Coalition Of Islamic Countries’ Membership May Hurt Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Coalition Of Islamic Countries’ Membership May Hurt Nigeria

Posted: Apr 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos

Amidst worries of the recent announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigeria has joined the Coalition of Islamic Countries Against Terror, stakeholders have expressed fears that the membership of the coalition may hurt the country economically and security wise.
Stakeholders who spoke to Independent say the tension generated so far on the issue may be real, that the action portends great danger to the country and its citizens. They aver that though Buhari’s action may garner some gains for the nation, especially in the area of sourcing for military hardware and arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram in particular and terror in general, can also lead to arms attacks and increase in suicide bombings by foreign terror groups from the Middle East.
Buhari, after a visit to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries, was quoted as saying Nigeria has joined the Coalition of Islamic Countries Against Terror in order to garner support for its fight against Boko Haram, a terror organisation, which claims it is operating under the tenets Islam.
Several Nigerians, including Ayodele Fayose and some Christian organisations, have responded to the development, raising the alarm that the president, by allowing the country into a religious group, has plans to Islamise the nation, an allegation which has since been denied by the Presidency.
Others also expressed the fear that associating with the coalition may attract the wrath of ISIS against the country since the terror group targets countries in the coalition.
To this end, they fear that if Nigeria continues to be member of the organisation, the nation’s oil installations, stadia, major markets and institutions could become targets of terror attacks, while many could be kidnapped and killed in the style of this terror group ISIS and other such organisations in the Middle East.
Nigerian youths, it is feared, could also be easy prey for the terror groups, as many of them who are now unemployed and angry with the way they have been neglected by the government, could be engaged to cause trouble in the country in line with the dictum that says  “an idle hand is a devil’s workshop”.
Dennis Adikwuru, former Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Gov Rochas Okorocha and now a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, said that since Boko Haram is Islamic, it would be wise that the country joins a coalition that is Islamic.
Adikwuru told Independent that if ISIS is really an embodiment of terrorism, then Nigeria is a potential target of the group and the earlier it joins the coalition against ISIS the better.
He stressed: “The truth is that there should be a proactive approach to global terrorism and whether you like it or not, every terror group is an enemy and should be fought from far and near.”
According to him: “I do not see anything wrong in joining the coalition if and only if it will achieve the goal of bringing an end to terrorism. You cannot expect the country to form a coalition of Christian countries to tackle an Islamic based terrorism.
“Talking about the risk, I can only see the risk revolving on the country losing its secular status in the contemplation of classifying Nigeria as an Islamic nation and this is not possible.
“A constitutional and highly sensitive issue like religion is not made by an individual or group other than through democratic processes.
“So, as far as I am concerned, there is no risk involved. International diplomacy is being deployed here and since Nigeria and of course no single nation has successfully brought terrorism to its knees, the need for the coalition is imperative and expedient.”
Barrister Emeka Iheonu, a Lagos lawyer and member of International Bar Association (IBA), wondered what the Islamic countries involved in the coalition gained from being members of the coalition and if doing so has really stamped out terrorism from among them.
He stated: “Nigeria stands to gain nothing by joining. The situation would still be the same as the country has always been. Most Islamic countries are experiencing terrorist activities every other week despite the existence of such a body. Nigeria does not even qualify to join because is a poly-religious country and not a mono-religious one.”
On the risk of joining the coalition, Iheonu said he foresaw the danger of one religion trying to lord itself over other religions merely because Nigeria has joined the said coalition. He also saw the risk of Nigeria becoming a target of terrorist groups for supporting a fight against their group, even as he warned that suicide bombings and other forms of attack would triple.
On the proper way to join such a body, Iheonu explained: “A referendum ought to be conducted among Nigerians and the majority decision would carry the day. We need not queue online to vote. We can do it online or members of National Assembly and State Assemblies should go to their constituencies and conduct the polls themselves and submit results for Nigerians to see.”
