By Ralph Madugu
Considering the need for theology to actively engage with everyday life situations, the Jos ECWA Theological Seminary Leadership Centre and the JETS Centre for Religion, Church and Society recently organized a 3-day conference titled, Land, Insecurity and the Sharia Law Debate: A Challenge to the Corporate Existence, Growth and Development of Nigeria.
Aimed at developing and inculcating a new mindset for building a nation based on the principles of human equality, diversity and inclusion, the event brought together over 300 hundred participants drawn from local churches, Christian organizations, ministries, civil society organizations and theological institutions from the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
In a communique issued at the end of the conference and signed by Rev. Prof. Sunday Bobai Agang, Rev. Prof Bauta Motty and Rev. Prof. Yusufu Turaki, participants posited that the principles of human equality, diversity and inclusion were fundamental to driving lasting social cohesion and change in Nigeria.
They stated that due to the complex nature of land issues, including its ownership, purpose, protection and how challenges the corporate existence of a pluralistic Nigeria there was the need for a “redemptive framework” that would become the panacea for national unity, growth and development.
Participants who were divided into groups observed that land was a creation of God and thus a gift from Him, alluding to the Jewish concept of land as tribal territory as well the meeting point of YAHWEH with man.
They pointed out that the question of the ownership of land in Nigeria was essentially about the ownership of the country, stating that, culturally, land is tied to the identity of a people hence without it, there would not have been ethnic identity.
Taking over a people’s land, participants maintained was tantamount to “annihilating an entire nation.”
They added that socially, land was the basis for development reiterating that taking away land from a people was to deny them development.
“Land is at the root of recent killings, agitations, verbal wars, social and political maneuvering in the Nigerian context, as such, is fundamental to the shari’a debate in Nigeria.
“Land grabbing is the primary motive of the presumed benefactors of most of these killings in mostly the non-Caliphate region of northern Nigeria (i.e., the Middle Belt) and now has stretched to the South-East, South-South, South-West and North-West regions of Nigeria targeting mostly the indigenous people thus making these killings a national emergency second to war.
“The primary victims of these killings are a group of people who are; indigenous mostly Christians.
“There is lack of proper education and awareness on the land and all that it entails among Nigerian citizens particularly among ethnic minorities. 8. At the national level, there are inadequate institutionalized structures and land protective systems that guard, monitors and evaluate land use at community level.”
The conference observed that the problem of insecurity was rooted in the “faulty foundations of Nigeria’s history” which forms the basis of politics of ethnicity, religion, and region adding that unemployment, robbery, cultism, bribery and corruption and other crimes such as abduction, kidnapping, bombings and political instability.
Participants acknowledged the lack of synergy among Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies which has not only made it difficult for citizens to believe in them to protect their lives and properties but also enforced public distrust in the country’s security architecture.
“Criminals have always explored this lack of synergy to cause chaos in the country.
“Terrorism and its acts are languages that need to be learned and understood. Terrorism is a war that cannot be fought physically; it does not need a weapon, an armoured vehicle or a jet fighter. But can easily be countered through strategic intelligence networking and security enlightenment of the populace.
“In Nigeria, security is never being taken seriously until when something happens, and the solutions always come after the loss of lives and properties.
“In Nigeria, more often than not, the average citizen is unaware of the serious consequences of kidnapping, killings and other forms of insecurity and the serious threat they constitute to lives and properties across the nation. This is likened to the scriptural affirmation that; people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
“The Nigeria’s rapid population growth comes without contingent plan to accommodate the emanating challenges, while the strength of the Law Enforcement Agencies compared to the present population of Nigerians is unbelievably ridiculous.
“Government alone cannot provide adequate security for all citizens and residents; neither can they safeguard lives and properties. Security should be everybody’s business.
“Nigeria’s inability to know more about its francophone neighbouring countries is due partly to language barrier as not more than 10% understand or speak French.
“There is no Civil–Military Cooperation passed as a Law to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
“Traditional Rulers are relegated; power and preference are being given to political leaders whose tenure in office may not exceed 4-8 years while neglecting the traditional leaders who often remain in power for a long time.
“Poor Educational system in Nigeria contributes in a significant way to insecurity in Nigeria where we hardly have a full 3-5 years’ school calendar without interruption either by industrial actions or civil unrest.”
Participants emphasized that Nigeria was not an Islamic stand advised that the current Shari’a debate must be understood, interpreted and applied from the Islamic and Christian foundations and theologies.
“The Nigerian Muslims have historically reflected a certain form of Islam, which has fully developed outside of an Islamic theocracy.
“Shari’a is fundamentally a quest for land grabbing from its indigenous owners. Shari’a is an Islamic missiological tool for expansion and conversion. Through Shari’a, Islam takes over a society/state and creates out of it an Islamic theocratic state.
“Shari’a is a political and a religious declaration of lands and territories as Islamic. Through Shari’a, Islam denies Christians a free access to the state, which is an Islamic theocracy.
