The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has condemned the statements by some religious leaders alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is planning to Islamise Nigeria.
In a statement by the minister’s special assistant on media and publicity, Segun Adeyemi, Mr. Mohammed said the allegations were a campaign of calumny.
Mr. Mohammed spoke at a town hall meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State. The town hall meetings across Nigeria began in April, 2016 under the title ‘Federal Government Discuss’ as a means of bridging communication gap between government and Nigerians
“The alleged Islamisation of Nigeria under the current administration is totally false and should be perceived in its entirety as a campaign of calumny,” the statement said.
“There is no bigger threat to the peace and unity of our country today than religion-coated incendiary messages, which are being carelessly sent out by some religious, political and opinion leaders.
“In recent times, the media has been increasingly awash with incendiary statements that seem designed to pitch the adherents of the two prominent religions in the country, Christians and Muslims against one another. Such fallacies like the Islamisation of Nigeria, the killing of Christians by Muslims, the labelling of Nigeria as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world can only serve one purpose: trigger a religious war”, the minister said.
The leadership of CAN had in various communication with the media accused the current administration of planning to Islamise the nation. The association blamed increased killings for alleged blasphemy and other ethno-religious killings in Northern Nigeria on the government’s inaction.
It also accused the administration of toeing the path of past Muslim leaders in its resolve to ensure that Nigeria remains a part of international Muslim organisations.
Reacting to the allegations, Mr. Mohammed noted that Nigeria has had its share of ethno-religious crisis but added that CAN and other like-minded religious leaders were aware that their claims are untrue.
“Needless to say that no nation ever survives a religious war. Those who are making these allegations know that they are not true, but they have found in religion another tool to demonize the government of the day, divert attention from the government’s anti-corruption stance and create undue tension in the polity.
“Make no mistake about it, there have been conflicts between adherents of the two major religions in certain parts of the country. To now extrapolate from that to say Nigeria is the most dangerous place for Christians in the world is a disservice to Nigeria and an overkill. What those who are pushing this negative narrative about Nigeria do not know is that if they succeed in giving Nigeria a bad name in the comity of nations, they too will not escape the consequences that will result therefrom,” said Mr. Mohammed.
He alleged that religious leaders making the “incendiary statements” were being used by political groups to undermine government.
“The secular nature of Nigeria’s Constitution makes the issue of religious dominance and impunity improbable. It is also important to note that the underlying principle of religious conflict may not be purely religious, but more often than not coloured with political connotations as vividly depicted in the case of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
“And more often than not, conflicts between Muslims and Christians are fuelled by political motivations, ethnic differences, extremism, intolerance and terrorism’, Mr. Mohammed said.
“Let me appeal to the media to desist from providing a platform for exponents of incendiary statements, those who will latch on to religion and ethnicity to divide us, and those who have no qualms about leveraging their privileged positions to give Nigeria a bad name in the international community”.
Mr. Mohammed alleged that the propagators of the incendiary messages had also accused the military of using its equipment against the Christian population in Nigeria.
“Their foreign collaborators, including a section of the international media, have even gone as far as accusing the Nigerian military, a symbol of the country’s unity, of arming Fulani herdsmen to kill Christians, as if the army is made up of officers and men from only one religion. The Federal Government rejects this ludicrous and nonsensical accusation against the military and warns those behind it to desist forthwith,” said Mr. Mohammed.
“Let me also appeal to Christian and Muslim leaders to emulate Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja and Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III of Sokoto, both of whom formed the Inter-faith Initiative for Peace to promote inter-faith dialogue – which represents an energetic and indispensable vehicle for achieving lasting peace among divergent religious groupings in the country”.