It is fitting to begin this article with a quotation from the famous Willink’s Commission Report of 1958, which led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Among other things, the Willink’s Commission Report states as follows:
“The whole structure of the proceedings leading to independence is based on the belief that Nigeria meant to follow the road of liberal democracy and parliamentary government and to base part of the structure on the opposite assumption is to invite government to do their worst. But if the road is followed (liberal democracy and parliamentary government), votes will count and in the last resort it is votes that will win fair treatment for minorities.” (The Willink’s Commission Report of 1958).
At independence in 1960, Nigeria opted for liberal democracy and parliamentary system of government. The country choose Common Law and liberal democracy. This is the system of government and political structure accepted and adopted at independence by all the federating units, and enshrined in Nigeria’s founding Constitution of 1963.
Unfortunately, however, somewhere along the line, following long years of military incursion into the political governance of Nigeria – the imbalance of power, and over-preponderance control of the government at the centre by Muslim military officers from the North, the country, gradually, started to slide into Sharia Islamist’s driven dominance, governance structure and style. The result of which is that today, Nigeria, more than ever, is caught in-between practicing two conflicting ideologies, Common Law and Sharia ideology.
Worse still, following the notoriety of lopsided federal government of President Buhari, and the unfolding Islamization agenda of his administration, Sharia ideology and protagonists seemed to have won in the battle against liberal democracy and Common Law in Nigeria. This is the driving force of the present political imbroglio besetting Nigeria under the present federal government of President Buhari.
On July 31, 2019, the highly respected National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), published their paper and analysis of the state of the nation, tracing the root of the current crisis in Nigeria to a conflict between democracy and Sharia ideology. The full text of NCEF’s paper, under the title, ‘Are Nigerian Christians on a Wild Goose Chase?’, is published in some Online Newspapers of August 11, 2019.
The NCEF has as its members, prominent Nigerians including, Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (ret.), a former Minister of Defence; Elder Solomon Asemota, SAN; Prof. Joseph Otubu; Major Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (ret.); Archbishop Magnus Atilade; Dr. Kate Okpareke; Dr. Ayo Abifarin; Major Gen. Zamani Letwot (ret.); Moses Ihonde; Elder Nat Okoro and Matthew Owojaiye; among others.
In the present article, I wish to x-ray some of the cogent points raised in the NCEF paper, examining its implications towards addressing the current crisis besetting Nigeria’s political landscape. What are their consequences for the country’s precarious search for unity and national cohesion? We shall end the article by proffering some suggestions as a way out of the problem!
The Root of the Problem
The leaders of the NCEF in their paper reminded us that the problem of Nigeria is NOT one of the following as some usually claim:
- It is not Christians versus Muslims or Muslims versus Christians.
- It is not South versus North or North versus South.
- It is not APC versus PDP or PDP versus APC.
- It is not military versus civilians or civilians versus military.
- It is not rich versus poor or poor masses versus the rich.
- It is not poverty, unemployment, illiteracy or desert encroachment.
Continuing, the NCEF paper says, in this case, someone may quip, “So there is no threat of Islamization, after all?”
There is an Islamization agenda and it is a serious threat. What needs to be understood is what constitutes the threat and this is discernible in the difference between a Muslim and Islamist.
A Muslim practices Islam as religion while an Islamist manipulates Islam as political ideology. This is the reason Islamism is referred to as “political Islam.”
“Islamism is a conscious attempt to manipulate religion as tool for political and cultural domination. While Islam is a religion, Islamism, otherwise called “political Islam”, “is a set of ideologies that holds that Islam is not only a religion but a political system.”
In other words, as a political system, Islamists insist that Islam is meant to dominate the environment in which it is practiced: “In a sharply divergent society like Nigeria, any attempt to implement the principles of Islamism portends great danger for the nation. It is this Islamist political ideology that is driving the crisis in Nigeria.”
The consequence of the above analysis, according to NCEF’s paper is that, ‘The problem of Nigeria is IDEOLOGICAL.’ It is simply DEMOCRACY versus SHARIA: “Nigeria is a democratic country under the invasion of Sharia ideology. This is the core problem that must be solved and every crisis evaporate.”
