Perhaps for a very good reason, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Sultan of Sokoto, Saád Abubakar, and a Maiduguri-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Saleh recently made the list of the world’s 50 most influential Muslim leaders. The Muslim 500, an annual publication of the World’s 500 most influential Muslims, recognised the three Nigerian leaders in its 7th edition published late last year. The publication measured influence some Muslims have on other Muslims to include: any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, financial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim world.

The impact could be either positive or negative, depending on one’s point of view, it said. It added that the influence could be of a religious scholar directly addressing Muslims and influencing their beliefs, ideas and behaviour, or it could be a ruler shaping the socio-economic factors within which people live their lives, or of artists shaping popular culture. “The first two examples also point to the fact that the lists, and especially the Top 50, are dominated by religious scholars and heads of state. Their dominant and lasting influence cannot be denied, especially the rulers, who in many cases also appoint religious scholars to their respective positions,” it said. From the foregoing, it is not surprising that Buhari is among, even appearing ahead of the Sultan of Sokoto, at number 20 and 24 respectively. Indeed, the influence President Buhari has had on the Muslim Ummah are enormous. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida took the rap for Nigeria's sneaky upgrade to full membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1986, but according to a study on Nigeria funded by the US Defense Department in the early 1990s, cited in Uzukwu (2010), “it was actually Buhari who without any regard whatsoever for the sensibilities of Nigerians of other faiths, submitted the application to upgrade Nigeria's membership from the observer status it had enjoyed since the Gowon regime to full membership.” 

Recall that the first major conference President Muhammadu Buhari hosted since his emergence as civilian President in 2015 is the International Islamic Conference on Peace and Stability at the Musa YarÁdua Centre held in Abuja in March 2016. The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu also represented Nigeria at the General Assembly of the Fifteenth Session of the Committee on Science and Technology, COSTECH, of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) from Tuesday, May 31-Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in Islamabad, Pakistan. President Buhari has equally signed MOUs with the OIC for the facilitation of various projects in the northeast region, approved and consolidated Nigeria’s membership of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Against Terrorism, Eight Developing Islamic Countries (D8) and Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

While these memberships are still being contested in the court, the bill for the amendment of the 1999 constitution at the National Assembly (NASS) which seeks to include the Sharia Law into the country’s criminal law is still heating up. Similarly, under Buhari’s watch, Gov. El Rufai of Kaduna state is thought to be the first to pass an anti-religious bill into law. And of course, it is on record that only ‘non-Muslim’ Nigerians break the law and get punished. Hence, the law may have not been in the general interest of all as claimed. Furthermore, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) under Buhari recently approved the collapsing of Christian Religious Studies (CRS) and Islamic Studies (IS) as well as Social Studies, Civic Education and Security Education into one subject known as Religion and National Values (RNV) at the primary school level. Despite the fact that CRK and Islamic Studies would have different teachers, it is known that ‘non-Muslims’ are hardly employed or deployed to work in Muslim communities.

Thus, even where there are non-Muslim pupils in such places, a Muslim teacher might be the one to teach CRS. But can a Muslim effectively teach Christian values or a Christian teach Islamic values? Remember, CRS and Islamic studies according to the curriculum are compulsory since they come as one. This makes it difficult for any Christian school to avoid having an Islamic teacher, after all Christians are traditionally known for their peaceful disposition as exemplified by Jesus Christ. Talking about peace, the Federal government has continued to push for the establishment of Grazing Reserves, even allegedly smuggling funding for it into the 2016 budget. This it says would promote peace and security between farmers and herdsmen. Although it is said to be for all, it is known that no ethnic group in Nigeria rears cattle as Fulani who are majorly Muslims. And since the bill doesn’t say cattle rearers should benefit from the grazing reserves available in their home states, the fear of a repeat of the Usman Danfodio Sokoto Jihad of the 17th century is eminent.

While that is still being discussed at the NASS and other levels, with some states already keying into it, while some have explained it as ‘ranching policy’ (wherever it is written in the 2016 budget that it is ranching), the Federal Executive Council in July 2016 approved a new agricultural policy. In the new policy, farmers may have to pay for the Federal Government to provide them with security against intruders. The National Grazing Reserve Bill makes provisions for punishment against intruders into the area marked as the reserve. Adequate security will be provided with funding from the FG. As for the farmers (who are mostly minority ethnic groups) however, whose lands are going to be acquired for grazing with little or no compensation depending on whether they have title papers or not, they will have to pay for their own security.

A commentator refers to the security tax as Jizya which he describes as the Islamic protection tax payable by Christians and Jews in order for them not to be killed. It therefore means that Muslims will not pay, more so that they are mostly cattle herders and businessmen, not farmers. Again, since only Christian communities have been experiencing large-scale attacks, only Christians will have to pay. However, there have been several attacks particularly in the Middle-belt where security personnel were indicted.

This therefore leaves more questions than answers. Meanwhile, thousands of students from various states in the north are currently running various programmes under government scholarship in Sudan and other eastern countries. Sudan alone had about 4000 students from Nigeria as at 2014. A particular university in Sudan is reportedly owned by Nigerian government. Its main objective, just as many others is to train Muslim students from Nigeria to world class standards so that they can come and take over the productive sectors of the Nigerian economy. One of the benefitting students revealed in confidence that all the students under such scholarships have a mandate to make 2.1 in their results.

