By Kayode Popoola
In recent time, careful study of the turn of events in Nigeria produces a palpable fear of a grand plan orchestrated at alienating Muslims as well as attacking anything Islam and all that is Islamic. The heinous plan has become so manifest that maintaining silence is no longer feasible, for doing so will not only be callous but criminal.
Historically, Nigerian Muslims are used to persecutions and denials of their constitutional and God’s given rights for no other offence than professing their faith. Muslims have been victims of intimidations, ridicules and harassments in all spheres of life for the singular crime of exercising freedom of conscience and adhering to their belief.
The foundation which was painstakingly laid by the missionaries’ onslaughts against the Nigerian Muslims and inherited by its post-independence era are not in the least, palatable. Recent experiences have thus become more worrisome than ever as those who hitherto operated behind the scene now brazenly operate in the full glare of the public with virtually no regard for the sensibilities of the Muslims.
It is with rude shock that I watched Pastor Yemi Osinbajo (as he prefers to be called) criminalise the practice of my religion (Islam) as he frantically tried to clear his boss, General Muhammadu Buhari of the allegation of religious bigotry on an interview with Channels TV.
Osinbajo, who relishes and retains ‘pastor’ as the foremost item on his political resume found it appalling for anybody to be an ‘Islamist’ and totally out of place for an Islamist to seek an elective position in the country. A question may be asked, who is Pastor Osinbajo to classify Muslims and then go further to determine how a Muslim should go about practicing his religion.
For clarity, an Islamist is someone who practices Islam, preaches it and wants the ideals of his religion to reign in his immediate society. This is also the goal of any Christian pastor like Osinbajo and a communist ideologue like Tunde Aremu. It holds same for a democrat advocate in the US and a conservative element in the UK.
While it remains a fact that General Buhari never practiced Islam like a daiyah (a Muslim evangelist) Osinbajo has the burden of educating the world, as a Professor of Law on what is wrong in practicing Islam and being an Islamist. He should be reminded that the word ‘fundamentalist’ is of Christianity origin and has no root in Islam even as Muslims take pride in upholding the fundamentals of their religion.
Pastor Osinbajo, who could not tolerate an ‘Islamist’, surprisingly brags about pastoring 91 churches as an enviable work experience for his eligibility for the position of Vice Presidency. We pretentiously asked that religion be taken out of politics but Pastor Osinbajo found it convenient to equate a pastor to a politician and affirmed that pastorial training is a requisite for good governance.
Can he then tell us who an Islamist is? Is he the one who declares a crusade of some sort? Pastor Osinbajo imposed it on us when he declared “…as you know, I think by calling, every Christian… at least… must see himself as an important change agent in society.
The scripture says we must disciple the nation. It is important for us to disciple the nation, to take the teaching of Jesus to the nation.” May I tell him that by calling, it is also the duty and responsibility of every Muslim to lead humanity to God and virtues.
Allah says “We appointed them as leaders to guide the people through Our command and sent them revelation to strive for good deeds, worship their Lord, and pay tax to the deprived…” (Q22:73). Buttressing his conceptualisation, Osinbajo further said “…I ought to be able to say in a country of a 110 million extremely poor people; I took it upon myself to run for office to make a difference in their lives”.
The Qur’an instructs Muslims as thus: “Let there be a group among you who will invite others to do good deeds, command them to obey the law and prohibit them from committing sins. These people will have eternal happiness” (Q3:104). It is on record that Muslims have been more tolerant of their Christian counterpart in political cohabitation despite past injustices, iniquities and crucibles they experienced from the Christian missionaries.
Muslims have at no time, played a religious card in determining who governs a state or the nation in whatever form. They neither demanded for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu nor was Gov Babatunde Fashola their anointed candidate. None of them was chosen by the party on the basis of their religion just as their emergence was not influenced by agitations from their brethren from the Mosques. It was rather left to their excellent display of competencies and party machineries since good governance is basically not determined by mere religious beliefs or professions.
On the contrary, it was the church leaders that kick-started the rather dangerous precedence when they demanded that the next governor of Lagos state must be a Christian. Muslims were the first to take up Vice President Namadi Sambo when he attempted to trade religion for political gains by attacking the opposition team because Osinbajo is a Christian activist.
This kind of posture is rare among our Christian compatriots. President Jonathan, in his desperate bid for a re-election went visiting churches across the country, appealing to sympathies and whipping up sentiments; with mouth watering and almost irresistible ‘gifts’ to pastors and Churches. He visited no Mosques or notable Mallam, yet there are no comments made. We can as well assume the kind of comments that would be elicited if General Muhammadu Buhari were to have visited virtually all notable Muslim organisations and Islamic scholars in the country. Your guess is as good as mine.
