Discordant Tunes over Nigeria’s Membership of Islamic Nation | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Discordant Tunes over Nigeria’s Membership of Islamic Nation

Posted: Mar 13, 2016 at 9:20 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Fighting terrorism was one of the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 presidential campaign. In the quest to realise the goal, on assumption of office last May, the president embarked on tour of some African,  Europe and Middle-East countries soliciting their support in the fight against terrorism.  Recently, he was in Qatar during the visit to Arab countries and there announced the willingness of Nigeria to join the Coalition Muslim Countries against terrorism led by Saudi Arabia.

The decision of Buhari to join the group was contrary to his earlier promise during his visit to Saudi Arabia in February when he declared that Nigeria would not be part of the coalition. But in a dramatic u-turn, President Buhari in an interview granted to Aljazeera reporter early this month, disclosed that Nigeria is already a member of the coalition.  “We are part of it because we have got terrorists in Nigeria that everybody knows, which claims that they are Islamic,” he said. This happened few days after Ayodele Fayose, governor of Ekiti State raised an alarm over the plan by President Buhari to declare Nigeria an Islamic country. Fayose at a Thanksgiving service organised by Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State on his victory at Supreme Court in Port Harcourt declared the secret move by the Buhari led government to Islamized the country.   “The agenda is coming little by little, but we will resist it. Nigeria is a free nation where we proclaim the name of Jesus Christ freely, and we believe in Allah for those who are Muslims. This nation will not be taken for an Islamic nation,” Fayose said.

Apart from Fayose, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which opposed Nigeria’s membership of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) during the military era of Ibrahim Babangida has urged the present government against joining any organisation that has religious coloration. Speaking on government’s effort to end insurgency, Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State and National Chairman, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) believe that Nigeria has the capacity to defeat Boko Haram and does not need foreign assistance. According to Musa, the country would have made a greater success in the fight against Boko Haram before now but for corruption which had led to diversion of money meant for purchase of weapons and equipments.  Musa who discredited the administration of late Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan for not taking the appropriate action at the early stage of the group cautioned the present government against going into any alliance because it may not work for the best interest of the country at the end of the day.

Apostle Peter Enesi of Christian Conflict Resolution based in Lagos expressed doubt if the decision of President Buhari really conformed to constitutional provision.  “If being a member of the coalition is restricted to combating terrorism and does not have any hidden motive, it may be a welcome development because of the deadly attack Nigerians have suffered since the outbreak of Boko Haram sect some years ago”, he said. Apostle Enesi warned against hiding under the cloak of fighting terrorism to further the interest of Islamic religion in the country.

Analysts argued that becoming a member of such organisation cannot be done by the President without the approval of the National Assembly. Some members were shocked to hear that Nigeria has become a member of the coalition.  Though the fight against insurgency remains the cornerstone of the present administration, the decision of President Buhari to join the coalition with proper consideration may be regarded as not properly and constitutionally done. Hon. Oghene Egoh member of  House of Representative from  Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency shortly after the President’s confirmation of Nigeria’s membership of the coalition expressed shock over the matter  and claimed members not informed. Independent also gathered that the Senate President is also not aware of Nigerian’s membership of the Saudi Arabian coalition. Nigerians are surprised to know how President Buhari could change the position of the government within few weeks. During his official visit to Saudi Arabia in February this year, he told his guest that though Nigeria would support the activities of the coalition, it would not become a member.

Observers believe that the sudden change of government’s position may be due to foreign or domestic pressures on the president to change his mind. “It is possible that the president was advised to join the coalition contrary to his earlier conviction because of the inherent benefits,” source disclosed to Independent.


Though fighting terrorism was believe to be the main purpose of joining the coalition, analysts want President Buhari to disclose in full detail what the membership of the coalition entails and what Nigeria may likely benefit from such organisation. Many believe that the whole issue must not be shielded in secrecy as Nigerians must know the detail of the whole deal.

