This month, I attended a series of meetings in Kaduna organised by the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN), an organisation in which I am a Shurah (highest decision body) member as well as deputy national secretary. One of the meetings was for all Shurah members, while most of the others were for various committees handling different issues surrounding the challenges and problems sinking our darling Nigeria in the ocean of disaster and pandemonium.
Interestingly, the general Shurah meeting had over a hundred prominent scholars in attendance from different states of our country. These eminent scholars are representatives of various organisations such as Jamaa’atu Izalatil Bidi’ah wa Iqamatis Sunnah (JIBWIS), Jama’atu fityaanil Islam, Tijjaniyya group, Qadiriyya group, Muslim Students’ Society (MSS), National Council of Muslim Youths (NACOMYO), Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Muslim Journalists and many others.
The meeting was chaired by the President of the council, Dr Ibrahim Datti Ahmad, OON. The Secretary, Malam Nafiu Baba-Ahmed, mni regulated the meeting and I served as mediator between the leadership of the meeting and its congress. Furthermore, so many important issues were discussed elaborately and sincerely. With the permission of our council, I was encouraged to share some of the issues discussed with you because we are all stakeholders, in parts or in whole.
The president of the council began by congratulating the Muslim Ummah in general and the Shurah members in particular, on the licensing and commencement of business by Jaiz Bank, for their commendable role in promoting this noble project. He said the bank began operation early this year with three branches, in Abuja, Kano and Kaduna. He urged members to note that at present; Jaiz is operating on a regional banking license, which restricts its coverage to only the North West, North East zones and the FCT. This is because of some difficulty in meeting the minimum share capital requirement for a National Banking License. Fortunately, the bank will soon approve a public issue to raise more funds to meet the requirements for a national banking license, that will enable it cater for the needs of Muslims throughout the country. We expect the usual cooperation of Shurah members in their respective states, to ensure the success of the effort.
The President of the Council then dwelt on the reason for the delay in convening the meeting. The last pre-Ramadan Shurah meeting held in the month of sha’aban last year. He also addressed what some people felt was an unusual silence by the Council on the most challenging issue facing the Ummah and the nation today – the deteriorating security situation, especially the unfortunate incidents that resulted in loss of lives and destruction of properties in some states in the North.
The President of the council said he believes the recent role played by the Council in an effort to resolve the security crisis is an eloquent testimony of the wisdom to remain silent, hence the delay in convening the Shurah meeting. He emphasised that, the burden of the expectations of Muslims must be shared by other organisations if we are to succeed in our collective efforts to address some of the major challenges facing the Ummah, whose fortunes and morale are at their lowest ebb.
The President of the council spoke about the progressive marginalization of majority in strategic institutions. As we are all aware, this trend started in earnest the day Obasanjo was sworn-in as President in 1999. This unfortunate trend has escalated in frightening proportions to an alarming level, especially in the armed forces, security and intelligence agencies and all paramilitary services. As we are also aware, all the efforts of the Council in bringing this fundamental issue to the front burner of public discourse, and of course, for remedial actions, have not succeeded in reversing this disgusting and flagrantly unjust trend.
The meeting observed the security challenges posed by the derailment of the Council’s initiative to resolve issues with the Jama’atu Ahl-Sunnati Lil Da’awati Wal Jihad (commonly referred to as Boko Haram). This most topical issue that started essentially as an innocuous doctrinal disagreement within the Ummah on matters dealing with the unhealthy spread of unislamic western values was allowed to snowball into a major security threat, to the Ummah and the nation, particularly the arbitrary display of power and impunity of the police and the security agencies in 2009. This security challenge has now resulted in the death of thousands of Muslims in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Gombe and is spreading, with Kogi and Adamawa States being the most recent to be affected. The President emphasised that, the brutal act of gross impunity in 2009, including the ruthless extra-judicial killing of the leader of the group, Malam Muhammad Yusuf, by a police force thirsty for blood, marked the beginning of a period of insecurity, fear and uncertainty throughout the country, destruction and loss of multitude of lives, with no end in sight. Similarly, he emphasised that the reaction of the group to the senseless actions of governments, at state and federal levels, left no one in doubt that the government had created a monster, threatening to consume all. He reminded participants that before the our group’s recent initiative, no one dared to take any serious step to resolve the problem. However, the council resolved to continue this sincere and honest dialogue in resolving this conflict with or without government.
