Islamize or Christianize Nigeria?

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Can Anyone Islamize Or Christianize Nigeria?

By

Chuba Okadigbo,

Former President of The Senate.

Federal Republic of Nigeria
 


culled from This Day  March 21, 2003
 


An attempt is being made to frame General Muhammadu Buhari in the image of a
'religious bigot'. His political adversaries allege that he said that
Muslims should not vote for non-moslems and that Buhari will use presidential
power to islamize Nigeria. What Gen. Buhari said or did not say has been
addressed elsewhere. The yet to be answered question is: Can anyone (not
just Buhari) Islamize or Christianize Nigeria, by the fiat of presidential
power ? The categorical answer is NO and proof thereof are hereunder
provided. '

Section 1 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 states that the Constitution is
supreme and that its provisions have binding force on all authorities and
persons throughout the Federation. Subsection 2 thereof states that 'the
Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed nor shall any person or
group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part
thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.'

To Islamize or Christianize our Federal Republic, there must be some
amendment of the Constitution. Let it be known by all that in the first
place, Section 10 proclaims that 'the Government of the Federation or of any
State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.' To alter this
provision, a person or group of persons must pass through a gamut of very
dissuading, grilling and tedious processes and secure the cooperation of
persons from differing religious and/or animist persuasions. In this
country, as I see it, it should be easier for the head of camel to pass
through the eye of a needle than for any person or group of persons to get
the support of Christians and animists to Islamize Nigeria or to secure the
cooperation of Moslem sand animists to Christianize Nigeria.

For any amendment of the Constitution, one must comply with the rigorous
provisions of

_ Section 9. An Act for any alteration must NOT pass through either Houses
of the National Assembly (the Senate and the Federal House of
Representatives) unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less
than two-thirds majority of ALL members of either House, and is also approved
by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of NOT less than two-thirds of ALL
the States in the Federation. The reality on the ground is that neither the
Christians nor the Moslems of Nigeria have the singular capacity to evolve
the Christianization or Islamization of our Republic. To make Christianity
or Islamism the 'State Religion' of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a
task more herculian than climbing Mount Everest and near impossible as
having an angels and saints to preside over our National and State
Assemblies.

It is true that some States in Nigeria, beginning with Zamfara, have adopted
Sharia as a legal instrument in that particular State, by resolution of a
State Assembly and the assent of the State Governor. The Constitution allows
the application of Sharia on matters pertaining to Islamic Personal Law,
with particular attention to marriage and inheritance, in any State that so
desires, provided that they apply ONLY to Moslems and others who freely
elect to be bound by Sharia Law applications. Notably, a State Assembly and
State Governor can also root for Canon or Customary law, though to the
extent of compliance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Here, I must pause to issue a caveat. Unlike the PDP controlled States of
Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano, Nassarawa, and Plateau, there has been no religious
riot in Zamfara. Remarkably, Nigerians of all religious persuasion that are
resident in Zamfara live in peace and harmony. Curiously but certainly,
there have been instances where and when Christians took Moslems to Sharia
courts for settlements. To say the least, this is instructive. This can
neither be compared or contrasted with the multiple occurrences of riots and
crises that have taken place in Kaduna and Kano States in the name of
Sharia,

Equally but painfully instructive is the truth that all sorts of riots and
violent civic disturbances (wild border/boundary and ethnic clashes) have
taken place in such PDP controlled States as Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra,
Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Nassarawa,
Plateau, and Rivers States, and the ADcontrolled States of Lagos, Ogun and
Ondo, whereas there has been none in the ANPP controlled States of Borno,
Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that Section 5, especially subsection
8 thereof, stipulates that the legislative powers of the National and State
Assemblies are subject to the jurisdictions of the courts of law. The courts
hold the power to decide when any Act of the Legislature or deed of the
Executive contravenes any section of the Constitution and the courts are
empowered to specify any action necessary for remedy or reprimand. For
instance, should any law (Sharia, Customary or Canon) run afoul the
Constitution or the Fundamental Rights of Citizens, the Courts can intervene
decisively.

The extent and limits of such applications in the affected States are yet to
be determined by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. I recall that as President of
the Senate, I advised President Olusegun Obasanjo on three separate
occasions to order the Minister of Justice and AttorneyGeneral of the

Federation (at that time Chief Bola Ige) to go
directly to the Supreme Court to secure the proper definition and context of
Sharia Law applications in their relation to Common Law in the Federation.
Due to his reluctance or timidity or reluctance to act on thereon, we caused
a Resolution that backed this advice to be passed in the Senate in Y2000. I
am sad to note that the failure of Gen. Obasanjo to act on this Senate
Resolution accounts for some of the confusion, crises, conflicts and even
riots that have disturbed and threatened peace, harmony, stability and the
security of life and property in many parts of our Fatherland.