However,  Shehu Sani, Vice-Chairman, Senate committee on Foreign Affairs has commended the initiative of President Buhari in enrolling Nigeria into the membership of coalition against terrorism.  He disagreed with those adding religious dimension to the effort.

Terrorism, according to Sani is not restricted to any particular religious sect and urged people to see the membership of the coalition as a better way to pull Nigeria out of the scourge of Boko Haram insurgency.. “Nigeria’s presence in the coalition is in the best national interest of Nigeria as Nigeria is also a victim of activities terror groups with possible affiliations to ISIL,” he said. Nevertheless,  he warned President Buhari against joining any alliance that would bring disunity in the country because of the secularity of the country.
Similarly,  Godfrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs said government decided to join the group with the intention of combating terrorism which Nigeria has been a victim. He denied the claim that the intention was to Islamized Nigeria.  Despite the explanation of government’s motive, the question some people are asking is whether the President has the right to take the decision without the approval of the National Assembly.


 An Impeachable Offence


Reacting to the news, Honourable Bassey Dan- Abia, a former member of the House of  Representatives who represented Eket, Esit-Eket, Onna, Ibeno Federal Constituency, Akwa- Ibom state said the president through his action has committed an impeachable offence.  While aligning himself with the position of Fayose,  he said by joining the coalition, president Buhari has already betrayed the trust of Christians who voted for during the presidential election.



“I agree in toto with Governor Ayo Fayose. Desperate situations, often times require desperate measures. But desperation, by itself, most times typifies incapacity and uncontrollable frustration”.


“The action of Mr. President out rightly smacks of extreme desperation and lack of capacity to deal with the Boko Haram insurgency.  Under and by virtue of Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as Amended, Nigeria is clearly a secular state, and any attempt at affiliation with any religious organisation whatsoever/howsoever is tantamount to a fundamental breach of the constitutional provision aforesaid”.


“Section 11 of the Constitution, inter alia, empowers the National Assembly “During any period of war (or insurgency), the National Assembly may make laws with respect to the matters referred to in this section, including the provision for maintenance and securing of such supplies and services as maybe designated by the National Assembly as essential . . . *By Section 12 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic  of Nigeria  1999 (as amended) no such affiliation shall have the force of law without an enabling law”.


“In the light of the foregoing and consideration of the concomitant issues, Mr. President’s action is not only actionable per se, but also clearly constitutes an impeachable offence.  It is a betrayal of the entire Christian population that voted for him, a gross counterfeit of our great expectation, a change of promise, rather than promise of change.  National Assembly should consider this as gross misconduct, and act accordingly, before we are plunged into an avoidable marshmallow of macabre frenzy”.


“The National Assembly should consider this as gross misconduct, and act promptly for the sake of our still very nascent democracy, before we are plunged into an avoidable religious crisis, political cul-de-sac and a marshmallow of macabre frenzy”  he said.


To Honourable  Kolade Akinjo, member representing Ilaje/Ese-odo Federal Constituency of Ondo State the president should have consulted the National  Assembly before joining the coalition. Citing the constitution he said “ Section 12(1) of the constitution is laconically pellucid on International treaties or agreements domestication in Nigeria through the power of National Assembly for it to have force of law. Section 4,5, and 6 have clearly delineated responsibilities of various arms of government and enforced the doctrine of separation powers” .


“A very sensitive issue as to joining coalition of any organization should have been more apposite to involve strategic arms of government like the National Assembly which is the epicenter of people’s representation. I am of the view that this action amongst plethora of other actions others are the many woes of this administration. We must fight terror but must be done with simple adherence to the supremacy of our constitution” .


 University Don, INC Back President


To Professor Benedict Naane, former head of Energy and Strategic studies from the University of Port Harcourt, no individual person can play religious bigotry with the country. Speaking further, he said that Nigeria as a secular state cannot by Islamized by any right thinking leader taking into thought the sensitivity of religion in the country.

The former provincial chairman of the movement for the survival of Ogoni people, MOSOP explained that the fact that Buhari has agreed to join the Saudi Arabia led Coalition against international terrorism does not imply that the country was on his way to joining the organization of the Islamic countries, (OIC) .


