National Christian Elder's Forum

  • A QUEST FOR PEACEFUL RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT OF IDEOLOGY, DEMOCRACY AND ISLAMISM IN TODAY’S NIGERIA:

    Quest

     

     

    Being a paper presented on behalf of the National Christian Elders’ Forum (NCEF) at the Africa Peace, Security and Synergy Summit in Washington, D.C. on 23-24 June, 2017

     

     

    Protocol

    Introduction

    Permit me to begin this presentation by thanking Mr Emmanuel Ogebe for encouraging me to come to Washington, DC to make this presentation on the Nigerian question which we recognise as the conflict between Democracy and Islamism to Nigerians and other Africans in Diaspora that constitute the views of the National Christian Elders’ Forum (NCEF).

  • CONFLICT OF IDEOLOGIES AS THE GREATEST OBSTACLE TO PEACE, UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA

    National Christian Elder's Forum

    BEING TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY NATIONAL CHRISTIAN ELDERS FORUM (NCEF), AT ABUJA ON THURSDAY MARCH 17, 2016

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,

    A few weeks ago, the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) issued a statement titled THE NEED TO PRESERVE THE PEACE AND UNITY OF NIGERIA. Of concern to the Christian Elders is the deteriorating state of national security, the free fall state of the economy, the inflammation of religious tension through the misappropriation of state powers, a worrisome foreign policy that is evidently skewed in favor of Islamization, as well as the increasing impunity of the Fulani herdsmen, amongst many other issues.

    The National Christian Elders Forum was established by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to make statements in defense of Christianity in Nigeria, as well as promote peace and unity among Christians and Nigerians, as a whole. The NCEF is made up of Christian Elders from the six geo-political zones in the country.

    2. NIGERIA: THE BEGINNING

    In retrospect, the amalgamation of 1914 produced a country but not a nation. There was an amalgamation of two Protectorates but there was no integration of the Ethnic Nationalities and this created serious fault lines that still exist today. The unity of the two protectorates was not part of the British Agenda. Rather, Britain sought to maintain a hold on Nigeria through a policy of divide and rule.

    In effect, Nigeria remains a country made up of two races pulling in opposite directions. There is the indigenous African race tilting towards a Westernized ideology and the Arab race, made up of Fulanis, Hausas, and Kanuris in favor of adopting the Arabian culture.

    At independence in 1960, the impression was created that “all” Nigerians opted for Liberal Democracy as the national ideology. As the years progressed, it became clear that some citizens of the Arab stock were more in favor of a system of rule of which an “important ingredient is the application of the Muslim Law”.

    While paying lip service to democracy, many of the political, religious, traditional and military leaders from the Muslim North were insidiously working to undermine democracy and promote Sharia, which is based on Islam and is patterned after the Arabian culture, to which the North has been exposed to for hundreds of years.

    Operating under the Islamic practice of “Taqiyya”, which permits a Muslim to deceive an “infidel” in order to gain the mastery over him, leaders of the Muslim North surreptitiously “smuggled” Nigeria into OIC in 1986 and kept it out of public knowledge for ten years until 1996, when Sultan Dasuki confirmed to the Pope that Nigeria is a member of OIC.

    The Islamization Agenda was solidified in the period 1975 – 1999 under the military rule, of which majority of the military heads of state were Muslims from the North. The Muslim Military leaders favored an Islamic model of ideology because it promoted dictatorship. They set up an “invisible” government which operates behind the scene in the Presidency and constantly undermines liberal democracy while promoting Sharia. The “invisible government” is still active till today.

    The invasion of the nation by Islamic terrorism and smuggling of Sharia into the 1999 Constitution, thereby creating a dual ideology for the nation, are reflections of the activities of the “invisible government”. Boko Haram, membership of Nigeria in OIC, Islam in Africa Organization, the D8 group, as well as compromise of Section 10 of the Constitution on separation of state and religion, are all interwoven conspiracies to abolish Liberal Democracy in Nigeria and declare Sharia as the national ideology and the nation as an Islamic state.

    3. CONFLICT OF IDEOLOGIES

    There is the need to stress that at the root of the insecurity, distrust and mutual suspicion in Nigeria is the conflict between Liberal Democracy and Sharia ideology. Nigeria was established as a nation upon the principles and practice of Liberal Democracy. According to the Willink’s Commission Report of 1958:

    “The whole structure of the proceedings leading to independence is based on the belief that Nigeria meant to follow the road of liberal democracy and parliamentary government and to base part of the structure on the opposite assumption is to invite government to do their worst. But if the road is followed (liberal democracy and parliamentary government), votes will count and in the last resort it is votes that will win fair treatment for minorities”

    Bearing in mind the huge ethnic, cultural, religious, and racial diversities in Nigeria, it was deemed necessary that an all accommodating ideology would be required to ensure justice, equality, and fairness for all the divergent groups in the nation. Unfortunately, a group known as “Islamists” has been working surreptitiously over the years to supplant Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the “source of legislation” in Nigeria, over and above the Constitution.

    The present day state of global Islam makes it imperative for a distinction to be made between Islam and Islamism. While Islam is a religion, Islamism, otherwise called “political Islam”, “is a set of ideologies that holds that Islam is not only a religion but a political system”. As a political system, Islamists insist that Islam is meant to dominate the environment in which it is practiced. In a sharply divergent society like Nigeria, any attempt to implement the principles of Islamism portends great danger for the nation.

