By Ralph Madugu
The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria has reacted to the Press statement issued recently by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA where it accused CAN of “campaign of calumny over Shortlisted Justices of the Court of Appeal.”
NSCIA in a press statement signed by its Deputy Secretary General, Prof. Salisu Shehu and itsAg. Director of Administration, NSCIA Arc. Haruna Zuberu Usman-Ugwu, the Council had said: “It would be noted that except it is compelled to do so, the Council has often resisted joining issues with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as a matter of principle.
“This is because CAN has proved, times without number, its morbid hatred for Islam and Muslims, its remarkable capacity for destructive mischief, its dexterous use of scurrilous propaganda and its predilection for always being economical with the truth as part of the sinister strategy of heating up the polity anytime a Muslim is at the helm of affairs.”
But reacting to the NSCIA statement, CAN said: “Our attention has been drawn to a Press Statement issued by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) where the Council used vulgar, immature language and unprintable words to describe the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in its bid to justify the obvious lopsided appointments of the Federal Government in favour of its members.
“The Council was smart by half when it picked an example of just one arm of Government without addressing the totality of fundamental questions on all the arms of government. Should it not have been better for the Council to have been bold enough to examine the entirety of appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari as serially referenced by CAN?
“The NSCIA evaded those troubling issues that are well known not only to Nigerians but members of the international community; those knotty issues that have pushed our country on the edge of precipice. By so doing, NSCIA has unwittingly exposed itself as a promoter of bad governance, divisiveness and injustice in Nigeria under the Buhari administration.
“Why did the Council remain evasive on the big issue of the Court of Appeal? Interestingly, there was never a time when CAN ever attacked or made veiled reference to NSCIA over the obvious lopsided appointments in the country. CAN’s concern has always been directed at the Federal Government as a concerned non-governmental group but NSCIA as an underdog of Government rather took it upon itself to speak for the Government. We wish the Council had allowed the Government to speak for itself.”
CAN said it is disappointed with the tone of the highest Islamic body in the country for “the abysmal and tragic condescension knowing that the Council is made up of eminent and highly respected personalities.”
It stated that it would not join the Islamic Council in “the mudslinging” because CAN chose maturity, candour, moderation and objectivity over parochialism and fundamentalism because it has the facts and figures which the entire world knows as well to prove its points beyond any (un)reasonable doubts, the Christian umbrella body said it needed to set a record straight by underlining the fact that CAN as a body does not have hatred for Islam and Muslims or whatsoever.
CAN described the NSCIA statement as the highest degree of cheap blackmail for any individual or group to have made such puerile and empty claim.
The Association further pointed out that whenever any Muslim leader in the country was under any unjustifiable attack, it (CAN) stood up to speak against citing instances where the then continued incarceration of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, despite the court’s rulings.
“CAN was among the potent voices calling for their release. Similarly, whenever terrorists or bandits attacked any Muslim community or mosque, CAN always comes out publicly to speak against it.
“But CAN has never seen NSCIA reciprocating that whenever their brethren attacked Christians, or predominantly Christian communities or churches. Who hates who in this context?
On the NSCIA claims that it “would not allow the serial falsehood of CAN and its propensity for character assassination of people on the basis of their religious identity to stand because truth is irrefragable,” CAN demanded to know from NSCIA if is falsehood or character assassination that the Security Council of the country has remained an appendage of NSCIA under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari?
“We dare either the Federal Government or its self-appointed spokespersons, NSCIA, to publish names, state of origins and religions of the appointments by President Buhari into the following offices since 2015 to date: Ministers of Defence, Police Affairs and Interior, the National Security Advisers (NSA), the Inspectors-General of Police, Director-Generals of the Security Service, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA); Chairmen, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Director-General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); the Comptrollers-Generals, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, Federal Fire Service, and Commandant-General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). Out of all these, maybe only one or two are Christians and from the South!
“Others are the Accountant-General of the Federation, all heads of the agencies and parastatals. The whole world will then know the agent of falsehood and character assassination between CAN and NSCIA. The grand plan of subtle Islamization is to make a Muslim the head of every key board, committee, parastatal and put Christians under without much influence in the decision-making process in the establishment (irrespective of their number). Cases of this abound severally. This observation of the Christian Association of Nigeria has been recently strengthened by the ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria’ of the U. S. Department of State. In the report, it was stated that, ‘traditional relationships were used to pressure government officials to favor particular ethnic groups in the distribution of important positions and other patronage.”
Still on appointments, CAN stated that the NSCIA decided to use figures to pervert the truth and mislead the public adding that they (NSCIA) were economical with the truth stating that “We need to go back to history to understand why in the early years of the emergence of our country as a nation, more Christians were eligible for employment into the public service.
