By Bosun Emmanuel, Kontein Trinya, B. Aditsoma, C. Atoyebi, J. Atoyebi, A. Alabi, A. Mojirade, S. Braimoh, R. Olokodana
We, a group of concerned citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, wish to draw the attention of the country to a volatile declaration read out at the Freedom Park in Ojota, Lagos State, on 21st October 2023, by Prof. Isa Maishanu of the Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto. The declaration was essentially a resolution of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), adopted at a meeting held in Saudi Arabia on the same day: 21st October 2023. As observed from the video, Prof. Maishanu was reading from his cell phone, suggesting that the document had been received over the internet.
While we agree that Prof. Maishanu and the various groups he represented have a freedom of expression, we urge caution in the exercise of that freedom, especially ensuring that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not breached. It amounts to a violation of the Constitution for any individual, or groups of individuals, to seek to draw Nigeria into an international conflict, based on religious affiliations.
That the resolution read by Prof. Maishanu at Freedom Park was from the OIC should have cautioned the respected Professor from calling on the Federal Government to take sides with one party in a conflict that has assumed an evident religious posture. It is in the open that Arab nations generally support Hamas, based clearly on religious affiliations, which is why the OIC met on the issue and produced their resolution.
We are compelled to state that, based on Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states that “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion,” the resolution of the OIC is not binding on Nigeria, on its people, or on its government. Nigeria is not a theocratic state, and no attempt should be made to create that impression. According to our laws, religion is “personal.” Section 38 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees the freedom of religious convictions for its citizens.
We are surprised that the group, represented by the Professor who travelled all the way from Sokoto to Lagos for the purpose of the declaration, expresses horror at the genocide taking place in faraway Palestine, yet has been curiously silent all these years at the greater horror of a genocide being perpetrated by insurgents against Nigerians in states such as Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Plateau, and Kaduna, against the Hausa people and other minorities. Thousands upon thousands of those people have been murdered by bandits, yet there has not been one protest from Prof. Maishanu’s group. Charity, they say, begins at home. How come the charity of this group is starting in Palestine? Are Palestinian lives more precious than Nigerian lives?
We wish to alert southern Nigeria, particularly the Yoruba people of the South-West, to beware of religious irredentists sneaking into the region to foment their intolerance. The Yoruba people would usually say that they do not adopt religion with insanity. The mishandling of religion in certain parts of Nigeria, which has had disastrous consequences, should not be imported into Yorubaland or anywhere else in the country. We kindly implore Afenifere, the respected leadership group of the Yoruba people, and other community leaders in Nigeria, to take note of what is going on. This issue should not be taken lightly.
The group that organized the declaration has its root in Sokoto. They did not stop in Kano to make the declaration. They bypassed Kaduna, went past the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, before making a landfall in Lagos to also strongly urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to promptly redefine its existing international and diplomatic alliances in line with their private religious position. Such declarations should be interrogated, to expose their real intention. May we ask, What again is being cooked for Nigerians? The Yorubas would rightly say that they do not mix insanity with religion.
In Yorubaland, the Constitution is upheld. The society is commendably free from religious intolerance. Many families and family extensions there have Christians, Muslims, and traditionalists. Should descendants of Oduduwa now begin to kill one another over religious differences? Should the Binis begin to take up arms against the Ibos? Or the Biroms against the Itsekiris?
We wish to remind Nigerians that every effort must be made to douse the fire of religious extremism in the country. The horrors that Nigeria has witnessed since 2009 when insurgency started, should be eliminated rather than be promoted. All religious irredentists bent on violating the Constitution should be called to order. The Federal Government should treat as an act of treason every violation of Section 10 and Section 38(1) of the Constitution.
On the issue of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Government and the people of Nigeria are neutral. That was clear in the message that the Federal government sent to the global community and to the parties in the conflict. No section of Nigeria is more Nigerian than all the others. Nigerians are still watching very keenly.
God bless Nigeria.