    The various Military Governments of Nigeria, starting from the regime of Murtala Muhammed in 1975, did not hide their preference for the imposition of Islamism upon Nigeria. The Military changed the status of Nigeria and commenced attempts to make the nation an Islamic nation first by making it an OIC observer and thereafter to full membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). Later, Nigeria was made a member of the Islamic D8. 

    It is clear to the NCEF that since the amalgamation of 1914, the Islamists have been in control of northern Nigeria, while the majority of Christians were in the South. The military government of General Babangida merely extended Islamism to the South of Nigeria by Nigeria’s full membership in the OIC. Thus, in 1981 the race to make Nigeria an Islamic state was accelerated.

    Evidently, this ideological competition between Liberal Democracy and Islamism has not helped Nigeria concerning development, progress, peace and security and the reason can be found in the conclusions of several thinkers that Liberal Democracy and Sharia are not compatible. For Islamists of a radical disposition, like the influential Egyptian activist Sayyid Qutb, “democracy and Islam are simply incompatible”.

    The British, in their characteristic divide and rule policy, left Nigeria with democracy in the hands of Islamists, knowing full well that democracy and Islamism cannot peacefully co-habit. The challenge facing Nigeria today is how to resolve this apparent contradiction that has created a conflict of ideologies for the nation. If this trend continues, Nigeria is sadly being moved into an arc of conflict and that is why we are calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be established by law.

    It would appear that the Islamists, (otherwise known as the “invisible government”) who used to rule by proxy in all the previous administrations, are now fully entrenched in Government. Rather than pretend that all is well with the country, Nigeria needs to examine its past critically and reconcile all the ethnic, religious, and other groups in Nigeria. Presently, the Islamists control the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

    It is instructive to note that many Arab nations have found Islamism an extreme way of religious expression and have taken steps to ban it. Examples are Egypt and Tunisia. After the Arab Spring revolution, both nations voted Islamists into power and within a few months, staged another revolution to oust them. Even the United Arabs Emirates is on record to have denounced the extremism associated with Islamism when it alerted Britain on the dangers of giving oxygen to what Britain does not understand. It is therefore a cause for concern that in Nigeria, a multi cultural and multi religious nation, Islamism should be thriving.

    As a principle, Islamists “loathe” democracy believing that it is a “man-made” law that must give way for “God made” law, which is Sharia. Islamists, as opposed to Muslims that practice Islam as a religion, will go to every possible length to eradicate democracy in any society so that Sharia can be introduced. Nevertheless, Islamists pay lip service to democracy and claim to promote and support it. Nigerians should understand that such claims by Islamists of supporting democracy are mere pretensions and a display of “TAQIYYA”(deliberate deception) because they work surreptitiously underground to undermine and destroy democracy.

    4. ISSUES OF CONCERN

    In the build up to the 2015 elections, majority of Nigerians expressed great hope that there would be CHANGE in the nation. However, ten months after the new government was sworn into office, credible apprehension can be expressed given the policy direction of the new administration. We hope that the buildup to these policies do not result in full blown Sharia which President Muhammadu Buhari had promised Muslims in Nigeria.

    A number of worrisome issues readily come to mind:

    a)      The apparent disregard for the Constitution, by Mr. President in many instances. For example, N900 billion was released in bailout package for states without Appropriation, the government was run for five months without a Cabinet, international commitment are being made without recourse to the National Assembly. All these are acts violating the Constitution.

    b)     Including Nigeria in the Saudi Arabia Military Coalition of “Muslim/Arab” nations would appear that the Foreign Policy thrust of the present administration is to make Nigeria a satellite state of Saudi Arabia. The strengthening of the nation’s democracy and security for all should remain the greatest priority of Government. This we see to have been negated by the President’s fiat/unilateral decision to enlist Nigeria in the 34 nations Muslim/Arab coalition. Given the emotive and sensitive nature of this unilateral Executive decision, it should have been handled by Mr. President in line with our democratic culture through popular discussion and participation by the citizenry, or at the very least, through the National Assembly.

    c)      Attempt to fund deficit in the 2016 Budget through issuance of Sukkuk loan which is a “Sharia compliant loan.” Nigeria is not a Sharia compliant nation.

    d)     The consideration of establishing “free visa” arrangement with Islamic D8 nations. These countries are: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey, and of course, Nigeria.

    e)      The apparent Islamization of key security positions in the country.

    f)       The apparent disdain and contempt of Mr. President for Christians in Nigeria as demonstrated during his interview on Al – Jazeera on the objection of Christians to Nigeria’s involvement in the Saudi led Military Coalition to fight ISIS.

    We wish to remind Mr. President that he was brought to power through the votes of Nigerians, Christians inclusive. Mr. President should kindly remember that the over 50% non-Muslims in Nigeria did not vote for the nation to transmute into a Sharia compliant nation. Mr. President assured Nigerians that he is “a convert” to democracy but we are disturbed by the direction of his administration.

    We are aware that there are presently Islamists in Government prepared to execute the Islamization Agenda. Any nation in which Islamists believe that they are sufficiently strong to exercise influence rarely experience peaceful cohabitation amongst the divergent groups within it. This is the current situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan. Islamism thrives on injustice, inequality and unfairness. We urge Nigerians to remain circumspect so that the Islamists do not drag the nation down the path of destruction.

