The various interventions and advocacies of the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) have reached the point where definite actions have to be taken. Since its inception on January 15, 2015, the NCEF has undertaken, amongst many others, the following actions to uphold freedom and democracy in Nigeria:
- Various articles exposing the manipulations of Islamists and Jihad in Nigeria
- Visits to State some Christian Governors
- Visit and meeting with some Christian Senators
- Meeting with Speaker of House of Representatives
- Meeting with Vice President of Nigeria
- Meeting with three Political Parties – PDP, APC, APDA
- Reviving Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN) as platform for Christian engagement in Governance
- Setting up Coalition of Christian Groups currently called ADVOCATES FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY. There are currently 45 Christian Groups in the Coalition.
- Various Press Conferences and Press Releases
All these laudable activities have conferred on the Christian Elders the moral authority to suggest, for consideration, Christian engagement in both politics and governance. Members of NCEF were colonial subjects and citizens of Nigeria after colonialism and most of them are over 75 years.
The Need for Convergence
Currently, many Christian groups are meeting all over the nation including Christian based Groups on the basis of ideology, intellectual discourse, cultural affinity as well as democracy. Individually however, none of them has been able to appreciate fully that both APC and PDP as well as the three arms of government are wittingly or unwittingly promoting and protecting Islamism in the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. In effect, not one single pro-democracy group is able to confront the Islamism in Nigeria. There is the need therefore for CONVERGENCE of all non-Islamist Nigerians especially Christians, bearing in mind their fierce independent nature and political learning. In other words, what should be the “manifesto” of Christians, parties and groups with respect to politics and governance post invisible sharia in Nigeria that Christians are looking up to CAN for direction. We are encouraged by the fact that a Committee of CAN, the NCEF as a result of its composition, maturity and learning feels constrained to advise CAN on what should be the line of action for non-Islamist Nigerians to confront Islamism or political Islam.
Chapter II of the Constitution
Ordinarily, the Constitution contains the “manifesto” for political and governance of Nigeria to which all Nigerians must aspire to implement. Chapter II Fundamental Objectives and Direct Principles of State Policy Section 13 - 24 of the Constitution contains provisions on Fundamental obligation of the government, the government and the people, political objectives, economic objectives, environmental objectives, directives on Nigerian cultures, obligation of the mass media, national ethics, duties of the citizens. [Appendix I]
Chapter IV of the Constitution
Unfortunately, a section of Nigerian population (the Islamists) we are told, are insisting that the tenets of Islam do not recognize or accept Human Rights as contained in Chapter IV, Section 33 – 46 of the Constitution making provision for - right to life, right dignity of his person, right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing, right to private and family life, right to be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression and the press, right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination, right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria and compulsory acquisition of property, restriction on and derogation from fundamental rights, special jurisdiction of high court and legal aid. [Appendix II] We are told that the Islamists do not recognize Human Rights because all rights belong to Allah who demands obedience of all human beings.
Islamism and the Constitution
The question to ask is: why should any Nigerian be denied the rights, privileges and protection granted by the Constitution. For a Nigerian, no matter how important, to say that he does not believe in the Constitution shows the divide between civilization and barbarianism as no Nigerian has the right, under the instrument of our union, to insist through force of arms as in Jihad through Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, to establish his religion as a political project. Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are instruments used to circumvent and deny Nigerians of the protection of these rights in the promotion of Islamism. This must be resisted constitutionally as two wrongs do not make a right.
If the above is correct, then there is need, in the circumstance, for all non-Islamists, individuals and groups to understand that Democracy and Islamism are incompatible. It is the practice of these two ideologies that has developed two centers of power in Nigeria:
- The Democratic Institutions; and
- Sharia practices outside and in competition with the Constitution
It is very clear from all that is happening in the country that the two major political parties (APC and PDP) are “using democratic machinery” elections and the three arms of government to try to make the religion of Islam a political project and this must be prevented at all costs. The only non-violent instrument available to non-Islamist Nigerians to forestall Islamism is free, fair and credible elections.
In addition to Appendix I and II, which are objected to by the Islamists, there are other facts concerning Islamism which non-Islamists must know. They include:
- Sharia and security – relevant attributes;
- Anti-Constitutional character of Islamism; and
- Nigeria’s leadership failure in the face of Islamism.
Sharia – security relevant attributes depicts that when Muslims are in charge (as they are presently in Nigeria), they are commanded to mount offensive jihad without hesitation. Quran 47:35 “so do not be fainthearted and cause for peace, when it is you who are the uppermost.” Sahih hadith from Bukhari attributes to Mohammed that “war is deceit”. By Allah and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath.
Anti-Constitutional Character of Islamism
“Any system of man-made law is considered illicit under Islamic law, for whose adherents Allah already has provided the only law permitted shariah. Islam and democracy can never co-exist in harmony.” “And if any fail to judge (rule) by the light of what Allah has revealed, they are no better than unbelievers.” (Q 5:47) “Sovereignty in Islam is the prerogative of Almighty Allah alone. He is the absolute arbiter of values and it is His will that determines good and evil, right and wrong.” (Mohammed Hashim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, 3d rev. ed., (Cambridge, UK: The Islamic Text Society, 2003), 8.)