In time, the FG will pass a law to only recruit graduates with such certificates. Those with lower certificates will thus be wiped out of the civil service and other sectors giving way to these top class international students of Muslim background. These revelations were recently corroborated by Borno State Government’s warning in May 2016 to some of its students studying medicine in Khartoum, Sudan, to brace up or have their scholarships withdrawn. Recall that hundreds of service officers, believed to be majorly Christians were recently retired with more still on the line. A source in the Nigerian customs told our correspondent that a secret fund has been earmarked to be disbursed to Customs personnel who agree to join Islam. This set of people will not just access the fund but also have their files secured against any industrial action. Many more heads of government agencies and parastatals are gradually being replaced by ‘Muslim appointees’. The easiest defense would always be as usual, “merit”.

This is evident in the recent Ambassadorial nomination as well as the appointments made into various parastatals in the Ministry of Education. For want of time and space, let us skip the discussions on the appointments, anti-corruption fight and response of the Buhari government to security issues in various parts of the country and review some of the purported objectives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, formerly Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The organization founded on 25 September 1969 allegedly aimed to ensure only Muslims are elected to all political posts of member nations, eradicate in all its forms and ramifications all non-Muslim religions in member nations and ensure the ultimate replacement of all western forms of legal and judicial systems with the Sharia in all member nations. Equally, the organization has the mandate to ensure the appointment of only Muslims into strategic national and international posts of member nations. “It is part of the history of Nigeria, that General Olusegun Obasanjo, as the successor of General Murtala had problems with pushing through the Islamization Plan.

The believers in Murtala's Islamization plan in the Supreme Military Council – Shehu Yar'Adua, Babangida and Buhari were not powerful enough to push the plan through.“They had problems with the avid defenders of the secularism in the Supreme Military Council led by the Service Chiefs – General T.Y. Danjunma (Army), Commodore Isa Doko (Airforce) and Rear Admiral Adelanwa (Navy),” Prof. Omo Omoruyi, Research Fellow, African Studies Center, Boston University observes. Nigeria has remained a full-fledged member of the OIC since 1986 but has continued to be recognized globally as a secular state. Part of the conditions necessary for the full recognition of the country as a Muslim country is for the OIC charter to be implemented to a reasonable level which Nigeria has done with the appointments and other policies instituted by Buhari.

Other conditions are for the prospective member to have pro-Islamic words such as Sharia, Islam or Muslim mentioned 73 times in their constitution. Such words are already mentioned nearly 80 times in the Nigerian constitution while Christianity, Church or Christian is not mentioned at all. The OIC had been approached for the official conferment of the membership status on Nigeria given all of these indications but the exercise was placed on hold, sources say. Now that Nigeria has fulfilled all the obligations to be absorbed into the Islamic League, there are rumours that the official declaration of the country as a Muslim state would be done on 1st October, 2016. This would be done alongside the official announcement of ‘economic recession’ which would pave way for international (Arab League) intervention.

Should the plans succeed, Nigeria would no longer tolerate the ‘freedom of religion’ enshrined in the constitution under the fundamental human rights as only Sharia might gain impetus. How to avert this is not known. More so that when The Light Bearer posed a question on a possible Islamization move by President Buhari on the front page of its April 2016 edition, its worse criticisms came from the same people it aimed to enlighten. No wonder, Abdul'rahman Mohammed, a ‘so-called’ Muslim – Christian convert wrote in one of his epistles, “Letter to the senseless Christians” that Muslims would not need to use a violent jihad to Islamize Nigeria. “Christians themselves will be used by Muslims to Islamize Nigeria,” he alarmed. When people started speaking against ‘lopsided’ appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari, it was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang, that dismissed the insinuations. However, out of the six appointees in the batch named by Buhari on August 27, 2015, Enang, who defended the lopsidedness, was the only one from the entire southern part of the country.

Again, when debates started arising following the perceived preference for the North to the South under the new administration later on, it was Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina that told the critics that persons appointed were appointed on ‘merits’ even though we have had ‘qualified’ ambassadorial nominees who could not sing the national anthem and recite the national pledge. Be that as it may, like Enang, Adesina was the only southerner in his own batch. In the same vein, when the Aso Rock Chapel was shut down by Buhari, it was Pastor Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, the Vice President that explained it just as he was the one who announced the new price regime for Premium Motor Spirit that generated heated debate. Recall also that Kemi Adeosun has been the one defending every economic blunder on the part of Buhari just as Benue’s Audu Ogbe, the Agriculture Minister, and his Plateau State brother, Gov. Simon Lalong have been in the fore-front in the campaign for Grazing Reserves.

This is not to talk of the fact that it was Osibanjo that exonerated Buhari over the alleged Islamization agenda where he accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of being the first President to attend OIC meeting. Perhaps the fear of losing their political privileges necessitated such defenses against obvious realities but how does one place the alleged dismissal of a Pastor by his General Overseer for producing an “offensive” audio material that sought to ‘expose’ the Islamization plot of Buhari prior to the 2015 elections?

Recall also that it was at an “Episcopal” Town Hall Conversation with representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria in Abuja that the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) got his biggest Christian endorsement. There are so many more instances like that where those “willing tools” have effortlessly been used to defend any perceived anomaly. Thus, any preconditioned prejudice against this piece even from its headline could be understood, but as the scriptures say in Hosea 4:6, “my people perish for lack of knowledge.” A word is however enough for the wise.