By Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa
His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Wednesday 29, March 2022 met a group of Muslim scholars and intellectuals led by Professor Siraj Abdulkarim, National Chairman, Community and Youth Development (CYD)
The group a conglomeration of Muslim Associations was established in 1998 under the platform of Community and Youth Development (CYD) initiative has many scholars and intellectuals from the main Muslim groups: Tijaniyya, Izala, Salafiya and Qadiriyya. This is because the founders of CYD are veterans of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), the largest National Muslim organization, which has been working for Muslim unity.
Dr. Abdul Hakim Abdul Lateef a former Commissioner of Home Affairs in Lagos State and currently Imam of the Lagos State House of Assembly initiated the idea of the interaction of His Excellency the Vice President with Muslim Scholars and Intellectuals. And the CYD is one of the few organizations with members from all over the country who fit into this category.
Those who attended the meeting were from diverse backgrounds, including former Honorable Minister of Solid Minerals Development Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande and Dr. Ashiru Muhammad represented the Tijaniyya, Dr. Ibrahim Jalo Jalingo represented Izala Kaduna and Sarkin Malamai Ibrahim Duguri (Chairman FCT JIBWIS) represented Izala Jos, and Shaykh Fathullah Qaribullah represented Qadirriya.
Shaykh Abubakar Mujahid, Mudir of Jama’at Tajdid al-Islami represented the organization, Dr. Bashir Abdullah the Imam of Federation of Muslim Women Organizations, Professor Ma’aruf Afolabi of Ladoke Akintola University, Dr. Umar Dokaji (Director General and Chief Imam of Ahfaad Foundation), Shaykh Abdulkadir Birnin Kebbi, Professor Sahabi Mahuta of Usman Danfodio University, Professor Magaji Garba of ABU and the National Islamic Center, Ustaz Sani Sulaiman of National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations, Professor Sadiq al-Kafawy of the National Council of Ulama Nassarawa State University and Ustaz Shehu Usman (National President MSSN) were all present.
Dr. Abdul Hakim Abdulateef, spoke first, and he narrated his experience when they worked together in Lagos State Cabinet with His Excellency the Vice President when he served as the Attorney General of Lagos. He spoke of the Vice President’s urbane disposition and readiness to work with everyone irrespective of the person’s religious or ethnic background.
He gave example of eighteen senior staff of the Office of the Vice President who are all Muslims and the two most senior staff are also Muslims: the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) in the Presidency Rahman Ade Ipaye, who is the head of all the aides of the Vice President and Special Adviser Political Affairs Senator Ojudu Abdulganiyu.
In fact the Chief Staff who also served as the facilitator of the meeting was very familiar with the members of the delegation and he quickly made Professor Shaykh Ibrahim Maqary (Imam of the National Mosque) to speak even though he was not on the agenda.
Barrister Tahir Umar Tahir spoke on CYD’s contributions to the Muslim Ummah and National Unity being an organization that has members from all over country. It has participated in several sessions of dialogue with Christian leaders across the country seeking common ground for national unity and prosperity.
The Board of Patrons of the organization consistently offers guidance and moral support. It is made up of eminent Muslim leaders and headed by Alhaji Yayale Ahmad (Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation), while Senator Ibrahim Shekarau and Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima are board members.
Professor Abideen Olaiya from Oyo State who recently contested for the position of National Secretary of the APC spoke next and he appreciated the warmth of the Vice President. Shaykh Dr. Haruna Ajah from Ebonyi State spoke of the Vice President’s exceptional intelligence as a good communicator but called for the protection of the rights of Muslim minorities in the South East and South South.
Professor Sadiq El-Kaffawi noted the efforts of the government despite various challenges and also the urgent need to overcome those challenges especially that of security. Ustaz Shehu Usman who spoke for the youth appreciated the Vice President’s contributions to Nation Building and the need to address the existential threats facing the youths especially the ASUU strike.
Professor Siraj Abdulkarim (Professor of Public Administration, ABU Zaria) spoke on the necessity of understanding religious differences noting that no one could be forced to change his faith and everyone has right to uphold any religious views and respect the rights of others as well. He emphasized that no religious group can eliminate the other and it is collective mutual interest to work together for the love and progress of the country.
His Excellency the Vice President then took over. He spoke on the need for tolerance of each other’s faith, emphasizing that the easiest route to popularity is to propagate hatred and be a champion of prejudice.
As someone brought up in the South West who has also spent his life in cosmopolitan Lagos, he could not afford be religiously intolerant as almost all families in the South West are multi-religious including his extended family through his grandmother. She belonged to the Adewumis of Ilaro who still hold the Imam position.
His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo quickly blended into the group of the visitors because he belongs to the academic religious community, thus sharing a common outlook. He was professorial. He said he needed to ask questions so that he could learn.
He asked Professor Suraj Abdulkareem what is the solution to Nigeria’s problem of national unity? Even though Professor Suraj sent a clear message that solution is good leadership ready to sacrifice and tell people the truth. Mandela of South Africa is the good example that should be emulated.
The Vice President used the opportunity provided by Professor Abdulkareem’s response. He narrated his experience as the Attorney General of Lagos State, when he initiated judicial reforms and his first assignment as the Vice President when he visited the Niger Delta and asked the militants to provide the solutions. In both cases asking the right questions helped him to achieve what was thought as insurmountable. He said religious leaders must be as courageous as Mandela to tell people the truth that there must be forgiveness for peace to reign in the country.
Vice President acknowledged the religiosity of Nigerians, which is no excuse for bigotry and hatred but should be a source of love for fellow human beings as taught by all religions. According to him the danger is the politicization of religion to deprive others, which happens easily whenever elections and appointments come up. In daily interactions people don’t care about religion, for example, they always want the best medical doctor never bothering about his religion but his service.
At the national level all Nigerians want the best soccer players to make the country proud by scoring more goals and winning the game. As a lawyer he was quick to give example of those indicted or convicted for corruption they never belonged to one religion or one ethnic group, their diversity is a reflection of Nigeria’s plural composition. The lesson is that, why can’t we get the best to lead us. The elite must reject this destructive attitude of ethno-religious manipulation and tread the path of progress.
It was not a high and dry interaction, it was a very friendly and most importantly the Vice President emphasized the need for further engagements to make positive use of religion in our social relations rather than tool for manipulation by inept politicians.
Both His Excellency Professor Osinbajo and the leader of the delegation Professor Abdulkareem noted, religious leaders must be courageous to tell the truth to their followers and to the ruling elite to live by the true teachings of their religions, which all preach peace and love.
*Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa is Editor Nigeria Year Book and Who is Who
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