According to him, Buhari’s romance with Saudi Arabia was strategic because “Saudi Arabia is a major player in the international oil business and an influential member of OPEC. So, I believe that the President is trying to influence such important members of the organization to see how they can influence the global oil price”.


“We have had this sort of controversy in 1980s when it was alleged that the country was registered in the organization of Islamic conference, OIC. But it was later discovered to be a wild rumour. As a country and as a people we need to have some level of trust for our leaders.

“We always have a conspiracy theory in everything but sometimes they are not always grounded. Politicians may have their opinions and they may take a decision that sometimes set the whole nation on fire. That is not to say that the present leadership of Nigeria is planning to drag the country to OIC. I don’t think that is correct”, he said.

Giving reasons for his position, the university don noted that with the two major religions of Islam and Christianity having almost equal membership, it will be difficult to convert the country into one religion to the detriment of others.

He explained that what President Buhari is doing is to lobby the major oil producing countries to take a position of comfort by increasing the global oil price so that countries like Nigeria which practices a monolithic economy can benefit from such decision.


Speaking in the similar vein, the President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) , Engineer Charles Ambaowei said Nigerians were too quick in “suspecting themselves and their leaders”, adding that the Saudi led coalition was purely a defense matter and has nothing to do with religion.

He explained that the United States and Saudi Arabia have the best of external relations even though the two countries practice two different religions.

“This is unnecessary anxiety. There is no truth in the story and Buhari cannot just wake up one morning and begin the process of Islamizing the country. I don’t believe in that theory. We have religious tolerance in Nigeria and we cannot undermine that.

“There is a global fear of terrorism and I don’t see anything wrong if Buhari joins such organization to fight terror and Boko Haram which is fast becoming a global threat”, he noted.


Also speaking on the development,  Elder Chris  Eluemuno, the  Anambra state president of  Ohaneze  Nd’Igbo and  chairman of Ohaneze Nd’Igbo in the six Igbo speaking states, Elder Chris said that any initiative or move that will bring peace and security in the North Eastern region will enjoy his support.


Eluemuno who said he is expressing his personal opinion on the matter noted that Boko Haram has joined ISIS and so anything the Federal Government will do to fight the Islamic state has his support because “it is a known fact that ISIS is now seriously involved in Nigeria security issues as far as Boko Haram is concerned because in the attack carried out in France recently, it mentioned Nigeria  because France was supporting Nigeria. That is one of the reasons they attacked France”.


“To keep Boko Haram out of Nigeria is a welcome move. We should not look at it from religious point of view. We should look at it from security point of view’, he added..

Eluemuno, however, cautioned  that Nigerian authorities should stick to what they say about the reasons for joining Islamic coalition of forces against terror.

According to him, joining the Organization of Islamic States should not be rushed into. “Nigeria  as we know is  a multi-religious nation and the Federal Government  has tried to clear the issue by saying that this move has no religious inclination and that it is purely a security issue” .


“ I want to believe what the government has said this because it knows the implications of getting Nigeria into Islamic affairs. So, it will be very cautious in taking decision on this matter. What I want to say is that the authorities should ensure that what they want to do has nothing to do with religion; they should strictly adhere to what they say” he said.


Fayose Should Back Claim With  Facts – Activist


However,  Dr.  Osagie  Obayuwana, a human rights lawyer and activist,  has a contrary opinion.  Speaking on Fayose’s claim that President Buhari is plotting to  Islamise the country, he said the governor’s statement is ridiculous and a calculated attempt to distract the president from his change agenda.

“Mr. Ayodele Fayose has anointed himself as the official spokesperson for the PDP, a party that is not used to be in the opposition. They are yet to learn how to be constructive in their opposition, it is rather unfortunate that the way Ayodele Fayose is going about playing that self imposed role detracts from the high office that he owns” .