    5. KADUNA STATE RELIGIOUS BILL

    We wish to express tremendous shock at the proposed Kaduna State Religious Bill. The proposed Bill contravenes Section 38 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. We should remind the Government of Kaduna State that religion is personal and no one has the right to legislate on how individuals worship. We call on the Kaduna State Governor to retrace his steps from this ill-advised venture.

    ABDUCTION AND FORCEFUL MARRIAGE OF UNDERAGED CHRISTIAN GIRLS

    We are saddened by recent exposure in the country of serial cases of forceful abduction of underage, forceful marriage, marriage without parental consent of the Christian girls and their forceful conversion to Islam. We condemn in totality this act of violation of the Human Rights of these girls and it is a degradation of our national values.

    We are also amazed that the Senate failed to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill into law. We strongly recommend that this Bill should be re-introduced and passed into law urgently.

    6. RAMPAGE OF FULANI HERDSMEN

    We are dismayed by the inaction of the Federal Government to the carnage and destruction caused by the Fulani herdsmen against legitimate native land owners and farmers, across the country. The most recent case occurred in Agatu area of Benue State in February 2016. According to media report by eye witnesses, over 300 Nigerians were allegedly massacred by the herdsmen and many communities were devastated in the attacks. It is most shocking that till today, there has been no prosecution of any of these marauders. For years, the Fulani herdsmen have been murdering innocent Nigerians with impunity. The murderous escapades of the Fulani herdsmen has gained international notoriety to the extent that the group is now considered, internationally, as the fourth most dangerous terror organization in the world. It is sad to note that Boko Haram, which is presently regarded as the world number one most dangerous terror organization and the Fulani herdsmen, considered the fourth are both operating in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the response of Government to the menace of the Fulani herdsmen has to date, been tepid and indifferent.

    7. GRAZING RESERVE

    One reason adduced to justify the perennial attacks of the Fulani herdsmen is the argument that they seek grazing fields for their cattle and as a result engage in conflicts with farmers. It was therefore proposed that ancestral lands of other ethnic groups should be allocated to them as grazing fields.

    However, the most sensible and economically wise approach would be to build ranches for the herdsmen in their states of origin. This makes more sense and it is the internationally approved best practice under the circumstances. Other nations of the world consume beef yet, nomads do not drive herds of cattle all over the nation in the 21st century.

    The Grazing Reserve proposal is seen as a deceptive manner of appropriating the lands of indigenous ethnic groups for the Fulani herdsmen to spread their tentacles of terror all over the nation. The proposal should be dropped and the state governments of the herdsmen should build ranches for them in their states of origin.

    8. INCONSISTENT POLICIES

    We find it curious that the Federal Government of Nigeria that has pledged total support for a two state solution to the Israel – Palestinian conflict, as well as support for the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is not addressing the demand of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for a state of their own. To date, the leader of IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu is still under detention while there are frequent killings of the protesting members of the Movement. The latest in the series of attacks on the IPOB occurred on 9th February, 2016 when over twenty two members of the Movement were killed by soldiers during a prayer meeting in Aba.

    It is difficult to rationalize why a government that is clamping down on agitations for self determination by an ethnic group within Nigeria, could be supporting such agitations in foreign countries. We recommend to the Government that as it is considering the case of SADR and the Palestinians, it should in like manner open dialogue with IPOB. The solution to the Biafra agitation is dialogue. While we discountenance any secessionist move, the solution to the Biafran agitation is dialogue.

    9. RECOMMENDATIONS

    a)      Government should urgently convene a Council of State meeting to enable past presidents assess developments in the nation and give mature counsel.

    b)    A Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be set up to reconcile all Nigerians. It would appear that the Islamists, who ruled Nigeria for many years from the background, using various administrations as proxies, are now fully entrenched in the Government. The terms of reference of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should include:
    i.              To distinguish the differences between Islam and Islamism and identify Nigerians that promoted Islamism in Nigeria.
    ii.            The role that Islamism played in promoting corruption and impunity, which includes cultism, a phenomenon that was developed in Nigeria in the last 30 years.
    iii.           Identify the role played by the armed forces, the police, and the intelligence agencies in the promotion of cultism, corruption and other vices that have since devastated Nigeria.
    iv.           To grant reprieve and pardon to any person, organization or group which confess to criminal, illegal and immoral act in the past.

    v.            To deal with the issues of genocide and/or marginalization perpetrated against certain ethnic minorities and promote reconciliation and healing to all those affected.

    c)      Every form of negotiation to involve Nigeria in issuing Sukkuk should be discontinued. Sukkuk is a “Sharia Compliant Loan” which does not serve the interest of all Nigeria because the nation is not a Sharia compliant nation. In addition, Sukkuk would jeopardize the sovereignty of Nigeria because under Sukkuk, both the lender and the debtor will own the asset which is based on land. It therefore implies that if Nigeria should eventually succumb to the acceptance of the Sukkuk loan, both the Arabs and Nigerians will own Nigeria.

    d)    To put an end to the murderous attacks of Fulani herdsmen, ranches should be established in the states of origin of the herdsmen. The Grazing Reserve proposal is seen as a deceptive manner of appropriating the lands of indigenous ethnic groups for the Fulani herdsmen to spread their tentacles of terror all over the nation.

