Our attention has been drawn to the Punch editorial of Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, which canvassed for the exit of Nigeria from the D-8, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and other similar organizations. We see this call especially by a medium that has some influence on opinion moderation in the Nigerian space as rather biased and misguided, even as the editorial attempts to hide its sentiments within a rather thin cocoon of secularism.
The Punch editorial came in the wake of the President’s return from Turkey where Muhammadu Buhari attended the D-8 meeting in Istanbul. Before that, however, there has been some dust raised over what organization(s) the country should maintain or quit following the revelation by the Minister of Finance that Nigeria belonged to organizations that bring no benefit, but indebtedness in the form of dues.
Typically and upon this announcement, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a group of political jobbers who hide under the garb of religion to curry personal and group favour from government went on air specifically trying to tell the government what organisation(s) it must exist. But because its intervention in the public space in recent times has rather been illogical and divisive, no one (and I think the body also realised this) listened to that bigoted appeal.
When that line of pursuit failed to resonate with anybody, the media arm of the neo-evangelical project in Nigeria was brought in, and this is where The Punch betrayed its ‘imperialist-friendly, Christo-Colonial’ orientation. A read-through of the editorial showed that it’s only reason for demanding the exit of Nigeria from the D-8 and other organizations it termed as ‘exclusive’ Muslim clubs was premised on its myopic rendering of membership of such organization to mean the promotion of a particular religion.
From thence flowed its erroneous corollary that Nigeria’s membership of the D-8 was an exercise in constitutional breach which the editorial claims runs counter to the spirit of Section 10 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution usually misinterpreted as meaning that no religion must be allowed a space to flourish
But how does belonging to an economic association like the D-8 whose overriding goals as Punch itself learnt was to among others, improve member countries’ position in world economy; diversify and create new opportunities in trade relations; enhance participation in decision-making capacities of the members at international levels and provide better standards of living for their people, become a promotion of any religion?
Should developmental initiatives be jettisoned because of the creed of its initiators? Have we not patronized enough the developmental prescriptions and paradigms of bodies whose initiators and founders were decidedly pro-Christian, even without any headway? And if a ‘religion’ should seek the aforementioned goals, shouldn’t that be the ‘religion’ of everyone?
Perhaps Punch would need some lessons in economic history to appreciate the need for an organization such as the D-8. Economies and the global economy, in particular, have a history. The last five hundred years of European outward expansion and colonialism was a Western Christendom enterprise that had Muslim lands as major victims – from the Muslim petty states in Spain, the Ottoman caliphate in East Europe, the Muslims in West Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Malay Basin.
Anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles were couched in those realities, even as Western Christendom devices new instruments and strategies to refine and sustain the template of its domination over these lands.
This has been the context within which phenomena such as neo-colonialism, globalisation, the formation of dominant international organisations like the IMF, the World Bank and other skewed multilateral arrangements where Western Christendom appropriated such powers as the ‘right’ to give directions to other nations in the global political economy have their meanings.
It is also in the context of these persistent economic struggles globally among developing nations that the D-8 emerged as another alternative. In this vein, it is rather curious that the editorial failed to grasp the reality that ‘economic solutions’ no longer reside in the territory of any particular nation and that the ingenuity of man especially in our age has been to think out of the box –out of the pedagogy often prescribed by the oppressors- for emancipation.
Today, nations rise and become strong economically and otherwise owing to taking whatever benefits them from wherever available and rejecting harmful prescriptions irrespective of creed or ideology. What the D-8 seeks to address are perennial human problems of poverty and underdevelopment, the solution of which has eluded some of its members for long owing to the absence of alternative platforms such as it represents.
For donkey years African, the Caribbean, Latin American and such other countries referred to as Third World has been under the economic and political tutelage of the West; waited in vain for ‘technology transfer’; and even had to cut their feet repeatedly to fit into the shoes of economic prescriptions handed down to them, yet like a mirage development continue to elude them with tragic socio-economic consequences.
Punch ought to know that development has a cultural side. The rise of the Asian Tigers was a celebration of the rise of the Sinic (Chinese) people and their culture. That they were able to replicate that economic success amongst themselves was not unconnected with their close cultural affinities.
There is no doubt that cultural and religious affinity plays a critical role in development among some nations of the world, with history standing at a critical juncture in such relationship. Today Australia and New Zealand are in all sense ‘Western’ nations even though they are located in a far-away continent.