“The opposition must be credible in his criticisms and not just this instance it is most unfortunate that the most ridiculous pronouncements that come out of the mouth of the governor of Ekiti state is turning out to be an embarrassment to all discerning minds. There is no doubt that Mr. President has even gone out of his way, first to woo Nigeria’s neighbours in the  fight against Boko Haram” .

“A lot of the trips that he had taken both in  the West Africa sub region has been such that the issue of joint efforts in fighting Boko Haram which is a variance of terrorism and extremism has featured prominently whether when he went to Cameroon, to Chad, Niger Republic. Even trips that he had made outside this country at the level of the  UN, at level of the Group of 7 and individually with separate European and North Americas States, he has always asked for understanding, supports and cooperation”.

“So, if there are Islamic states that believes that those who have adopted  extremist positions and have embarked on callous methods of propagating their sectarian views constitute an embarrassment to all true Muslims why should Mr President says he will not collaborate with them?”

So, if you are extending the ranks of those who find this bestial level of extremism and embarrassment, I think it should be something to be welcome. So, it is highly unfortunate that the only thing Mr. Fayose can see from this is that, “oh, cooperating with people who abhor mindless violence is an attempt to Islamise Nigeria”. How, I wish Mr. Fayose was pressed further to explain how this collaboration at the level of sharing information, logistics, intelligence, how that would become tantamount to Islamising Nigeria”.

“Nigeria has a sizable population of Muslims, it has an equally sizable population of Christians , it has a sizable population of those who subscribe to traditional religion and also the atheists are there. But if there is one thing that should be understood and appreciated, it is that all decent persons abhor this mindless brutalisation of innocent persons in the guise of propagating  whatever it is that they believe in”.

“I think it is a credit to Mr. President that despite the fact that he is a Muslim, he knows that he owes an obligation to protect our country against mindless violence because the victims of Boko Haram and ISIS are not only Christians. Muslims are also victims because in the final analysis you see that there is no end to their atrocity. They are battling against Christians, of course they are battling against the atheists who they called infidels, they are battling against even the traditional religionists and yet they are in the minority.

“So, all hands must be on deck. Yes, the constitution provides for separation of religion from states in the sense that Nigeria cannot adopt a particular religion but it beats my imagination how the policy of collaborating with all those who abhor this mindless extremism will now run counter to violating that constitutional principle that propagates the importance of the state not adopting a particular religion is certainly not tenable, is not clear to me and I don’t think the man with all due respect to him is making more sense” he said.


To  Archbishop  God-Dowell Avwomakpa, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), South-South zone, the decision by the president to join the coalition is absurd. According to him, by joining the coalition, Nigerians living in Arab countries will be subject of attacks.


“The issue is that Christians abhor killing of fellow human being, but for us as a secular nation to join Islamic nations to fight terrorism is to me and l believe l speak for other Christians because we are one body, something that is absurd”.


“ It will make Nigerians in Diaspora and those who travel to Arab nations targets for attack. Besides, Nigeria as a nation needs the assistance of powerful nations at this period of her history to fight Boko  Haram insurgency, Niger Delta hostility, the South East struggle for Biafra and harsh economic reality. Nigerians want change but not for us to join forces with Islamic nations”.


The cleric also who argued that  Fayose’s statement may not be further from the truth said President  Buhari ought to have  contacted the  National  Assembly before taking the decision.


“The Nigeria constitution is very clear on state religion.  Nigeria is a secular state. Anybody who wants to make Nigerians to belong to one religion would first get the National Assembly to legislate that Nigeria is a Christian or Islamic nation. Anything outside that is working against the constitution”.
“Meanwhile, the plans to capture more Christians to join Islam through aggressive preaching and so on have always been used by our Muslim brothers. The choice of a person’s religion is voluntary and not by compulsion. The Nigeria constitution guarantees every citizen the right to his or her religion as well as freedom of association. I urge our leaders to respect the constitution”.

“As for Governor Fayose’ s comment, l think he may not be far from the truth considering the things we read in the newspapers on the Arab nations coalition but our prayer for peace for peaceful coexistence will bring healing and peace to the land” he said.