I also recall that I was a member of the Constituent Assembly 1977/78 that
framed the 1979 Nigerian Presidential Constitution. Gen. Obasanjo was a) the
Head of State that convened this Assembly, b) that intervened when it faced
a crisis on the position of Sharia Law, and c) proclaimed this Constitution
into law, after some arbitrary modifications at the purported instance of
the Supreme Military Council. Experience also commands me to affirm that
Gen. Obasanjo has been characteristically timid and vacillating on matters
pertaining to Sharia, and that the attendant indecision and disability have
always occasioned avoidable general confusion and public distress.

Gen. Obasanjo would rather leave the matter of legal determinations on
crucial matters of urgent national interest to individuals or private
concerns, knowing fully well that the distance between a State High Court or
Federal High Court and the Supreme Court is long, tedious and expensive.
When, for example, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, attempted to get some legal
clarifications on Sharia Law, his suit was dismissed on ground of a lack of
locus standi, whereas such dismissal cannot be pronounced had the same
matter been taken up, at Supreme Court level, by the Attorney General of the
Federation.

Significantly, President Obasanjo has been callously irresponsive to Supreme
Court determinations, whenever his Government sought it pronounced relevant
decisions. Regarding the littoral states and the application of the
derivation principle, he has either denied the littoral States of a lot of
money or has been unduly late in payments. He also refused to sign the
dichotomy bill passed by the National Assembly. Rather, he substituted same
with fuzzy (amendment) proposals that flout the due legislative process and
the legitimate aspirations of the good people of Nigeria from the Delta
region. All these have fueled the temper and tempo of restlessness,
alienation and Angst in the Niger Delta region.

In the light of the foregoing, it is clearly preposterous and wicked for
anyone, including Obasanjo, to resort to ad hominem (name calling) and ad
baculum (appeal to fear) on matters of public interest. To tell the people
of Nigeria in Bayelsa that they should not ask for their rights, since they
should be grateful to have been liberated from BiAfra and their killing by
Ndigbo is a naked depiction of the falsity of the ad baculum variant.
Similar to such perversion is his claim that Gen. Buhari would jail them if
they vote for him. And to call Gen. Buhari a 'religious bigot' by ascribing
to him what he NEVER said, i.e., that Moslems should not vote for non-Moslems
is a horrible appeal to the ad hominem fallacy.

In point of truth, it is irreligious to abuse or misuse religion, and in
point of fact, bigotry is the application of falsehood to perpetrate
falsehood. A purported 'God-fearing man', more so, a man who claims to be a
'born-again Christian' must desist from inflammation of Christian sentiments
and from tinkering on the tinderbox of defamation on grounds of a presumptive
'religious' political campaign. For such is the opium that can make religion
burn. Surely, it is irreligious to misuse religion to the ends of cheap
political gains.

Looking again at the Constitution, nobody, including Gen. Buhari, will be in
the position to jail people by whim in that constitutional and democratic
government is NOT military. We know that both Generals Buhari and Obasanjo
were Heads of Military Governments that were NOT democratic. Therefore the
claims of any General or Head of State being more democratic than the other
under military dictatorships is sham. We also know that Gen. Buhari has
pledged to stand by and on the Constitution, now and when elected as
President of Nigeria. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity and resolve,
any less than Obasanjo's. Plainly speaking, those in glass houses should NOT
throw stones.

Now, we have also adduced sufficient evidence that prove that Buhari or any
other person, high or low, can Islamize or Christianize the Federal Republic
of Nigeria, by sheer political fiat or religious zealotry. Nor will his Vice
Presidential running mate, who is a Christian, go along with any
Islamization plot, in the hypothetical event of such absurdity. Similarly, I
hold it to be self-evident that Gen. Obasanjo, for all his highly advertised
Sunday church services in his Aso Rock chapel, and all his Baptist
admonitions elsewhere, cannot Christianize Nigeria. Even if and when he tries
it, we will definitely rise to stop him.

Put together, let us all comply with the plea of Islamic and Christian
clerics as well as nationalists and patriots for all round religious
tolerance. Religion, being a matter of individual choice and faith, must be
left where it is, such that our clerics can take care of our souls and
religious persuasions, while elected civilians take care of the businesses
of governance. In these connections, the holier than thou and I know it all
postures should be consigned to the bonfires of perdition or the dustbins of
cant. In the mighty name of God, let us resolve NOT to overheat the system
any further and to make love rather than war.
 


Okadigbo, Vice Presidential Candidate of the ANPP
April 2003 National Election and former Senate President
 

 

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