The Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the highest decision-making body of and for Nigerian Muslims, and which is led by His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto, did the unprecedented this Friday N,ovember 29 at its Annual General Assembly at the Abuja National Mosque – it invited Vice President (VP) Yemi Osinbajo, a Pastor of the Christian faith, to address it, be its Special Guest as well as declare it open.
And the VP did not disappoint; as if on a pulpit, he lectured, delivered a homily and admonished the nation’s top Muslims (Emirs, Muslim Ministers, Muslim legislators, intellectuals and others) on the challenges of nation-building, peace and on being each other’s brother’s keeper, saying it was a great honour for him to be invited to the gathering. He commended the NSCIA for promoting inter-faith harmony in addition to being the umbrella body for Muslims, and urged the Council to continue to ensure that Muslims continue to give leadership in promoting national harmony.
VP Osinbajo recalled with delight the courageous and commendable role of Imam Abdullah Abubakar of Plateau State who saved the lives of more than 200 Christians whom he protected in his mosque and house, despite threat to his personal safety. He said this love for humanity exhibited by the Imam for people who did not subscribe to his faith was in conformity with the message of Jesus Christ (Prophet Isa, upon whom be peace). This, he reminded the gathering, was akin to the parable of the Good Samaritan – it is not he who is of your faith that is your neighbour or brother; it is he who helps you in your time of need.
He said while many people in the country are beating the drums of ethnic and religious disharmony, the role taken by the Sultan of promoting inter- religious harmony was commendable and that other leaders need to emulate him and rise to the challenge of promoting love and understanding among the citizenry. No country, reiterated the VP, would ever progress if its citizens do not see beyond their primordial beliefs.
The Sultan, in welcoming the VP and the delegates from all over the country, said Muslims have nothing to hide, and that is why they are always open to dialogue on any and every issue that needs to be resolved in this country. He further said the Assembly was glad to have a member of the Christian clergy – Pastor Osinbajo – as its Special Guest for, as a Godly and religious person, he would hear and, most importantly, understand.
The Sultan lamented the fact that Nigeria really faces a lot of threats – from corruption to insecurity to hate speech to fake news; from Almajiri to denial of Hijab for Muslim girls to kidnapping for ransom and kidnapping to change someone’s religion; all these are perpetrated by criminals among the nation’s citizenry. He said any Muslim who does wrong is on his own – and Islam should not be blamed for that. He further lamented that Islam as a religion and Muslims as a community are always on the receiving end of media bashing, Islamophobia and hate.
But, he added, all efforts should be expended towards truncating the evil intentions of evil people, and that ultimately Allah is there and capable of dealing with all. Islam is a religion founded on the foundations of peace and love for all mankind, and Muslims shall continue to proclaim and practice that. The Sultan also lamented the evident foreign connections in many of the problems going on in the country, and prayed to Allah that “those who want Nigeria to fall will be the ones to fail in sha Allah.”
He assured VP that Nigerian Muslims are in support of good governance, and called on governments at all levels to provide this, stressing that since elections are over, all hands should be on the deck to solve the multifarious problems facing the country.
In her goodwill remarks, First Lady Aisha Buhari said “My husband cannot do it alone,” and it is the duty of all, and especially Muslims from which community he emerged, to help in making constructive contributions towards the resolution of the social issues bedevilling our society.
Keynote Speaker Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, on the Assembly theme of “The Nexus Between Islam and National Development”, said development is at the centre of Islam. He noted that many of the United Nations Development Goals were long incorporated in the Qur’an. Dr. Pantami, an Islamic scholar and Imam in his own right, traced the relationship between Islam and world development for the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace.
Secretary General of NSCIA, Professor Is-haq Oloyede (who only a few days earlier was honoured with the National Productivity Order of Merit Award for the wonderful work he is doing as JAMB Registrar) said the VP combines both public administration and God-consciousness, and that Nigeria has benefited a lot from the Pastor-VP’s contributions to national development which are worthy of emulation.
Some of the observations and points of discussion raised by delegates at the NSCIA General Assembly (which continues today) include the fact that since there is an indubitable nexus between Islam and national development, Muslims should be at the forefront of the efforts towards comprehensive national development using Islamic ethics; and that though the efforts being made by the Federal Government and the sacrifices of the armed forces in tackling the security challenges around the country are commendable, there is need for the security agencies to sharpen their strategies and up their game and tactics.
Delegates will continue discussing hate speech, fake news and the misuse of social media space; Islamophobia on sections of the media; the war against corruption and the proposal to set up special courts; Almajiri and the other millions of out of school children; kidnapping for ransom and kidnapping for conversion; Hijab for Muslim girls, among others.
The General Assembly continues today.