That one of the major problems assailing Nigeria as a corporate entity is situated within the religious and pseudo-religious elite is a fact that does not require any shred of evidence to the discerning. Nothing illustrates the foregoing submission more than the usual hoopla from the stable of a Christian cleric and public intellectual, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, who has a penchant for heating the polity with his slanted positions. The context of his latest criticism was the book launch organised by Premium Times Books last Wednesday in Abuja, as reported by the online newspaper in the story, “Christians not allowed places of worship in some northern tertiary institutions” on August 16, 2018. According to Premium Times, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto characteristically berated Muslims generally and Northern Muslims in particular that they orientate their children to be violent. He falsely claimed that Christians are not allowed places of worship in northern higher institutions and he invoked the same mantra of marginalisation that has been used, abused and overused by dissident groups and political desperadoes. One strategy of Bishop Kukah’s, is to play the underdog in highlighting their intolerance for Muslims in this country. Though objectivity is a core requirement of scholarship, Bishop Kukah is passionately opposed to it. He recently ventilated such noxious thoughts of his at an international forum where the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) stood to educate him that the issue is neither one-sided nor as simple as portrayed. But he has chosen another platform to play voodoo on the minds of the unwary and the undiscerning.
Without any fear of contradiction whatsoever, the irrefragable truth is that no religious group faces the persecution that Muslims face in Nigeria. From the usual hijab saga to religious witch-hunting in private and public establishments, Muslims have always been subjected to the same treatment the colonial masters made them to suffer. But rather than consider it what it is in the hands of the Christian neo-colonialists, the patriotic zeal to keep Nigeria together has often made Muslims elect to see the injustice against them as aberration. In addition, we do not know why the respected Bishop has developed a proclivity for negativity and falsehood, instead of the things that unite us. For example, the Catholic secretariat is only a-three-minute drive from the sultan’s palace in Sokoto. Also, when the said Cathedral was being opened, the state Governor – a Muslim, was present at the event.
The Sultan, who was out of town For The Polity Not To Be Overheated at the time, sent a powerful delegation to represent him. These and many more are glorious examples of the peaceful and tolerant disposition of Muslims toward their Christian neighbours in the heart of Muslims’ lands. Conversely, Bishop Kukah uses every opportunity to throw tantrums at Muslims and talk of marginalisation in the North, where he superintends over several churches worth billions of Naira, he conveniently ignores the emasculation of Muslims in the South to the extent that they don’t even have a voice as Christian Governors and leaders ride roughshod on their rights. Islam is reduced to the status of an unwanted visitor as successive Governors in cahoots with the intolerant religious leadership there ensure that no breathing space is allowed Muslims. CAN leaders in the South openly sign statements in support of one candidate or the other whereas if a Muslim does in the North, heaven will be made to fall. The Governors in the South East and South South can conveniently spend millions of Naira on covering live church activities on television from public funds without a whimper from the rabble-rousers but if a Muslim Governor elsewhere sponsors a pilgrim with a fraction, they are quick to mount the rooftops and shout of Nigeria’s secularity. In other words, in the whole South East and South South Geo-political zones, including some parts of the South West, Muslims are treated like lepers. They are denied and their ramshackle places of worship are routinely destroyed.
Yet, Muslims have not been using every available podium to castigate and demonise their non-Muslim tormentors even when they are aware that Kano alone has thousands of churches operating without let or hindrance, just like many other places in the North. One or two cases will aptly demonstrate Kukah’s hypocrisy and insincerity as he is in position to be aware of the scenario. Rivers State University of Science and Technology is a Nigerian public university, yet the institution illustrates and symbolises the intolerance, bellicosity and colonial mentality of the Christian establishment in the Southern part of Nigeria. While the authorities of the university granted more than six different places of worship to six Christian sects or denominations on campus, they blatantly refused to grant one to Muslim students. The makeshift mosque the students erected to worship God was demolished and its materials have been confiscated by the university since January 25, 2012. Rather than take the laws into their own hands as many students would do when confronted with such provocation, the Muslim students approached the courts after exhausting all diplomatic channels to make the university authorities see reason. The case, with SUIT No. FCH/ PH/CS/150/2012 was brought before the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt and the students were granted the reliefs sought by the court on February 19, 2013. The authorities of the universities did not toe the line of reason but rather chose to appeal the judgement in order to prolong the persecution of Muslim students.
The appellate Court in SUIT No. CA/PH/614/2013 nullified the appeal on March 31, 2017 and upheld the right of the Muslims to be allocated a plot for worship on the Campus. Yet, rather than put a stop to its illegality, the university authorities still approached the Supreme Courtwhere the case is pending hearing. The tactic is to postpone doing the right and constitutional imperative to punish the peace-loving Muslim students and deny them their constitutionallyguaranteed rights as Nigerians. The stark reality of Nigeria is that some Christians, goaded on by their leaders like Kukah do not want Muslims to exist. When they shout that christianity is under threat, it is a manner of expressing their Islamophobic tirades as just done again by Kukah. It took the intervention of the Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN) to point out the composition of the so-called Afenifere that parades itself as the council of elders in Yorubaland. In the entire body, no single Muslim is found old enough to be a member. A region boasting of nationally and internationally acknowledged icons like Prince Bola Ajibola, Hon. Justice Bola Babalakin (rtd.), Alhaji S.O. Babalola, Prof. Daud Noibi, Prof. T. G. O. Gbadamosi and a host of other accomplished and elderly Muslims does not have a single Muslim in its sociocultural group because it must be an allChristian affair. It is convenient for Kukah to pontificate as if he was in Mars when the late Bola Ige was terrorizing Muslim students in Oyo State just because of the clamour to enjoy a semblance of religious rights granted Christians in public schools. It is easy to forget the various infractionswrought upon Muslim students in particular and Muslims in general in many parts of North Central Nigeria. The fact that no sponsored Islamic programme is tolerated on Channels Television despite request from even Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, is no issue to Kukah, but Late M.K.O Abiola’s policy of not allowing advertisement of alcohol in his then Concord Newspapers was considered fanatical. Denying people places of worship in the North and the South is an aberration. Those who see it otherwise or rather play ethno-religious cards in a mischievous manner are the true enemies of Nigeria. Nigerians should not fall for their gimmicks as their stock-in-trade is distortion of facts, religious intolerance and intentional amnesia as demonstrated for the umpteenth time by Bishop Kukah at the event cited in the report under consideration.
ASELEMI IBRAHIM is the Public Relation Officer of the Nigerian Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs (NSCIA)