“Shari’a ensure that once an Islamic state has been declared and instituted, the land or territory becomes Islamic and a Christian loses the rights of land or territory. Islam regulates the use of land and may not grant any piece of land for Christian use. Christians in some parts of Northern Nigeria have suffered persecution in this area.
“The 1999 Constitution does not promote the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians as it contains two contradictory ideologies of Islamic theocracy and liberal democratic principles.
“The Middle-East (with dominant Muslim populations) is a perfect example of the wide-ranging consequences of Shari’a. How then is it possible to establish Shari’a in a secular, religious and ethnic pluralistic society as Nigeria?
“The issue of Shari’a needs to be revisited particularly among non-Muslims as a result of the speech by the Chief Justice of Nigeria who was reported to have said, “As we all know, there are sections of the constitution that allow the implementation of shari’a personal law and apart from that, we cannot do more.”
They explained that the proponents of the Shari’a debate can be categorised as “Muslims” and “Islam” hence the need to acknowledge these distinction adding urging that the opponents to know the theological limits of Muslims and the Christian very theological limits in dealing with Islam.
“This is because the assumption is that when one dialogues or agrees with Muslims, one ultimately does so with Islam. This very assumption has not always been true historically in both Islamic theology and in the experience of Christians in the Middle East and Northern Nigeria.”
They further acknowledged good governance as an essential precondition for rapid economic transformation and sustainable development stating that in Nigeria today, ‘the future is always at stake in the present.’
According to the participants, Nigeria has the capacity to design pathways to a future grounded in equitable and sustainable development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising those of the future.
“Poverty and unemployment enforced by weak leadership are the major causes of conflict in Nigeria, revealing that job creation and actionable policies by the government remains the only panacea for peace.
“Political leadership is a major cause of the myriads of challenges facing sustainable peace in Nigeria.
“At all levels, there is also a lack of true leadership that is visionary and inspiring to build a collective narrative that manages to bring together Nigerian people, economic sectors, beyond confrontations and segregation.”
They recommended buildingof a common understanding on land as a gift from God the Creator entrusted to humanity for its care, emphasizing that this understanding explains the laws that govern the use of land, its ownership, and the relationship that exist among the people, between God and land, the people and land, and God and the people.
They also called for a common philosophy of land that goes beyond its social and political significance but also includes its significance to people’s ethnic identities, cultures and heritages that must be respected and protected.
They added that Nigeria was surrounded by francophone countries, the teaching of French from primary to tertiary level of education as a second official language should be encouraged.
They also advocated the re-establishment of the National Forest Guard to secure and protect the nation’s porous borders.
“There is the need to emphasize creational responsibility of all citizens upon which the concept of human dignity is based.
“The human being as a created being primarily preceded human creation of culture, religion, philosophy, science, racism, tribalism and nation-states, which might have been corrupted by human self-centeredness and pride; greed and lust, anxiety and fear.
“Nigerians must respect and revere creation and common humanity and other creatures because we are all co-creatures created by God.
“The roles and functions of religion, culture, philosophy and science should be defined by creational ethic.”
They asserted that forpolicies to work, good governance is fundamental, stressing the need for capacity building, effective strategic implementation to drive the vision forward in order to enhance the wellbeing of Nigerian citizens and beyond.
They also recommended the proper implementation of strategies which will proffer reliable solution to ensure good governance for sustainable development in Nigeria.
Since poverty and unemployment enforced by weak leadership are the major causes of conflict in Nigeria, they advocated for job creation and actionable policies by the government which they said, remains the panacea for peace.
“Nigerians must recognize that all communities have unique features, as well as ideals, values and resources that make them very important in both political and economic development of the country.
“Leadership is the basis for recovery and growth. As such, the redemptive leadership model, a catalyst through which positive transformation of Nigeria can occur, should be prioritized. This model guarantees leadership for the common good.
“The existing Constitution and Structure of Nigeria are grossly flawed. Therefore, there is the need for a fundamental and critical restructuring of the country to reflect true federalism, and enthrone equity, fairness and justice, before the 2023 General Elections.
“For adequate peace at the local levels, governors as the Chief Security Officers of their respective states should be fully applied and allow such an officer a total governance of the State’s Security Apparatus. Again, each State should be allowed to create and run its own police system.
“Nigeria must build its own paradigm and economic model based on the values of effort, discipline and free market. Nigeria has enough resources, human and material, to achieve this strategic goal.
“Nigeria must develop a strategy for raising true leadership that is visionary and inspiring to build a collective narrative that manages to bring together all Nigerians irrespective of whatever differences, real or imagine. This will help inculcate the value of ‘meritocracy’ over mediocrity and will further place the citizens at the centre of governance.
“The Federal Government should be alive to its primary duty of protecting the lives and property of citizens; safeguarding all communities across Nigeria, and ensuring the immediate return of displaced citizens to their ancestral lands.”