Peaceful co-existence: Lesson from 2018 Ramadan
Nigerians can live together in harmony, despite their social and religious differences if they do not fall for cheap blackmail of narrow minded people who want to divide them to achieve their goals, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, has said.
The NSCIA Scribe, who spoke while delivering a lecture titled: “Achieving Peace, Stability and Good Governance in a Multi-ethnic and Multi-religious Society” at The Point Newspaper’s yearly Ramadan lecture, held in Lagos, stated that overlapping and dynamic identities were at the root of recurrent problems in Nigeria.
According to him, an identity assumes by a person or group of persons in Nigeria is not static but dynamic depending on what is at stake and for how long.He said: “A person who is a religious champion can within a twinkle of an eye become a social-class-champion or an ethnic champion. Current or momentary interest dictates the identity and its tenure.
“Nigeria is a federation of geo-political entities presently referred to as “State”, they used to be “Regions”. The States are generally not monolithic in terms of ethnic composition. They appear to be generally arbitrary and circumstantial in origin. Over 250 ethnic groups with over 500 languages have been identified in Nigeria. While it will be wrong to regard ethnic group as a unit of the Nigerian Federation, it is also true that ethnic loyalties are very strong in Nigeria,”
Oloyede pointed out that whenever a person or group of persons finds it expedient to invoke the ethnic identity in a struggle for public space, it is speedily employed as if it is the only permanent identity of the person or group.
According to him, “The truth of the matter is that the ethnic identity is a latent intra-state feature generally employed in a non-official platform because the constitution gives little or no recognition to ethnic identities. Despite this, ethnic partisanship and emotional commitment are understandably and generally more potent than commitment to the abstract “State”,.
Though the former university lecturer admitted that the Qur’an recognises ethnic diversity as labels of identities but pointed out that the holy book does not regard it as being of much value as piety or consciousness of Allah.Oloyede, who is also the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board was of the view that the socio-political crises in Nigeria are being aggravated by irresponsibility and lack of sincerity by religious and media men.
“One can understand why political actors manipulate truths and facts to conjure dangerous lies and fabrications at the expence of National cohesion and development. One is constantly at a loss when trained journalists betray the profession to publicise and propagate sensational falsehood in the name of journalism. Prizes, awards and recognition are even being stage-managed for some of such fake but licenced journalists. One thing that is certain is that such persons would never end well and would be faced with the consequences of their devilish deeds, though only very few would be able to trace their inevitable calamities as their nemesis.
“ More alarming is the fact that some religious actors seem to consider as pardonable, lies and falsehood deployed in the name of promoting their religious causes,” he said.He however warned Muslims to avoid using propaganda and lies to propagate their religion, pointing out that Muslims should realise that the momentary gains of employing falsehood to propagate a religion is ungodly and is punishable in the sight of Allah as telling lies in mundane matters.
The guest lecture shocked some of the guests when he announced that Muslims are under obligation to love other people, regardless of their religious and political belief. He said when a non-religious and non-political entity comprising individuals of different religions invites a Muslim, it is as if one has been invited by a Muslim group.Speaking further, Oloyede listed the six rights of a Muslim from another as explained by the Prophet of Islam.
“When you meet him/her, greet him/her. hen he/she invites you, honour the invitation. When he/she seeks counselling from you, advise him/her. When he/she sneezes and thanks God, seek Allah’s blessing for him/her. When he/she falls ill, visit him/her and when he/she dies, attend his/her funeral,” he stated. He also cautioned members of the public, especially the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, from making inciting statements that can further threaten the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians. He said the pronouncement by CAN recently that there might be a religious war in the country if the abducted Leah Sharibu was not rescued from Boko Haram captivity was unnecessary.
While disclosing that the council had reached out to the Boko Haram sect in a bid to negotiate the release of Leah Sharibu, the Christian girl still being held in captivity by the insurgents, called for peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.He noted that NSCIA began negotiations with some members of the Boko Haram sect before the recent threat by the Christian Association of Nigeria that there would be religious war if Sharibu should die in the captivity of the insurgents.
The insurgents had, on February 19, abducted 110 students and released them a month later, with the exception of Sharibu and five other students, who were said to have died in captivity. Sharibu was reportedly held back for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and has since remained in captivity.Oloyede, however, disclosed that the Muslim body had already reached out to the insurgents and promised to help to secure an amnesty for the members of the sect, if they set Sharibu free.He described the threats by CAN on the matter as unnecessary, uncalled for and counter-productive to the negotiations for Sharibu’s release from captivity.
Oloyede said, “The unfortunate abduction of Leah and other girls, both Muslims and Christians, is intensely hurtful to all right-thinking persons. I am aware that the particular case of Leah made the leadership of the NSCIA reach out to all possible channels of reaching the group with a proposal to secure amnesty for the group provided Leah and other girls in captivity are released and the group surrender their arms. This knowledge made the careless threat particularly painful.“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) recently escalated the state of insecurity with its threat that should Leah Sharibu die in captivity of Boko Haram, there would be religious war!!!
“I am as astonished as the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) who recently expressed shock at the destructive and counter-productive statement.“Boko Haram has never hidden its mission of setting Nigeria ablaze through a religious war. Whose interest was the call to serve? Definitely, not that of the innocent Nigerian Lady, Leah Sharibu. Is it fair, religious or Godly to, for the sake of political grandstanding and publicity-seeking, endanger the life of such a precious, principled and promising Lady?
“I am sure the immediate family members of the Lady would not subscribe to such politicisation of the misfortune.”The NSCIA secretary general expressed regret that religious leaders in the country had derailed from the ways of God.Oloyede, therefore, enjoined religious leaders in Nigeria to make concerted efforts to properly guide their followers in order to enhance peace and unity of the country.
“It is time religious leaders in this country knew that playing politics with religion will amount to serious punishment from God. Most clerics today, manipulate things in their favour, hence disturbing the peace of our society. This is not limited to any religion; it goes to both Christian and Muslim leaders in this country. Look at the Benue crisis for instance, some religious leaders were quick to relate it to religious war, and this can lead to war. Likewise, the case of Leah Shibaru, was also tagged to be a religious issue. All these will not improve, but amount to crisis in our society,” he said.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Baba Adeen of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Chief Sarafa Tunji Isola, said the term “Islamic terrorism” used in certain quarters was a misnomer and part of the efforts to paint the Islamic religion in bad light.Isola described Islam as a religion of peace, which ensures justice for all human beings.