The Christian Association of Nigeria has responded to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explanation of the federal government’s adoption of Sukuk bonds.
Speaking during a pastors’ conference in Lagos on Friday, Mr. Osinbajo said CAN was wrong in its conclusion that the federal government’s adoption of the Sukuk bond was a ploy to Islamise Nigeria.
Mr. Osinbajo criticised CAN for what he described as the association’s constant alarm about Islamisation, which he said was comparable to a fruitless search for invisible demons.
“Part of the problem is the failure of Christian leadership to take its rightful place. We focus our minds on something we call the Islamic agenda. We look for it everywhere as if we are looking for demons,” he said.
“The Sukuk is an Islamic concept, which enables people to have access to credit. It is essentially like a bond. The US, UK, China, South Africa have all used the Sukuk. Once there is money in the market, let us not get sentimental. The most important thing is for us to use those monies well,” Mr. Osinbajo was quoted by the Punch as saying.
But CAN urged the vice president to stop discrediting the association.
A statement signed by CAN’s head of media and communications, Adebayo Oladeji, quoted the CAN president, Samson Ayokunle, as saying that Mr. Osinbajo was oblivious of what CAN called illegal actions of successive governments in a bid to actualise the Islamic agenda.
“The Organisation of Islamic Countries met in London in 1983 with a follow up meeting in Nigeria in 1989 and had issued a communiqué to Islamize Africa with Nigeria capturing a great attention. This is a public knowledge while facts could be obtained from Wikipedia with links on OIC’s Conference in London, 1983 and Abuja Declaration of 1989,” CAN said.
“It is also a matter of fact that Nigeria was later made an observer member of the body (OIC) through General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Under General Sani Abacha, another Muslim leader, Nigeria was made full member in total violation of the constitution that the nation is secular and our government should not be religiously partisan.
“From then on, conscious efforts were on to draw Nigeria into joining different Islamic organizations in keeping with the resolutions of OIC & Islam in Africa Organization (IAO),” the statement said.
The statement said CAN was not opposed to peaceful efforts aimed at preaching the Islamic gospel, but said it would not accept the adoption of Islamic resolutions aimed at compelling the country towards Islam.
“We are not opposed to Islamic evangelism by any Muslim group if done with a peaceful motive. The Christians also exercise their constitutional rights to do so through revivals and gospel rallies. But we are opposed to the government of Nigeria adopting Islamic resolutions aimed towards a compelling of this country, contrary to the dictates of the constitution,” it said.
“Our worry as a body is that Nigeria started getting active in international Islamic alliances and organizations in total violation of the constitution. But the Vice President seems not conscious of this and the motive behind adoption of the Sukkuk Bond. Then we ask, Is Sukkuk constitutional? Is Sukkuk not part of the resolutions of OIC & IAO Is it not part of Nigeria’s adoption of Islamic sharia and financial system that it is mandatory for all governments in Africa subscribing to Islam?
“We also ask why the present government joined Islamic Military Alliance against terrorism. Are we an Islamic nation to so do? Can’t Nigeria fight terrorism without joining Islamic coalition? Why would the government continue to consciously heat up the polity,” the statement said.
A lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, shed more light on the Sukuk bond and what he believes CAN should be saying regarding the bond.
“Quite frankly one cannot see the woods from the trees as far as CAN’s arguments are concerned. Sufficient explanations have been made by the vice president regarding the Sukuk bond. And although because of our painful experiences with government’s pronouncements in the past we must take what government says with a pinch of the salt,” he said.
“On this one the explanation is very plain and understandable. That explanation is that the bank that Nigeria took the loan from is one which Nigeria is part of. Invariably, we are not talking about a bank that Nigeria is not a part of. Interesting CAN is not even saying that Nigeria should not be a part of the bank, but that we should not take the Sukuk bond. That argument is faulty.
“It’s been explained that Nigeria joined this Islamic bank since 2005 or thereabout; why has CAN not gone to court to get an order of court to say that this is a violation of our secularity status: to obtain an order of prohibition against government since that time? Why is that they are just talking now with the emergence of the Sukuk bond?
“My take is that that bond has nothing to do with the Islamisation of Nigeria. You do not Islamise a country by the injection of foreign funds for development in that country. We have not been told that these funds are meant to build more Mosques or ensure that more people go to Hajj for example; so in terms of intent and purpose of the bonds and the money, there is nothing that offends our secularity status in that,” Mr. Ogunye said.
The lawyer warns that CAN might lose its credibility, if it persists in taking “unpopular” position.
“CAN has not been able to point to a position in any of our laws that forbids what the government has done to the Sukuk bond.
“I think that an organisation as important as CAN owes itself and Nigeria a responsibility to backtrack when its advocacy appears wrong-headed and misleading. You can make an advocacy, advice or make a suggestion. But in the course of an enshrined debate, when you come to a realisation that your position is untenable, you don’t remain obdurate adamant or obstinate about it. Rather you beat a strategic retreat.
“Why that is important is that if you don’t, when next you are making a point people will laugh you to scorn and say that you are talking nonsense. And your voice is necessary in the polity. We all need CAN, so CAN has a responsibility not to undermine itself and the best way to do that is to continue to be obstinate about a point that is not valid.”