The Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Ishaq Oloyede, on Monday said socio-political crises in Nigeria were being aggravated by the irresponsibility and lack of sincerity of many religious and media officials.
Mr Oloyede said this at the first annual Ramadan lecture of The Point newspaper held at the headquarters of Lagos Television (LTV), Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.
The NSCIA official, who is also the registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board (JAMB), said it was understandable to see political actors manipulate truths and facts to conjure dangerous lies and fabrications at the expense of national cohesion and development but that it was unacceptable for religious leaders and trained journalists to betray their professions by publicising and propagating sensational falsehoods.
“One thing that is certain is that such persons would never end well and would be faced with the consequences of their devilish deeds, though only very few would be able to trace their inevitable calamities as their nemesis,” he said.
“More alarming is the fact that some religious actors seem to consider as pardonable, lies and falsehood deployed in the name of promoting their religious causes. Muslims should realise that the momentary gains of employing falsehood to propagate a religion is ungodly and is punishable in the sight of Allah as telling lies in mundane matters.
“The Prophet said – religion is sincerity to Allah, the Prophet and to humanity in general. No matter how attractive, religious services should be devoid of falsehood and fictitious allegations against others.”
The professor gave a number of instances where religious leaders and the media escalated crises in the country without concern for the implication of their reportage of issues.
Commenting on the Tiv-Fulani crises, the professor described the feud as an age-long conflict being aggravated by political and religious irredentists, assisted by irresponsible media.
“If not for political expediency, the sociology of Tiv-Fulani relations and linguistic dynamics of asking, “where are my cows” by Fulani man and the response of “munchi” (I have eaten it) by a Tiv man would have resonated a long history of such inter-group relations,” he said.
“But where desperate politicians seek relevance, any straw can be held on to gain cheap political points. Nigerians should not fall for the propaganda whether from the politicians or from religious bodies with soiled corrupt hands. A deep reflection of what is being presented as a new clash would have shown that it is a conflict that is as old as Nigeria. The Colonial Masters created grazing routes, forest reserves and mediating teams to address the economic and social friction between the Tiv-farmers and the roving herdsmen.
“When Sir Mike Okiro was the Commissioner of Police in Benue State, President Obasanjo was the President and General Theophilious Danjuma was the Minister of Defence; the Tiv versus herdsmen conflict resurrected with unprecedented venom that caused the death of many citizens, no one ascribed the conflict to the religious affiliation of the public officers. It is now convenient to suffer selective amnesia and consider the lingering crises as novel. This is the narrative being championed by some ‘herdsmedia’.
“Between 2007 and 2009, the Tiv-Fulani uprising gained national and international notoriety that led to the inauguration of a Resolution Committee jointly headed by Tor Tiv and the Emir of Gombe at the instance of Governor Gabriel Suswam. From the instances, it is clear that what is needed is not scape-goating but realistic analysis of the real causes of the lingering socio-economic crises. Deforestation, unplanned development and other environmental factors need be addressed to ensure stability in the region.”
On the issue of Christians being killed by herdsmen and other bandits, he said the truth remains that more Christians, like their Muslim counterparts, were killed by Boko Haram and other bandits during the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.
He said, “No religious body then held Dr. Jonathan responsible. Despite the conspiracy theory that “Boko Haram” was an economic venture of some public officers, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) did not accuse President Jonathan as being the sponsor.
“Does it not smack of religious bigotry and undisguised wickedness that President Buhari is being directly targeted by the zealots? Did Muslims hold the former President responsible when Christian militants in the South South were killing Muslims and Christians? Why can’t all men of conscience, call, as the Catholic Bishops did, on the Government to take more drastic measures in arresting the deteriorating conflicts in Benue and other places in Nigeria rather than the false accusation with the attendant onslaught on the sensibilities of Nigerian Muslims?
“Without equivocation or fear of contradiction, we insist that those who are suggesting that the violence of herdsmen is religiously-motivated are dancing naked to the tunes of the Devil. This is because the insinuation is, and can only be, fraudulent, malicious, crude and ungodly. Religion should not be used for devilish purposes.”
On the abducted Dapchi girl, Leah Sharibu, Mr Oloyede described as shocking the threat by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that should Leah Sharibu die in captivity of Boko Haram, there would be religious war.
He said, “I am as astonished as the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) who recently expressed shock at the destructive and counter-productive statement.
“Boko Haram has never hidden its mission of setting Nigeria ablaze through a religious war. Whose interest was the call to serve? Definitely, not that of the innocent Nigerian Lady, Leah Sharibu. Is it fair, religious or Godly to, for the sake of political grandstanding and publicity-seeking, endanger the life of such a precious, principled and promising Lady? I am sure the immediate family members of the Lady would not subscribe to such politicisation of the misfortune.”
Last month, the Special Assistant (Media and Communications) to CAN President, Adebayo Oladeji, had in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH said there would be war if Miss Leah was killed by the terrorist group. (http://punchng.com/leah-sharibu-must-not-die-can-warns-fg/).
But Mr Oloyede said the abduction of Miss Leah and other girls was unfortunate intensely hurtful to all right-thinking persons, adding that the leadership of the NSCIA reached out to all possible channels of reaching the group with a proposal to secure amnesty for the group provided Miss Leah and other girls in captivity are released and the group surrender their arms.
“This knowledge made the careless threat particularly painful,” he noted. “As if this national miscalculation is not destructive enough, the declaration of support of the Nigerian Christians for the escalation of crises in the Middle East is inexplicable.”
He argued that like many Christian groups around the world, an informed christian leader, Pope Francis, made an impassionate plea against the decision which he said “would add new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts”.
“It is therefore strange that a Christian group would substitute “love” for pathological hatred and oppression just to hurt their Muslim brothers,” he said.
The JAMB registrar also made specific reference to Tafawa Balewa community in Bauchi State, which produced the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, adding that there is no mosque anymore in the community not to talk of calling to prayers.
“Apart from killing Muslims mercilessly,” he said, “all the Muslims were exiled. Muslims of the community still remain in disarray as internally displaced people. All entreaties to President Jonathan and lately President Buhari on the matter have not yielded any positive result. Muslim leaders continue to mount pressure that displaced Muslims of Tafawa Balewa be restored to their ancestral home.
“I call on investigative journalists to focus some attention on the plight of Muslim community in Tafawa Balewa town of Bauchi State.
The professor called on all peoples of conscience to rise above pettiness and seek means of harmonizing the various voices in the society for peace and harmony to reign.
He also called on the media to be fair, truthful and just in their reportage of issues, adding that only a society built on truth and fairness can exist in peace.
The programme had in attendance Muslims from different parts of the country, including numerous Nollywood stars.
Yemi Kolapo, the editor-in-chief of The Point newspaper, appreciated the invited guests and urged them to uphold peace and harmony in their individual spheres.