    e)      The ownership of Nigeria can rightly be claimed by the Ethnic Nationalities. We call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to complement the stand of the National Assembly on the Constitution and implement the Report of the National Conference as regards the Executive and Policy recommendations. The National Conference Report guarantees the introduction of true Federalism which is required to build a strong, united, and prosperous nation.

    f)       In view of the security challenges facing the nation, it is highly advisable that each ethnic group should develop Community Policing to protect its people and its land. The security agencies have not been effective in providing security, particularly for vulnerable communities in the nation.

    g)     For reasons shrouded in mystery, the government stopped the teaching of History as a subject in schools. From the experience of Black Africans in Sudan, Islamists employ this sly method to eradicate the history of the indigenous ethnic groups whose land the Arabs covet and wish to takeover. According to George Orwell, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”A people without history, is a people without a future. We therefore demand that the teaching of History as a subject in schools should be reintroduced forthwith.

     

    God bless Nigeria

    Yours faithfully,

    Solomon Asemota, SAN

    Chairman

    For and on behalf of the National Christian Elders Forum

  • Discriminatory Appointments against Non-Muslims in Nigeria

    National Christian Elder's Forum

    Islamist Jihadists of the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri Ethnic Nationalities, who are Negroid immigrants to Nigeria, are pushing the nation to an implosion. It is therefore imperative that the remaining 386 Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria should, as a matter of priority, convene a Conference to demonstrate to the few Islamist Jihadists of the three Ethnic Nationalities the grave danger of Islamism as a system of governance.  Nigerians are reminded that the present distress in the nation is not an act of God but man-made. The brazen and audacious imposition of Islamist Jihadists into key positions in the country is not an expression of religious piety but a deliberate manipulation of religion for cultural and political domination by three Ethnic Groups. This Agenda commenced in 1975 after the overthrow of General Gowon. The Islamist Jihadists are a violent and domineering strain of Islam rejected by mainstream Muslims.

  • NIGERIAN FULANI HERDSMEN AND TERRORISM

    Caught_Herdsmen

    President Muhammadu Buhari recently claimed that herdsmen causing mayhem and committing terror acts all over the country are foreigners, specifically Libyans and not Nigerians.
    I completely disagree with this narrative from no less a figure as our Commander in Chief and Father of the entire nation.
    His comments amount to pure propaganda and image laundering for his kinsmen. This is nothing but tribalism .
    And tribalism is a very perverse form of corruption, in fact, the infrastructure on which corruption thrives. This negates his government /party's  vow to defeat corruption.
    Unfortunately, this propaganda has now become a refrain/chorus sang by several powerful individuals and government agencies for example the Inspector General of Police, Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of state for Agriculture, Senator Abdullah Adamu and several others.
    The reasons why this dangerous refrain is false and insulting to the intelligence of Nigerians are many and I will mention a few of them
    1. Nigerian Fulani herdsmen are now ranked as the 4th(fourth) worst terrorist organization globally by the global terrorism index after BOKO HARAM, ISIL and El Shabaab in terms of mass murder they commit.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/global-terrorism-index-nigerian-fulani-militants-named-as-fourth-deadliest-terror-group-in-world-a6739851.html

    2. While it is true that very few herdsmen arrested recently claimed they were foreigners, it is an undisputed fact that the Fulanis or Fulfubes (20 millions in population) spread across 20 countries in West Africa and 2 in North Africa (Sudan and Egypt) and they are bound by the same culture, religion and language. They move freely across the West African boundaries and they regard themselves as kiths and kins. It is therefore
    artificial to claim those who commit terror attacks are only foreigners when they view themselves as a brotherhood and family.
    3. Victims from the communities where the terror acts have been committed attest to the fact that they are the same Fulani herdsmen who have been ravaging and destroying their farms. E.g Agatu, Kaduna, Nimbo, Edo and Delta.
    4. The massive act of terrorism is often preceded by a long running battle for months or years with the local community and wanton destruction of their farms.

    http://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2016/04/26/fulani-herdsmen-sack-enugu-community-48-feared-dead/

    5. The Fulani herdsmen have often collaborated with border communities at conflict with one another and used as mercenaries by one community against their feuding neighbor with the agreement that they (Fulani herdsmen) can then occupy the defeated or sacked community as their grazing reserves. This happened in a community in Odukpani, Cross River state.
    http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/05/communal-clash -40-feared-dead-village-head-4-policemen-beheaded/

    6. Few days to the massive terror attacks, the Fulani herdsmen disappear from the host communities and never returned which showed pre knowledge and fear of reprisals attack by host communities if they return after the terror acts.

    http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/04/aftermath-attack-fulani-herdsmen-flee-enugu/

    7. President Buhari's government surreptitiously smuggled 954 million naira into the 2016 budget for grazing reserves when there are still controversies raging on the grazing reserves. The Senate has publicly denied the grazing reserve bill and the House of Representative is yet to complete debates on the grazing bill.
    8. Several Fulani herdsmen groups have publicly admitted that they retaliated or committed reprisals attacks because their cattle were rustled or their kinsmen killed or attacked by the host communities.

    http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/200426-exclusive-struck-agatu-fulani-herdsmen.html

    9. Mr President's first security assignment as President in addition to fighting BOKO HARAM was a determined putsch against cattle rustlers while turning a blind eye to the atrocities of his kinsmen until recent upsurge in their terror attacks and unprecedented public outcry.
    10. The peak/upsurge in the Fulani herdsmen terror attacks coincides with President Buhari's Presidency.  Is it possible that they felt emboldened that a sympathetic kinsman is now at the helm of affairs and now they can do and undo?  Is it also possible that the real owners of the cattle which are powerful individuals/Nigerian elites are arming these herdsmen knowing that President Buhari is a life patron of Miyeti Allah cattle breeders association (MACBAN)?

