A RECENT announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari that Nigeria had joined a coalition of Islamic countries combating terrorism, has continued to generate controversy with some religious leaders holding divergent views. They had argued either for or against the president’s decision.
An organ of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), National Christian Elders Forum, had last week revealed that it has in good authority, alleged plans by the Federal Government to impose Sharia Law in every state of the federation. The Christian body further revealed there were some Islamist elements already in the country with the sole aim of islamising the country.
Chairman of the forum, Mr. Solomon Asemota, SAN, supported by religious leaders like the Bishop of Kafachan Diocese of the Catholic Church, Joseph Bagobiri, among others, alleged during a press conference that the Islamic elements in the country were already working towards achieving the goal of making Nigeria a Sharia state.
According to him, “We are aware that presently, there are Islamists in government, prepared to execute the Islamisation agenda. Any nation in which Islamists believe they are sufficiently strong to exercise influence, rarely experience peaceful co-habitation amongst the divergent groups within it.
“This is the current situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan. Islamism thrives on injustice, inequality and unfairness. We urge Nigerians to remain circumspect so that the Islamists do not drag the nation down the path of destruction.
“The inclusion of Nigeria in the Saudi Arabia Military Coalition of “Muslim/Arab” nations would appear that the Foreign Policy thrust of the present administration is to make Nigeria a satellite state of Saudi Arabia. The strengthening of the nation’s democracy and security for all should remain the greatest priority of government.
“This, we see to have been negated by the President’s fiat/ unilateral decision to enlist Nigeria in the 34-nation Muslim/ Arab coalition. Given the emotive and sensitive nature of this unilateral executive decision, it should have been handled by Mr. President in line with our democratic culture through popular discussion and participation by the citizenry, or at the very least, through the National Assembly.” should have been handled by Mr. President
Reacting to the outburst by CAN, Professor Ishaq Akintola, Executive Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said CAN was raising unnecessary alarm. To him, nothing so far, has shown President Buhari to be a religious bigot.
“I will like to appeal to our Christian brothers that we should be careful and tread cautiously where issues of religion is concerned. As far as we are concerned, nothing so far has shown that Buhari is embarking on any action capable of setting Christians against their Muslim brothers and sisters. We should be mindful of our utterances because a lot of people will read meanings into whatever leaders of any faith say concerning the other one. We should preach tolerance and harmony’’, he declared.
On Nigeria being included in the Saudi-Arabia-led coalition against terrorism, Akintola said it was in Nigeria’s interest to be part of any global alliance designed to fight terrorism in view of the threat and menace posed to Nigeria’s security by the Boko Haram insurgency.
‘‘National interest is of concern to any leader, and it can’t be compromised. Buhari can’t take the decision alone, he has advisers and other members of the cabinet including the Vice President. So, that decision would have been a collective one’’, he said.
On the fear of Buhari turning into a dictator or exhibiting such signs, Akintola said that so far, he has not seen the President exhibiting such traits.
‘’Do you know who a dictator is, or what is called dictatorship? Buhari has not even been exhibiting traits of a military ruler that he was before. Has he been harsh in his dealings with people? We should be fair to Buhari, we should allow him to work, we should not distract him. The work before him is enormous, we should allow him to remain focused. We should think of how to work with the man to restore Nigeria back to the path of greatness’’, he added.