“Where were the members of NSCIA in the 1800s when Western Education was brought to this part of our world and Christians in the Northern and Southern parts of the country were sending their children to schools? Were they not sending theirs to Arabic and Qur’anic schools? Was it Arabic or Qur’anic studies that they would use to get appointment to government offices and the courts? Were they not opposing self-rule initially when the Southerners moved the motion for it because they were not prepared educationally for it?
“They should blame themselves for lack of qualified personnel (not religious discrimination) if the number of them in public service was and is not much. Up till today, is the Muslim North still not comparatively lagging behind in Western Education? They would need to do a little bit of more history to understand properly their own predicament. It is different from what is happening today when those in power are deliberately overlooking the qualified Christians who should be in different positions. By the way, was it CAN that prevented them from going to school? Most of the schools that the government took over during the military’s unlawful government were built by the Christian missionaries when our Muslim counterparts were investing in the Quranic schools. Up till today, it is those things that cannot bring development in education that the NSCIA members are still fighting for such as the wearing of hijab in schools started by Christians and are still largely being maintained by them. Will a girl wearing hijab be more brilliant in school than the rest of her counterparts? They have forgotten that till today, we are not mounting pressure on the government to introduce the Christian culture to the Islamic schools.
CAN further disclosed that a group of Muslims today still says that ‘Western Education is forbidden’ (Boko Haram) and they have taken up arms to wipe Christians out of the country pointing out that there was a time when a Christian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, established modernized Almajiri Schools to withdraw their children who, according to some Northern leaders, had become big pool from where terrorists and now bandits recruit from the streets yet CAN did not kicked against it despite the fact that CAN knew that those schools were not meant for Christian children even though the country’s commonwealth was being used in several millions of naira to run them.
Again, CAN said that when this current government came on board and closed down those schools, NSCIA said nothing adding that CAN never made any release to attack NSCIA describing it as “lack of respect for another religion that made NSCIA to attack CAN thus making themselves official mouthpiece for the Government.” This according to CAN, suggested again that those in Government are plainly carrying out NSCIA’s marginalization policy against qualified Christians.
“NSCIA also stated that CBN has been funding CAN. This is another wicked lie and dubious attempt by them to mislead the public. It baffles sanity for any group to make such outrageous claim. This is nothing but a blackmail and it is unfortunate for a religious organization with worth to be involved in this. On the other hand, NSCIA is the one benefiting most of the time from Government funding.
“The CBN approached CAN on 11th March, 2005 requesting for the use of National Ecumenical open space as car park by its staff. This was officially approved by CAN in November, 2006. In furtherance of that, a rent agreement was entered into legally, since then, they have been using the place till date. NSCIA is aware of this but only attempted to blackmail CAN. Didn’t they know that if at all CAN gave them parking space free, it would need to hire security men to watch over the vehicles parked within its premises till the owners take them? Will we also not pay such security people? Didn’t they equally know that the parking space has to be maintained with money? A religious organization that does not speak the truth but speaks out of malice, spurious propaganda and bitterness such as NSCIA has done is most shameful and unfortunate.
“Under the watch of President Buhari, especially throughout his first term, the Judiciary was literally an appendage of NSCIA because its members were in charge of its affairs. We all know how they removed Justice Walter Onnoghen from office without following due process. But for the critical section of the polity including the likes of Col. Umar Dangiwa, the incumbent President of the Court of Appeal would have been denied her succession privilege and right. We didn’t see NSCIA on the list. The entire country knew how the scandalous process went. If this is another falsehood, we dare the Federal Government or its spokespersons to publish the names, state of origins and religions of those who have held the following positions from 2015 to date: The Chief Justice of Nigeria, The President, Court of Appeal, The Chief Judge, Federal High Courts, The Chief Judge, FCT High Court.”
On what it termed Special Treatments/ Funding of Islam, CAN maintained that one of the evils perpetrated by the Military Governments was the Islamization agenda beginning with the unlawful membership of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) under the General Ibrahim Babangida regime.
CAN further stated that the membership of the country has made the Federal Government a key sponsor of Islam in the country.
“To buttress this point, we demand to know from the Federal Government or its unofficial mouthpiece, NSCIA: Who funds Nigeria’s membership of these Islamic organizations? Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Islam in Africa Organization (IAO), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Headquarters Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and all its agencies or allies, D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation Hqtrs Istanbul, Turkey, Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) with headquarters in Morocco, etc. The Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Military Alliance Against Terrorism.
“In case NSCIA is not aware, CAN and its members belong to many Christian organizations like the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), World Council of Churches, etc, of which no government has been supporting our membership and neither does the Federal Government send anyone to represent the country unlike what it does for Muslims. If this is not Islamisation agenda, what should we call it? Who is funding the Grand Khadi with several millions of Naira yearly? Is it not the Federal Government? What about the Sharia courts in the Constitution that is being funded by the government? The Arabic language that is scripted on the Naira and the flag of the Nigerian Army, is it our national language and was it prescribed by the Constitution?
