The TMC Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy and Politics, a body set up by The Muslim Congress (TMC) to watch, deliberate and offer suggestions on development in key sectors of Nigeria’s national development with a view to contributing to nation-building, last Saturday came up with its latest quarterly series of its STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS. It was the 11th series since debut in 2015.
For the record, we present here, with some video clips, the full text of the address, presented by the Amir (President) of TMC, Dr Luqman AbdurRaheem, who doubles as the committee Chairman.
- CONDEMNABLE KILLINGS ON THE PLATEAU
The killings on the Plateau are dastardly, inhuman and barbaric. It simply shows the extent that the human soul can degenerate if left unchecked. But the government will have to check these killings by arresting and trying the masterminds no matter how highly placed they may be. Indications reveal that these killings are not spontaneous but rather well-planned and well-executed with the use of sophisticated firearms definitely imported into the country.
The security agencies have many leads that they have to follow in their investigations including the disturbing revelation by Hon. Ahmed Maje about the missing arms-laden containers traced to the house of a politician in Plateau State. There are many angles to the herdsmen/farmers clashes. One has to do with criminal elements amongst the herdsmen who believe that their cattle have the right to feed on farms cultivated by farmers. Second is the issue of marauding militiamen who, in the guise of protecting their territory, resort to killings and arson against people who are regarded as settlers.
The third is the issue of cattle rustlers who go about maiming and killing herdsmen so they can steal their cattle. Whatever the motive for the crime, the security agencies must ensure that criminals are justly punished by the courts. But the most important factor in the peace construct of our nation remains the people themselves. Once we are determined to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours, we will be able to shun the antics of politicians and other criminals who instigate violence for economic and/or political gain.
- BUDGET ALTERATIONS: THE NEED FOR THE NASS TO ACT WITH CAUTION
The legislature stands to be blamed for major alterations to critical projects in the 2018 budget. These critical projects are meant to alleviate the sufferings of the people and also reduce the mortality amongst the populace. The reduction in allocation to critical infrastructure is therefore not in the national interest.
The National Assembly, by its repeated major alterations before passing the budget, is competing with the Executive in budget formulation. The National Assembly cut the national budget by a whopping N347 billion from 4,700 projects while at the same time introducing its own 6,403 projects at a cost of N578 billion. The budget of N8.61 trillion that was presented to the National Assembly in October 2017 has increased to N9.12 trillion on its passage in May, seven months after.
Some of the projects that received cuts in allocation included the Mambilla Power Plant Project, the Second Niger Bridge, the East-West Road, the Bonny-Bodo Road, the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway and the Itakpe/Ajaokuta Rail Project. In contrast with reductions in public infrastructure is the unilateral increase in the budget of the National Assembly from N125.0 billion to N139.5 billion.
This is coming at a time when there is a general outcry that the National Assembly alone is consuming a disproportionate amount of the national budget. Since the budget formulation is the preserve of the executive, major changes especially regarding the reduction of allocation to critical infrastructure projects and the inclusion of new projects originating from the National Assembly ought to be in consultation with an agreement by the executive. The National Assembly really needs to mind its business and stop meddling in matters that do not constitute the core of its functions.
- THE KILLINGS IN OFFA BY DEADLY ARMED ROBBERS
The Offa robbery attack on banks in the area was one act of violence that got many people disturbed. It led to the deaths of about 20 people with so many injured. Reports revealed that the gang had an elaborate plan before the attack had been on surveillance missions in the area three times before the attack. This is where the intelligence gathering capability of the Police becomes critical in curtailing violence before it happens.
Though the Police need to be commended for the way it quickly rounded up the members of the gang after the act, it would have been better than the robbery did not take place at all. The Police will need to step up its intelligence-gathering activities so as to prevent the needless murders of innocent souls. The Police also needs to show that its crime-busting capability is not limited to the special teams under the Inspector-General.
There is the need to ensure that this capacity or something similar is available at the numerous police stations in the locality so that security of lives and properties are better guaranteed. For this to happen, the Police needs to be better funded so that modern training and equipment can be made available to its officers and men. Adequate care and due diligence must be exercised in ensuring that the evidence against these criminals is such that can lead to their conviction by the judges at the courts.