Their developments were not by accident but rather a deliberate transmission of knowledge and know-how owing to belonging to the same creed and sharing the same cultural and religious creed as Western Christendom. To be precise, the D-8 is a cultural and economic vision of what used to be when the lands of its member countries flourished through cultural, religious and economic exchanges before the advent of the shattering impacts of European outward expansion and subsequent colonialism.
Today, Nigeria’s membership of the Commonwealth of Nations – an association of former colonies of the British Empire – whose head is the British monarch poses no problem to Punch even though the same monarch doubles as the head of the Church of England. Perhaps it would be nice to see Nigeria first exit that organisation because it is not only a Christian domination; it is also a vestige of the colonial-imperialist past which we curiously celebrate.
More curious is the fact that the British Monarch combines the head of state (a political office) with the head of the Church (a religious office), and also heads the Commonwealth (an international multilateral organisation) all to the glory of Christendom!
Where is the secularism that Punch et al have always wanted to ram down our throats? A bilateral relation with Britain rather than a ‘commonwealth’ association should have sufficed if Punch’s line of argument on the D-8 were to be followed
The truth is that in the long march of European colonial imperialism, Christianity has always been carried along as both an instrument and an accomplice with space usually carved out for it to practice her own domination. This makes it possible for the likes of the CAN and other neo-evangelical travellers to invoke secularism as a desideratum because a large swathe of Christian values is accommodated underneath it.
While Punch wanted an exit from the D-8 and disdainfully looked down upon the organization, it painted a picture of countries Nigeria should ‘associate’ with and copy from – the so-called free, democratic and secular countries – which any intelligent analysis will reveal is hard to come by in the strict sense prescribed by Punch.
Is it the United States which inscribed ‘God’ in its constitution that is secular or Israel which is Judeo-Zionist, Buddhist India or Britain that we have just explained above? Besides, most of these countries have practices that promote and affirm their religious and cultural heritage within and beyond their borders backed by their governments. A case in point is the National Prayer Breakfast; a yearly program hosted by the US Congress and organized on its behalf by The Fellowship Foundation which a Christian organization.
And talking about being democratic, if Egypt failed to make it to the list of countries with press freedom, was it not America and its Western allies who backed the dictator El Sisi to truncate the democratic experiment in that country when thousands of protesters were murdered and journalists in their hundreds hounded into prisons? The military institution in Egypt is armed to the teeth by the West to ‘kill’ democracy and crush any advocate of same; while it gets an annual ‘reward’ of over $1.5 billion in return.
France instigated a truncation of the democratic experiment in Algeria which has since left that country in crisis. A similar attempt to truncate a free democratic experiment in Turkey was attempted in 2016 with proofs of backing from Western nations, even as America continues to shield the alleged mastermind of the coup from prosecution! So where is the democracy which The Punch talks about?
As for press freedom, America has consistently prevented Al Jazeera from operating on its territory; it bombed the office of the news house in Kabul 2001and in Baghdad 2003; why that if indeed America believes in press freedom? Why is Israel looking for all means to have Al Jazeera proscribed even in the Middle East?
One would have expected that a paper of Punch status ought to appreciate the complexity of such concepts as freedom and democracy in our age and do a more nuanced study to reveal their plights especially in the hands of global power centres and the devastations brought upon mankind by their selective application
In the final analysis, CAN as a body has been in the business of efforts to obliterate Islam in Nigeria despite historical landmarks and contemporaneous realities that point to Nigeria’s Islamic-ness. Beginning from the 80s CAN oppose Nigeria’s membership of the OIC.
While Reinhardt Bonke was repeatedly brought to Nigeria for evangelism and crusades with the battle cry ‘Christ for all by the year 2000’, CAN’s wolf-cries ensured that Ahmed Deedat’s dream of coming to Nigeria died with him. Whether this obsession with anything Islam flows from its own conviction or it is urged on by external agents who would rather see Nigeria embroiled in a Lebanon-type conflict remains something for further study.
The reality is that Nigeria has multiple heritage and legacies, all of which can be employed for the betterment of its citizens without efforts to decree one out of existence.
It is most disappointing for Punch to toe the line of the narrative of those whose penchant for using religion to promote discord and disaffection is not only known but also legendary. Editorials should be objective enough not to join the fray nor lend itself as a tool for divisive narratives. Punch must, therefore, have a rethink on that editorial
By Comrade Yekinni Shakiru A., Executive Director, Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI)