Tuesday, April 12, 2016

National Christian Elders Forum identifies Obstacles to Peace, Unity and Development in Nigeria

            At a Press Conference convened by the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) at Abuja on Thursday March 17, the Forum addressed what it called Obstacle to Peace, Unity and Development in Nigeria. The statement began with a general summary of the issues bothering the Forum:
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, A few weeks ago, the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) issued a statement titled THE NEED TO PRESERVE THE PEACE AND UNITY OF NIGERIA. Of concern to the Christian Elders is the deteriorating state of national security, the free fall state of the economy, the inflammation of religious tension through the misappropriation of state powers, a worrisome foreign policy that is evidently skewed in favor of Islamization, as well as the increasing impunity of the Fulani herdsmen, amongst many other issues.”
            The NCEF then introduced itself as a body comprised of Christian Elders from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, “established by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to make statements in defense of Christianity in Nigeria, as well as promote peace and unity among Christians and Nigerians, as a whole.”  
            According to the NCEF, the major fault line in the current political structure of Nigeria goes back to the amalgamation of 1914 which “produced a country but not a nation.”  The NCEF claimed that since the amalgamation of 1914, “Islamists” have been in control of northern Nigeria.  The NCEF distinguished between Islam and Islamism, in that Islamism, otherwise called “political Islam”, is a set of ideologies that goes beyond religion into the creation of a political system.  According to the NCEF, Islamists freely use the Islamic concept of “Taqiyya”, which permits a Muslim to deceive an “infidel” in order to gain the mastery over him.
The NCEF identified 1975 – 1999 as the period when the Islamization Agenda became solidified under a succession of military regimes with majority of the military heads of state being Muslims from the North. The NCEF believes “the Muslim Military leaders favored an Islamic model of ideology because it promoted dictatorship.” They therefore “set up an “invisible” government which operates behind the scene in the Presidency and constantly undermines liberal democracy while promoting Sharia.”
The NCEF believes that “at the root of the insecurity, distrust and mutual suspicion in Nigeria is the conflict between Liberal Democracy and Sharia ideology.” Worse still, according to the NCEF, “It would appear that the Islamists, (otherwise known as the “invisible government”) who used to rule by proxy in all the previous administrations, are now fully entrenched in Government…. Presently, the Islamists control the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.”
The NCEF went ahead to identify specific issues, which it felt is creating “credible apprehension” with respect to the policy direction of the Buhari administration. These include: several instances where the President apparently demonstrated disregard for the Constitution; the inclusion of Nigeria in the Saudi Arabia Military Coalition of “Muslim/Arab” nations; attempt to fund deficit in the 2016 Budget through issuance of Sukkuk loan which is a “Sharia compliant loan,” the consideration of establishing “free visa” arrangement with Islamic D8 nations, and the apparent Islamization of key security positions in the country.
Other issues addressed by the NCEF include the proposed Kaduna State Religious Bill (at which the Forum expressed “tremendous shock”); the abduction and forceful marriage of underaged Christian girls, and the related failure of the Senate to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill into law. The NCEF also noted that Fulani herdsmen have been murdering innocent Nigerians with impunity for years.  It found it “most shocking that till today, there has been no prosecution of any of [the] marauders” in the most recent case where over 300 Nigerians were massacred by the herdsmen in Agatu area of Benue state in February. On the related issue of the proposed Grazing Reserve, the NCEF observed that the most sensible and economically wise approach would be to build ranches for the herdsmen in their states of origin”, adding that ”Other nations of the world consume beef yet, nomads do not drive herds of cattle all over the nation in the 21st century.”
The final major point raised by the NCEF bothers on Nigeria’s active support for a “a two state solution to the Israel–Palestinian conflict, as well as support for the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR),” while at the same time baulking at the very similar situation at home - the demand of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for a state of their own! The NCEF said while it discountenances any secessionist move, it nevertheless will urge the government to open dialogue with IPOB, as “the solution to the Biafra agitation is dialogue.”
The 7-point recommendations called for the convening of a special Council of State, as well as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Part of the terms of reference proposed for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission include distinguishing between Islam and Islamism, granting of reprieve and pardon to any person, organization or group which confesses to any criminal, illegal and immoral act in the past”; and dealing the with issues of genocide and marginalization perpetrated against certain ethnic minorities in the past.
Other recommendations include the discontinuation of every form of negotiation requiring Nigeria’s issuing the Sharia Compliant Loan, Sukkuk; and the setting up of grazing ranches for Fulani herdsmen within the states of origin of the herdsmen, rather than appropriating lands of other indigenous ethnic groups for the Fulani herdsmen all over the nation. The NCEF also called for the implementation of the aspects of the Report of the National Conference which pertains to the Executive arm of government, particularly emphasizing the need for Community Policing, where each ethnic group is responsible for defending its people and land.
Finally the Forum noted that “a people without history is a people without a future” and consequently demanded that the teaching of History as a subject be reintroduced back to schools.  The NCEF went on to quote George Orwell: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

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