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Buhari’s unilateral decision on Muslim states coalition against terrorism

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“Buhari, who is fond of informing Nigerians of his administration’s policy-decisions when he is on tour of foreign lands, announced to the utter bewilderment and disillusionment of Nigerians, especially the Christian folk, while speaking on Al Jazeera in Qatar, that Nigeria should be a member of conference of Islamic States Against Terrorism.”

Nigeria is a country that is believed should be governed by democratic principles. The Nigerian state is deeply heterogeneous, giving rise to a high propensity of diversity. The various peoples that made up the country by virtue of the 1914 amalgamation had been living separately and independently on their own before the British colonial government thought otherwise. 

Before the advent of Christianity in Nigeria in the fifteenth century through Augustinian and Capuchin Monks from Portugal and Islam which had earlier been introduced in Nigeria in the eleventh century through the Kanem-Borno Empire, there was observance of African traditional religious practices. Nigerians had always believed in the existence of the Supreme Deity who resides in heaven but worship Him through an intermediary of lesser gods.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended clearly captures the secularity of the Nigerian state when in section 38 (1) of Chapter four it made provision for freedom of thought, conscience and religion. By this constitutional stipulation, Nigeria has no official religion. Every citizen is free to worship through any medium of self-conviction, as long as that does not interfere with the fundamental rights of other citizens. 

One of the numerous affronts the Nigerian Military perpetrated against the people of Nigeria was the desecration of the country’s secularity. The organization of Islamic conference, O.I.C, was formed in 1969 through a Saudi Arabian initiative, following the burning of the Al-Agsa mosque in Jerusalem, which was considered an attack on the Muslim world. 

The conference has its headquarters in Jeddah. Former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, without any regard to the sensitivity of Nigerians to matters of religion, unilaterally registered Nigeria as the forty-sixth member of the Organization of Islamic Conference in January 1986.

But for military dictatorship, a question as grave as membership of Organization of Islamic Conference could not easily have been swept under the carpet as General Babangida had so thought and manipulated. In the first instance, it would have been a matter of serious debate in the two chambers of the National Assembly. Strong public opinion from organizations such as Christian Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Labour Congress, Nigerian Bar Association and numerous Civil Society Organizations would have been there to influence the resolutions of the National Assembly on the matter.

The truth is that there was no basis for Nigeria to have been dragged into the membership of an organization which main objective is to protect the interest of a particular religion.

After all, it is not hidden that the converse interest the Muslim North of Nigeria has in the Arabs of Palestine is the interest the Christian South has in the Jews of Israel. Therefore, by pushing Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Conference, General Ibrahim Babangida stupendously violated the age-long spirit of security of the Nigerian people. 

One of the reasons why many Christians and non-northerners did not feel very comfortable voting for General Muhammadu Buhari was the fear that he would not change from being a northern irredentist and a religious bigot. True to their apprehension, Buhari, even as a democratically elected President of Nigeria, did not waste time in telling the world that those who gave him ninety-seven percent of their votes in the March 2015 Presidential election would get the same percent of reward while those who gave him only five percent should not expect any reward that is above five percent. His appointments, so far, have only confirmed the frankness of his thoughts.

People who know Buhari say he is very vindictive. He never forgives. Being in a position of authority and power, a person that does not forgive can only be a ruler and not a leader. Leaders are statesmen who put behind them whatever unpleasant experiences they have had in the past in order to put their country or society on the fast track of socio-economic advancement. They are not individuals who will keep an air-tight memory of whatever role an officer had played before or during his incarceration after he had been over thrown as a military head of state. 

A typical example of a leader and statesman is Dr Nelson Mandela of South-Africa. The apartheid South African government had put Nelson Mandela in clink for many years for his crusade against apartheid. When he came out of prison and also became the President of South-Africa, Nelson Mandela statemanly threw his many years of imprisonment and sufferings behind him and embraced the South-African project as a collective agenda. He did not resort to either Vendetta or vindictiveness. 

Even the white South-Africans that had conspired to deny him his fundamental human rights, he forgave and carried every citizen along in the onerous task of building a very virile and stable economy. He reconciled the entire people of south-Africa, making the country the most formidable economy in Africa. 

Many observers had thought that President Buhari was about turning a new leaf when he tactically rejected the request by the Saudi-Arabian ruler, king Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz, while he was on a week-long visit to Saudi-Arabia, to make Nigeria join the coalition of Islamic states against terror. In turning down the request, President Buhari said Nigeria would rather support the coalition than join as a member-country. On hearing this, many Nigerians applauded their President for respecting, for the first time, the secularity of Nigeria. Many felt this development was a sign of many good things to come from the Buhari-led A.P.C. government of Nigeria.

Unfortunately and regrettably, President Buhari, who is fond of informing Nigerians of his administration’s policy-decisions when he is on tour of foreign lands, announced to the utter bewilderment and disillusionment of Nigerians, especially the Christian folk, while speaking on Al Jazeera in Qatar, that Nigeria should be a member of conference of Islamic States Against Terrorism.

By this singular utterance, it is very clear that President Buhari still lives in the sophism of his inglorious past as an unrepentant military dictator. The unilateralism he obviously evoked by stating that Nigeria should be a member of a parochial international Conference without being sensitive to the feelings of Nigerian Christians and without any reference to the National Assembly is, no doubt, a terrible and most likely devastating knock on the foundation of the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria. 

No Nigerian citizen should wait to be told that by this action that can only stem from impunity, bigotry, inconsideration, insensitivity and unbridled arrogance, President Buhari has in only one sentence told Christians in Nigeria to go to hell and at the same time called the bluff of the National Assembly. 

Scripted by Sir Don Ubani

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