The NCEF paper goes further to remind us that every country in the world derives its identity and system of governance from its national ideology. Countries with Sharia ideology have a system of governance and way of life different from countries with communist ideology, which is also different from countries with democratic ideology and so on. “No country has two conflicting ideologies except, of course, Nigeria.”
Now, enter the 1999 Constitution:
Going further, the NCEF paper also recognizes the 1999 Constitution as part of the problem. In fact, the 1999 Constitution, is at the root of the present-day problem Nigeria is passing through:
“The 1999 Constitution is a compendium of dual conflicting ideologies pulling the country in two opposing directions. Unless this conflict is resolved, Nigeria will remain in turmoil because democracy and sharia ideologies are antithetical to each other. The entire crisis in the country, summed up as corruption, mediocrity, insecurity and ethnicity, are consequences of the dual conflicting ideologies plaguing Nigeria.”
Again, it is very important to emphasize once more, that this crisis did not begin today. It started before independence and was solidified under the military regime when most of the military Heads of State were Muslims from the North. During the various conferences leading to independence, the impression was created that ALL Nigerians wanted democracy. Unknowingly to the other sections of the country, some northern Muslims preferred a system of governance of which Islamic law is a major ingredient.
Relentlessly, the Muslim North pursued this goal until they were able to smuggle Nigeria into OIC in 1986 and brought Islamic law and jurisprudence into the 1999 Constitution, thanks to Abdulsalami Abubakar’s led military junta:
“Invariably, Nigeria, a country under Common Law became a country under Common Law and Sharia. In the ensuing conflict, one of the two has to give way because both cannot co-exist. This is the crisis going on now.”
Furthermore, the leaders of NCEF in their paper reminded us of how the attention of Nigerians is constantly been focused on symptoms while the real disease is eating away the body. And what is the real disease? It is conflict of ideologies. If you notice, few people are talking about that.
However, since 2016, when I started to contribute articles for publication to some National dailies – Online Newspapers on regular basis, I have been consistent in pointing out these facts, and in discussing the urgent need to address them before it becomes too late. Today, the chicken has come back to roost. In fact, a quick online search of my previous articles will testify to how much we have dedicated time discussing this same problem.
Abuse of Public Discourse and Rhetoric
In recent times, public discourse is been dominated by skillful spin-masters who manipulate the discourse with the intention of distracting attention from the real issues: “While Nigerians keep pursuing shadows, they dig in their preferred ideology.” Some of these distractions are enumerated in the NCEF’s paper as follows:
- From grazing route to grazing reserve.
- From grazing reserve to grazing colony.
- From grazing colony to ranching.
- From ranching to importation of grass from Brazil for cattle.
- From importation of grass to Fulani Radio.
- From Fulani Radio to N100 billion paid to Miyetti Allah.
- From N100 billion to RUGA.
- From RUGA to e-registration.
- From e-registration to military ranching.
- From military ranching to Fulani herdsmen/RUGA Inscriptions in the new International Passports.
- From Fulani herdsmen/RUGA Inscriptions in the new International Passports to, … what next? Unfortunately, while the attention of Nigerians is focused on ranching and RUGA, the federal government is busy undoing the country’s Common Law and Democracy, supplanting them with Islamists’ and Sharia ideology. In this regard, NCEF noted the following in their paper:
- The Common Law position of Nigeria has given way to Sharia Law with the CJN as Sharia Lawyer.
- Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the country is Sharia Lawyer.
- Head of Law School is Sharia lawyer.
- The 9th Assembly has legislators already mooting suggestions of amending the Constitution to provide for life Presidency. (This is Sharia, not democracy).
- The Federal Character Principle, one of the pillars of justice, equity and fairness in the Constitution, has been subverted. This is Sharia.
- The 2019 election is a classical example of Sharia in action. It was not a democratic contest.
The Return of RUGA and Grazing Route Saga in the 9th Senate
To buttress the preceding point, it is interesting to watch how the leadership of the current 9th National Assembly is mooting to reintroduce through the backdoor, the rejected “Water Resources Bill.” The Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, had less than a fortnight ago, said the National Assembly, NASS, would work out an arrangement for the executive to re-introduce the bill, “Water Resources Bill.”