    These and many other questions are begging for honest and unbiased answers from all concerned.
    If care is not taken, I sincerely pray and hope that this conflict will not snowball into an implosion and a much bigger conflict. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

    7 THINGS PMB MUST DO NOW
    I have been warned that I will be labeled an ‘enemy’ for addressing the issue of herdsmen killing innocent villagers but I love my country more than I fear blackmailers. In my humble opinion, wisdom, tact, and common sense dictate that President Muhammadu Buhari do the following:
    1. Address the nation directly on TV and radio.
    2. Commiserate with affected communities deliver a message of peace and hope.
    Promise the rapid delivery of compensation and restitution to the survivors, the wounded, and the families of those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods.
    3. Go on BBC and other relevant radio services that Fulanis have a tendency to listen to. Speak to them in their own language, and in no uncertain terms state that this nonsense must come to an end quickly.
    4. Set up and empower a Rapid Task Force with a view to stopping future violence and preventing a national conflict that might be much more difficult to contain.
    5. Personally visit the affected communities to see things for yourself.
    6. Meet with the leadership of Myetti Allah, the umbrella association of Fulani cattle herders, and explain in vivid detail what the consequences of future conflicts could be.
    7. As a start, all herdsmen must be disarmed immediately, otherwise we are only postponing the evil day.
    Mr President, you owe it to Nigerians, to the many Fulani herdsmen of no determinate nationality who rampage and roam Nigeria, and to future generations, to be seen at this time to be on top of the unfortunate situation; to the plight of affected communities in word and deed; and to the security implications of these most barbaric and medieval acts.
    Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/opinion/herdsmen-killings-time-to-act/138783.html#OWcR8UqBUBtpjpUh.99

  • PRESS RELEASE: CONTINOUS SOUTHERN KADUNA KILLNGS

    national_christian_centre

    CAN Declares Jan. 8 2017, National Day of Mourning …Over Southern Kaduna Killings         

                  To:  All Christians in Nigeria and Diaspora. 

    Gentlemen of the Press,

    I bring you greetings in the precious name of our Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. I have been directed by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo A Ayokunle to bring to your attention the on-going ethnic/religious cleansing of Nigerian Christians in general and those of southern Kaduna in particular in the last few weeks. 

  • THE NEED TO PRESERVE THE PEACE AND UNITY OF NIGERIA

    National Elder's Forum

    THE NEED TO PRESERVE THE PEACE AND UNITY OF NIGERIA

    We bring greetings and best wishes to all Nigerians, both at home and abroad, in the name of the Almighty God. It is our prayer that this nation shall continue to experience peace, unity, and prosperity for all the citizens. Our history as a nation, though not too long in comparison with other nations in the world, has been turbulent and at times full of uncertainty. Nevertheless, God in His mercy has granted us the grace to survive and remain united.

    In 1999, after many years of military rule, Nigeria returned to democracy. There was hope in the nation that liberty and freedom of choice that will ultimately translate into justice, equality and fairness for all had returned to the nation. The tripod of justice, equality, and fairness shall certainly produce prosperity and strengthen the unity of the divergent groups within the nation.

    Unfortunately, recent events in the nation signal a steady reversal of the expectations of the founding fathers of Nigeria that this shall be a country based upon the principle of liberal democracy, in which citizens shall have freedom of choice and be treated equally. There are worrisome signals that Nigeria is sliding dangerously down the destructive slope of injustice, oppression, discrimination and disregard for the rule of law.

    It is imperative, given the challenges facing the Nigerian Church and the Nigerian nation to stress the need for the Nigerian Church to unite so that it can take its pride of place in the building of one united nation.

    We also call on all Christians, and indeed all Nigerians, whether in or out of Government to realize that corruption is not only a crime under the Laws of our land, but also and more importantly a sin against God and humanity.

    The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) therefore, condemns corruption in all of its ramifications and charges all persons in positions of responsibility and at all levels to shun corruption, as well as abide by the Laws and Rules governing their general conduct. This would ensure that Government is not put under unnecessary pressure and the resources of the nation would then be applied fully to developmental projects.

    Nevertheless, while commending the efforts of the Government to tackle corruption in the country, NCEF advises that adequate care should be taken to ensure that prosecution of corrupt persons should be done across board. 

    MANIPULATION OF RELIGION

    There is the need to alert Nigerians that there is a gradual increase in state sponsored manipulation of religion for cultural and political domination. In a culturally and religiously divergent society, this level of discrimination is an invitation to chaos and anarchy. Consequent upon certain discriminatory actions and utterances, discordant voices are rising in protests threatening the peace and unity of the nation. What the nation requires is mature nationalistic leadership that will accommodate all Nigerians and provide an all inclusive fair treatment for all the divergent groups in the country on the basis of equality and fairness to everybody. This need for equality and fairness is underscored in our old National Anthem which states “… though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”The prayer in the last verse sums up the yearning of the founding fathers of the nation, “O God of all creation, grant this our one request. Help us to build a nation where no one is oppressed.”

