The General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Musa Asake, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE about Muslims being major beneficiaries of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and corruption allegations against ex-President Goodluck Jonathan
The Director of Muslim Rights Concern, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, stated that there are discriminations against Muslims in Nigeria; that Christians are against the practice of Shariah and that Muslims are deprived of having Friday as a work-free day just as Christians enjoy Sunday.
Did you say the man (Ishaq Akintola) is a professor? May God have mercy on Nigeria, if that is the kind of professors that we produce. I have to question his professorship. Doesn’t he know the constitution of this country? It is the kind of elementary reasoning that slows us (Nigerians) down. I really don’t want to go into that now; that is not the issue facing the country at the moment. The issues facing us in this country are hunger, poverty, poor national economy, and insecurity. But here you have a professor talking about the government favouring only one religion – that is uncalled-for. Islamic groups should put their house in order; they are the ones that are imprisoning themselves. Christians aren’t responsible for their woes or marginalisation. Nobody is stopping them from realising their dreams.
Why did you say that?
For goodness’ sake, what is Shariah? Examine the Nigerian Constitution and see how Shariah is reflected in the Nigerian law and tell me where Christianity is reflected? But then, who will like Shariah, including the Muslims? There is no Islamic country where Shariah law is implemented that is at peace; all we see is bloodshed and is that what we want for Nigeria? More often than not, when these killings occur, Christians bear the brunt not Muslims. But if Shariah will be for only Muslims, I am sure nobody will question its implementation. Talking about working days, who introduced that? People need to read their books; what does history say?
Talking about history, it is said Islam was brought into Nigeria 800 years before Christianity was introduced into the country and that British colonialists were Christians. What do you think?
I don’t know how old the professor is and I don’t know when he left school. But it seems he has started to forget some things. The first thing he should have asked is that, – I want him to check his history books again – were the British Christians? I want him to also consider how Lord Lugard imposed indirect rule on Nigeria and placed the Muslims in the North in such a way as to lord it over others. If not for Christ that we know and worship, non-Muslims would not have been alive today. He needs to check his history books carefully. I understand there are times in one’s life when age sets in and forgetfulness is always one’s companion. For instance, I studied Greek but I haven’t been teaching it for a while now. If I have to teach it, I’ll have to dust up my books and refresh my memory; that way I’ll catch up. I believe the professor will catch up. Let’s not act in such a way that the people we are teaching will know one’s ignorance.
But, don’t you agree with what he said?
I disagree with him. The situation he mentioned had been in existence before he was born. Let him prove his case that Christians are favoured. I don’t blame him because Christians have been keeping quiet in the face of discrimination, hatred, and wickedness. Because we have been keeping quiet doesn’t mean that we are dumb. Let the professor know that it’s only people like him that tend to show discrimination in this country – that’s why we cannot move forward. Like I always say, everything that has a beginning will have an end. It will not be long when Christians will start telling their own side of the story and then we’ll see the kind of Nigeria that we want to have.
Why not consider one of his arguments that churches are authorised by Nigerian law to issue marriage certificates but not so in mosques; another is that Muslim children aren’t allowed to wear hijab. It appears the laws are against them.
Which laws? Are they obeying the laws? What has marriage certificate got to do with this? About the marriage certificate, I got married in the church but when I applied for certain things in (United States of) America, the authorities in the US requested for my marriage certificate. I sent them the one issued to me by my church but they rejected it. They sent to me names of courts in Lagos State that I could go to obtain a marriage licence. Let the professor know that the marriage certificate is recognised by the church and not the government. Well, if he wants the marriage certificate of our church, let him come and get married there, we’ll issue him one. He should raise issues that will keep Nigerians together and that will enable us to eat (three square meals). I’m sure he knows this country is in a sordid condition. Instead of the professor to be doing things that revive the economy, that can help the government to do better and that people can worship freely, he is talking about marriage certificates. Why?
