Despite doubts about the validity of the present Constitution reform process, public hearings taking place across the country’s geopolitical zones are raising concerns of national relevance. Politicians, religious entities, and civil society organizations are all taking use of the process to push their causes.

The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), which met in Ibadan on Thursday, was emphatic in its argument that the Senate should disregard the establishment of Shariah Law in the South West.

But an Islamic group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) yesterday countered PFN, warning the Christian group to mind its business.

In a statement by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, MURIC said: “Our Christian neighbours have come again. They are always the ones who fire the first shot. They are always heating up the polity. The PFN warned on Thursday, May 27, 2021 against any move by any group to introduce Shariah law to the South-West zone of the country through the ongoing constitutional review being carried out by the Senate.
“This is a well-known pattern. Our Christian neighbours know very well that Shariah is the Allah-given fundamental human right of Muslims. But they are determined to deprive us of it using unorthodox methods. They believe they are at war with Muslims and to them, everything is fair in war. They are using both fair and foul means to achieve their objective
“It is the gospel according to Niccolo Machiavelli: the end justifies the means, no matter what they do to achieve it. Like the German Otto Von Bismarck, they do not just wait to strike when the iron is hot, our Christian neighbours believe in striking to make the cold iron hot. This is why they heat up the polity all year round.”

Providing some historical background to the introduction of Shariah in the South West, MURIC said Shariah was in the South West decades before the arrival of Christianity in 1842.

According to him, “Shariah was practiced in Ede under Oba Abibu Olagunju (Habeeb, a Muslim name) and the Ede Shariah Court operated up till 1913 at Agbeni area of the town. It was moved to Agbongbon area in 1914. Shariah was applied in Iwo under Oba Momodu Lamuye (Muhammad Lamuye) who died in 1906. Even the seventh Akirun of Ikirun, Oba Aliyu Oyewole (died 1912), instituted Shariah in Ikirun in 1910. These are just examples of the existence and spread of Shariah in Yorubaland and the Christian leaders are not oblivious of the fact that it was the British Christian colonialists who stopped Shariah in Yorubaland and imposed Christian common law.
“However, they are equally aware of the rising tide of Islamic awareness in the same South West. They have seen the hitherto passive Muslim community being transformed into an active, articulate and politically conscious populace. They are afraid that the sleeping giant is waking up to take back what belongs to it.
“We call on Nigerians to understand the siege mentality of our Christian neighbours. Like all aggressors, they believe that attack is the best form of defence. As the benefactors and inheritors of colonial rampage that lasted more than a century, they are determined to keep all the loot which their principal bequeathed to them. They are determined to keep the Muslims in a concentration camp into which the colonial masters drove them.”

MURIC noted that PFN should not forget that the only thing that is constant in life is change. “We are worried about the voyeuristic disorder, which has again manifested in the PFN. It is a Peeping Tom syndrome that propels our Christian neighbours to crane their necks in order to see what is in the pot of soup of the Muslims. It is called ‘giraffing’ in examination hall parlance.”

MURIC further stated that Constitution Review Panel asked Nigerians to forward their views regarding what they want in the constitution and each group is supposed to submit its needs, but instead of telling the panel what the Christians want, PFN has gone ahead to say what they do not want Muslims to ask for.

“It is an attempt to gag Muslims in the South West and it will not work. The issue is what do the Christians want? It is clear that they have been overpampered by the colonial master who handed over our common patrimony to them on a platter of gold. So, now they want nothing because they already have all they need. But they want to sustain the status quo because it favours them.

“Decorum, courtesy and protocol demand that Christians should ask for what they lack and what they want. But instead of doing that they are asking the committee not to tolerate the demands of Muslims. Yet Christians already have their own common law and the shariah has nothing to do with them. It is Muslims who need Shariah.
“This attitude can be compared to that of the dog in the manger whose master gave it its own meat and bone. The dog ate and was filled up. But when the master gave hay to the horse, the dog came barking ferociously in order to prevent the horse from accessing the grass. But do dogs eat grass? How uncharitable can our neighbours be?
“MURIC warns the PFN and its co-travelers to steer clear of the path of Muslims in the South West. The demand for Shariah is a civil rights matter. It is a demand for change, a demand for the status quo ante. Britain compelled the whole South West to don the toga of Christian ways of life and agents of neo-imperialism are pushing this diabolical scheme. It will not work. We say capital ‘NO’ to neo-colonialism, neo-imperialism and modern slavery.
“We are being deceived daily by those who claim that there is religious tolerance in the South West. Why is the Muslim girl child in hijab always targeted for persecution if it is true that there is religious tolerance in the South West? Why are Muslims always marginalised in political appointments if there is tolerance in Yorubaland? Why is the South West civil service totally dominated by Christians? Why is the ministry of education in particular and the teaching service authorities in the hands of Christians in all Yoruba states? The claim of religious tolerance is a sham, a phantom. It is a mantra designed to keep Yoruba Muslims in perpetual slavery.
“Muslims in the region are waking up and asking for freedom. We demand a halt to the forceful use of Christian school uniform, Christian education, Christian law, etc. We demand civil Shariah, not criminal Shariah that involves the cutting of hands but civil Shariah to regulate Muslim marriages, inheritance, family affairs, etc. It has nothing to do with Christians. We will use every peaceful and constitutional means available to attain this objective. We declare a caveat-emptor in Shariah-related matters. PFN should mind its own business. No retreat, no surrender.”
PFN President, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, said rather, the nation’s lawmakers should direct energies towards solving the mounting problems bedeviling the country, especially as it concerns the security of lives and property of the populace.

“The problems confronting the nation are enormous than wanting to create more. Sharia law is alien to our culture of religious existence in the Southwest. As such, nobody should through any subterfuge bring it in to cause the crisis.”

According to the body, the introduction of such law into Southwest would aim at pitching the Christians against their Muslim counterparts, saying: “We want to strongly warn the Senate and those behind this plan to unsettle the peace being enjoyed in this country to desist before it is too late. Don’t instigate religious crisis in the Southwest, as this could further threaten the fragile peace of the country.

“The secularity of our existence, which is devoid of any religious upheaval, should not be tampered with under whatever guise. We shall resist this by every legal means at our disposal.

“Without the Sharia, we have always lived peacefully with our Muslim brothers. We know that this is the handiwork of those who are hell-bent on unsettling the country at all costs. But the good news is that: They have failed. As far as we are concerned, the proposal won’t fly and can never fly. It is dead on arrival.”

Likewise, the Christian organisation has calmed the frayed nerves of its members who appeared agitated over the development and have been bombarding the body’s leadership with inquiries, assuring that their interest would always be protected. It implored them to always comport themselves by not taking laws into their hands, but make peaceful co-existence their watchword.