    This intervention does not in any way seek to denigrate one religion and promote another. The major religions in the nation, traditional worship, Islam and Christianity, all seek to find God through their respective modes of worship. Unfortunately, a group within one of the religions seeks to manipulate religion for political gains.

    Islam is a religion and there are many Muslims in the nation committed to genuine practice of Islam. However, there exists a group known internationally as Islamists which practices religion as a political system. While Islam is a religion, Islamism is not. Islamism is a political ideology that holds that Islam is not only a religion but also a political ideology that demands that only Islamists must dominate the environment in which they are.

    Today, Nigerians point to the South West as an example of tolerance in religion with all the various forms of religion in the nation cohabiting in peace. The reason is that majority of the Muslims in the South West region practice Islam solely as a religion while in the North East and North West zones, Islamists are greatly entrenched. With Islamism comes discrimination on the basis of religion, intolerance of non-Islamists, (including Muslims that are not Islamists), destruction of lives and properties and gross violation of human rights.

    Islamism which started in Egypt in 1928 as the Muslim Brotherhood is the ideology driving all the major Islamic terrorist organizations in the world. These include the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al Nusra, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, etc.

    It is instructive to note that many Arab nations have found Islamism an extreme way of religious expression and have taken steps to ban it. Examples are Egypt and Tunisia. After the Arab Spring revolution, both nations voted Islamists into power and within a few months, staged another revolution to oust them. Even the United Arabs Emirates is on record to have denounced the extremism associated with Islamism when it alerted Britain on the dangers of giving oxygen to what Britain does not understand.

    Any nation in which Islamists believe that they are sufficiently strong to exercise influence rarely experience peaceful cohabitation amongst the divergent groups within it. This is the current situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and so on. Islamism thrives on injustice, inequality and unfairness.

    As a principle, Islamists “loathe” democracy believing that it is a “man-made” law that must give way for “God made” law, which is Sharia. Islamists, as opposed to Muslims that practice Islam as a religion, will go to every possible length to eradicate democracy in any society so that Sharia can be introduced. Nevertheless, Islamists pay lip service to democracy and claim to promote and support it. Nigerians should understand that such claims by Islamists of supporting democracy are mere pretensions and a display of “TAQIYYA”(deliberate deception) because they work surreptitiously underground to undermine and destroy democracy.

    It therefore becomes very worrisome when the intolerant and discriminatory traits of Islamism are detected in the exercise of state power in Nigeria. For Nigeria to survive, thrive and flourish in peace and unity, the nation must stand solidly upon the principles and practice of liberal democracy. The only way any government in Nigeria can succeed is for it to harness the potentials of all the divergent groups in the nation. A government with discriminatory tendencies will only utilize the potentials available within the narrow confines of its exclusive group while it would unwittingly, shut out the larger potentials available in the other groups. That is reason the Federal Character principle was introduced.

    At the onset of the present administration, government was run without Ministers for seven months contrary to what the Constitution stipulates. Nigerians should be aware that it was not a mistake, it was deliberate. Already the present Constitution of Nigeria has been severely compromised to the extent that the nation now carries a Constitution with “dual ideology” – Liberal Democracy and Sharia. If Nigeria is to survive and flourish, Nigerians should intentionally strengthen and promote Liberal Democracy as the only ideology that can accommodate all the divergent groups in the nation.

    Before independence, the Willink’s Commission wrote:

    “The whole structure of the proceedings leading to independence is based on the belief that Nigeria meant to follow the road of liberal democracy and parliamentary government and to base part of the structure on the opposite assumption is to invite government to do their worst. But if the road is followed (liberal democracy and parliamentary government), votes will count and in the last resort it is votes that will win fair treatment for minorities”

    The consequence of a dual ideology is that the nation has no identity, has no direction and makes no progress. Nigeria at 55 years after Independence cannot stand beside nations that commenced the journey of development with it in the 1960s. Today, nations like China, Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore, have left Nigeria far behind. As the two ideologies, completely antithetical to each other, pull the nation in opposite directions, Nigerian citizens become the unfortunate victims of the ideological struggle.

    It is necessary to point out to Nigerians, that the main problem of the nation is not only corruption or tribalism, neither is it ethnicity nor mediocrity. Those are symptoms of the disease. Nigeria is in the throes of a terrible ideological struggle between Liberal Democracy and Sharia that must be resolved in favour of Liberal Democracy in the best interest of the divergent ethnic, cultural, and religious groups in the nation.

    ISSUES OF THE MOMENT

    We are amazed at the level of glaring impunity into which governance in Nigeria is sliding. Certain decisions and proposals that are on the table require reconsideration in the overall best interest of the nation. Please permit us to highlight a few:

    National Security: It was with an appreciation of the cultural and religious diversity in Nigeria that the Federal Character principle was enshrined in the Constitution. It is therefore strange that the government in power would concentrate leadership of all the security units in only one section of the country. Presently, the Director General of Department of State Services (DSS), the National Security Adviser, (NSA), the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Comptroller General of Customs, are all adherents of the same religion. This is not right.

