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Omo Omoruyi, An appeal to President Olusegun Obasanjo: Nigeria Neither an Islamic nor a Christian Community, in NIGERIA WORLD FEATURE (Mar.7 2001), at http://www.nigeriaworld.com

March 14, 2013 Editor Uncategorized

AN APPEAL TO (THEN) PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO: Nigeria: Neither an Islamic nor a Christian Country


Prof. Omo Omoruyi

Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Research Fellow
African Studies Center
Boston University
Boston, MA, USA

It is obvious that the pressure is too much for President Obasanjo. This is another reason why Nigerians of goodwill including, Chief Emeka, Anyaoku, Alhaji Babatunde Jose and Professor Adebayo Adedeji are calling for a National Conference to tackle the lingering political problems including the place of religion in the politics of Nigeria.

The denial of the status of Nigeria in D8 by the Federal Government forced me to write this essay. I am arguing that the recent attendance of President Matthew Obasanjo, a Christian as President of Nigeria at the D8 Summit of Islamic countries at Cairo was not an isolated incidence. It is the culmination of the creeping Islamization of Nigeria, which started in 1975 under General Murtala Muhammad.

The military leaders of Nigeria who got Nigeria into these various Islamic organizations had one thing in mind as to the qualification of Nigerian leadership. They had in mind that Muslims would permanently rule Nigeria as elected Presidents or military Heads of State. Is the emergence of ‘a Matthew’ in President Obasanjo an aberration?

There is no doubt in the minds of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) when he converted the Nigerian involvement from that of an Observer to that of a Full Member of the OIC in 1986. It was meant to stop the gimmick of that nebulous concept, ‘observer status’ and reenact the plan of General Murtala Muhammed to make Nigeria an Islamic Republic in the fashion of Libya.

It was his untimely death that interrupted the plan. Murtala’s death did not kill the plan, as his followers in the military and in civilian wings of the geo-ethno-military-clique that is the northern leadership were aware of the plan and pushed it to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

Those who sought membership for Nigeria in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and later in the D8 knew that the Presidents of Nigeria, by election or by coup or by appointment would or should always be Muslims. Is this not an issue, which Nigerians should discuss?

SHARIA EPISODE IN 1977/78

CDC PLAN A REENACTMENT OF MURTALA’S PLAN

It is part of the history of Shariazation of Nigeria that it was the Murtala’s plan for the Islamization of Nigeria, which formed the basis of the Sharia provision in the Draft Constitution.

But the determination of the members of Constituent Assembly from the Middle-belt working with the members from the Southern minorities of then Bendel, Rivers and Cross River States that successfully put a check on the planned Islamization of Nigeria after the death of General Murtala.

SOUTHERN LAWYERS UNAWARE OF THE POLITICS OF SHARIA

Nigerians of today are faced with the Sharia crisis. But they should note that for whatever reasons, Southern Lawyers failed to warn their people of the implications.

Do the southerners know that it was the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) headed by the eminent Lawyer, Chief Rotimi Williams that first translated Murtala’s plan into what appeared in the Draft Constitution?

It is a matter of record that the South had eminent lawyers in the leadership of the CDC. From the record of the CDC, how many Nigerians realize that in addition to Chief Rotimi Williams, there were Professor Ben Nwabueze, Chief Richard Akinjide and Chief Bola Ige in the CDC who are concerned about the Sharia today?

What did they have in mind when they yielded to the pressure and introduced the Sharia at the Federal level into the Draft Constitution in 1977?

PAUL UNONGO AND SOLOMON D. LAR HERO OF SECULARISM

It should be noted that it was only one CDC member, Paul Unongo from Benue who opposed the Sharia in the CDC. But he could not stop the inclusion of the Sharia provision in the Draft Constitution. Having failed at the CDC, he sought election to the Constituent Assembly from Benue along with others from the Middle-Belt on the anti-Sharia platform.

ACCORD BETWEEN MIDDLE-BELT CAUCUS AND SOUTHERN MINORITIES

How the Middle-Belt caucus under the leadership of Chief Solomon D Lar worked out a deal with the Southern minorities in the Constituent Assembly is something, which the new politicians of today should emulate. The Middle-Belt members and the members from the southern minorities in the Constituent Assembly were able to build a consensus on the Sharia, the Revenue Allocation and the Presidential System.

