By Rasheed Abubakar
The University of Lagos (UNILAG) Muslim Alumni on Sunday, March 26, held its 28th (pre-) Ramadan lecture, with religious and political scholars in attendance to brainstorm on the issue of national transformation.
The event tagged: “National Transformation: Between Responsible Leaders and Responsive Citizenry” was held at Prof. Nurudeen Alao Hall (DLI), UNILAG Campus, Akoka, Lagos, on day 4 of Ramadan.
“I am greatly delighted to welcome you most sincerely to the 28th edition of our (Pre-) Ramadan lecture taking place during Ramadan”, said UMA President, Prof. Khalid Adekoya.
He disclosed that it was occasioned by the rescheduling of the gubernatorial and state assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Prof. Adekoya said the theme was carefully chosen to diagnose the duties and responsibilities of leaders and the led, adding, “We hope that the conversations and resolution will deepen knowledge and assist in revolving a better society for a better Nigeria for us and generation unborn, among others.
Leadership is a trust in Islam, says Banire
While speaking to the theme, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Muiz Banire, described leadership in Islam as a trust, amaanah in Arabic, saying that every leader must be accountable to Allah and then the people.
He said, “In Islam, a leader must first and foremost be accountable to Allah, recognising that there are certain parameters Allah has set for leadership. Leadership in Islam is amaanah. You must not breach it at any point in time. Then, you must be accountable to the people and yourself.”
Banire, a principal partner, of M.A. Banire & Associates, also advocated for the promotion of rule without fear or favour and urged leaders to ensure that their governance is participatory.
Speaking further, the ex-APC legal adviser said, “You must equally ensure that there is justice in the land. You must ensure as a transformational leader that the resources of the country are used in the best manner. Your governance, civil service must be efficient and effective.
“There must be equity and inclusiveness. You must see criticisms as a feedback mechanism, not as condemnation. These are some of the essentials that we said anyone who wants to transform society must have.”
Banire called on followers to obey their leaders and constituted authorities.
According to him, “We must obey our leaders according to the Prophet (SAW), but the obedience is qualified. We obey them to the extent that they do not ask us to do anything that contravenes the Shari’ah. If it is going to contravene the Shari’ah, at that point, we depart.
“Again, we owe them the duty of counsel. We must draw their attention to things they are doing wrong. We owe them a duty of accountability and probity. We also have a duty not to only advise them, but also to guide them always; and most importantly, pray for them.”
He also encouraged youths to occupy leadership positions, saying that they have the energy and knowledge to rule.
“Prophet Muhammad (SAW) demonstrated it largely during his reign,” he noted.
Leaders should run inclusive administration – Shafi’i
The second guest speaker, Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafi’i, who is the Grand Mufti of the Conference of Islamic Organisation (CIO) charged leaders to run an inclusive administration and listen to the yearnings of the people.
The revered Islamic scholar noted that when a policy does not go well with the people, leaders have a responsibility to rethink it.
“Leaders must have listening ears to hear out the needs and cries of the people to work on them. The Amirul Mumineen, Umar Bn Khattab (RA) once made a policy to give incentives to mothers once they stop breastfeeding their children. Then, mothers in the city started hastening to stop their kids from breastfeeding.
“One night, the Amir Umar was walking round the streets in disguise when he heard the cries of a baby. He instructed the mother to breastfeed the baby but she replied that she would not benefit from the monthly incentives of the state if the baby keeps breastfeeding. So, Umar had to change the policy since it was creating a bigger danger.”
Sheikh Shafi’i also emphasised the need for leaders to always keep firm on justice. He said, “Everyone must be brought to justice and there should be equality before the law. Also, our leaders must invest in security, education, healthcare and other sectors that improve the welfare of the people.
“The major problem we are facing as a society is because many youths are outside there idle. Government must engage these young people meaningfully and provide them employment and empowerment opportunities.”