The Islamists tells us that shariah cannot be amended to conform to changing human values and standards. Rather, it is the absolute norm to which all human values and conduct must conform” which explains why court orders are not respected in the promotion of Islamism.
Christian leadership failure in the face of Islamism
Christian leadership, over the years is built on moral authority. It is a fact of history that “in the waning days of World War II during a discussion of the future of Eastern Europe British Prime Minister Winston Churchill cautioned Joseph Stalin to consider the views of the Vatican. To this the Soviet leader responded “How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?” It is clear that while the Pope has no military divisions, he has moral authority throughout the civilized world.” [https://www.hjta.org/california-commentary/how-many-divisions-does-pope-have] Unfortunately, the moral fiber and authority of Church leaders in Nigeria are greatly weakened when they attempted to substitute moral authority with cash in competition with the Islamists.
Unlike Islamism, the Church does not preach predestination and therefore Church leaders are not created by God to be leaders and other Nigeria’s followers that look up to the leader for substance. Some Church leaders seem to have abandoned the moral authority and in the process, are now attempting to have their private “Armies” and other instrument of coercion that money can buy. This has greatly affected the younger generation who now look for wealth at all costs to replace moral authority. This is not to say that the Church is not entitled in some cases, the luxuries of civilization. What is being canvassed is that wealth should not replace moral authority. Like Caesar’s wife, Church leaders should be above suspicion. The incumbent CAN President’s refusal to protect the Trustees of CAN Trust Fund when they were arrested by DSS suggests lack of correct appreciation of present day political situation of Christians in Nigeria. Christians being told by the Villa to stick only to their religious duties is the language of Islamism to promote stealth jihad - silence the people while jihadists have a free reign to operate without any form of opposition.
Nigeria’s leadership failure in the face of Islamism
Law enforcement agencies and the Intelligence community sometimes blunt investigative efforts that might interfere with Islamists’ activities. In Nigeria a group of Nigerians were paraded in December 2014 as fraudulent associates of one Canon Stephen Davis an Australian cleric, accusing them of planning to spread falsehood, undermine and discredit efforts of government to end terrorism. The statement concluded thus “it is necessary to state that Davies and his cohorts are among several other local and international groups who are out to make merchandize of Boko Haram insurgency through concocted and fabricated stories. These subversive campaigns are also aimed at permeating and shaping political discourse as well as challenge the integrity of our National Security and stir discontent among Nigerians and our esteemed allies in the war against terror” [Emphasis supplied] The exact opposite was the case, it was the DSS and not Stephen Davis that was making merchandize of Boko Haram insurgence. The detained Nigerians were released after the intervention of the Chairman of NCEF who is a friend and associate of Canon Stephen Davis. The Ministry of Education and educational institutions have been penetrated with the purpose of encouraging submission to sharia in dress, textbooks and pedagogy. Prominent Muslim scholars and some Christian clerics are being induced to provide cover for the protection of those funding Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.
Christian Participation in Politics
Church leaders have said severally that Christians should join in the politics of the country. The object of this memo is for non-Islamist and Islamist Nigerians to consider what to look for in the politics of the country in 2018 and beyond. These include:
- Must Nigeria continue to have two ideologies, one Constitutional and the other stealthy?
- Must Nigeria continue to have two centers of influence one in Abuja and the other in Sokoto?
- Is it not time to place the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Restructuring the country on the front burner?
- Is it not time to have a people driven Constitution through a Constituent Assembly and Referendum?
From the above analysis and questions, it is clear that we need, as a country, political parties that would make public declaration for the implementation of provisions of the Constitution as contained in Chapter II of the Constitution, deciding in each budget which particular aspect of the directives should be emphasized for the particular year. These would be political parties that would use constitutional means only to promote Democracy not Islamism. As at today however, what Nigeria needs is one ideology, one centre of authority and until this is achieved, the items in Chapter II of the Constitution are merely palliatives.
What do you think?
Solomon Asemota SAN
17th January, 2017
Solomon Asemota, SAN (Chairman), Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (rtd), Archbishop Magnus Atilade, Dr. (Mrs) Kate Okpareke, Dr. Ayo Abifarin, Gen. Zamani Lekwot (rtd), Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, Elder Moses Ihonde, Elder Nat Okoro, Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, Elder Matthew Owojaiye, Justice Kalajine Anigbogu (rtd), Elder Shyngle Wigwe, DIG P. L. Dabup, Sir John W. Bagu, Dr. Saleh Hussaini, Elder Mike Orobator, Justice James Ogebe, JSC (rtd), Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Debo Omotosho, Dame Priscilla Kuye, Dr. S. D. Gani, Mrs. Osaretin Demuren, Prof. Yussuf Turaki, Dr. Musa Asake, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel (Secretary)