- THE YEAR BEFORE THE 2019 ELECTIONS
When the general election approaches in Nigeria, there is always heightened tension in the politics and economy of the country with palpable fear for the security of lives and properties. This is due to the contestation for power amongst political parties, economic groups, ethnic nationalities and religious organisations. Each contending party tries to manipulate circumstances in its favour without any consideration for morality, justice or the national interest.
The government has the onerous responsibility of managing these circumstances in such a way that the country does not descend into anarchy. The government must, therefore, ensure adequate protection of lives and property and conduct free, fair and credible elections especially in the gubernatorial election taking place in Ekiti today and the one slated for Osun State on September 22 later in the year. The government has been proactive by putting 30,000 policemen on duty in Ekiti to forestall rigging and violence.
It is also gratifying that the INEC has reiterated its commitment to the principles of free, fair and credible elections. The security agencies, politicians and the youth must conduct themselves honourably. Electioneering should not be a do-or-die affair if indeed the purpose is to render service to the people. Elections should not widen the ethnic and religious cleavages that already exist among the people. Nigerians should seek to recreate the kind of atmosphere that enabled the ideals of the 1993 elections when the people sought unity in diversity.
- YCE AND THE AFENIFERE CANNOT SPEAK FOR THE YORUBA NATION
The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and the Afenifere cannot and do not speak for the entirety of the Yoruba nation any time that they speak. This is especially so because Muslims are not represented in the decision-making bodies or executive levels of these groups. Once Muslims who constitute the larger percentage of the Yoruba nation are not represented and are not consulted before these groups come up with their proclamations, it stands to reason that they do not and cannot represent the mainstream of the Yoruba nation.
For any group to represent an ethnic nationality, it simply means that it actively seeks the broad spectrum of views and opinions of its members, carries everybody along and works for the actualisation of their common aspirations. Rather, these groups act and talk as if they represent only the Christians among the Yoruba nation. It is also the reason that most Muslims are not comfortable with the many pronouncements of these groups on salient national socio-political and economic issues.
The Muslim Congress (TMC), just like MUSWEN (Muslim Ummah of SouthWest Nigeria), makes bold to say that the YCE and Afenifere that are supposedly pan-Yoruba socio-political groups hide under the guise of ethnicity to pursue their narrow Christian, political and economic agenda. Let these groups stop parading themselves as representatives of the Yoruba nation until they are able to put their house in order by practising proper internal democracy and ensuring that their views and aspirations are that of its constituents rather than that of a cabal amongst them. Then, and only then, can they claim to truly represent the entirety of the Yoruba Nation?
- WHO FUNDS THE STATE POLICE?
Granted that the numerous killings in the country have exposed the underbelly of our security architecture, the recourse to State Police that is being touted needs to be done with caution. For all the merits that the State Police may have, it is going to be bedevilled with the challenge of funding since a large number of states are already unable to pay the salaries of civil servants within their care.
It will be a danger and a security threat to the people to have a Police Force that is owed salaries for years. It will result in a lawless and undisciplined police who will exact their pound of flesh from the ordinary citizens. A case in point is the recent protest by policemen in Borno State over unpaid allowances that have accumulated over a period of six months.
If such a situation can occur under the Federal Government, what would then happen when their care and welfare are transferred to the states? It will, therefore, be better and more sensible for the Police to continue to be under the Federal system till such a time that the states have grown and become capable of footing the bills.
- CAN AND ITS DANGEROUS RELIGIOUS POLITICS
The leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) need to be warned about the danger of playing religious politics. Religious leaders should not be the ones to approach every political, social and economic issue from the viewpoint of religious partisanship. This is what CAN is guilty of doing too many times. There is no point putting the people in frenzy through misinformation, half-truths or outright lies because of cheap political gains that are desired.
