Minister Nurudeen’s “Islamic Republic of Nigeria”

Minister Nurudeen’s “Islamic Republic of Nigeria”

The unsavoury consequence of Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, is rearing its ugly head.

The surreptitious, nocturnal, and unconstitutional enrolment of Nigeria into that Islamic forum effectively put this country out as an “Islamic country”, at least by perception, though our Constitution is unequivocal that we are multi-religious without an official state religion.

The more appropriate thing was for our Moslem community, perhaps through the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, with the Sultan of Sokot as its head, to register with the OIC, attend its meetings, participate in its conventions and pocket all the benefits it is touted to heap upon its members.

That way, non-Muslims would not be bothered since the Christians also have their own international affiliations through their various church organs.

There is a big buzz over the internet, that Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Nurudeen Mohammed, while at a recent meeting of the OIC in Saudi Arabia, described Nigeria as an “an Islamic State with the largest Christian population”. A furious President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor condemned Mohammed for that alleged assertion, calling for his immediate dismissal.

As the call for his sack ballooned, a panicky Mohammed issued a rebuttal, insisting he never described Nigeria as the most Christian populated Muslim country. Let me quote this statement attributed to him:

“My attention has been drawn to some sensational news articles circulating in both the print, online, and social media, pertaining to a statement I purportedly made while in Mecca, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between the 15th and 16th of August, 2012. The reports alleged that I said, ‘Nigeria is an Islamic Country with the largest Christian population’. The reports alleged that I said this through the NTA Network News anchored in Abuja on Wednesday, the 15th of August, 2012 by 9pm.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I said no such a thing in the said news bulletin. What I did say rather (among other things) was, ‘The King had extended invitation to the fifty seven-member states of the OIC, including his colleague and brother, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who mandated the Vice President to sit in for Nigeria…we are the largest Islamo-Christian country in the world…”.

I pick holes even in this rebuttal. It is objectionably tendentious. How is President Jonathan the “brother” of the Saudi King, given what “brother” is often deployed to mean among Moslems? The Saudi monarch is not even an African. He can at best be described as a friend of Nigeria, since he is known to be nice to Nigerian Muslims (remember he sent an air ambulance to convey the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua to his country and protected his dignity till death).

Describing Jonathan as the king’s “brother and colleague” reminds one of Boko Haram’s demands that Jonathan must convert to Islam before they will stop their cowardly campaigns of terror. That Jonathan has become a “brother” to the king of the Muslim world could only be inferred from Nigeria’s membership of the OIC! In other words, though Mohammed denies calling Nigeria an Islamic nation, he names our President as one of the Muslim brothers! That does not look to me like much of a denial!

Secondly, Mohammed’s description of Nigeria as an “Islamo-Christian country” is a total misnomer and negation of our Constitution. He has dressed this country in borrowed robes. Nigeria is a secular country, not in the sense that it does not believe that God reigns in its affairs but in the sense that it has no official state religion. Nigeria is a country where all religions that respect our constitutional sovereignty are welcome to practice freely, but with a special preferential treatment for Christianity and Islam, the two majority religions. That does not make her an “Islamo-Christian” country, whatever the Minister means by that!

My conclusion is that the Minister is either ignorant of the constitutional status of the country he represents in the outside world or he is one of the religious bigots who have been crawling around our corridors of power, seizing every opportunity to insult and inflame passions by imposing upon us, those things which the Constitution forbids, many of which they got away with when the military was in power.

We have seen them come in various guises. For instance, they imposed the Arewa figurines and Arabic inscriptions (Ajami) on our N100, N200, N500 and N1,000 currency notes: inscriptions known only to Northern Muslims which, for all I know, are making constitutionally objectionable proclamations.

If you go to Kano you will see messages in Arabic inscriptions at every street corner without commensurate English translation, thus portraying Kano an Islamic state in contravention of the Constitution. That followers of a religion are dominant in a state does not make that state a Christian or Muslim state.

I did not know that our green/white/green flag had an ulterior religious connotation until I visited the tomb of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio in Sokoto in 1991 and discovered that the flag of Usmaniyya, given to emirs all over the old Sokoto Caliphate was green with white Arabic inscriptions!

Here in Lagos, the street that fringes the Bar Beach is named after Ahmadu Bello (who never lived in Lagos) simply because Alhaji Musa Yar’ Adua, Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic, decided to make the symbolic statement of “dipping the Koran in the Sea”. Today, we are hearing of Islamic Banking and Islamic Index in the capital market.

Mohammed is only playing a secret game that has been going on for years but which, due to lack of vigilance, have now added up to portray Nigeria, in a manner of speaking, as an Islamic country with a large Christian population!


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