The meeting further observed that since the last Shurah meeting, the Council quietly undertook a careful appraisal of the problem, the issues at stake, the cost of inaction to the Ummah, the survival of the nation, and decide to take action. At present, apart from the daily loss of lives and destruction, the economic costs are huge, especially in the Muslim areas more directly affected. The other immeasurable and unjustified consequence is the unreasonable allocation of over ¼ of the national budget, (over N1 trillion) most of which is simply being systematically siphoned to private accounts, using the security threat confronting our nation as excuse.
The President of the council drew the attention of Nigerians to some incontrovertible facts that the government has to come to grips with, if it is sincerely interested in resolving the conflict. Because the problem has the potential of constituting the biggest security challenge, not only to Nigeria, but also to the whole West African sub region and even North Africa. For this reason, we believe it is imperative to engage the group in sincere dialogue to examine their grievances.
The meeting unanimously agreed that sincere dialogue will provide an opportunity to engage other stakeholders such as the Northern CAN, members of the security agencies and the fifth columnists that are using the conflict as a convenient excuse for criminality and in some cases, to trigger a religious crisis in the North.
The government cannot succeed in resolving the problem, if its actions are premised on a misrepresentation of the reality. The fact is that this crisis is not a “Northern Insurgency” as the Federal Government wants to portray it, but a national security problem, with the potential of becoming a regional security threat. This attitude of the Federal Government and some of its key security agencies has also discouraged some well meaning Nigerians from getting involved in helping to find solution to the problem.
The President of the council observed that, the “current conflict” is being used by some sections of the country to threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria as well as a means of intimidating Muslims and demonizing Islam.
Unfortunately, the government has clearly created the impression of a double standard in their handling of this issue, especially if one recalls that under the Presidency of Obasanjo and Yar’adua, presidential planes were freely used to transport Niger Delta criminals to the Presdiential Villa, in a bid to cajole them into accepting dialogue. This sharply contrasts with the government’s current attitude towards the so-called “Boko Haram” group.
Finally, on this issue, the president expressed our Council’s appreciation to the leadership of “Jama’atu Ahl-Sunnati Lil Da’awati Wal Jihad” for the confidence they reposed in the Council, by availing us with the only serious opportunity to explore dialogue as an alternative in resolving their disagreement with the government. Secondly, I would also like to assure you all, that the Council will spare no effort in taking up the challenge again to broker or facilitate dialogue between the parties, to achieve peace, based on sincerity and justice, in spite of the serious risks involved, he said.
The meeting did an overview of the present condition of the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, with its future never more uncertain than today. The bitter truth is that our present predicament is a self-inflicted one, with mortally debilitating problems, ranging from a serious crisis of identity, total disunity, absence of a visionary, informed and committed leadership, breakdown of Islamic values and the abandonment of justice. Evidently, the fault is more than being about us as Muslims, it is in us.
It is therefore, absolutely necessary to have a good appreciation of the meaning, magnitude and causes of the ignominious state of the Ummah, in any meaningful effort to address the problems. We must also take cognizance of the fact that both Islamic and general human histories are replete with examples of similar situations we are facing today, and the singular lesson that some societies grow even stronger after emerging from serious difficulties, especially, existential challenges. A well-known example is the re-establishment of the “Khilaafah” after the conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols/Tartars. Here, the road to success lies in the advice of Imam Malik ibn Anas who said – “The affairs of the last generations of this Ummah can never be set right except by following the steps of its first generations”.
The President of the council admonished Muslim leaders to sensitise the Ummah on: the magnitude, meaning and context of the situation of Muslims, that each individual has a role to play, and that the situation is reversible, with determination and Allah’s support and mercies; the need for fervent prayers for Allah’s support, guidance and victory; and the need for a united front by Muslims, if we are to succeed in attaining the common wish for a respectable future for our children in Nigeria.
Our leader also drew the attention of our governments, that there can never be any real peace without justice. Let’s all unite and promote justice, he said.
Mr. Pantami (email@example.com), an Islamic cleric, is a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and Ph.D Candidate (Computing & IT) in the United Kingdom