Twenty four hours to the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a major power tussle has broken within the hierarchy of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) with what appears to be a palace coup to ease out the Chief Imam of the National Mosque, Musa Mohammed, and the appointment of three new ones on Thursday.
Mr. Mohameed’s tenure has been subject of tension for sometime and plans to unseat him last year were saved by the intervention of powerful Abuja political elites who pleaded his case.
Islamic scholars don’t consider Mr. Mohammed controversial to warrant active bids for his position but he is best remembered for his controversial role during the ill health of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, a role that worry some clerics who characterize it as dishonourable.
Mr. Mohammed, alongside a handful Islamic clerics, who visited the sick President claimed that Mr. Yar’Adua was upbeat and actively recovering at a time his health was dangerously sliding and was indeed in coma
In a terse statement, read by Murtala Aminu, the Legal Adviser to the National Mosque management committee, announcing Mr. Muhammed’s ouster, the management also signaled a dramatic shift in the worship mode at the mosque with three new Imams now taking turns to lead the Friday jumat prayers for the mosque.
The new imams are Ibrahim Makary from Bayero University Kano, Ahmad Onilewura from Osogbo, and Mohammad Mohammad, whose base was not mentioned.
Mr. Aminu tried to deflect concerns on the choice of three imams saying the three new Imams who will alternately lead jumat service in the Mosque are following holy precedents “in line with what obtains at the Holy Mosque in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).”
The press address by Mr. Aminu is however a reflection of the machinations going on at the NSCIA.
Sultan, Adegbite, others shun briefing
The Sultan of Sokoto and President of the NSCIA, Abubakar Saad was conspicuously absent at Thursday’s briefing. This is despite the statement, a couple of days ago, by the NSCIA that the Sultan would address Nigerians on the state of the nation and also Muslim faithfuls on preparation for Ramadan.
The NSCIA Secretary-General, AbduLateef Adegbite, who signed the release was also absent at the press briefing. Abubakar Sadiq, an official of the Mosque, explained that the Sultan was absent because he was attending to other “national issues,” while Mr. Adegbite was ill.
In Islam the three conditions for replacing an imam are circumstances of mortality, incapacitation due to health, and proven deep moral deficit.
Observers however say that the duo’s absence is a reflection of the politicking going on within the Islamic body. Though the National Mosque is under the management of the National Mosque management committee, the latter is superintended over by the NSCIA.
Efforts to get Mr. Aminu to respond to questions on the reason for the change of Imams, the change in procedure for appointment, etc. failed, as he declined to respond to questions.