Nigeria Rejoins OIC

Nigeria has rejoined the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the same way it registered with the organisation about 23 years ago. On April 11, this year, the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abdullahi M. Garba Aminchi, quietly visited Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and signed the new OIC charter on behalf of the Nigerian government.

Although this event was published on OIC’s website the same day and widely reported in other Middle East media, it was not reported in the Nigerian media.

When NEXT visited the Ministry of Foreign affairs for confirmation of this event, Ayo Olukanmi, the ministry’s spokesman, declined comment. He said he needed clearance before he could do so. Also, calls made to the minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, were unanswered and text messages were not replied.

One week after the new romance with the organisation, the 12th Afro-Arab parliamentary conference was held in Abuja and the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole became the president of the Afro-Arab Parliamentary Union, two years after Nigeria joined the union.

According to the new OIC charter, Nigeria shall be guided by the noble Islamic values of unity and fraternity, and affirm to the essentiality of promoting and consolidating the unity and solidarity among the member States in securing their common interests at the international arena.

In addition, Nigeria as a member state is obligated to endeavour to work for revitalizing Islam’s pioneering role in the world while ensuring sustainable development, progress and prosperity for the peoples of member states; and to enhance and strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among the Muslim peoples and member states.

OIC was established in 1969 through a Saudi Arabian initiative, following the burning of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which was considered an attack on the Muslim world. The Headquarters of the organisation are in Jeddah. Some of its members are, however, not Islamic or Arabic countries, in the proper sense of the world and they could be found in virtually all the continents of the world.

First tentative steps

The first meeting of the organization was held in Morocco in 1969. Nigeria was invited for this opening meeting. However, the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, sent a delegation of observers, led by Abubakar Gumi, to represent only the Nigerian Muslim community.

Throughout the 70s and the greater part of the 80s, Nigeria refused to join the organization despite reported pressure from lobbyists. In 1986, controversy trailed Nigeria’s secret admission into the fraternity; with many arguing that as a secular nation, it had no business with the Islamic body.

However, a French news agency reported that Nigeria has been admitted into the organization as its 46th member in January 1986.

The news hit the nation with mixed surprises. The Muslim community saw it as a pleasant surprise, but the Christian community strongly resented Nigeria’s bonding with this body. They saw it as `Islamization of Nigeria’ and asked the president to deregister the country from the organization, since our constitution holds that Nigeria is a secular society.

Ebitu Ukiwe, then a navy commodore and second in command to the then military President, Ibrahim Babangida, had it rough with that administration when he declared publicly that the decision to join OIC was not discussed at any level of government. Mr. Ukiwe’s denial of the decision reportedly led to his forceful exit from government.

Resistance, still  

“General Gowon had no business taken us there as an observer in the first place” said Joseph John Hayab, the General Secretary of Christian Association of Nigeria. “We have no idea of the pressure that was mounted on him, but the issue is simply what we have been saying. It has nothing to do with Christians or Muslims in Nigeria but when government finds itself very weak; they always go via religion to see how they can find a way of escape.
“We are pleading with the government to leave us alone as Christians and Muslims. Since the issue came up in 1986, neither the government nor the Muslim leaders have been able to convince us on why Nigeria should be a member of OIC,” he added.

Ishaq Oloyode, the secretary general of Nigerian Religious Interdenominational council, said he was not yet aware that the country has signed the OIC charter.
Fact box
* The OIC has 57 members
* It has an observer status at the UN
* Institutions such as the Arab League, the African Union and the UN have
observer status in the organization
* Russia is one of the countries processing its membership
* West African membership include Cote D’Ivoire; Sierra Leone; Cameroon
and Togo
* The organisation is sought after for its easy soft development loans and