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Obstacles to Muslims unity, political participation in Nigeria


The growing number of Muslims in politics and indeed public offices are not without some obstacles that appeared to have impaired the unity of the Ummah, while consideration for religious etiquettes lays bare.

Muslims leaders, who gathered at the General Assembly of Muslim Ummah of South-West Nigeria (MUSWEN), recently examined the critical factors and the Islamic implications with a view that the believers should go all out to represent Islam properly in public offices.

They also averred that Muslims in the parliament should regardless of their party affiliation always unite to support not only matters of Islamic concern, but also matters of national interest in furtherance of national development.

Chairman, MUSWEN Education Committee and Professor of Islamic Studies, Muibi Opeloye, in his presentation titled: “Muslim Unity And The Contemporary Political Challenges In Nigeria” at the forum, said whatever a Muslim engages in whether socially, economically, professionally or politically must be conceived as worship to attain the pleasure of Allah.


Politics has been defined as activities geared towards influencing the action and policies of a government or getting power and keeping power in a government. In other words, being in politics makes it easier to influence government’s action and policies. Islam as a way of life makes political participation halal.

Opeloye noted that disunity which politics could cause among Muslims in a multi-party polity like Nigeria a grave challenge.

“The country currently has 91 registered political parties, two of which enjoy wide popularity viz All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Muslims should be free to belong to parties of their choice but that should not be a reason for disunity. In fact, in advanced democracies, members cast their votes in consideration of national interest, regardless of party affiliation,” he stated.

To make democracy bring about good governance such that will be beneficial to the people and impact positively on the society, Opeloye said that the nation must imbibe applicable Islamic political principles.

He noted that Muslims had faced government’s marginalisation in the past when Muslims in the South West region would always have to agitate for their rights before being given.

“It is during this fourth republic that the situation is beginning to change gradually,” he noted.

According to him: “The fact must be admitted however, that in the present day Nigeria polity, there is growing Muslim political awareness and religious sensitivity, hence, a Muslim governor must have a Christian as deputy while a Christian governor must have a Muslim as deputy just as there is religious balancing in the appointment of Secretary to State Government and Chief of staff,”

He also bemoaned the money-politics ideology saying: “Arising from the problem of apathy is the challenge of financial wherewithal to contest elective positions. Qualification to contest election in Nigeria is not how intelligent or how experienced the contestant is, neither is it about integrity of the person, but how much money one can throw around. This is a factor constituting serious impediment to political participation and it is the reason for godfatherism in Nigerian politics,”

Another big challenge, according to him, is perceiving democratic system of government to be kufr system from which Muslims should refrain.

He said: “ The challenge we are therefore confronted with is how to adapt the prevailing varied systems of government to conform with the principles of justice and welfare of the governed as prescribed by Islam, whether monarchical or republic, presidential or parliamentary, federal or unitary.

“The politicians may not want to hear this, but to the citizenry what matters is how benevolent and beneficial any system portends. Does the system meet the people’s expectations? After all we have seen many non-democratic governments impacting positively on the society,” he said

Opeloye also cited the “challenge that arises from the antics of Nigerian Christians who often see any government’s move in support of matters of Islamic interest as an attempt towards Islamisation of the country.

“We can always recall the controversies generated by the issues pertaining to shari‘ah status in the constitution: Membership of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Islamic Banking, hijab in the public schools and Arabic and Islamic studies in schools among others.

Some of these are matters bothering on Muslims’ rights while some have to do with national interest,” he stated.

He however suggested the annulment of immunity clause in the constitution, saying: “Islam does not concede any exemption in favour of the ruler as all are equal before the law. Immunity enjoyed by the rulers in the modern day governments is a form of exemption, which encourages permissiveness, which undermines good governance. For this reason, the immunity clause should be annulled.”

He added that the alleged corruption involving the judicial arm of government has become national embarrassment and therefore called calls for urgent reform by taking a cue from the principles of Islamic judicial system characterised by integrity and justice.


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