    Demolition of Churches in Zamfara:It is on record that Boko Haram destroyed over 13,000 Churches in the northern parts of the country. We are yet to resolve the devastation when reports reached us that on 19th January, 2016 the Government of Zamfara state rolled out machines and demolished the Auditorium of Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship in the state. At the same time, Dominican Catholic Church and the Anglican Church were also demolished.

    It should be noted that these places of worship were not marked for demolition at any time. On the contrary, buildings which had been marked for demolition in the environment were left untouched. Are we to conclude that Section 38 (1) of the Constitution is no longer sacrosanct?

    Section 38 (1) of the Constitution states, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

    We demand that the State Government of Zamfara should urgently rebuild, at its expense, the Christian places of worship that were destroyed by its agents. This should not be difficult because when such a similar act of wanton destruction was carried out on the Baptist Church place of worship and the Pastor’s house in April 2015 at Gidan Maso, Rogo LGA, in Kano State, the Emir of Kano personally visited the Church and instructed that the Chairman of the LGA should send the estimate for the reconstruction to the Kano State Government. When the Kano State Government did not respond quickly, the Emir offered to pay for the cost of the reconstruction of the properties. Presently, work is on-going on the reconstruction project. The Emir went further and sternly warned all the District Heads that if such an act of impunity should occur again, the District Head in charge of the affected area risks forfeiting his position and throne.

    Similarly, when a mob destroyed a Mosque in Onitsha during a public protest, the Governor of Anambra state immediately paid for the renovation and reconstruction. Within a few weeks after the occurrence, the Mosque was renovated.

    Osun State - Threatening Religious Harmony in the South West:It is disturbing to note the alarming developments in Osun state where the religious harmony for which the South West is commended is intentionally being undermined. The peaceful co-existence between the Christians and the Muslims in the state is being deliberately threatened by agents of Islamism.

    The introduction of Sukkuk loan into the state as an alternative to the conventional economic model of borrowing is designed, in our assessment, to plunge the state into chaos and provide means for Arabs and Islamists to take over infrastructure, like schools, particularly those schools previously owned by Christian missionaries. There are states in Nigeria that are returning Christian missionary schools to the Christian owners because government takeover of those schools was done arbitrarily. Rather than follow suit, Osun State Government wishes to surreptitiously convert those Christian schools to Islamic infrastructure through injecting Sukkuk funds into them.

    Some of the affected Christian schools are:

    • Baptist Boys High School
    • Seven Day Adventist Sec. School
    • St. James Grammar School
    • St. Francis Grammar School
    • St. Paul’s Grammar School
    • St. Michael Grammar School
    • Etc, etc

    The plan to inject Sukkuk funding into these Christian Schools is a sly and devious ploy to turn these Christian Schools into Muslim institutions and investments. We are aware that any project that is funded by Sukkuk loan must be administered according to the dictates of Sharia. We therefore call on the Osun state government to return Christian Schools to the missionary owners. If there is any renovation and upgrading that should be done, the owners of the schools shall be glad to do it.

    Saudi Arabia Led Military Coalition:Without recourse to the National Assembly, this Administration was alleged to include Nigeria in the Saudi Arabia led military coalition of 34 Arab/Muslim nations to fight ISIS. While fighting terrorism is the right thing to do, why should Nigeria, a non-aligned and multi-religious nation, be enlisted, allegedly,  in a military coalition that specifically identifies participating nations as “Arab/Muslims”?

    This is another attempt to railroad the nation into an Islamic Sharia controlled state. We state emphatically that Nigeria is not an Islamic nation and it is not ruled by Sharia law.

    Sukkuk Loan:In an attempt to fund the deficit in the 2016 Budget, the Federal Government resorted to seeking external loan. Earlier reports indicated that Government was looking in the direction of obtaining a Sukkuk loan from Islamic lenders. However, we are pleased to observe that Government is now contemplating receiving a World Bank and AfDB loan to fund the deficit in the Budget. (Nevertheless, it should be a matter of concern to all Nigerians, the report that some State Governors in the North are negotiating Sukkuk loan. The report, if true, would be very unfortunate because the expression of religious extremism resulted in widespread devastation and destruction in the North. It is clear that obtaining Sukkuk loan would exacerbate such religious extremism rather than diminish it. Such negotiations should discontinue because Nigeria is not an Islamic nation.)

    While we appreciate Federal Government’s sensitivity, in this case, to the diversities in the nation, we find it disturbing that Government should present a bloated budget that requires external borrowing to fund. It is wise that in a period of dwindling economic resources government should cut its coat according to its size. Why should the government present a bloated budget that the nation cannot fund? And, if the nation is to seek a loan, definitely, it should not seek one that is based on sectional religion. Therefore, we hope that there would no recourse at any time, directly or indirectly, to engage the nation on a loan that is based on sectional religion. Sukkuk is described internationally as “Sharia compliant” loan. It should be clear to everyone that Nigeria is not a Sharia compliant nation.

    For those who are not aware, Sukkuk loan is ASSET BASED as opposed to conventional banking which is ASSET BACKED. Under Sukkuk, both the lender and the debtor will own the asset which is based on land. It therefore implies that if Nigeria should contemplate the Sukkuk loan, both the Arabs and Nigerians will own Nigeria.

