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OIC and the myth of islamisation in Nigeria


Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

“By taking Nigeria into the OIC in 1986, Ibrahim Babangida officially turned Nigeria into an Islamic state. Simply by the act of the application for OIC membership, Babangida tampered with the secularity of the Nigerian State. That unilateral decision should be reviewed because it violates Section 10 of the Constitution.” – Elder Solomon Asemota (SAN)

On February 3, 2015, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), as the Vice Presidential Candidate of All Progressives Congress informed his audience at an interactive session with professionals in Warri, Delta State that former President Goodluck Jonathan was the first and only Nigerian leader to have attended a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC). He made this assertion as a campaign build-up to 2015 general election to disabuse the mind of the electorate from falsehood associated with President Muhammadu Buhari as a Muslim fundamentalist who is perceived with the agenda of ‘Islamising’ Nigeria.

Earlier before Osinbajo’s submission, Prof. Emeka Uka – prelate and moderator of General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria – stated that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and retired General Ibrahim Babangida deserved to be tried for treason as punishment for systematically violating the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by attending the G8 summit of the OIC during their reigns in office. He stated thus: “They had gone to register Nigeria in OIC as an Islamic country; and unfortunately, during a meeting of the G8 Islamic countries held in Egypt in 2001, Obasanjo identified himself, portraying Nigeria as an Islamic country by attending that meeting. This made some people to feel that Nigeria is an Islamic country; and Islamic countries do not tolerate another religion.”

It is this complex interplay of Theology and International Relations that informed the position of respected Elder Solomon Asemota (SAN) in Vanguard Newspaper of August 25 in his capacity as the National Chairman of the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) to have declared that Nigeria is already an Islamic State and no longer a multi-religious nation as His Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto was quoted in a report to have allayed fears of a plot to Islamise the nation. He asserted critically that Nigeria is a secular state in line with Section 10 of Nigerian Constitution.

For one, the origin of secularism has been extensively discussed in my earlier submission in The Guardian of September 24, November 6 and November 27, 2015 under the caption “Secularism, Shari’ah and Nigerian Constitution.” Unarguably, it is a concept developed during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe by Agnostics and advanced by Atheists and that underscore the temporal nature of its philosophy which is at crossroad with African culture on one hand and the multi-religious nature of over 250 ethnic identities in Nigeria.

Again, the eminent Jurist and retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Niki Tobi, similarly expressed his authoritative view that Nigeria is not a Secular State. He said: There is the general notion that Section 11 (of the 1989 Constitution, similar to Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution) makes Nigeria a secular nation. That is not correct. The word secular etymologically means pertaining to things not spiritual, ecclesiastical or not concerned with religion. Secularism, the noun variant of the adjective, secular, means the belief that state, morals, education etc should be independent of religion. What Section 11 is out to achieve is that Nigeria cannot, for example, adopt either Christianity or Islam as a state religion. But that is quite different from secularism (see Fundamental Legal Issues in Nigeria: Essays in Honour of Andrew Obaseki, 1999).

On the other hand, the journey to Nigeria’s membership of OIC dated accurately to 1969 when General Yakubu Gowon as the Head of State and the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council sent a Nigerian delegation as an observer led by Alhaji Abubakar Gumi to its first meeting in Morocco in line with strategic diplomatic relation of Nigeria with other countries including but not limited to her neighbouring countries.

Cameroon as a country with a high level of religious freedom and diversity and with Christianity as the predominant faith practised by about two-thirds of the population became a full member of OIC in 1975. Republic of Benin with a predominantly Christian’s majority became member in 1982; Togo Republic became a member in 1997. According to the CIA Factbook 2012, approximately 29% of the population in Togo is Christian, 20% are Muslim, and 51% hold indigenous beliefs. Republics of Niger and Chad became member the same year in 1969 while West African Republic of Cote d’Ivoire with nearly equal population of Muslims and Christians (according to recent CIA Factbook) became member in 2001.

It is obvious that Nigeria’s full membership of OIC in 1986 is in line with strategic diplomatic interest in her neighbouring countries on one hand and global best practices contrary to religiously tainted view of Elder Asemota (SAN). If Christian-dominated countries do not become Islamic countries by their membership of OIC, why did Elder Asemota conclude that Nigeria is now an Islamic country? Even Co-operative Republic of Guyana and Republic of Suriname – heterogeneous and multicultural Christians-dominant countries in South America with minority Muslim population -are full member of OIC.

Today, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation is an international organisation consisting of 57 member-states and has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union while the official languages are Arabic, English and French.