The proposed legislation seeks to concentrate the control of water resources around Rivers Niger and Benue, which cut across 19 states, in the hands of the Federal Government. If passed into law, the following states will be affected: Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Delta, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa-Ibom, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Plateau, and Kebbi.
It has to be recalled that the 8th Senate under the leadership of Senator B. Saraki rejected the bill which was sent by the executive because it would further centralize powers and the nation’s resources at the hands and sole control of the federal government.
Most lawmakers had frowned on the provisions of the bill that deal with the Public Trusteeship of Water during the clause-by-clause consideration. Specifically, the provision gives the federal government the right to use, manage and control all surface and groundwater including waterbeds and banks across the country. Chiefly among the grouse of lawmakers was the fear that it could create conflicts in affected communities.
Furthermore, similar sentiments of opposition to the bill are held by the affected states. According to them, ‘any law that seeks to take over the lands that belong to their individual states and hand them over to the federal government to control, would not be acceptable.’ This is because the “Land Use Act” gives state governors full control of lands in their respective states and the resources in them. Land in every state comes under the control of the governors and they hold them and their resources in trust for the people and state.
What state governments cannot take ownership of according to the Constitution is the mineral resources, which are solely vested in the federal government. “This is what the Constitution has provided and it cannot be changed.” In fact, many critics of the proposed bill see it as a way federal government wants to use to re-introduce the controversial “Water Resources Bill” that the 8th Senate rejected. Some describe the proposed law as an ‘advanced RUGA’ settlement policy by the federal government.
Another fear is that, the bill, if passed, the “Land Use Act” will be suspended and the people will lose the rights to their lands and waters. Thus, one wonders why the federal government is hell-bent on issues of land and RUGA at a time there are numerous issues of urgent national interest, especially the widespread insecurity in the country and growing disaffection of different ethnic-nationalities with the government at the centre and the Nigerian State.
In the light of all these, therefore, a good number of Nigerians are urging the National Assembly and the Executive to drop the bill and reject it entirely. Nigerians want the 9th National Assembly to reject the bill and concentrate on more serious problems besetting the country, e.g., in the areas of security of lives and property as well as economic recovery and search for new and workable political structure and vision for the country, founded on true democracy and common law.
However, the problem is that majority of Nigerians see the current 9th National Assembly as a “Rubber Stamp” to the Executive. Majority of the people have already lost any fate or confidence on the current 9th National Assembly. Unlike the 8th Senate under Senator B. Saraki, many Nigerians rightly or wrongly, are of the opinion that the 9th Senate under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Lawan is a “Rubber Stamp” to the Executive arm of the government. The current issue of re-introducing a rejected “Water Resources Bill” may serve as a litmus test to know whether what we have presently is really a “Rubber Stamp” National Assembly or not. Time will tell!
Otherwise, for many Nigerians, it is because what we have presently is a “Rubber Stamp” National Assembly, that RUGA and Grazing Route saga is coming back, in a “disguised form” at the 9th National Assembly as “Water Resources Bill.” The current NASS leadership even went out of its way to meet the Executive and requested that the rejected “Water Resources Bill” be re-introduced. This is the crux of the matter!
In this circumstance, would any right-thinking person expect something positive for common good to come out of the present leadership of NASS?
This is why conscientious Nigerians are worried with the new development. The fact is that Nigeria is not safe under the present National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives. Each of the two-arms of the National Assembly is being seen as a mere “window-dressing”, a “rubber stamp”, subservient to the whims and caprices of the executive branch of the executive arm of Buhari administration.
As I have written severally in my previous and recent articles, the Islamists would not have made all these strides to transmute Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and entrench Islamic governance structure and control at the centre, without the collaboration of comprising leaders in the Church and traitors amongst ethnic leaders, mostly politicians and traditional rulers. “These treacherous collaborators hunt with the hounds and run with the hare.”
Recently, a prominent Church leader was quoted to have said that the issue of Islamizing Nigeria is impossible. The cleric went further to say, “it will be very difficult to Islamize or Christianize Nigeria as being speculated by some persons.” He based his argument on what he said President Buhari had told them, Christian religious leaders, when they went to see him at Aso Rock, Abuja sometimes ago. The President had actually told them that he, President Buhari, “has no plan to Islamize Nigeria.” These are words of the mouth. The reality on the ground, however, is different.