Flowing from this are responses from the likes of Pastor David Oyedepo, ordering extra-judicial killings of Muslims and threatening to open the gate of hell on any of his disciples that opposes his benefactor. If we proclaim: religion is a private affair, how then do we strive frantically to Christianize the polity with no regard for adherents of other faiths.
At the beginning of every calendar year, Babatunde Fashola, a Muslim governor will not start the business of governance until and unless the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God, Pastor E.O Adeboye, has offered Christian prayer at the State Chapel. This never attracted any caution or criticism, but the same Nigerians kept mute when Pastor Tunde Bakare cautioned and objected to the prayers of the chairman of the recently concluded Confab at the start of the proceedings.
The Confab was ostensibly designed to come with generally acceptable resolutions for Nigerian, yet the population was skewed in favour of the Christians despite the numerical superiority of the Muslims. Islamophobia, as orchestrated by the West, is on the rise in Nigeria. This phenomenon is often propagated by the Church, promoted by the media and sometimes supported by government officials.
The Osun CAN perpetrated ‘Boko Haram attack’ and the mainstream media conspiracy in reporting the incident is still fresh in our memory. When Boko Haram attacked communities and set Churches ablaze, it is usual for CAN President to issue a statement: ‘It is an attack on Christianity’; but when they attacked Kano Central Mosques on a Friday and massacred over 200 worshippers, ‘it is an attack on the nation’. Nigeria’s constitution provides Sharia Court for practicing Muslims, yet Muslim population in a state like Lagos were denied of its existence without any justification.
Shari’a predated the coming of colonial crusaders and Christian missionaries that denied Islam and Muslims their pride of place in the society for decades, yet Muslims are still being accused as aggressors for daring to demand their inalienable rights. Muslim clerics are being illegally arrested and detained by security operatives without charges.
The hate speech and defamatory sermons of Pastor Bosun Emmanuel of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and a representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria at the National Confab remains in circulation without the DSS addressing her usual counter-terrorism press conference. Is it not islamophobic for the government of a highly civilised new Lagos, presided over by a Senor Advocate of Nigeria to hold that Hijab in public schools is ‘discriminatory’; as if government obligation excludes protection of “my” identity and upholding “my” constitutional right.
What a level of Islamophobia!. It should therefore be noted that Muslims are not requesting for favour(s) from anyone but their inalienable rights that are guaranteed by national and global acts and conventions.
These include the right to profess and practice their religion according to its dictates; the right not to be discriminated against in any form and in all sectors of the country on the basis of the religion they profess; and the right to adequate representation in all segments of the Nigerian State.
Unfortunately, the media role has been that of unfair accomplice and callous propagandist. They choose to regurgitate the Western media by callously attaching the prefix “Islamic” to Boko Haram terrorist group despite the fact that the group has massacred more Muslims, including influential clerics and Emirs than they did to adherents of all other faiths put together.
The media remain consistent on this despite the assertions of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the former National Security Adviser, late General Andrew Owoye Azazi, both who made it clear that President Jonathan-led PDP has been the reason for the prevalence of Boko Haram and its sustained terror.
It has also been said that the inordinate quest to remain in power has been a major reason for criminal negligence, which allowed the terror group to fester. Yes, Islam means Peace, I am an Islamist, a proudly Islamist and nobody should have problem with that. And for that reason, let no one love, hate or treat me like an alien.
Just as Pastors Tunde Bakare, Yemi Osinbajo and Chris Okotie could seek to occupy the highest office in the land with no qualms; it should not be seen as aberration if Imam Abdul Rahman Ahmad, Prof. Lakin Akintola or Imam Abdullah Shuaib make such move. Just as Rev. Jolly Nyame served as Governor of Taraba State without being rejected for being a Reverend, it should not become an issue if Imam Abdul Hakeem Abdul Lateef aspires to rule Lagos State.
If a Reverend Father or a Christian Nun seeks a political or public office with no issues raised on their apparel, why would the size of my beard, the length of my trousers or the size of my hijab becomes a barrier for showing interest in the same office. I should not expect a media campaign against me on the basis of being an Islamist. In agenda setting theory, this is purely a case of ‘stereotyping’, ‘framing’ and ‘priming’.
Journalism should be fair and responsible. No one should try to make me believe that Political Islam is a vice and promoting Christianized Polity is a virtue. Should da’wah (Islamic propagation) be regarded as terrorism and Christian evangelism be seen as a welcome development.
Irrespective of the current global challenge of terrorism, the world must accept that the religion of Islam and its practice are very fundamental to the existence of the Muslims and they will not watch idly at attempt(s) by individuals and governments to deny or make the practice of their religion difficult to practice. Unlike some other beliefs and ideologies, Islam is a way of life and cannot be confined to the Mosques.
Popoola writes from Saudi Arabia firstname.lastname@example.org