To him, the reaction of the CAN President, Dr. Supo Ayokunle, to John Kerry’s visit is laughable. What do you think?
What I think the professor is doing is deceit in disguise. The professor knows more than that – if John Kerry had come to Nigeria and met with Christians only, the country would have been on fire by now. Do you remember what happened when someone made a cartoon in Denmark? In far away Denmark; but Muslims killed Christians here because of that. Kerry’s visit is a serious issue. I learnt he was in Nigeria for a programme on peaceful co-existence and inter-faith cooperation on the ground that there are killings going on in the North-East. But he was in Sokoto – Sokoto is not in the North-East. Nigerians should take note of this: if you look at the photo or video of Kerry in the palace of the Sultan (of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar), you’ll see the flag of America and you’ll see the flag of Nigeria with the Sultan sitting in-between – that shows that the Sultan is now the president of this country. The professor knows that there is a hidden agenda in that meeting. There is something they are not telling us. Christians are watching as this country is being gradually Islamised. We want to know why we were not invited to that meeting. We also want to know why the Nigerian flag was hoisted in the palace of the Sultan. No one should tell us our reaction to that visit is laughable. It was the professor’s statement that is laughable.
You don’t think Muslims wouldn’t have bothered if Kerry had visited only Church leaders in the country?
That is not true; they wouldn’t have seen it as a good development. The professor should apologise for that statement because what we would have seen at the end of the visit are killings of innocent people and burning down of churches – their irresponsible young ones would have done all that. Let’s call a spade a spade, we have had enough of few individuals who think they are untouchable and saying whatever they want without anyone correcting them. The Muslim Rights Concern should take note that CAN has grown past that.
The MURIC boss feels that leadership of CAN is behaving like a second wife because Kerry visited the Sultan as a traditional ruler and not as a religious leader. Isn’t that correct?
Why would CAN behave like a second wife in a polygamous home? What he implied is that Muslims are the first wife and Christians are the second wife – that’s an insult. If Kerry visited the Sultan as a traditional ruler, why did he have to go to Sokoto? Is Sultan the only traditional ruler that we have in the North? I read the remarks of Kerry; it had nothing to do with what he said he came to do. And, what do we have to be jealous of: the killing of people? Please, give me a break. We are not a jealous wife; they are: the professor and his ilk are. The era when Muslims would shout and every Christian would keep quiet is gone; this is an era of change.
Why can’t CAN lodge a complaint to the United States government if it strongly feels slighted by Kerry’s visit?
Why should we lodge a complaint to the US government? We are here in Nigeria. If Kerry visited the Sultan as a traditional ruler, we have such rulers in the West and in the East; evidently, the Sultan isn’t the only traditional ruler in the country. Why should we lodge a complaint? All we know is that the visit is one that makes one to have a second thought – to reason and look behind the scene to unravel what is not clear to the public eye. If the Federal Government could allow the US Secretary of State to go straight to the palace of the Sultan to have a meeting with him and flags of the two countries were displayed, that shows the Sultan has taken over (power). We have no complaint to lodge; we have only raised a concern. If Kerry was in Nigeria for peace, he should have involved everybody. Why are they saying the visit was only for traditional chiefs but media reports stated that there were religious leaders at the meeting? Was CAN represented? Some people, like the professor, are bent on dividing CAN. We raised the alarm to alert Nigerians that something is wrong with this country and that there is a hidden agenda somewhere. John Kerry’s visit to the Sultan in the name of inter-faith is questionable. What position does Sokoto occupy in terms of inter-faith? The Sultan is a co-chair to Nigeria Inter-Religious Council but for three years the council has never had a meeting. What NIREC’s not able to achieve, can the Sultan achieve, on his own? I think we should be honest with ourselves and agree that Nigeria is in trouble.
Is it true that Dr. Ayokunle’s comment on Kerry’s visit didn’t represent the feeling of an average Nigerian Christian, as claimed by the MURIC director?
