Alatoye: It’s unacceptable, ungodly for anyone to ascribe weakness to religion or God
The Amir, Ahmadiyyah Muslim Jamat Nigeria, Alhaji Abdulazeez Alatoye, told GBENGA AKINFENWA that incompetent politicians deceptively using religion and tribalism to get into public offices is a disincentive for good governance.
Recently, at a Church leaders summit in Lagos, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo pleaded with Nigerians to pray to God for supernatural intervention in the affairs of the country, harping on the need to cry to God to help Nigeria. Are Nigeria’s political leaders not abdicating their responsibilities and looking unto God to do their jobs, while the country is getting over-religious?
The country is not getting over religious; rather we are irreligious with all due respect because the foundation of religion is godliness and no godly man will be attributable to any evil act whatsoever.
The foundation of Islam for example, on hiring anybody is contained in Suratul Qasas Chapter 28 of the Holy Quran verse 27, when Prophet Musa was appointed or recruited by Prophet Shuaib. How did it happen?
Prophet Musa left Israel and travelled to Midian. When he got there, he met the two daughters of Prophet Shuaib, who were trying to flock their sheep but couldn’t because the male was stronger. Prophet Musa helped them and they took the sheep home.
When they got to their father, who was also a man of God, he was surprised that his daughters returned home earlier than before. Then, the eldest among them told him that somebody assisted them and they begged their father to hire him because of his competence and trustworthiness. Those are the two attributes- competence and trustworthiness. That was how Prophet Shuaib hired Prophet Musa.
I gave the example for you to know that blaming God for anything is our fault because the basis for recruiting anybody for any job is clearly laid out. There is no act of mediocrity in Islam.Now let’s apply this to our scenario. We have all kinds of competencies-political, social, economic, technological, environmental, human resource management, and global knowledge competence, etc. It is unacceptable and ungodly that someone will be putting his weaknesses on religion or God.
The second thing is trustworthiness (sincerity, honesty, and transparency). Transparency and honesty are very essential in human relationship since they have to do with treating others as ourselves. This, of course, is part of being trustworthy. We need to understand that honesty is not only about money. This needs to be stressed because that’s why Nigerians are getting so many things wrong.
Can one tribe trust the other in any position? Trustworthiness is one of the major problems in Nigeria. Even if you are honest, do other people trust you to be reliable? If you put a Yoruba man in a position, is he not going to be finding a clandestine way of recruiting Yoruba people into certain positions? If you put a Fulani man, Hausa or Igbo there, will it not be similar allegations against him?
The act of trustworthiness is very fundamental and unless we address key issues like these, we may not get it right.We are all created by God, and we must all survive by his blessings. And that’s why I agree with the Vice President’s admonition that we have to pray.
That brings us to the question of what is prayer? Prayer means God’s guidance so that we can understand what we need to do. He knows that God would not come from heaven to come and help us, but we are materially wrong in our understanding and unless we have the correct understanding, we may not get it right.
Some people might say that people in advanced countries don’t call on God at the rate, which we do, yet they still do things right, but that is not correct. The foundation of the United Kingdom is religion, as well as that of the United States. It’s just that they were sort of born into it. For instance, George Washington was described as a man of God. He was very honest, competent and not only competent, but he was also very honest.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian or a Muslim. In my office, we have Christians and Muslims and I do tell them that there is only one point of measurement, which is performance, and we summarise competence and trustworthiness into performance… Unless we go back to the basics, then, we would be getting things wrong. Also, even when you are competent, but not trustworthy things might not go the right way. Unless followers have confidence in their leaders, then things are not going to work well.
So, it is not about religion, not playing the right role, but rather, people are using religion in a very wrong way, that’s my honest view about it. They ascribe their inadequacies, gross incompetence to religion and they will always wrongly use the phrase ‘let’s be praying’.
Shortly after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai called for prayer to defeat Boko Haram insurgents, he also advocated prayers, religious education, and enlightenment to counter the insurgency. How practical is the idea of resorting to celestial powers to solve social challenges?
It is when we are having spiritual challenges that we resort to spiritual help from Almighty Allah. We always require spiritual help for the success of everything, but you will not tell me we will be praying when money voted for equipment or money voted for logistics is not being honestly and transparently utilised. It is both prayer and effort that work together.
In the Holy Quran, Chapter 2 verse 154, Almighty Allah says, ‘seek my help with prayers and efforts, genuine and correct efforts.’
Is there any nexus between religion and delivering good governance or democratic dividends?
Religion is good governance; religion is peaceful co-existence, and religion is justice. This is what religion is all about and then religion is peace. Security of the people and their welfare are spelt out in the Constitution. So, for me, religion plays a vital role in good governance.
