The General Overseer of Later Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has said his comment on the floor of the National Conference Tuesday that Chairman Idris Kutigi should refrain from starting his speeches with a short Arabic phrase should not be interpreted to mean hatred for Muslims and their faith.
Mr. Bakare had, at the first plenary of the Conference, drawn attention to the short Arabic phrase that usually precede Justice Kutigi’s speech at the Conference’s sessions.
The clergyman then called for a uniformed prayer at all meetings of the Conference.
“Mr. Chairman, yesterday you said something at the inauguration of the Conference and I did not understand,” Mr. Bakare said. “Today again, you said it. I think you should pray in the way all of us understand because if I stand up and say, ‘Praise the Lord somebody,’ we will turn this place into a church service.”
But in a statement Thursday morning, a group, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, said Mr. Bakare’s “attack” on Justice Kutigi was a premeditated demonstration of his hatred for Muslims and Islam.
Mr. Bakare has now denied the charge, saying he made the comment in the interest of national unity, cohesion and mutual co-existence at the conference.
“What we are saying is that let us adopt one simple language so that no one reads any religious connotation into anything we say or do,” Mr. Bakare told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone. We are not here for regional or religious issues. We must not be divided by tribal sentiments and religious prejudices. We must focused on building a new Nigeria.”
The clergyman explained that there was no way he could hate Muslims having been born and raised a Muslim himself.
Besides, he said, many of his relatives, friends and associates are Muslims.
“If I hate Muslims, I would not have accepted to be a running mate to a Muslim in the last presidential election,” Mr. Bakare explained. “I was born and raised a Muslim. I’m well versed in the Quoran having graduated from Islamic school on April 16, 1967.
“Many of my relatives are still Muslims. My older cousin was recently made the Are Adinni Musulumi of Egbaland and my family was well represented at the ceremony.
“I have no Islamophobia of any kind. Even in my businesses, I employ Muslims and non-Muslims and even those who don’t believe. I was born in the South but raised in Sokoto. My father was known as Sani Arewa and that is what is written on his tombstone. My uncle was Sarki Yoruba in the Sultan’s palace.
“So, you can see that I’m in no position to hate Muslims. All I’m saying is that we should be fair to one another. God created only one race. And that is the human race. We should not let religion or tribes to divide us.”