Obanikoro warns against blind followership
On his part, former Minister of Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro warned against blind followership, saying that it is high time Nigerians started challenging their leaders.
In an interview with pressmen including Muslim News at the sidelines of the programme, the former Senator said, “We must be able to challenge our leaders and not treat them as god. Once somebody is in public office, you see everybody around behaving as if they are on a slave plantation. That is not the way it’s supposed to be.”
According to him, “I was opportune to be an ambassador representing Nigeria in Ghana. If you see the relationship between the elected officials and the people, you’ll be amazed compared to what you have in Nigeria. The public officeholders are very fearful of the opinion of an average Ghanaian whereas in Nigeria it is not the same. We witnessed that not too long ago. Till now, we are still experiencing it. Several people can’t find money to do transactions. The effect this will have on our economy is yet to be written. It’s going to have dire consequences on the economy of the country.”
He recommended copies of the presentation of Banire, SAN, made available to Nigerian leaders, saying it will remind them of why they are in public offices and how to rule by Allah’s directives.
Don’t Make Leadership Exclusive Preserve For Political Class – Senator-elect
Also speaking with reporters, Senator-elect, Ogun Central, Alhaji Shuaib Afolabi Salisu (SAS), emphasised that the leadership question must never be reduced to the political class alone.
According to him, reducing the question of leadership to the political class alone will prevent us from what we require as a country to transform.
“Ishaq Oloyede as JAMB Registrar is not a political leader, but he has provided transformational leadership in JAMB. I give you one more example. There used to be a woman called Dora Akunyili. She was the DG of NAFDAC. She transformed NAFDAC. She brought the high factor in the leadership question to bear. So, don’t let us reduce leadership questions to political leadership alone. Otherwise, we will miss it out.”
The senator-elect also lamented that followers in Nigeria often use the wrong metrics in assessing the performance of their political leaders, especially the legislators.
According to him, “In talking about leadership, we must also ensure that the citizens themselves are also holding the leadership accountable. The electioneering process has just been completed in the country. See the language of conversation. People going to the National Assembly are being measured by how many transformers and boreholes they provide. These are not job of a legislator. But then, that’s what the bulk of people who constitute the electorate understand. Those who understand the fundamental issues that legislators are meant to provide won’t come out to vote. Therefore, we must also begin to have some national consensus about metrics to measure leadership impacts for every category of leaders.
“There is trust deficit between the leadership and the followership in Nigeria. I think the very first assignment of President Bola Tinubu is to unite the country. It’s to provide a national vision. When that happens, it will be the responsibility of everyone to ensure accountability.
“Currently, there is a disconnect between what we do to hold people accountable, the metrics of performance and those who measure performance. The elite is coming out for the very first time to know that their votes count. It’s one of the good things about this election. This election represents one of the freest, and fairest in recent times. Once we build confidence in the electoral process as we are doing, more Nigerians, more elites and more professionals will vote.
“The language of conversation will also shift from the perfunctory transformers and grinding machines, to more fundamental things for the senators and members of the house of representatives. I look forward to an exciting 10th Senate.”
The lecture was well-attended by prominent personalities and distinguished citizens who are alumni of the institution. Among them was the current President, MUSWEN, Alhaji Rasaki Oladejo; Group Managing Director, Tripple G & Co, Plc.; Rotn. Chief (Mrs ) Adebimpe Giwa, as the mother of the day; UNILORIN Vice-Chancellor Prof AbdulWahab Egbewole; Governing Council, Federal College of Education, Iwo, Osun State Nigeria, Alhaji Liadi Tella; CEO, Yinka Folawiyo Group, Alhaji Tijani Babatunde Folawiyo, the chairman of the occasion, ably represented by Alhaji Omobolaji Tajudeen Gaji and other high profile personalities, including the Chief Host, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos.
UMA is an association of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Muslim Graduates formed over 30 years ago with a vision to be a foremost alumni organisation creating an impact on its alma mater and the society at large.
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