Let’s Promote Interfaith Cooperation in Kwara State, By Abdulrauf Kayode Bello
POLITICS DIGEST – Over the weekend, the Kwara State Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), wrote an open letter accusing Governor Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Razaq of injustice in running the affairs of the State particularly on the issue of appointments and even election of Legislators into the National Assembly.
Even though we are not the mouth-piece of the KWSG or the Governor, we deem fit to contribute to this matter as this falls into our purview as a Religious Body that monitor issues affecting muslims positively or negatively anywhere in this Country and the world at large.
The Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) has studied critically the points raised in the CAN’s open letter and hereby state that all the assertions contained therein are untrue, fallacious and baseless.
- Ban On Prayer And Preaching In Schools
The purpirted ban on prayer in Kwara State Schools is false as silent morning devotion is allowed by the State Government in all the Schools irrespective of the socalled original Proprietors. The directive for silent morning devotion was given following reports to the State Government that some Pastors, Reverends and Evangelists were moving to Kwara Schools to conduct morning assembly against Government directives.
This is to ensure that students and Teachers who are obviously of different faiths are not denied their rights of freedom of worship as guanranteed in the Nigerian Constitution. The attitude of the Pastors apart from being illegal run fowl of the National Policy on Education that safeguard the interest of Parents, Guardians, students and their Teachers. Ideally students must have prayed before leaving their homes, therefore allowing silent prayers would not violate anyone’s right.
As for preaching, it is absurd and unfortunate for CAN to request for its churches to preach in Kwara Schools since schools are not churches…As muslims, we have never requested or attempted to preach even in Schools originally established by us in-order not to violate the constitutiinal provisions and laid-down guidelines in the National Policy on Education and other extant laws.
The open letter written by Kwara CAN has therefore exposed it as a group of violators of fundamental human rights and law-breakers; as what they are demanding for is unconstitutional.
It should be recalled that this same CAN took KWSG to Court over ownership of some Secondary Schools in the State. The legal battle which began since 2014 ended in September last year with CAN became the losers. By the verdicts of Ilorin High Court in May 2016 and Court of Appeal in September, 2019 – all Mission Schools originally owned by both Christian Muslim Bodies handed-over to KWSG on their own volition in 1976 belonged to KWSG. The Court of Appeal described CAN as ‘meddlesome interlopers’ and warned it and its agents to desist from making claim of ownership any school running by the State Government hence-forth.
Instead of proceeding to Supreme Court on continuous legal battle, CAN Kwara Chapter has resorted to writing unwarranted petition against the Kwara State Government.
- Election Of Muslim Federal Legislators
The CAN accusation of Governor Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Razaq on the election of Nine (9) Muslim Federal Legislators make mockery of its petition. What concerned Gov. Abdul-Rahman (who himself then was a Gubernatorial Candidate vying for election as a Governor) about nomination of some Politicians who were contesting to the National Assembly?
This accusation has further exposed CAN as a Group of religious extremists parading themselves as religious leaders; as election to political offices is not based on religion whatsoever but competence, commitment and ability to serve the people.
CAN must therefore stand clear of religious politics capable of causing disaffection, disunity and instability among our people.
When the leadership of Kwara CAN changed baton, we thought Most Rev. Paul Olawoore as Chairman and his new Secretary Rev. Reuben Ibitoye would tow a line of peace and honour as against their predecessor who misled CAN to go to Court to pursue irrational case and spewad falsehood among his folks to gain popularity; we are astonished that the Group has not changed in its questionable character.
- Political & Career Appointments
As far as we know, never in the history of this State was political and career appointments been based on religion. Rather, geographical spread based on recognition of Local Governments within the State and ability to deliver on mandate as well as pre-requisite qualifications of the appointees have been the yardstick. CAN therefore goofed to have used religious platform to fight for political offices despite the fact that it is not a political party. This has portrayed the Group as opportunists using religion as camouflage!
Since the creation of Kwara State in 1967, sensitive appointments have been held by christians including the 1st Governor being christian (from Muslim Family) and muslims who were in overwhelming majority have never complained. The positions no matter how sensitive, muslims are not in the habit of complaining or writing petition like CAN. This is not to say that we do not have our own complaints. But instead of falsehood and blackmail embarked upon by CAN, we normally present facts and opt for dialogue on genuine issues.
- Fact About Composition Of Kwara State
At this juncture, we must enligthen Kwara Chapter of CAN and Nigerians generally on the basic fact that of the 16 Local Governments in Kwara State, Muslims have overwhelming majority in 14 Local Governments, while christians have majority in 2 Local Governments.
The Local Governments with muslim majority are Offa, Oyun, Ifelodun, Irepodun, Patigi, Edu, Kaiama, Ilorin West, Ilorin East, Ilorin South, Asa, Moro, Isin and Baruten Local Governments; while christians are in majority only in Ekiti and Oke-Ero Local Governments.
With this fact, as long as appointments are based on Federal Character principle of LG representation, there is no way muslims could be put in minority in governance if justice and equity prevails.
The fact of muslims population in Kwara is backed by 1973 Census which put Muslims at 87%, Christian 7% while others 6%. With former Kabba Province comprising of Okun people who are predominantly christians moving to Kogi State, hardly could christian claim that 7% given to them.
The Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria comprising of Muslim Journalists, Mass Communicators, Public Administrators, Engineers, Medical Doctors, Lawyers and Academicians in various fields of human endeavour therefore, enjoin our christian brothers and sisters in CAN not to play into the hands of mischief-makers who are hell-bent on causing disaffection and disunity between christian and muslims using religion.
We (muslims) have always maintained that of all believers in other faiths, christians in Nigeria are closer to the muslims than adherents of other faiths and that is why we have always supported inter-faith dialogue in-order to promote unity, affection and stability.
Bello is the Public Relations Officer, Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria