This article is not intended to attack the religion of Islam or to undermine it. There are great Moslems who respect and honor people of other religious persuasions and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as the supreme law of the land. However, this article is directed at the disturbing conduct of our President and some other few misguided persons holding political power in Nigeria.
According to the Vanguard Newspaper publication of March 6, 2016, President Buhari has confirmed the membership of Nigeria in the Islamic Coalition against terrorism formed last year by majorly Islamic countries at the instance of Saudi Arabia to fight international terrorism. The Newspaper also stated that the admittance was coming barely two weeks after the president had stated that Nigeria was not a member. It will be recalled that while speaking with Saudi Arabia King, Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz during his trip to the country penultimate week, president Buhari said Nigeria would support the coalition even though it wasn’t a member.
On March 13, 2016, the Vanguard Newspaper also reported that Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, who, in January 2013, allegedly insulted Christianity in a tweet and received bashing from adherents has, again, stirred the hornet’s nest as Christians, across the state, are voicing their opposition to an executive bill before the state House of Assembly, allegedly designed to restrict all forms of religious preaching in the state.
The Kaduna Religious Regulation Bill, designed to replace the Religious Regulation Edict of 1984, is geared towards regulating Christianity and Islam as it seeks to create an inter-faith Ministerial Committee to be appointed by the governor and exercise control over Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. Highpoints of the bill include: *The ministerial committee shall issue licenses to religious bodies. *Without such licenses, you cannot preach. *No external preacher can preach in Kaduna without a permit. *The committee has the power to refuse to issue licenses. No criteria are given as to what will qualify one to have a license issued to him or for one to be denied a license. While the law does not regulate traditionalists in the practice of their beliefs, they are to have a representative on the committee that regulates the Christian and Muslim religions.
The bill empowers JNI and CAN to keep records of churches and mosques including data of preachers. (The law does not stipulate what ‘data’ is required to qualify for license). The law criminalizes the use of religious CDs, flash drive and other communication gadgets except in churches, mosques or other places of worship or personal houses. The implication is that you cannot listen to Christian tapes in your car or at any place except your house and in a church. If you preach without a license, you are guilty of an offence punishable by two years imprisonment. If you hold any Christian gathering even in a church and use loud speaker (microphone) after 8.00 p.m., you are guilty of an offence punishable with two years imprisonment. If you listen to a message in your car, you are guilty of an offence punishable by two years imprisonment. If you hold a crusade or any programme or any other kind of programme and use a loudspeaker at the said programme as long as it is not a church, you are guilty of an offence punishable by two years imprisonment. The bill criminalizes the abuse of religious books and makes it punishable by two years imprisonment. (It does not define what ‘abuse of religious books’ mean. It criminalizes the use of derogatory terms in describing any religion and makes it punishable by two years imprisonment. It does not define what ‘use of derogatory terms in describing any religion’ means.) Every preacher will have to obtain one-year license (renewable every year) or risk two years imprisonment.
The recent drafting of Nigeria into an Islamic coalition by President Buhari is clearly at variance with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria that allows for plurality and multiplicity of religious practices. More than one half of Nigerians do not practice the religion of Islam. To present these people to the world as Moslems is bizarre, ill advised and divisive. Furthermore, the President did not obtain the consent of the National Assembly and/or conduct a referendum before unilaterally joining the Islamic coalition. The President swore to uphold the tenets of the 1999 Constitution. He has abandoned his mantra of “rule of law” since he became the President of Nigeria. He acts more like a military dictator than a democratically elected president. Even where competent courts of law have granted bail to criminal defendants, he refused to release them just because he disagreed with the courts! President Buhari has so far portrayed himself as being above the law. I wrote an article in this forum that “neither Buhari nor Jonathan should be the President of Nigeria” shortly before the election resulting in Buhari’s emergence as the democratically elected President. I explained in the article that Buhari should not be elected President because he once became Head of State through a coup that overthrew and destroyed a democratic institution in place at the time. I said all the coup plotters and Buhari should have been tried and convicted for committing high treason, murder and lawlessness. Sadly, my admonition was ignored.
There was credible evidence to support the allegation that he once advocated that Sharia Law should be implemented in every part of Nigeria before he ran for office. He was able to overcome that allegation because he and his cohorts convinced Nigerians that he had become a “born again” democrat and that he was not a religious bigot. At least we now know that his born-again experience was only cosmetic and superficial.
It is not clear if Governor Nasir-El-Rufai was the mastermind of the new Religious Regulation Bill being proposed by the Kaduna State lawmakers. But his antecedents strongly suggest that he might be the brain behind it. It is not clear if he would sign the bill or veto it. He will be wise to veto it. That bill is unconstitutional because it clearly abridges the constitutional rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, the apex and supreme law of Nigeria. The freedoms enumerated in the constitution are sacrosanct. I am very convinced that the law will not survive judicial scrutiny if it is challenged on constitutional grounds. What really bothers me is that some insane person(s) had the audacity to propose a bill like that in a country like Nigeria. And why was the bill proposed during the tenure of President Buhari? Is Nasir-El-Rufai working in tandem with President Buhari? Should we expect a similar bill to be introduced in the remaining Northern States? And should we also expect a similar bill to be introduced thereafter in Southern States? Do the guys behind this regressive and divisive bill think that they can make every person in Nigeria become a Moslem through legislation? I mean, what is going on?
MY PLEA WITH PRESIDENT BUHARI AND OTHERS NOT TO PLUNGE NIGERIA INTO A SENSELESS RELIGIOUS CONFLICT
I had a dream two days ago. It was very vivid. I saw Moslems going to homes occupied by Christians and killing them unless they renounced Christianity. I saw many Christians fleeing from Nigeria to other countries. Was God showing me that some Muslims are planning to Islamize all Nigerians by killing all Christians unless they convert to Islam? Or should I not attach any signifance to my dream? I was extremely disturbed by my dream because my dreams often manifest in real life. I hope that my dream is inaccurate this time. I do not want to see my dream about Muslims killing all Christians in Nigeria come to reality. Believe me, I am very sound and sane. I do not drink alcohol or womanize. I am a man of prayer and I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Apart from that, I am also a practicing attorney in the State of California. I am also a Solicitor of England and Wales. Of course, I first became a lawyer in Nigeria more than two decades ago.
We are grateful that Nigeria overcame the civil war that was fought in the late 1960s even though some of the residue and wound of that war are still with us today. In my humble view, I do not see Nigeria overcoming any national religious crisis between Moslems and Christians in Nigeria. The entire edifice called Nigeria will be combusted by the fire of religion if Moslems started suppressing and/or killing Christians in Nigeria. I used this forum to plead with President Buhari and other Moslems holding political power in Nigeria not to use their offices to create a religious conflict in Nigeria. The traditional and peaceful means of converting people of other religious persuasions to one’s religion are education and persuasion, not suppression and/or outright discrimination. Governor Nasir-El-Rufai and his lawmakers should be persuaded to drop their bill in the greater interest of the entity called Nigeria.