The National Christian Elders forum has reacted to comments by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, that Nigeria is a multi-religious nation, saying the claim was against constitutional provisions.
The NCEF also said Muslim leaders had in past and present times made deliberate steps towards Islamising Nigeria.
Mr. Abubakar had said that Nigeria was not a secular nation, but multi-religious entity that cannot be Islamised.
“We are not secular but a multi-religious state because the people are so religious. We must respect one another and understand the tenets of the two religions,” he had said.
In a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday, the NCEF chairman, Solomon Asemota, said Nigeria’s constitution provides that the country is a secular state.
The statement said Mr. Abubakar’s comments appeared to imply that Nigeria was made up of two religions “until Islam dominates to become de facto and de jure religion of Nigeria”.
“The Constitution which forms the basis, upon which our founding fathers agreed to live together as a country, provides under Section 10 that ‘the Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion’,” the group said.
“Nigeria has multi-cultural and multi-religious communities, tribes, ethnic nationalities but one nation. It is correctly assumed that in the interest of peace and justice, the Constitution in Section 10 PROHIBITS the State from Religious participation by way of recognizing one and two religions.
“The Sultan’s interpretation, we submit, is intended to justify Islam and Christianity as State religions until Islam dominates to become de facto and de jure religion of Nigeria,” the statement said.
The statement defined secular as referring to things “not connected with spiritual or religious matters”.
The NCEF said Muslim leaders had in past and present times made deliberate steps towards Islamising Nigeria.
“We respectfully disagree with the Sultan ‘that it is not possible to Islamize Nigeria. By taking Nigeria into the OIC in 1986, Military Dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, officially turned Nigeria into an Islamic State.
“The Charter of OIC concerning membership stipulates that a country should, first and foremost, be persuaded that it is an Islamic nation before it can apply for membership. Simply by the act of the application for OIC membership, Babangida tampered with the secularity of the Nigerian State. That unilateral decision should be reviewed because it violates Section 10 of the Constitution,” said Mr. Asemota.
The NCEF used the statement to condemn the arrest of Joe Chinakwe for naming his dog “Buhari”, describing the act as another attempt to instill fear in the minds ordinary Nigerians.
“Chinakwe was picked up again based on Police belief that the suspect’s action was capable of provoking an ethno-religious crisis. Because the complainant and his group have threatened to kill him if he comes back and this may happen.
“If Nigeria is being run as a secular State, the Constitution in Sections 10, 37, and 38 guarantees right of private and family life, freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion that should protect Joe Chinakwe and the Complainant would have been arrested but because Nigeria is an Islamic State, Joe Chinakwe has to face trial in the process promoting; the most effective way to get rid of critics is to instill fear in ordinary Nigerians,” the statement said.
The NCEF said it was “apprehensive” about the composition of those in the security and intelligence committee, set up by President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as those who currently head the leadership of schools in Nigeria.
“It is as a result of the understanding (or lack of it) of Civilized Jihad that we are apprehensive of those in the “Security and Intelligence Committee” of the Federal Government by some unexplained reasons are mainly Muslims. President Buhari, (Muslim), Chief of Defense (Christian), Chief of Army Staff, Chief of air Staff, Minister of Defense, Minister of Internal Affairs, Inspector General of Police, National Security Adviser, Director General of DSS are all Muslims from the North. We are not too sure whether the Vice President is a member of this Committee following information that he was once excluded from the meeting the President called.
“Some of us Christians, are uncomfortable that the Heads of National Universities Commission (NUC), Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB), and National Teachers Institute (NTI) are all Muslims.