Barrister Nkechi Chukwueke, former Special Assistant to ex-Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Women, Ethnic Groups Mobilisation and Empowerment and an All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain maintained that Nigeria has been seeking support from other nations in the fight against Boko Haram.
“The only thing is that they (the coalition) are Muslims. But they are human beings. They have been experiencing terror. The only thing is that we want a solution to the mess we found ourselves. Terrorism has come and it is about to stay. If there is anyone who can help, we need him or her. We need them in terms of intelligence. We need them in terms of equipment. I don’t want to attach sentiments into it,” she added.
On the likely attack of Nigeria by ISIS, Chukwueke stressed that life is all about risks and that one uses a scale to judge what favours one, adding that “Once you have made your choice, you leave your fate to God and allow nature to take its course. If we are ore at advantage joining this group to fight and eradicate terror, it is a welcome idea.
“Nigeria has tried many things to get support. If this does not work out well, we can back out. The ISIS has not warned Nigeria yet of any consequences of joining the coalition. President Buhari is an ex-military officer and a Muslim. I do not think he will put the life of 170 million Nigerians at risk, except probably to put his name on a mark that this issue is resolved in his regime.”
For Chris Maduka, the National President of the New Tone In Leadership Foundation and a public policy analyst, Nigerians generally are overreacting over the issue and are a bit too sensitive.
He recalled that some years ago, there were allegations that we were taken to the organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Islamic Bank, stressing that “nobody can now categorically tell how that move hurt or helped Nigeria. If anything is hurting Nigeria, it is the people we have in leadership positions and our attitude towards the call of service.
“People should sincerely worry more about what their governors and elected representatives are doing than worry about which regional organisation or group they see our president with. Quite frankly, Nigeria is a secular state. Our constitution is clear on that. So, any move by any elected leader to go contrary to the constitution is effort in futility. But, we appreciate Nigerians being vigilant about the company our leaders keep.
“We should try and align with the Progressives of this world, not the other way round. We should not worry about ISIS attack. But we should worry about electoral irregularities, herdsmen and farmers’ feud, that these are nipped in the bud, than about some distant symbolic handshakes.”
However, Ronald Kayanja, Director, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos maintained that the issue of joining the coalition is an internal affair of the country and that the United Nations has no issue against that if President Buhari thinks it is in the interest of the country.
Kayanja stressed that the issue of terror is a serious problem and everyone country is free to take decisions to deal with it, even as he noted that Nigeria has suffered a lot because of Boko Haram.
He added: “France and other countries are also facing the problem of terror. It is indeed a global problem. So, Nigerians can have discussions about the issue of joining any group to assist the country tackle the issue of terror. The country has a huge problem in its hands and has to take decisions how to tackle it.
He said that the country could collaborate with other regional countries in the war against terror, that it is strategic to involve other regions. He added that the effort of President Buhari to involve other countries in the West African sub-region to fight the Boko Haram is very strategic.
The UN chief maintained that so far there is no evidence of threat by ISIS against Nigeria for joining the coalition, adding that since the Boko Haram issue is serious, anything the government can do to tackle it is acceptable and should be considered as strategic.
Dr. Basil Bernard, a social critic and theologian, however remarked that in whatever President Buhari is doing, he must ensure that the secular nature of Nigeria is maintained, even as he advised that he must also consult widely and should go through the National Assembly where necessary to avoid unnecessary controversies.
He stressed: “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stated that Nigeria is a secular state and as such it does not allow a particular religion to hold sway over the others. Nigeria is a multi-religious nation where there is freedom of worship.
“Nigeria can fight terror on her own. But doing so through a religious coalition is not proper. So, I do not think that Buhari has good intention in dragging Nigeria into an Islamic Coalition.
According to him, he does not agree with Buhari that Boko Haram insurgency is enough reason to drag Nigeria into an Islamic group.
“Taking Nigeria to the Islamic Coalition will annoy United States and other friends of Nigeria which are not Islamic. This may scare them away and they may pull out their forces and withdraw their support for Nigeria in the war against terror,” he said.