LAGOS – Seeing no Muslim in the area’s delegates to the country’s national conference, Muslims in Nigeria's southwest have asserted that whatever outcome of the ongoing talks will be rejected, a position borne out of what they called a deliberate conspiracy to shut them out of deliberations.
“It is an insult that the minority are imposing themselves on the majority in the southwest,” Prof Said Noibi, chairman of the Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), told OnIslam.net.
“The list of 15 Christians sent to the conference to represent the southwest is a coup against the Muslims and we will not accept the outcome of the conference.”
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President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated on Monday, March 17, the 492-delegate national confab tasked to discuss the challenges facing the heterogeneous country and come up with solutions that would cement its unity.
The National Conference comes 100 years after the mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south were united.
The delegates were picked by nominations from each of Nigeria’s 36 states as well as names suggested by the central government and the six geopolitical zones.
In southwest Nigeria, picking Christian delegates only has angered Muslim leaders who claim that Islam had existed in the region more than a century before the Europeans brought Christianity. Muslims also confirmed that they are in the majority in the region.
“All efforts to reverse such gross insensitivity fell on deaf ears,” Noibi added.
“We wish them good luck but let it be clear that those Christian-only delegates cannot speak for the southwest.”
MUSWEN had last month issued a press statement rejecting the position of a group of SouthWest Elders; all Christians, to hold a pre-conference parley that had no Muslims in attendance.
The leaders, led by elder statesman Reuben Fasoranti, said nothing on the position of the Muslims.
"Minority cannot claim to be representing the majority without their content it knowledge. That cannot go unchecked," Prof Noibi fumed, adding all entreaties to reverse "this clearly bigoted position" was rebuffed.
According to Jama'atul Nasril Islam, the apex Muslim body in the Nigeria's northern region, 62 percent of the delegates to the conference are Christians.
Mallam Abdullahi Shuaib, chairman of the influential Zaqat and Sodaqah Foundation, said the Southwest delegation to the conference represents "just the Christians alone".
Such "deliberate shutting out of the Muslims signpost a hidden agenda" by the organizers of the conference, Mallam Shuaib, the chairman of the Conference of Islamic Organizations, an amalgam of prominent Islamic groups across the region, added.
Asked what he felt about MUSWEN's resolution, Shuaib said: "I feel exactly the same way.”
“We sense that there is some hidden agenda. The so-called elders cannot say there are no Muslims who at educated or articulated to represent the southwest but they chose to do what they did,” he added.
The CIO chief said he was privileged to have met with President Jonathan where he told him to “act justly and equitably because he is not a president to just members of a particular religion, tribe or ethnic group.”
“I told him that the conference will not work if a particular group is deliberately shut out or ignored. Nigeria belongs to all and sundry. I told him he needs to run an inclusive government. He needs to be fair, even to those who oppose his policies,” he added.
Shuaib said Muslims are not the losers because "those who drafted the lopsided list will soon come out and meet those they shut out. What we are sure of is that the outcome of the conference is brought in dead (BID).
“Whatever resolutions from the event are dead on arrival, because if a very large segment is pouring out their grievances, then it is dead on arrival.”
The list of the conference is not an entirely presidential affair, as state governments, religious, ethnic and other interest groups and regions all sent in their delegations.
Muslims and Christians are each represented by five delegates.
"It is only fair that the list from southwest be a mixture of people from different backgrounds. I think those who sent the list were insensitive. Nobody can really blame the Muslims for alleging some hidden agenda," Benedict Ahamba, a public analyst, told OnIslam.net.
"If the 15 delegates from the region are indeed all Christians, then it is unfair. It is undemocratic."
The conference will sit for three months, chaired by a retired chief justice of Nigeria Idris Kutigi, a Muslim from Nigeria's North.
His deputy, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, is a renowned diplomat and a Christian from the southwest.
Valerie Azinge, another Christian from the southeast, is named the secretary of the confab.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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