It is sad that many Christian elites and some church leaders do not yet understand the precarious situation we are in Nigeria today. As some have alleged, ‘their concern is mainly monetary gain – the crumbs that fall from the table of the Islamists.’ What a pity?
The reality on the ground today, shows that Christians and other indigenous populations in the country are the most endangered species under the watch of the present federal government. The ongoing persecutions, denial of basic human and civil rights of Christians in Northern Nigeria, for example; and the other acts of violence and intimidation being carried out by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen militias in mostly Christian-dominated zones and regions of the country, should not be played down by any serious Christian religious leader or politician worth his name.
A truly concerned church leader or Christian politician should not be afraid to stand up and defend his faith and people in the face of the unfolding Islamization and Fulanization agenda of the present federal government. He should not also allow himself or herself be bribed into denying the ongoing Islamization project of the present administration and persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
The challenge of our time today obliges a truly Christian religious leader and politician to speak truth to those in power, without mincing words. The fact is that today, more than ever, Nigeria is living under emergency-situation. It is a country surviving on a ‘life-support’ apparatus. Majority of the citizens have lost confidence on the ability of present Nigerian leaders, civil, religious, and traditional rulers to solve the current problems besetting the country.
Whether Nigeria will survive its present turmoil or not, depends, however, on its citizens and conscientious leaders; how prepared they are to come to the aid of the people in truth and honesty, salvage their land. Any further betrayal or denial of Nigeria’s reality – the unfolding Islamization and Fulanization agenda of the present federal government, is too dangerous to the continued existence and survival of the country as one entity.
Very Important Note:
To all those who are saying, the present federal government has no agenda of Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria. Please take note of the following Islamist’s Statements of Gen. Buhari when he started vying to be elected President of Nigeria. Buhari said, inter alia:
1) “I will continue to show openly and inside me, the total commitment to the Sharia movement all over Nigeria.”
2) “Why should Christians be concerned when Muslims cut off their limbs? After all, the limbs cut off are Muslim ones.”
3) “No, no, no, Abacha did not steal Nigeria’s money.”
4) “I can die for the cause of Islam if necessary. We are prepared to fight another civil war.”
5) “The declaration of state of emergency to fight Boko Haram in 3 Northern States is a grave injustice against the North.”
6) “We cannot be blackmailed into killing the Sharia idea. Sharia must be spread all over the North.”
7) “Boko Haram members should be pampered and given VIP treatment not killed. It is injustice to kill them.”
8) “Muslims should only vote those who will promote Islam. We are more than Christians, if you add our Muslim brothers in the South.”
Thus, today, Nigeria is ruled by someone who professed and said without mincing words, that he is prepared to wage another Civil War against the Nigerian State to advance the cause of Islam in the country. This is the person, Nigerians voted into power and some powerful men propelled him to be at the helm of affairs of the Federal Government of Nigeria since 2015 till date!
What does this tell of us as Nigerians in the eye of the world today? Perhaps, ‘a people without historical memory and sense of purpose for their country!’ The question is, ‘who and what has bewitched Nigeria and its people?’ Is the problem with Nigeria’s geographical space or with the people that occupy that geographical space called Nigeria?
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian geographical land space, nor with the ordinary people that inhabit that land. The problem really, as Chinua Achebe, the doyen of African literature beautiful puts it, is “the failure of leadership.” Pure and simple! What, we have in Nigeria today is a failed leadership and political structure sustained by a “Sharia ideology”, Islamists and ethnic bigots from a particular section of the country.
Today, under President Buhari, Nigeria is caught at the crossroads of the mess, the war of supremacy between “Democracy and Sharia ideology”, or rather between Common Law and Sharia Islamic legal system. In that battle – war between Democracy and Sharia ideology, the Sharia Law ideologists seemed to have won. Today all the structures of governance at the federal level, are firmly under the control of the Fulani Islamists of the North: the Executive arms of the government, Legislature, and Judiciary.
Francis Anekwe Oborji is a Roman Catholic Priest. He lives in Rome where he is a Professor of missiology (mission theology) in a Pontifical University. He runs a column on The Trent. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.