The Grand Mufti of the Conference of Islamic Organisations in Nigeria, CIO, Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafii says the move by the Lagos Muslim Community to support the re-election bid of Mr. Sanwo-Olu in the March 11 gubernatorial election was a collective decision, taken in the interest of Islam and Muslims in Lagos State.
Sheikh Shafii said this in an exclusive with Muslim News on Sunday, following reactions from some Muslim youths who were expressing contrary views, since there are other two Muslim contenders for the same office.
While Mr Sanwo-Olu and the Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, (of Igbo-Yoruba parenthood) are Christians; the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, AbdulAzeez Olajide Adederan (Jandor) and the Action Alliance candidate, Mr Abdurrazaq Tope Balogun are both Muslims.
Consequently, some Muslim youths are of the opinion that, going by the pattern of voting in the last presidential election of 25th February where most Christians and easterners voted along ethno-religious lines, it is only logical for them to retaliate by voting a Muslim candidate
The youths insisted that one of the candidates should have secured the support of the Lagos Muslim Community.
Sheikh Shafii, however, said while the efforts of the two Muslim candidates are acknowledged and appreciated, the Lagos State Muslim Community has decided that Muslims in Lagos should cast their votes for Sanwo-Olu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, noting that their decisions are guided by their core principle of upholding the pristine message of Islam – justice, equity, fairness and returning good with good.
According to him, In Islamic jurisprudence, there are minor and major mischances or risks, saying: “Stripping Lagos, the commerical nerve centre of Lagos off Tinubu, the president-elect is a major one. For that reason, we won’t allow that to happen, especially seeing the ethno-religious sentiment that played out during the presidential election. We’ll guard against it.
“Whoever wants to do otherwise or work against our collective interest as an Ummah is free to do so, after all, that is why it is called democracy. But whoever accepts that the Chief Imam of Lagos is a revered scholar of the Deen and accepts Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafii, Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Ahmad and all the divisional Imams across Lagos as honorable people won’t do otherwise. Whoever accepts that all the above listed lmams as well as other notable scholars who were part of the decision as the leaders of the Ummah in Lagos and believe they are on the path of Sunnah will know that these are honorable people who don’t give in to compromises.”
“That’s our collective decision as an Ummah. In fact, it was the thrust of our Khutbah last Friday, and Allah (SWT) says Muslims will not take a collective decision or arrive at a unanimous agreement on a matter, except that Allah guides their decision. We considered the interest of Muslims and that of Lagos in entirety in making a choice and our decision stands.
“However, if the results eventually reflect otherwise, we will still accept it. Ours is to strive, God is the one who crowns efforts. We will accept the outcome in good faith. Any Muslim who has been with us over time should stand by us at this point in time”, he added.
‘Ethno-religious sentiment, how it all started’
Sheikh Shafii, one of the leaders of The Muslim Congress (TMC) recalled that it’s the Nigerian Christian leaders, not the Muslims, who started playing the religious card, which he said began immediately after the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu chose Senator Shettima, a northern Muslim, as running mate.
According to him, “Like I have said in my recent lectures, immediately the APC concluded its primary and Tinubu chose Shettima as his running mate, Christians in Nigeria began to agitate by running a campaign of calumny.
“We implored them not to bring religion into the discourse, as Tinubu himself made it known that the decision was purely informed by political expediency as well as Shettima’s vigour and competence. We warned them to leave politicians to make decisions and choices that work for them, but they were recalcitrant.
“Politicians give priority to the success of their aspirations and not religion. In reality, southwest Muslims are but a minority. Hence, it was clear, even to the blind that picking a Christian in the north, another minority, was not good for Tinubu’s ambition, so he decided to choose a Muslim from the northern majority.
Hence, the popular saying “majority carries the vote” is also applicable to Nigeria, especially in this current dispensation. Consequently, the choice of a candidate from the majority was imperative. It was politically motivated, simple. But they (Christians) decided to play the religious card needlessly.
“They were the ones who brought religion to the table despite the fact that Tinubu is one of the politicians who accommodates Christians the most. We all know his wife, to whom he has been married for about four decades is not only a born-again Christian, she is also an ordained Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, yet, they didn’t give the matter a second thought.
“They threatened fire and brimstone, made baseless claims, false narratives and damaging propaganda. They stood against him, claiming the next Nigerian president’s name is mentioned in the Bible, and that is Peter. They forgot that Ahmad’s name also appeared in the original version of the Bible. It’s sad they couldn’t find it in the versions they carry about today.”
The Grand Mufti of CIO stated that the Christians, especially the Ndigbos and some southerners, carried out their threat in the presidential election, by voting based on religious sentiments.
“They didn’t hide it. They wanted to shame the Muslims and disgrace APC over the choice of Shettima as Asiwaju’s running mate. The Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi capitalised on this and anchored his campaign on religion, moving from one church to another and charging Christians to take back their country! They voted massively against Tinubu in different states including Lagos, his stronghold, and despite the fact that the votes of the Muslims were divided into three we eventually triumphed flawlessly.”
Sheikh Shafii disclosed that the Igbo-Christian dominated Labour Party is planning to play the same ethno-religious card against Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is seeking re-election as the Governor of Lagos State, in the forthcoming guber race slated for Saturday, March 11.
According to him, “They didn’t go to sleep. Basking from the euphoria of their success at the presidential poll in Lagos, they went back to the drawing board, planning how to take Lagos. We heard that they were in talks with other opposition parties. Lagos is Tinubu’s heartbeat, so losing Lagos to opposition with Tinubu in the presidency won’t be favourable. It is ominous.
“As the Muslim community, we felt, since they want to use the same method, we should also play along. Everyone wants to play his card till the end and people are already instigated against Sanwo-Olu, the incumbent governor of Lagos.
” We admit that Sanwo-Olu is a Christian, but, we’re not going to work against him because of Tinubu, who is now the president-elect. We will not allow Sanwo-Olu to suffer unjustifiably because of his support for Tinubu. That is the stand of the Chief Imam of Lagos State, the Divisional Imams and the Ulama’ across the state with a clear mindset. Our votes will count for APC, in shaa Allah”, he added.
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