This is a subject of my forthcoming book, Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics. Those who are talking of accord between the Middle-Belt and the South-South would have some lessons from the past efforts in my forthcoming book.

SOVEREIGNTY NOT WITH THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

The crisis over Sharia in the Constituent Assembly was resolved in the Constituent Assembly. But because the Constituent Assembly was not sovereign, that that it did not have a final say on the decision on Sharia.

Its decision was subject to the overriding approval of the Supreme Military Council, hence the Sharia provision in the final Constitution was fundamentally amended by the Supreme Military Council under the chairmanship of General Obasanjo as Alhaji Maitama Sule recently told Nigeria.

This is why advocates of the Sovereign National Conference are agitating for some understanding that no one would tamper with any decision arrived at by a National Conference or an Assembly of Nigerian peoples and their leaders if it meets for the purpose of resolving the lingering political problems afflicting this country.

SUPREME MILITARY COUNCIL UNDER OBASANJO WAS SPLIT

It is part of the history of Nigeria, that General Olusegun Obasanjo, as the successor of General Murtala had problems with pushing through, the Islamization Plan of Murtala.

The believers in Murtala’s Islamization Plan in the Supreme Military Council, Shehu Yar’Adua, Babangida and Buhari were not powerful enough to push the plan through.

They had problems with the avid defenders of the secularism in the Supreme Military Council led by the Service Chiefs {General TY Danjunma (Army), Commodore Isa Doko (Airforce) and Rear Admiral Adelanwa (Navy)}.

Tinkling with what the Constituent Assembly approved was what General Obasanjo’s regime could do and it did precisely that.

TY DANJUMA LONE COORDINATOR AGAINST SHARIA OF CDC

Why and how some of us in the Constituent Assembly were able to withstand the pressure of the pro-Sharia in the military has not been told. It is part of the history of Sharia episode in the Constituent Assembly that General TY Danjuma held a meeting with some of us from the Constituent Assembly to plead with us to stay on course.

He was particularly worried that some of the Igbo members who originally supported the motion ably and successfully moved by Dr. Mudiaga Odje for the deletion of the Sharia provision in the Constitution were wavering.

The Igbo members were worried after some northern members walked out of the Assembly. Why were some of the Igbo members wavering?

DILEMMA FACING IGBO MEMBERS IN THE ASSEMBLY

The Igbo members came to the Constituent Assembly with two conflicting mandates. One was from the religious leaders that they should do everything to stop the Islamization of Nigeria by supporting the deletion of the Sharia provision in the Constitution.

The other was from the political leaders of thought, which mandated the members from the Igbo land to the Constituent Assembly to do everything to work with the Hausa/Fulani in the tradition of the old NPC and NCNC alliance in post-Independence Nigeria (1960-66).

How the various Igbo political leaders coped with this dilemma during and after the Constituent Assembly will be discussed in my forthcoming book. The Igbo leaders are still facing this dilemma today. To the Igbo leaders there can be compartmentalization; to the northern leaders they are joined and inseparable.

GENERAL DANJUMA RESOLVED THE DILEMMA FACING IGBO

It was General TY Danjuma who pleaded with the Igbo members of the Constituent Assembly not to yield to the pressure orchestrated by General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. He assured them that nothing would happen to them if they stayed the course.

It was part of the scare tactics then mounted on the Igbo members of the Constituent Assembly that a second war was in the offing if they the Igbo leaders would not cooperate with the northern l4aders on the Sharia issue.

The Igbo leaders were told that the losers would not be the Yorubas or the Southern minorities and that the winners in another war would certainly be the Yorubas and the southern minorities.

This was very dangerous campaign in addition of some financial and office consideration. This was hard for the Igbo leaders to comprehend as the Igbo people were still battling the aftermath of the Civil War.

This was why the meeting arranged by Paul Unongo with General Danjuma was hurriedly meant to reassure the Igbo members of the Constituent Assembly to discount the pressure and veiled threat from General Yar’Adua. What was the position of the then Head of State, General Obasanjo?

GENERAL OBASANJO SUPPORTED THE CDC POSITION

General Obasanjo then did not see anything wrong with the provision as propounded by the Pro-Sharia zealots. He did not see anything wrong with having the Sharia Court up to the highest level of the federal judiciary with a Grand Mufti as the head of the Federal Supreme Sharia Court.

