Daily Trust (Abuja)

20 May 2011

Nigeria: What About Igbo Muslims?

opinion

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious nation. Three things that have defied solution in the country are tribalism, religious politics and class identification. But religion plays a pivotal role in Nigerian politics and, in fact, the world.

In so-called first-world nations like the United States, religion plays significant role in their politics. President Barak Obama was attacked by his opponents as a closet Muslim.

But in Nigeria, people play religious politics with cruelty and even villainy. Some indulge in such either out of sheer ignorance of its implications on the gullible plebiscites or because they have discovered the vitality they gain in creating confusion amongst humanity. Nigerians often say they are tired of these sentiments but what can they do when their destiny is hung far away from their hands?

Since Nigeria's return to democracy in 1999, there has been a silent but raging war of supremacy between the political blocs of the north and the southern part of the country.

Many people in the south believe that northern Muslims have dominated the nation's leadership. They seem to forget that the longest serving military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, is a staunch Christian.

A group called Igbo Ekulie, claiming to be made up of intellectuals and technocrats in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy cannot authenticate its claim of defending the Igbo interests by merely making flippant statements in the newspapers. In a press statement titled "Speakership Crisis: Danger Alert to an Invidious Plot against Ndigbo", the group lost grip of its stated goal and veered off course.

I make reference to this publication only to correct some misgivings by the group. I have often warned the Igbo not to be allowed to be used to play the political games for others. They have often spearheaded the victory for past democratic presidents since 1999 and got very little for their efforts. How to correct this abnormality against Ndigbo should have been the focus of the Igbo Ekulie. Instead, they engaged imagination on facts and figures. To quote part of the statement to show that the group is either myopic in its understanding of the Nigerian society or mischievously aggressive in frustrating the political existence of the minority Igbo Muslims in their native homes:

"...This further points to a devious plot by some powerful forces within the presidency and ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to scheme the zone out of the party's presidential ticket in 2015. In the unlikely event than an Igbo does not emerge in 2015 and a Christian Northerner emerges as the flag bearer of the PDP, the issue of nominating a Muslim Vice Presidential running mate will arise on the basis of religious balancing. Continuing "And like the present situation where PDP power brokers are looking towards the South West to fill the Speakership slot, the PDP hierarchy may also be compelled by exigencies to look beyond the South East for a Muslim running mate. Under the scenario of a Christian Northerner clinching the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2015, NO SOUTH EASTERNER MAY BE CONSIDERED AS VICE PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE UNLESS SUCH AN IGBO PERSON HAS TO CONVERT TO ISLAM ( my emphasis).

This, to borrow some words from the group, is a gratuitous insult on the sensibilities and interests of the Igbo Muslims for intentionally denying their existence in the first place and for undermining their potentialities to man any national responsibilities as well. Good that the group recognizes that there are capable Christian minorities of the northern extraction who have the qualifications to be President of Nigeria. So if that be a glaring fact, why on earth should a group claiming to be a full body of intellectuals and technocrats deny the glaring fact that there are capable Muslim minorities of Igbo extraction who have all that is required to be president, vice president, minister or whatever political position in Nigeria?

Can the group sincerely claim not to know that Igbo Muslims exist? To put the record straight, each state of the Southeast has hundreds of Igbo Muslims as indigenes, not northern Muslim residents. So it is absurd to start mentioning names of Igbo Muslims and their villages in this write-up. Suffice to assert to all Nigerians and the world that Igbo Muslims are many and that they are surely qualified to man any position of trust in our dear country in particular and in the larger world. They should not be relegated to second class citizens or denied any political offices, both at the state and federal levels, basically because they are minority Muslims in their own birth places in the Southeast.

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