I have been cogitating on the persistent kvetching of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that the Buhari government is Islamising the country.
I have laboured to find a remote or even an obtrusive reason for CAN’s shrieks, which by the way, have become deafening. I must say, honestly, I have not seen any reason to align myself with the association in this regard.
Although, as a Christian there is a sentimental part of me that wants to jump on the alarmist parade, and shout “Buhari is Islamising Nigeria”, I have a duty to my conscience to resist this provincial urge.
When the government announced the sale of N100 billion worth of Sukuk (Islamic bonds) a few days ago, CAN hurriedly issued a statement, saying that the government wanted to pawn the country to Arab nations. According to the association, the current administration is accelerating the process of Islamising the country.
I will not dwell on the merits or de-merits of Sukuk because that has been sufficiently treated by some writers like Ebuka Nwankwo. Before I divagate, I must add, Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, spoke for me on the subject when he said: “I am challenging CAN to Christianise Nigerians. Christianise us by setting up interest-free banks”.
Now to the meat and potatoes. The response of the Supreme Islamic Council to CAN hit me without gloves on. It was a riposte pickled in truth.
Here is an abridged version of the statement. “It would certainly be embarrassing for CAN to be told that the first and foremost state in Nigeria to submit application for loan to the Islamic Development Bank is a Christian-dominated state in the south-east.
“This has been the factor that made Muslims to tolerate several practices or things that are essentially Christian in nature and outlook, in substance and form and indeed in principle and practice, but imposed on us.
“We have not been talking of Christianisation because Sunday has been forced on us as a work-free day, or the Cross as our hospital sign and symbol, our membership of the International Red Cross, and many other things including almost all the titles of the heads of academic institutions (chancellor, provost, dean, rector, etc.).
“Despite this remarkable tolerance from Muslims over the years, CAN appears to be increasingly becoming Islamophobic and paranoid about its hate and intolerance of Islam, casting aspersions, unnecessarily overheating the polity and unjustifiably creating fear and distrust in the minds of peace-loving citizens of our great country.”
We Christians must be sincere, Nigeria is a Christianised country. This is largely due to British colonialism. Islam had made in-road into northern Nigeria by the 11th century – before Uthman Dan Fodio’s Jihad of 1804, which was the “climactic denouement”. Borno was among the first disciples of Islam in the 11th century. There was a literate population, a well defined system of government and codified laws. But the British yanked off a prodigious part of this heritage, imposing its own systems which were fore-grounded in Christian values and practices.
Please note, that by the 11th century when Islam reached the north, the peoples of southern Nigeria, who are mostly Christians today, were animists.
Nigeria has carried on where the British left off with little adjustments to the Christianity-denominated praxis.
For example, Friday is a holy day for Muslims while Sunday is the same for most Christians in Nigeria. But while a Muslim will go to work on a Friday, a Christian will not go to work on a Sunday; just as it is in the UK and in most parts of Europe. Conversely, Friday is a no-work day in most Arab countries dominated by Muslims.
When Arabic was introduced into secondary school curriculum, many Christian leaders objected to it because “the language is Islam”. They forgot that English itself is the language of our colonial masters who are mostly Christians.
We have become so used to our Christian ways that any blip of the obverse sends us, top gear, into panic and revulsion. This is unfair.
In Conclusion, I believe, one of the fundamental problems with Nigeria is the unconsented coitus between formulaic Christian ways and Muslim practices. But we must stop this Islamisation twaddle, and seek the path of tolerance.