By Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad
Friday, November 10, 2017 was the day in which President Muhammadu Buhari conferred with Christian and Muslim leaders in two separate closed-door meetings at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The Christian delegation was led by the CAN president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle; that of the Muslims by the Secretary General, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Dr. Khalid Aliyu.
I will start with the Muslim leaders’ version of the visit which got little publicity in the media as far as the details of what was discussed were concerned. The text of the speech presented by CAN leaders to the President during the closed door meeting was widely circulated even in the social media, not least the call on the government of Muhammad Buhari to ‘withdraw from all religious bodies.’ I shall revert to this later.
Many Muslims have taken exception to the composition of members of the delegation; some faulted the process of selection and invitation to the meeting; while others were of the opinion that non-attendance would have been better as Muslim leaders would be accused of importuning for presidential largess, since they are not proud owners of private jets like some of their Christian counterparts.
Sheikh Abdulwahid Abubakar, Imam of the Villa and Area 1 Central Mosque, single-handedly invited the Muslim leaders to the meeting through telephone calls. No formal letters were written to anyone. There was no pre-visit meeting by the leaders to at least exchange ideas and have alternative positions on what to present to Mr. President on behalf of the Muslim Ummah. Only with the Muslims will such an aleatory activity be tolerated. Sheikh Abdulwahid is doing his best for Islam, but the Presidency, for whatever reason, has done Muslims great disservice by taking advantage of the Sheikh’s old age, which explains his lack of capacity in such matters, to make him the sole convener of the meeting.
The Muslim leaders went in shortly after CAN leaders finished their session with President Buhari and left the State House.
We may dislike the embarkation of Muslim leaders on the visit to the Villa as well as the process that occasioned it, but after we know how they comported themselves in the presence of President Muhammad Buhari and his retinue, we are certain to be proud of them.
I was not part of the delegation, but I was curious to know what really transpired during the visit, so I gathered information through some of the attendees. It is, if you please, akin to hadeeth transmission – unbroken chain of narration emanation, almost, verbatim from those who were there.
The delegation, as mentioned earlier, was led by Dr Khalid Aliyu , the Secretary General of JNI, who compendiously presented the Muslim message to the President by welcoming him from his medical sojourn abroad, urging him to show gratitude to Allah for the triumphant return, abundant increase in health, stature and well-being that He bestowed upon him. He called on Mr. President to remember the overwhelming support that Nigerians from diverse cultures, regions and creeds have given him without any monetary inducement, at a time when some people ardently hoped and even swore that the President return not alive to us.
‘Your Excellency,’ said Dr. Khalid, ‘you have to show gratitude to Allah in that He restored you whole in mind, body and spirit; He heralded your return to good health by your stellar performance at the United Nations General Assembly, as well as other national and international engagements.’
‘Having said that’; continued Dr. Khalid, ‘we wish to counsel Your Excellency as follows:
‘1- Fear Allah in the responsibility He placed upon your shoulders of leading the Nigerian people for He will require it of you. (An-Nisaa, 131)
‘2- Preserve and stand out firmly for justice without regard to lineal ties, religion or ethnicity of those involved (An-Nisaa, 135); ‘and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice’ (Al-Maa’idah, 8). A just leader is a shade of Allah on earth, compassing all and sundry; discrimination on the basis of creed, social status, or tribal leanings is abominated.
‘3- The effects of good governance should be felt by the common man in the remotest of villages. More than two years into the life of this administration, people are still yearning for the change promised them.
‘4- Your Excellency, don’t be content with official information at your disposal as those working for you may project the positives and downplay what they deem will displease you. Set yourself lose from the invisible cordon thrown around you by those who desire that you exclusively belong to them, when you do not belong to anybody. You must have other sources of information independent of people who have interest in feeding you with wrong state of affairs and the suffering of the least-privileged Nigerians.
‘5- Your Excellency, your relentless fight against corruption, commendable as it is, appears to be blunting its sharp edges, because exemplary sanctions which should serve as deterrent to betrayers of trust were yet to be meted on anyone. More needs to be done.’
Other members who spoke after Dr. Khalid finished his short address reminded President Buhari of the favour Allah has shown him in relation to the poor who hardly fault his judgement on anything, even though, as a human-being he is liable to committing mistakes. They urged Mr. President to avoid whatever would make ordinary Nigerians feel that the confidence they reposed in him was not upheld. Creating more opportunities for youth employment, they said, is key, as well as enhancing the non-oil sectors like agriculture where many farmers are now smiling to the bank.
Other speakers called the attention of His Excellency, the President to the willingness of Muslims in the South-South and South-East to assist the government in any capacity or responsibility he may assign to them.
President Muhammadu Buhari was visibly touched by the various presentations made by the Dr. Khalid led delegation. He assured the meeting of his resolve to act according to the counsel given him by the religious leaders. ‘During my first stint as military Head of State,’ President Buhari said, ‘I dealt with people who were corrupt. We arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned them. At that time an accused person was guilty as charged until proven innocent.’
The President surprised his audience by relating a lesson on the vicissitudes of life. ‘As leaders then’ said His Excellency, ‘we thought ourselves strong and able to deal with betrayers of public trust. At the pinnacle of that reign, we were toppled, arrested and imprisoned in the dungeon we consigned those we arraigned and found guilty of embezzlement. That was a lesson indeed.
‘Now we return under a different system in which those accused of corruption are innocent until proven guilty – the opposite of what obtained during the military era.’
The reflections of Mr President show his frustrations with the bureaucracy and loopholes in the new order which allows a treasury looter to go free if the custodians of the law are so inclined. People can, for example, claim $100 million as their mother’s and later claim ownership as a gift given by no one in particular. It is sad and frustrating but that is what you sign up for with a democratic system. Enjoy the ride!
The easiest way to disconnect from the people you are governing is to get your information about the state of things through reports given by aides. Any leader who does not mingle with the people to read their moods and listen to their yearnings has failed. The prayer of some in this nation is that you fail, Mr President; please do the needful.
From Dr Khalid Aliyu’s speech, the position of Islam is clear: you must show justice and equity to all your subjects; regardless of whether they oppose you politically or not. Do not let the dislike a section of the country have towards you push you into giving them less than is due to them. Do not let Allah hold you to account for your stewardship on account of such people. This includes 57 year old governor who behaves like a 7 year old. Give all their right under the law; and this does not include wishing people happy birthdays.
HIS EMINENCE, THE SULTAN DIDN’T SAY THAT
The Vanguard newspaper of Thursday, November 9, 2017 had this caption on its first page : Unfair appointments, resource allocation breed crisis – SULTAN
The newspaper was reporting on “the opening ceremony of a Collaborative Interfaith Peace and Security Capacity Building Workshop, organised by the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, NARC,” where the Executive Secretary of Abuja National Mosque, Alh Ibrahim Jega represented His Eminence. In a goodwill message on behalf of the Sultan, Alh Jega enjoined leadership at all levels to be fair, just and equitable in their dealings with members of the society and ‘in the distribution of amenities and resources, irrespective of the political, religious and tribal inclination of members of the society.’
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