Is he a Christian? Is he one of us? He is one of those individuals going about creating confusion among Christians. He’s not a Christian; he can’t tell who is an average Nigerian Christian. He should learn to respect our leaders. We don’t speak badly about Muslim leaders. But we’re not going to keep quiet and allow Muslims to drag the name of our leaders through the mud. Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor is one of the able Christian leaders we have ever had. He’s the one who exposed the ills of Islam in Nigeria. He was the only Nigerian religious leader that went to the US and addressed the congress when Nigerian government wasn’t truthful about Boko Haram insurgency. To me, if you abuse my father, I will abuse your father also. Let the MURIC director’s uncharitable utterance against our leaders be the first and the last. Muslims have leaders; we know their weaknesses and what they do. Their leaders are also bad but we don’t speak badly of them.
Oritsejafor stepped down as CAN president after completing his tenure. Now, we have Dr. Supo Ayokunle. Interestingly, there were some Muslims who tried to rig the election in favour of their own stooge, in a bid to do whatever they want to Christians and nobody will be able to speak on their behalf. With Ayokunle, you can’t cheat Christians; he didn’t go to anybody to ask for money. They thought Ayokunle was somebody they could ride roughshod. If they think they had it tough, if they think they had a courageous leader to contend with in Ayo (Oritsejafor), let them wait and see what Ayokunle would do.
These same leaders, the MURIC director said, encouraged ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in promoting corruption – he said Jonathan ‘angelised’ graft in the country.
Now, that is a laughable matter – and I laugh at the professor. If (former President Goodluck) Jonathan encouraged corruption and ‘angelised’ it, then Muslims are the ‘angels’ that enjoyed corruption. In fact, Muslims enjoyed the government of Jonathan more than Christians. We’re still alive to tell the story; but tell me, who’s not corrupt? In the politics of this country, show me the hands that are clean?
But is it true that CAN leadership ‘pampered’ Jonathan and encouraged him to promote corruption during his tenure as president of the country?
It is shameful to hear that kind of question and that I am trying to answer it. But, to start with, I want those making the allegation to cite an example that CAN leaders encouraged Jonathan to promote corruption.
The arms money found in Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s private jet was cited as an example.
Whose money? This matter has been addressed over and over again. For the avoidance of doubt, the erstwhile CAN president had a jet. He rented it out to a company; the company that rented the jet, also rented it out to another company; and that other company rented it out to yet another company. And, the government rented the jet from the third company to transport whatever money they were taking to South Africa. Now, if you buy a vehicle and gets a driver to drive it around as a taxi, does it mean you’ll be aware of every passenger or person who hires your vehicle? Will the driver tell you about every passenger that makes use of the taxi and what each passenger carries? That will be childish. The money wasn’t for Oritsejafor and the Federal Government had owned up that the money belonged to it. What’s there again? On my own, I approached (the) security adviser on that issue and asked why the security agency was keeping quiet over the issue. He assured me that it was a security issue and that Pastor Ayo (Oritsejafor) didn’t know anything about the money and that the security agency didn’t know the jet belonged to him. Why are people bringing up this issue again?
Hasn’t the money been recovered? Did the person arrested say the money belonged to Oritsejafor? This is an insult and I don’t want it repeated again. There was nothing like ‘pampering’ Jonathan to encourage corruption. If tapes were to be played for you to hear how Ayo (Oritsejafor) talked to Jonathan, I am sure you’d be amazed. (President Muhammadu) Buhari is a Muslim; are Muslims not visiting him? Are they not taking decisions together? Look at his political appointments and tell me how many Christians are there? Shouldn’t Christians talk about it? It’s a non-issue to Muslims; they keep quiet now because the situation favours them. It is unfortunate that the Jonathan we are talking about didn’t do anything that favoured Christians above the Muslims; his political appointments favoured more Muslims than Christians. Check the record and prove me wrong.