Obviously, if the late sage – Awolowo – were to be alive today, he would have been roundly criticised by Asemota for promoting an “Islamisation Agenda” by setting up the first Pilgrims’ Board in 1958 to assist the Muslim faithful. It is therefore befitting to unlearn intolerance and accept Nigeria’s membership of OIC as in the country’s strategic diplomatic interest.
• Ayanda is an engineer.

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  • vincentumenyiora

    Your problem in Nigeria is more about the minds of those leading you people as it goes to influence the thinking of the ordinary population because they are uneducated – in majority! I must keep saying it and solutions to help you repair this anomalies in the country was handed in that early and none could comprehend the long term advantages of what was submitted to the authorities at the time! The solutions to Nigeria’s problems are simple and can only be solved from empirical and not theoretical solutions since Nigeria is an entirely different kind of kettle of ‘fishes’ lacking in that moral, religious and even ethnic scrupulousness as we discuss issues!!

  • vincentumenyiora

    FOR THOSE ADVISING YOU PEOPLE POLITICALLY – if you people want peace and to progress amicably consider my new political leadership solution! Counties have revolutions and in it Kings (gentry and nobility) are sometimes wiped out and the people still carry on their living, under no vendetta nor vindictive policies so as to achieve the goals intended!

    If you are familiar with my comments you must have come across my use of cowardice and or being forthright about matters concerning Nigeria and its peoples! In the concluding paragraphs you can find is typical of my observations and it has been the characteristic of the leadership in Nigeria – everyone acting under the heat/pressure of fear and to curry favour of some kind otherwise, I don’t see why the OIC should concern Nigeria with the kind of population size and composition, in such a situation that it could not be discussed amicably before unilaterally acquiescing to deal with the matter cautiously before signing the country off in the manner Gen. Y. Gowon, Chief Awolowo and IBB did bearing in mind what the meaning is and the phrase portends in the minds of the Muslim devotees in particular!

    I mean the decision to go ahead and do that (signing) especially under IBB’s administration was tantamount to grave disrespect of the large size of the Christian population and the other believers and if the Constitution says what is quoted in the features, I don’t; see why the idea should be contemplated in the first place by IBB if it was not to slight the rest of the Southern States! So, going by the ambitions of the those concerned, I think that most of the reasons for the thinking for the actions taken by the actors was based on that idea to curry favour out of intimidation (to appear/ pretend to stoop law) so as to get at a ‘something’ and that something was position of leadership or authority and we recall the root cause how each one of them came to power and became Heads! I mean the whole story about the decision to get that much committed is fraught with that conspirator theory about Nigeria such that even when OBJ returned and Jonathan came to the scene they could not raise strong opposition to the decisions! Whatever is the situation since the provision in the Constitution is clear on the position of Nigeria as a ‘Secular State’ there is not much that OIC can do thought unless ratified by the NASS, to persuade or commit the entire country to any foreign actions on war or whatever! In other wards and going by the provision in the Constitution, Nigeria can only be a full member of OIC if the NASS ratifies it!

    What this means, like I rightly observed all this while, is that you need a rethink about the political leadership for Nigeria as I incidentally submitted already so that you can portray what the country is in reality or you will continue in this misleading position and your children left in confusion of what the Union is all about, folks!!

  • vincentumenyiora

    From all the trappings about this matter, it is not unlikely that some of the tactics in the political leadership for Nigeria has been or include canny machinations and treachery – think also about Bakassi Peninsula they did not allow you to discuss it in the House against all Constitutional and Human Right of the people in that part of Nigeria (World) even the UNO’s provision for right of human beings to aspire and live where they want to and here is a case in Nigeria even though your Constitution states clearly what the State of Nigeria is or should be you are beguiled to think you’re a member of OIC and they are carrying on with things for granted – they do not want to make it a subject for debate in the Houses knowing what the real and outright consequences will be! Part reason why you must sue for the rotational Presidency for Nigeria so that you (all should) know what is happening in the country also on equal basis!

  • EyeServis

    The examples given of countries who have gone in including Benin republic and Cameroun are those where, unlike Nigeria, the people are not bothered about whether or not they have OIC membership, so their situation cannot rightly be compared to Nigeria’s where a significant majority are suspicious of and outright hostile to the idea of OIC membership, and islamisation or jihad assuming theres any difference.

    Nigeria is a country where democracy is the mode of government, and we know democracy basically is about the wishes of the people of the country. Not, the wishes of a, or any neighbouring country. So it makes no sense in this regard to cite any other country as counter argument or example, since, being non-Nigerians, they are not party to our peculiar democratic system.