He was not opposed to the plan to have parity between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Grand Mufti of the Supreme Sharia Court.

IMPLICATION OF PARITY BETWEEN GRAND MUFTI AND CJ

For the interest of those who did not know of what I am talking about, under the provision in the Draft Constitution, the Grand Mufti was to have the same power like the Chief Justice of the Federation to swear in the President, Commander in Chief.

Of course, the protagonists of the plan knew that the President would always be a Muslim. When some of us fought to delete the provision from the Draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly in 1978, we knew that we were only postponing the evil day.

I say this because the plan of the government of General Obasanjo was in violation of the decision of the Constituent Assembly. It was obvious to us then that the successor regime to the military whether civilian or military would whittle down the gains we made in the Constituent Assembly.

PRESIDENT SHAGARI AND ISLAMIZATION

President Shehu Shagari was a major exponent of federalizing the Sharia in the Constituent Assembly. When Alhaji Shagari became the President in 1978, the dynamics of the civilian politics did not make it possible for the new civilian to push for a full scale Islamization of the country between 1979 and 1983.

BUHARI AND ISLAMIZATION

General Muhammadu Buhari was one of the disciples of General Murtala. From what he did recently it is obvious that he is a strong believer in the political Sharia.

But his regime (1983-1985) was too short to know what he too would have done with Islamization of the country, if he were to spend a longer period as the military Head of State.

BABANGIDA AND ISLAMIZATION

ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC)

But the period of General Babangida (1985-1993) represented the beginning of unmitigated Islamization of Nigeria. General Babangida was one of the loyal followers of General Murtala.

This was why General Babangida took the fateful decision in 1986 to face the Nigerian Christians in particular and Nigerians in general with the plan of Muslims. He without the approval of the governing organs of the Federal Military Government organized a mission led by a non-member of the Government, the Sultan of Sokoto to formally admit Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

When the Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ubitu Ukiwe complained that he knew nothing about it and definitely said that he could not remember the matter coming to the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), he was shown his way out.

The Christians took it. The Christian leaders bought the plan of the Military President to keep them talking under the auspices of a 20-man panel to ‘examine the implications of the country’s full membership of the organization’. This was a diversion and the Christians were victims. This was not all.

ADVISORY COUNCIL ON IRELIGIOUS AFFAIRS

Later President Babangida set up an Advisory Council on Religious Affairs. The Council as the name implied was advisory. One was not surprised that this Council was not privy to General Babangida’s decision to take Nigeria further down the road of Islamization.

SHAREHOLDER OF ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK

General Babangida unilaterally made Nigeria a Shareholder of the Islamic Development Bank in January 1988. Nigeria at the time of becoming a Shareholder held 0.32% shares. Nigeria is still a Shareholder of this Bank today.

RELIGIOUS CLEANSING OF REGIME

Nigeria would recall the hue and cry over the religious cleansing of the military regime in December 20, 1989 of Christian officers. How many Nigerians still recall how the commanding heights of the IBB regime were Islamized? This was by far the most far-reaching change under the IBB administration, which had five main implications.

That it reenacted the regional dominance of the country;

That it reenacted the Muslim religious dominance of Nigeria;

That it dislodged the Langtang Mafia with the humiliation of General Bali out of office and the removal of General Dongoyaro from command and influence;

That it empowered General Abacha by making him the Chief of Defense Staff, a more enhanced position than the one held by General Bali who was just Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff.

CHRISTIAN LEADERS’VIEWS OF IBB

Despite the protest of many Christian organizations, I was not surprised that just the way he treated Christians during the OIC protest, IBB ignored the prelate who carried placards with the following inscriptions:

Forceful Islamization Impossible; Christians Have no Confidence in IBB and His Administration; No Arab Colonization; Maradona, Enough of Your Hypocrisy. (See African Concord of January 22, 1990).

If the foregoing are no attributes of an Islamic Country, I do not know what is an Islamic Country.

ABACHA AND ISLAMIZATION OF NIGERIA.

PARTICIPATION IN OIC AFFAIRS OPENLY

That Nigeria is a full member of the OIC was no longer in dispute as Nigerian Islamic leaders were freely and openly participating in all the activities of the organisation.

The Nigerian Christians and their leaders resigned themselves to that fact with the Sultan of Sokoto flying in and out of one OIC affair or the other in different parts of the Islamic world.