During last year’s National Economic Summit, someone pointed out that we converged there and talked about the economy, politics, social life and technology, but we forgot one big industry-religion. I was also surprised that we didn’t see how religion influenced other things. So, we must get things right because most people will believe what their Imams or other spiritual leaders tell them; they’ll take it as life and death and that is the truth. So, why don’t we use that sector to also preach honesty, sincerity, and commitment to humanitarian services because he, who uses religion negatively is using it for selfish interest?
Religion is meant to bring peace between two people-peace with yourself, peace with two people and peace with all and that is why the slogan of Ahmadiyyah Jamat is-Love For All, Hatred For None. All acts of violence have nothing to do with Islam and it has nothing to do with religion.So, in my view, religion should promote peace, harmony and good governance
Based on realities on the ground, how has the encroachment of religion into politics helped or harmed us as a nation?
If we look at that very carefully, our religious leaders need to do more in letting us know about what our leaders say about leading other people. The holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) for instance, was reported to have said that any leader who is deceiving his followers should not look for his place in paradise, but rather in hell. There are some people whom he warned not to take a position in politics, for instance, Abduldahari. Abduldahari are known as men of God, who are gentle and cannot enforce punishment when somebody has done wrong. They are gentle to that extent, and that was the reason that Prophet Muhammadu said when a wrong has been committed, you must be assertive to say this is wrong and this is the punishment.
Islam is a religion that expects the best performance from politicians, but what you find nowadays is deception, where people will use either religion or tribe to get into political office. It hurts me when I see politicians from both Islamic and Christian religions gather followers of their faith and canvass votes from them when it is not only people from their religious inclinations that would benefit from the roads that they are expected to construct. I find this unacceptable that religious groups will be projecting persons from their folds. The question that I would ask such Muslims is, would you rather vote for a bad Muslim as against a good Christian that is going to take care of the people?
Should we all suffer because a Christian out there is telling his brethren, ‘we are the body of Christ,’ so we must vote for a Christian, even when the Christian that is contesting cannot perform and we all end up suffering? As far as I am concerned, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim is irrelevant, what is relevant is humanity. We should rather be concerned with an individual’s attribute first. Is he competent? Is he honest? Will he be fair to all? Until we get to this point, then people will just be using religion to climb to the platform of governance. That is deception and I do not buy that idea.
Are Nigerians demanding good governance enough from their political leaders, or they are busy looking unto God to change their circumstances?
Well, I think it is a mixture of both. They are demanding good governance, but when good governance is not coming, they resort to God, rather than resorting to violence, protests and fighting those in government. We have seen some situations where people were attacked in the villages because they were demanding for good governance. However, the fact remains that we should be preaching to, and praying for our political leaders.
I have had cause to talk to our global leader about Nigeria’s situation, and how things are going to improve. All he said to me was ‘continue to pray for your leaders; continue to preach to your leaders, and encourage them to do good.’ Preaching to them means telling them the right things to do when you know that things are not going well, that’s a demand for good governance.
However, he noted that ‘not all of them will listen or are willing to listen, but keep on praying for them because if God touches their hearts, they’ll see certain things and realise that God might hold them accountable for the masses; if God touches their hearts they may come together and determine to do what is right. It’s only God that can do that because no individual can convince our leaders because they believe they are more intelligent; they have more cars and more money.
Given the rising spate of criminality, including violent crimes, can we confidently say that religion has helped us as a people to be ethically and socially safe?
Religion has helped us to be ethically and politically safe, but our people are trying to use religion in an ungodly way. There is a book, written by our fourth leader entitled, “Murder In The Name Of Allah.” Religion binds us together in peace, however, people use two concepts materially to cause havoc- religion and tribalism. Under no circumstances should anybody use religion to cause havoc. If you look at the people that are using religion, they are irreligious with due respect. They don’t have religious understanding; they don’t have anything.
To what extent did they obey the teachings of Christianity? To what extent do those Muslims use the peaceful teachings of the holy prophet? Have you ever seen them preaching to say, my brother, let’s do good? So, they are only using religion for selfish gains. It is the same thing with those that are using tribalism for selfish reasons because nobody created himself to be Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo? It’s God that created us all and made us come from different tribes. So, we should look at the beauty in each of the tribes and make use of it.Having said that, I would add that religion has also contributed materially to the peace that we have now.
To what extent should religion be allowed to interfere with governance by political leaders since the line between religion and the state appears to be getting blurred?
Religion should sharpen government in terms of good governance from members of the religious groups, irrespective of their backgrounds, through positive contributions, and not through the projections of their religious sect.