For the past two weeks I shared the Lead Paper presented by Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed in a Two-Day Symposium organised by the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria. Today I share the Communique issued at the end of the event:
Every nation struggles to protect and deepen its core values, enabling people to lead their lives in free and secure environments according to their shared beliefs through guarding their national interests, identity, and sovereignty. Nigeria is currently grappling with multifaceted problems of insecurity amidst daunting developmental challenges. Recent events in Nigeria as reported in the media, clearly point to a deliberate attempt to disrupt the delicate harmony that exists between the ethnic groups of our dear country. The situation has already created a tense atmosphere of distrust, fear, and violent confrontation between members of one ethnic group against another and exacerbated the Indigene and Settler conflict across the country.
It was in the light of the above tension that the Supreme Council of Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN) in collaboration with the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) organised a two-day Symposium with the theme “Threat to the Unity of the Ummah and the Future of Nigeria, Citizenship and Nationhood” at the International Conference Centre, Abuja from 24th to 26th Shawwal 1442 (4th to 6th June 2021). More than 300 delegates attended the Symposium which brought together Islamic scholars, chief Imams, traditional rulers, academics, politicians, technocrats and representatives of over 50 Islamic organisations from every part of the county.
The opening ceremony was chaired by Alhaji Bashir Tofa in which the lead presentation titled “The Nigeria Federation and Management of our Diversity; A critical Evaluation and need for Review” was presented by Prof Hakeem Baba Ahmed. Goodwill messages were also delivered by His Excellency Ahmad Sani Yariman Bakura, His Excellency Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, His Excellency Chief Rochas Ocorochar and finally, the Emir of Keffi delivered the Keynote Address on behalf of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni.
At the end of the presentations discussions and deliberations the following observations and the corresponding recommendations were made:
The participants at the Conference observed that:
ethnic, religious and identity politics have become weapons of power struggle among the political class, culminating in the heightening of ethno-religious unrest across nooks and crannies of the country.
The resultant security challenges facing the country poses enormous threat to the peace, prosperity and progress of Nigeria and its corporate existence as a country; the constitution and the federal system of Nigeria, both intrinsically indispensable, have shown ineligible imperfections in their design and implementation;
governments at various levels have successively failed the basic responsibility of providing adequate welfare for the people most prominently healthcare, education and economic empowerment, thereby resulting in the widespread complaints of neglect by the citizenry;
there is mounting chauvinism in the land, fuelled by destructive ethnic bias, deep-seated mistrust, and lack of unity. The latest crises, often disguised as political agitation, are sponsored by unpatriotic elements who are certainly incapable of containing its blowing consequences;
the negative power of news media is exacerbating inter-ethnic tensions in Nigeria along other challenges, especially the social media which freely perpetuates baseless stereotyping, hate, prejudice, deliberate or ignorant distortion of facts and history for parochial interests. Precisely, the media have successfully branded the entire Fulani as criminals, giving prominence, as such, to dangerous ethnic profiling and segregation. Under this atmosphere, non-Fulani criminal elements enjoy maximum freedom to commit atrocities and walk freely;
the difference in tribe, religion and even political leanings is a natural global phenomenon and a divine will very instrumental in development when harnessed positively;
the Nigerian borders are very porous thus emboldening the free influx of illegal arms, ammunitions and hard drugs into the country; the Muslim Ummah is far down polarized in the face of high-end challenges ranging from misrepresentation to blatant demonization at the same time Muslims, the majority in Nigeria, bear the biggest brunt of the escalating challenges facing the country; and
the North and Muslims generally are left far behind in the media industry.
Based on the above observations, the Conference resolved that:
there is an urgent need for the creation of a unifying national identity to end the divisive ethno-religious trends and negative prevailing practices. Nigeria’s security architecture should be reformed to meet the rising needs at state levels especially, with special attention duly given to the decentralization of the Police, improved personnel welfare, skills development and cooperation among all security outfits;
the well-established concerns about the Nigerian constitution and its federal system should be addressed immediately. This urgent task must be carried out with the full participation of all stakeholders and federating units of the country;
as the closest to the people and provider of basic needs, the local governments must be made to function optimally most especially in meeting the basic needs of the citizenry such as health, socials and education;
the government should establish a truly efficient non-political national platform for constant government-citizens consultation and dialogue among all ethnic groups, resolutions of which platform are acted upon at all times to foster national unity in practical terms;
the government plus traditional and religious leaders must take decisive actions on negative ethnic profiling in Nigeria from a broad national perspective and approach. This must be done in a way that unfailingly keeps the media as a tool of justice, national unity and cohesion, devoid of incisive fake news and propaganda;
Nigeria, as a matter of cooperation between the governments and the citizenry, should design and implement new standards for positive utilization of its diversity. As a matter of fact, justice, and fairness, Nigeria as a whole must look into the issue of South East / Igbo Presidency;
while the government quickly improve the security of Nigeria’s land sea borders, the alarming rate of arms smuggling and drug trafficking in the country should be treated as a matter of national security;
the leadership of the Supreme Council of Shari’a in Nigeria (SCSN) must ensure the continuity of this conference as a means of fostering unity and collectivism among the Ummah. Generally, the Muslim Ummah should forge a more united front to spearhead the resolutions of the myriad of social, political and economic problems by putting its house in order. The failure to do this is tantamount to a setback in the general effort to get the nation forge ahead for a better, peaceful and prosperous future; and
the North and Muslims in general must wake up to the challenges of underrepresentation of Islam in the media space by establishing media organizations–tapping fully into the vast potentials of social media for the good cause of Islam and humanity at large–and funding existing organisations like Muslim News Nigeria. This being done, Muslims must resist any provoked temptation of avenging the killings of their brothers, anywhere in the country, on innocent people, in accordance with the teachings of Islam. The Ummah must remain calm, sober and united in the face of daily provocations, propaganda and attempts to abridge their rights as Muslims.