MEMBERSHIP OF D8

General Abacha took another fateful step when he got Nigeria into the D8, an organization of eight Islamic countries in 1997.

The eight countries are
Egypt,
Malaysia,
Indonesia,
Iran,
Nigeria,
Turkey,
Pakistan, and
Bangladesh.

OBASANJO AND ISLAMIZATION

SHARIA, A POLITICAL FACT.

Under President Obasanjo, the Shariasation of the northern part of Nigeria, which commenced in one location in Gusau in Zamfara State, is now an established practice in most of the states in the north.

SUMMITRY OF D8

Under President Obasanjo Nigeria openly participated at the
President’s level in the activities of the D8 with the attendance of the President Olusegun Obasanjo at 3rd Summit of D8 in Egypt on February 24, 2001. One should ask some questions for the President of Nigeria to answer.

What was going through President Obasanjo’s mind when he took off for Cairo that day?

Where did President Obasanjo tell Nigerians he was going when he took off for Cairo?

How comfortable was President Obasanjo when the other Islamic leaders surrounded him from Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia?

Did President Obasanjo, a born again Christian see himself as one of the Islamic leaders?

Did President Obasanjo see Nigeria as an Islamic country to qualify to be a member?

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS WAS WRONG

Why should the Federal Government issue a statement credited to the Foreign Minister, Alhaji Sule Lamido, that D8 is not an Islamic organization and that Nigeria’s participation does not mean that Nigeria is an Islamic country.

Haba!, Comrade Sule, why should you engage in disputing what is so obvious internationally? As a Foreign Minister, you should be aware of what is known internationally.

If Alhaji Sule Lamido is not aware, he should read the news reports in the international media since the inauguration of the D8 through the successive Summits.

He would come to one conclusion that the D8 is an organization of Islamic Countries and that membership of the organization defined by Islam.

D8 IS AN ISLAMIC ORGANIZATION

May I appeal to Alhaji Lamido to stop deceiving or confusing the Nigerian people. Does the Minister know that the CNN World news had this headline: ‘Islamic Leaders Debate Responses to Globalization’?

This news was web posted at 10:47 am on February 25, 2001. Does the Minister think that these international media are ignorant of the developments in the world, as the Minister would want us believe?

D8 IRRELEVANT TO PROBLEMS OF DEBT RELIEF

I do not want to discuss the merit of using this forum to attack the problems of globalization. Nigeria was in the wrong place if debt crisis is her problem.

I do not want to discuss the lack of commonality among the countries except that they are all supposed to be Muslim Countries run supposedly by Islamic leaders.

Nigerians were right in asking if Nigeria is a Muslim country and if President Obasanjo is an Islamic leader?

CREDIBILITY OF MINISTER AN ISSUE

May I with humility call on my former comrade in progressive movement in Nigeria, Alhaji Lamido to perform two tasks in the interest of his credibility as a Foreign Minister of Nigeria.

He should search for more news items on the Web on the D8 since 1997; He should let Nigerians know what he found out.

OBASANJO, AN ISLAMIC LEADER OF AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY?

As a loyal Nigerian, may I let the Hon. Minister know what I found out from my exercise. I found out three things.

That the D8 is made up of Islamic Countries;

That Nigeria’s membership is derived from the fact the military leader who took Nigeria to D8 knew that Nigeria is an Islamic country; and

That the attendance of President Obasanjo at the last meeting confers on him the envious title of an Islamic leader.

CONCLUSION: A NATIONAL CONFERENCE

Finally, granted that General Olusegun Obasanjo had no alternative than to follow the footstep of General Murtala his former boss who was assassinated on February 13, 1976 in supporting the Murtala’s Shariasation of Nigeria in 1977/78.

But President Obasanjo has no reason whatsoever to follow the footsteps of Generals Babangida and Abacha in turning Nigeria into an Islamic State by becoming an Islamic leader in the process.

A Summit of Islamic leaders, which General Abacha could not attend even though he got Nigeria into it was graced by President Obasanjo!

It is obvious that the pressure is too much for President Obasanjo. This is another reason why Nigerians of goodwill including, Chief Emeka, Anyaoku, Alhaji Babatunde Jose and Professor Adebayo Adedeji are calling for a National Conference to tackle the lingering political problems including the place of religion in the politics of Nigeria.

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