    Other disturbing aspects of the Sukkuk are:

    • At no time does the title to the asset pass to the customer (debtor), nor is it expected to pass. (If Nigeria takes Sukkuk, Arabs become the co-owners of Nigeria.)
    • If the customer wishes to purchase the asset at a later date a separate agreement is drawn up.
    • The “New Rules/Amendments to the Rules and Regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission”, paragraph 5.0 (c) states, “Ensure that the applicable Shariah principles and any relevant resolutions and rulings endorsed are complied with;) Paragraph 6.0 (a) states, “The underlying asset and its use shall comply with the requirements of Shariah.”

    We urge Government to always bear in mind the cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of Nigeria and always take decisions that will reflect the non-aligned status of the nation.

    Harassment of Christian Leaders: Information at our disposal indicates that a wave of embarrassment and intimidation is being planned for selected Christian leaders in the nation.

    We advise the government of the day to concern itself with the business of governance and desist from embarking on any form of harassment of Christian religious leaders. Christians in Nigeria constitute over 50% of the population and we shall not stand idly by and watch our leaders embarrassed and ridiculed by Islamists in government. Every Nigerian citizen has the freedom of choice and freedom of worship as enshrined in the Constitution.

    Fulani Herdsmen - Murder Legalized:Under the guise of cattle herding, some “Fulani herdsmen” have legalized murder in Nigeria. These “unknown gunmen”, according to security officers, routinely murder Nigerians with impunity, sack entire communities, and leave in their wake death and destruction. It is curious that these harbingers of death and destruction have not been arrested with all the resources committed to security and defense of the nation.

    One easily observable pattern in the attacks by the “Fulani herdsmen” is that their victims are predominantly Christian communities. This has therefore confirmed the suspicion that these are the military forces of the Islamists engaging in ethnic and religious cleansing in the nation. The “Fulani herdsmen” must be stopped and all the perpetrators and their sponsors must be prosecuted.

    Grazing Land: One reason adduced to justify the perennial attacks of the Fulani herdsmen is the argument that they seek grazing fields for their cattle and as a result engage in conflicts with farmers. It was therefore proposed that ancestral lands of other ethnic groups should be allocated to them as grazing fields.

    However, the most sensible and economically wise approach would be to build ranches for the herdsmen in their states of origin. This makes more sense and it is the internationally approved best practice under the circumstances. Other nations of the world consume beef yet, nomads do not drive herds of cattle all over the nation in the 21st century.

    The Grazing Reserve proposal is seen as a deceptive manner of appropriating the lands of indigenous ethnic groups for the Fulani herdsmen to spread their tentacles of terror all over the nation. The proposal should be dropped and the state governments of the herdsmen should build ranches for the herdsmen in their states of origin.

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    In view of all the above, we wish to make the following recommendations:

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Nigeria should convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to resolve every crisis in the nation. The nation needs healing and only the truth can provide it.

    “Conscience is an open wound; only Truth can heal it.” – Othman Dan Fodio.

    Implementation of the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution:We identify with the current efforts of the National Assembly to give full effect to the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution. We commend the efforts of the 7th Assembly for making the provision that the Constitutional Amendment is a continuous exercise.

    The wisdom of the leadership of the 8th Assembly to continue from the 7th Assembly stemmed in recognition of the enormous human and financial resources invested in the 4th Alteration exercise. This is a clear manifestation of the commitment of the 8th Assembly to the stability and future of the Nigerian Republic.

    We therefore urge the Presidency to remit without delay to the National Assembly a copy of the original 4th Alteration Bill which was submitted to the Presidency and was allegedly signed by the immediate past President of Nigeria, in order to assist the National Assembly in its current exercise.

    Implementation of the Report of the National Conference: We call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to complement the stand of the National Assembly on the Constitution and implement the Report of the National Conference as regards the Executive and Policy recommendations.

    The Recommendations bordering on the Constitutional issues should be referred without any further delay to the National Assembly for legislative action. Failure to do this will amount to washing down the drain the colossal financial and human resources invested in the National Conference and will be a great disservice to the Nation at large.

    Finally, we recommend that the said report be Gazetted and made public as is usual with such National document for Nigeria to move forward in peace and stability.

    Development of Ethnic Security Infrastructure: In view of the security challenges facing the nation, it is highly advisable that each ethnic group should develop Community Policing to protect its people and its land. The security agencies have not been effective in providing security, particularly for vulnerable communities in the nation.

    Restoration of History as a Subject in Schools: For reasons shrouded in mystery, the government stopped the teaching of History as a subject in schools. From the experience of Black Africans in Sudan, Islamists employ this sly method to eradicate the history of the indigenous ethnic groups whose land the Arabs covet and wish to takeover. Nigerian ethnic groups should be aware of this subtle attack and ensure that the teaching of History is restored in schools. If an enabling law is required, then the State Houses of Assembly should enact such a law to ensure that coming generations study the history of the various peoples of Nigeria, and in the process, also learn the history of their ancestors.

    According to George Orwell, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”A people without history, is a people without a future.

    God Bless Nigeria.

    For and on behalf of: The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF)

    Signed

    Solomon Asemota, SAN

    Chairman,

    February 2016

  • UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUES: AN URGENCY FOR A NON-ISLAMIST PARTY/PARTIES IN NIGERIA

    national_elders_forum
    Definition of Terms:

    Muslim – An individual who practices Islam as a religion.

    Islamist/Islamism – A Muslim who practices Islam as a political ideology that holds that Islam is not only a religion, but also a political system that must dominate the society (Political Islam); antithetic to Democracy.

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