The CAN should, therefore, desist from opposing the religious freedoms of Muslims especially as it relates to preventing Muslim women from enjoying the right to use their head cover, the hijab. The leaders of the CAN should also desist from antagonising Muslim leaders and politicians simply because of the difference in religious affiliation. The numerous and repeated actions of the CAN have shown that it is manipulating its followers to vote only on the basis of religious consideration. This manipulation by CAN is a danger to the polity and our fragile democracy.
Let the CAN take note that the country is not populated by Christians alone but also by Muslims, traditional religious worshippers and people of other faiths with each having rights enshrined in the constitution. It is not in the interest of CAN, or anybody for that matter, to promote hatred and division among the people. It is only in a condition of peace and harmony that every individual irrespective of religious affiliation can blossom.
Let CAN be warned that beating the drums of hatred and war are ill winds that do not do anybody any good. We would rather enjoin the CAN to live up to its responsibility as a stabilizer in the socio-economic and political firmaments of the country. They should endeavour to promote peace and harmony and eschew hatred, rumour-mongering and divisionism.
- THE LAGOS TANKER EXPLOSION
We sincerely commiserate with the people of Lagos State, and the entire nation, on the unfortunate and saddening incidence of the tanker explosion at the Otedola Bridge end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. We pray that Allah will give the families of the deceased the fortitude to bear the losses. But we must all learn from the many mistakes that resulted in the unfortunate incident.
Let us learn to keep our vehicles in the proper working condition before hitting the roads. Let us treat emergency situations exactly as what they are – emergency situations! We should not seek to protect our properties at the expense of our lives. We should exercise patience while using the roads and not be so impatient as to ignore warnings in situations that are dangerous to our well-being.
The road safety agencies and the state government should do more in regulating the roads for better protection of lives and properties. The Lagos State government needs to be commended for the state of preparedness of its emergency services even though much remains to be done.
- MATTERS ARISING IN THE FIRDAUSA AMASA AND LAW SCHOOL SAGA
The onslaught on the hijab, a Muslim woman’s head covering, has continued relentlessly despite court judgements that are in favour of the Muslim woman adorning her hijab and as guaranteed by the constitution. It was no less surprising that the practitioners of the legal profession will try to curtail the freedom of a Muslim woman, Firdausa Amasa, by preventing her from been called to bar simply because she chose to adorn a cape hijab at the venue of the call to the bar.
A simple matter of adorning the hijab was allowed to degenerate to a situation where Firdausa Amasa was prevented from being called to bar at the appropriate time. We are happy that justice has been allowed to run its course as the same Firdausa Amasa was called to bar on July 10 wearing the same cape hijab that had been earlier rejected. We thank Firdausa Amasa for standing her ground and being a role model for Muslim women everywhere.
We also commend the Body of Benchers and the Law School for their courage and maturity in reversing themselves and upholding justice for Firdausa Amasa and other Muslim women who would like to adorn the hijab when they are called to bar.
We appreciate the mature and disciplined manner with which Muslims responded to the issue without any form of violence whatsoever. It is certain that the recourse to the rule of law is the armour that we have to protect our society from anarchy and violence.
- COMMENDATIONS FOR PRESIDENT BUHARI ON THE RECOGNITION OF JUNE 12
We commend the President Buhari for his demonstration of monumental courage, vision and respect for the wishes of the Nigerian people by recognising June 12, that has turned out to be the finest moment of our democracy, and according well-deserved honours to the key actors. The fact that the government honoured the late MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election and also conferred on him the award of the GCFR was indeed a welcome feat.
Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate during the election, and Gani Fawehinmi, one of Nigeria’s foremost human rights activists have also conferred the award of GCON. President Buhari made the vast majority of Nigerians happy by the tremendous courage he exhibited in righting the injustice that was done to the Abiola family, pro-democracy activists, students and the ordinary Nigerian people.
The apology by the President indeed resonated with and touched the hearts of millions of Nigerians. We thank the sons and daughters of the Abiola family for their fortitude in bearing the great sacrifice made by MKO Abiola in further entrenching the right to vote and be voted for and for opening a new chapter of a democratic renaissance for the nation.