The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) under the leadership of its President-General, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, is compelled to make yet another press statement on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) within a span of one week. The NSCIA has to be this vigilant because it believes that in critical moments like the one we are currently going through in this country leaders at all levels and in all segments of the country have a duty to be constantly alert, sensitive and responsive to issues as they arise and to developments as they unfold. In the first instance, the NSCIA hereby implores the entire citizens of this our great country to be profoundly thankful and full of praise to Almighty Allah Who, out of His Love for this country and with His Countenance and Power, gave the wisdom, guidance and willpower to our leaders to intervene promptly and duly on the crisis ignited by IPOB, thereby averting a monumental catastrophe that would have befallen the nation.
The pace for proactive intervention was actually set by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari in his address to the nation on his return from his medical trip to London. While the whole world was waiting to hear Mr. President mention how his government planned to tackle the various economic problems facing Nigerians, he left nobody in the nation in doubt and he proclaimed to the world that the most critical and threatening challenge the country was facing was that of the centrifugal forces trying to pull or tear it apart. He, therefore, demonstrated the commitment of his government to keeping the nation together and its unflinching will to deal squarely and decisively with trouble makers and the peddlers of hate and vanguards of violence and disintegration. The unity of the country he said was not negotiable. This position taken by the President is actually a restatement of the position of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the indivisibility and indissolubility of the country. The NSCIA wishes to place on record its appreciation of this singular, remarkable and historically assertive and assuring declaration by Mr. President.
The NSCIA similarly commends the efforts of the Northern Governors at ensuring that reprisal attacks did not erupt in the region as a reaction to the aggression in the South-East. The covert and overt measures taken by the Northern Governors undoubtedly doused tension, calmed down frayed nerves and averted violence. As if all those efforts were not enough, the Northern Governors took another spectacular historical step by going further to send a delegation of Five Governors to their counterparts in the South-East, demonstrating rare patriotism and stretching out the hands of friendship, fraternity and love. The NSCIA also appreciates very sincerely the prompt and timely intervention of the South-East Governors and the Governor of Rivers State in particular. The quick and unified way in which they all rose up to the challenge and their subsequent, unanimous proscription of IPOB were all proofs of how the Governors put the nation first ahead of any divisive interests and tendencies and rose above naive and unreasonable tribal and ethnic sentiments. Altogether, the NSCIA believes that both the Northern and South-East Governors responded to the situation in a manner that was quite responsive, responsible, mature and above all patriotic.
The NSCIA also wishes to commend the patriotic and fatherly role played by the traditional rulers of the South-East. In addition to disowning IPOB and condemning its nefarious criminal activities, the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers further extended the hands of friendship and love by sending a delegation to His Eminence in a form of condolence and consolation to the entire people of the North.
While that has been the laudable ways our political and traditional leaders at the state, regional and federal levels have been trying to express love, promote tolerance, curtail violence, foster harmony and engender peaceful coexistence in the country, it is sad to note that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is bent on fanning the embers of hate and discord, propagating intolerance, exclusiveness, and promoting disharmony and conflict in the country. On this note, the NSCIA is disappointed by the press release made by CAN on the just concluded SUKUK ISSUANCE by the Federal Government of Nigeria. In its typical and usual posture of intolerance and discord, CAN asserts, albeit mischievously, that the floating of SUKUK BOND was a "sly and treacherous attempt to sell Nigeria to Arab Islamic Nations." It is easy to see the antipathy, malice and pathological intolerance of CAN in that purported and ill-intentioned press statement because, as it were, in this open world or world of open secrets, CAN cannot claim ignorance about the fact that even the World Bank has been involved in issuing SUKUK and the floating of SUKUK Bonds. Interestingly also, several non-Muslim countries across Africa, Europe and Asia have also instituted Islamic Financial System generally and SUKUK in particular. Worthy of mention here are Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Russia, China, Singapore and a number of firms in the United States. Less than two years ago, Britain hosted a World Conference on Islamic Banking and Finance and David Cameron, the then British Prime Minister, openly declared that their intention was to make UK the Hub of Islamic Finance in the World. It would certainly be embarrassing for CAN to be told that the first and foremost state in Nigeria to submit application for loan to the Islamic Development Bank is a Christian-dominated state in the South-East.
What is even instructive in the SUKUK ISSUANCE venture is the fact that the Federal Government made it clear that it was anchored on the policy of economic diversification of this government and particularly developmental projects. These include, in the first phase, reconstruction and rehabilitation of 25 different major federal roads distributed across all the six geo-political zones in the country.
What has been keeping this country together is the culture of mutual understanding, tolerance, and by that token, the spirit and principle of give and take. This has been the factor that made Muslims to tolerate several practices or things that are essentially Christian in nature and outlook, in substance and form and indeed in principle and practice, but imposed on us. We have not been talking of Christianization because Sunday has been forced on us as a work free day, or the Cross as our hospital sign and symbol, our membership of the International Red Cross, and many other things including almost all the titles of the heads of academic institutions (Chancellor, Provost, Dean, Rector, etc.). Despite this remarkable tolerance from Muslims over the years, CAN appears to be increasingly becoming Islamophobic and paranoid about its hate and intolerance for Islam, casting aspersions, unnecessarily overheating the polity and unjustifiably creating fear and distrust in the minds of peace loving citizens of our great country. We are poised to advise CAN to, in the spirit of Biblical injunctions, uphold the truth for its sake and tread the path of honour and refrain from statements capable of causing disaffection and promoting disharmony that may lead to conflict in the country.
Meanwhile, the NSCIA wishes to use this medium to implore all Imams to, as a matter of responsibility, use their sermons ( Khutbah) to further remind the Muslims about the Islamic teachings of patience, pardon and forgiveness in the face of provocation and even aggression. Allah says in the Qur'an, chapter 42, verse 40 that: "The recompense of evil is evil the like of it. But he who forgives and makes amends, his reward lies with Allah. Surely He does not love the wrong-doers." Our Imams should tell our Muslim brothers and sisters that they should not in any way try to retaliate the unwarranted attacks and killings of Muslims in the South-East on innocent Igbo citizens within their localities or neighbourhoods with whom they are living peacefully and harmoniously. That is the injunction of the Qur'an and must be complied with. Allah says in the Qur'an, chapter 60, verse 8 that:"Allah does not forbid you to be kind and just to those who did not fight against you on account of religion, nor drove you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are equitable".
Finally, the NSCIA hereby further prays unto Allah for Mr. President to have the wherewithal to steer the affairs of this country in justice, equity and fairness and also prays for peaceful coexistence, prosperity and development for our dear country Nigeria.
Professor Salisu Shehu
Deputy Secretary General