“In March 2018, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, disclosed that it appropriated over 600 million naira in the 2018 budget for execution of capital projects at the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS), just as it has committed 200 million naira to the rehabilitation of the board’s buildings ceded to it by the government. The Minister also disclosed that the Ministry would soon capture staff of the board into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which will cost the government over two billion naira annually.
“NBAIS is the regulatory and examination body for Arabic and Islamic Secondary Schools and centres in the country. The Board, established in 1960 as Arabic and Islamic Studies Unit under the defunct Northern Nigeria Ministry of Education became a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Education in 2017 under President Buhari who used the Federal Executive Council to secure a waiver for the establishment of the board without the involvement of the National Assembly (see The GUARDIAN 12 March, 2018).
“The National Council on Education, the highest decision making body in education had directed relevant agencies and institutions to accept graduates of higher Islamic and Arabic institutions into higher institutions of learning.
“Is Nigeria an Islamic State as being claimed in the records of every Islamic organisation Nigeria is a ‘member’? Is there any such privilege for the Christians? If this is not Islamisation, what is it?) How can we keep quiet when a religious commission like this is being allocated billions of our commonwealth without proper legal backing and without its counterpart for the other religions in the country? What motivated President Buhari into leading the Federal Executive Council to grant waiver for the establishment of this board in 2017 if it was not a ploy by him to use his position to promote Islam? Can the Executive make law without recourse to the National Assembly?
“Let the whole nation know that it would be difficult for us to do pilgrimage together as a nation if this type of injustice and favouritism continues! The Police are using religious sentiment to heat up the polity. This is quite unfortunate. The way forward is for the same Federal Executive Council to create similar board for other religions or scrap this board which does not have legal backing immediately.
According to CAN, Christians have become endangered species and lives have been lost to terrorists in this current dispensation adding that the “murderous suspected terrorists, herdsmen and bandits were targeting pastors and predominantly Christian communities” until a while ago when it became an attack on anyone.
“We are disappointed that NSCIA is too busy to call their children to order. A CAN Chairman was abducted and murdered, till date, NSCIA has not deemed it fit to console or react proportionately. We call on the leadership of NSCIA to borrow a leaf from CAN. We have no reason to attack or criticize them but to objectively criticize the Federal Government that presently rules the country as if we are no longer a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation whose leaders are to lead in strict adherence to the constitution and with respect for fundamental human rights of all citizens, decency, good conscience and fear of God.
“Christians in Nigeria under CAN have severally been attacked through the uncouth and provocative languages by MURIC (The Muslim Rights Concern) but CAN maintained a cool head and never reacted to such evil-intended, anti-Nigerian distractions. CAN is a peace-loving Association and it believes in dialogue and negotiation rather than verbal war in the media as done by the NSCIA in its recent publication. NIREC is also there. Or should we all pretend that this body is not a fluke?
The Association reiterated that Nigeria is greater than anybody or Association and that everyone shall come and go but the country will outlive all of us and advised Nigerians to shun actions that could push the country into political and religious war.
CAN recalled that the leadership of NSCIA protested against the perceived lopsided appointments of the CONFAB under President Jonathan yet it did not go to the press abusing them for their actions and urged NSCIA to emulate CAN.
“We in CAN speak as decent, concerned and responsible stakeholders, and we have been very consistent in this irrespective of who heads CAN or who leads Nigeria. So, the cheap blackmail by NSCIA is unbecoming of a religious body. In its last outing, it appears more like a political organ serving narrow aims which supports bad governance in the country. What is self-evident are the issues raised by CAN. There is no imaginary character assassination in these matters except for a vain figment of imagination of NSCIA. CAN stands by the fear of God, truth and it defends all irrespective of their religious or political affiliations. We wish NSCIA can do the same rather than shooting into the gallery to divert attention from the truth.
“It is on record that CAN and its predecessors had no issues with Nigeria’s Muslim rulers like Balewa, Murtala Muhammed, Shehu Shagari and Umaru Yar-Adua, because they did not allow their religion (Islam) to becloud their reasoning as patriots. The trouble started with Babangida and the OIC membership and now Buhari, who has not followed the Constitution in all his appointments. For the first time in our recent history, the three arms of government are headed and dominated by Muslims. If the Christians were to be their heads, only God knows what some fundamentalists would have turned the country into by now. But here we are today, President Buhari and NSCIA would see nothing wrong with that in a multi-religious country like Nigeria. This is the truth, not a blackmail.
CAN reiterated that, the faith of Christians remains firm and resolute and prayed God to the nation to rise above mediocrity, spiraling challenges and be prosperous and demanded for “serious adjustments forthwith on the appointments already done, and henceforth desire a paradigm shift in the ways and manners the affairs of this country are run, and appointments are done from time to time as to be clearly reflecting that this country, Nigeria, is not owned by Muslims, but a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country.”