religious consideration played little role in their appointments when they were governors. The same tradition holds sway till date.
The same thing is also happening in the appointments Tinubu has made so far as president. Appointments are supposed to be based on competence and the provisions of the Constitution on geographical spread. The Nigerian Immigration Service under the former Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, was not very effective. But Nigerians are already celebrating the current minister, Olubunmi Ojo, barely three months in office. The backlog of passport booklets inherited from the previous minister has been cleared and the bottlenecks surrounding acquisition of the Nigerian passport are being dismantled. I know Aregbesola is a Muslim. I do not know the religious beliefs of the current minister and it is inconsequential. He is getting the job done. That is what matters. Nigeria is a secular country.
In the aviation sector, some anomalies, including the mysterious agreement with Ethiopian Airline are being addressed by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo. When his appointment was announced, many people received it with cynicism. Aviation is a global industry and anything global is governed by laws. And you think an SAN is a wrong fit? Time will tell. Very soon, Nigerians will see results of the revolution going on in the aviation sector. I do not Know Keyamo’s religious beliefs and they are of no consequence to me. Just get the job done.
Prof, it is common sense that makes it imperative in Nigeria to be sensitive to religion in appointments. But you cannot put it on the front burner, sir. Nigeria is in need of re-engineering for growth and competence; religious sentiments will not drive it. It is true that you argued that there are competent Muslims as there are Christians, but take religion out of it. Let competence and the constitutional requirement of geographical spread reign supreme.
Prof, in Yoruba land, where you hail from, many families cut across Christianity and Islam and traditional religion. During Muslim feasts they all converge at the homes of their Muslim family members to celebrate with them. This is reciprocated during Christian celebrations. That is one thing that has impressed me about the Yorubas. Peoples all over the world need to come and learn how people belonging to two or more religions can live harmoniously. Prof, I am shocked that you do not appreciate the importance of this virtue.
According to your website: “The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is an Islamic human rights organisation. MURIC is a pacific organization, peace-loving, law-abiding and dialogue-prone. We detest violence and we denounce terrorism. This is why our motto is: ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’.” On June 25 this year, an innocent butcher, Usman Buba, was framed for blasphemy and killed by an angry. It was later established that he was killed out of jealousy, not blasphemy. I have gone on line to see the reaction of MURIC. I did not see any as at the time of writing.
Also, Apart from the above: “MURIC intervenes in socio-economic matters affecting the lives of ordinary Nigerians. We also join anti-corruption agencies in the fight against corruption. In order to give voice to the voiceless, we condemn anti-people acts and commend chivalry in public office.” You are the founder of MURIC. Please follow what you espoused in your website
From your profile, you are a renowned Islamic scholar and professor. Please do not give people the impression that you are attention-seeking and a meddlesome interloper who cries wolf where there is none and flashes torchlight on imaginary religious schisms. Some people I spoke with already feel that way. I come in peace, Prof.
Francis Ewherido, a concerned and worried Nigerian, wrote from Lagos