Chairman, Ulamah wing of the Conference of Islamic Organizations (CIO) and National Missioner of Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh AbdurRahman Ahmad has said that the law and order approach to tackling insecurity will not yield the much desired results until the government complement it with massive social intervention programmes alongside the entrenchment of distributive justice.
In an interview with a select group of media Organisations, including Muslim News at the CIO Seminar for Scholars, Sheikh Ahmad said Muslims are major Stakeholders in Security given that many of the Islamic religious obligations could not be carried out in the face of insecurity.
He posited that it is unfair to accuse Muslim scholars of silence over the worsening state of insecurity in the country, noting instead that they have been addressing it on the mimbar (pulpits), and at different fora, proffering workable solutions. Excerpts….
MN: Can you tell us what this program is all about?
Sheikh Ahmad: Well, it is one of the series of events that is organised periodically to enlighten the Muslim community on current affairs, particularly, affairs affecting the Muslim community and the religion itself, as well as affairs affecting Nigeria and Nigerians.
So many things went wrong. But first and foremost, we must know that without security, not much can be done; we can’t even observe our religious duties. There would be no prayers. There would be no zakah. There would be no congregation. So, security is fundamental to the practice of our deen and we are very big stakeholders in security. It is something that is of great concern to us as Muslims, as Nigerians and as members of the community.
MN: How did we get here?
Sheikh Ahmad: How did we find ourselves here? Unfortunately, it’s complex because it’s an interplay of factors, ranging from negligence at home to proper upbringing of children to lack of distributive justice, to lack of rule of law. It’s the combination of these that culminated in the insecurity that is threatening our collective existence.
MN: Do you as Muslim scholars advise the leader of the country on the issue of insecurity? And do you think they listen to the advice?
Sheikh Ahmad: Well, I hope those at the helms of affairs are listening to our advice on tackling insecurity. But I know that there will be no quick fix to the security challenges affecting the country. As far back as last month, we met the President and expressed our concerns about the worsening insecurity situation in the country. The President first told us what his administration is doing and what he hopes to do differently. We hope and pray that this is going to work, but engagement with the authorities is continuous. We will continue to do our own part by engaging them towards ensuring that the security situation in the country is addressed and we have relative security.
However, you know, especially insurgency and banditry, there are no quick fixes to them. When bandits, insurgents take up arms in the country, it is not something that we can wish away. All we just want is to ensure that we are on course to addressing the issues. It’s not only about law and order. It’s not only about guns and bombs. There are also social intervention programmes that are necessary for stemming the tide. There is an angle of justice that must be ensured in order to reduce the level of discontent. There is an angle of distributive justice because people feel they are marginalized; people feel they are not getting what is due to them and not getting a fair deal. And that is what is fuelling, aside other factors including external interference, the demand for separation. Separatist movements are getting stronger, louder and bolder. This is definitely a cause for concern, and it cannot be wished away.
We need at this time a true nationalist, a just leader, someone with perceptive insights that would look into these issues and address them to win the trust and confidence of those who feel that they are not getting a fair deal.
MN: Do you think our security architecture is overwhelmed?
Sheikh Ahmad: Certainly, you can see, virtually in all parts of this country, we have security challenges. We just have a limited number of members of the armed forces, and of course, it is obvious that as much as the police is trying, it’s overwhelmed.
Let me give you a practical example of states with relative helplessness. In every part of Lagos — that’s where we live so we know — it has become so frequent and common that there is traffic robbery. It’s getting more dastardly, violent and recurrent. Of course, we do not have the resources. Just this morning, it’s in the news that robbers are operating on the long bridge on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. It’s like people are helpless. At the same time, you have pockets of incidences everywhere. We only have a limited number of policemen addressing this issue. You have separatists, you have petty thieves and other incidences. So, that’s why we have to reassess our approach to insecurity and to know that law and order. Our approach is not enough as much as it’s necessary, it will not see the end of insecurity. We need to do big social interventions and like I have said, we need to address the issue of distributive justice, provide jobs for people, let the people feel the presence of the government. I think the question of autonomy to the local government is a step in the right direction if it is properly implemented.
MN: What is your view about some Muslim scholars supporting the secessionist agenda?
Sheikh Ahmad: No, you should say some Muslims in turban, pretending to be scholars, are also in the struggle for secession. They are not necessarily scholars. Well, what we know is that Allah (SWT) is with the jamaa’. Let us address the issues, we will gain nothing from the separatist agenda and nobody should support it. We have enough examples; the Southern Sudan was deceived and now they are left hanging.
Each time there is this agitation and it culminates in separation or secession, you know the result, it is all over. Those who chose to be part of Cameroon, they are still there today complaining. The issues they ran away from are still not being resolved. The challenges are still ongoing. And of course, Nigeria is Nigeria because of the way we are made. Once we become separated, we are not going to be Nigeria, we are going to be something else and we are going to become so insignificant. If you want Arewa Nation, it’s going to be insignificant, it’s going to be less than Burundi. If we want Odua Nation, it’s going to be so small that it will be less than Benin Republic. So, it’s in togetherness, properly managed, with justice, equity, that we have our strength.
MN: Some say Muslim scholars have been silent on the trend of insecurity bedevilling the country because the President is a Muslim. What is your view on this?
Sheikh Ahmad: They are not being fair to scholars because they have not been silent at all. They have been addressing these issues in their khutbah, at conferences and seminars, but generally speaking, you know what kind of press the Muslims enjoy. We right now do not have the media of our own, and nobody can tell our stories like us. Now, news about Muslim scholars and Islam is angled differently. What is news to the conventional media practitioners is bad news. If it’s not bad news, it’s not good news because they do not expect that anything good would come from the Muslim scholars and the Muslim community. They have identified us — even those of us that are mortally opposed to Boko Haram — with the insurgent group. They think we are responsible for all the security challenges bedevilling the country and they report us as such. And of course, we are far away from this. We are not the ones responsible for insecurity; we are also victims, targets and very much hated. We are the ones that are kidnapped, murdered and our mosques are bombed, but the media looks the other way as if it doesn’t count. So, we are suffering both ways, but we are not silent. Even part of this (the event holding) is an evidence that we are not silent at all.
MN: What is the way forward?
Sheikh Ahmad: The way forward is part of what we have been saying. This is the time that we need true leaders. It’s not strange that at some points in the life of a nation, separatist tendencies like this will rear their ugly heads. So, we need leaders who will rise above primordial sentiments and be committed to justice. Leaders who will address these issues without emotions, with justice and disinterestedness. This is what we need. I don’t know the vehicle that will be used, but we need to build a national consensus which must be based on fairness, equity and justice. Who is going to ensure that we get these? That is the one billion naira question that we are trying to answer as a nation.
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