September 4, 2012

Call this minister to order

OUR attention has been drawn to the controversy over allegations that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed, described Nigeria as “an Islamic country with the largest Christian population.”

He was said to have made the statement in a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme aired in Abuja on Wednesday, August 15, 2012.

Already, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has debunked such characterisation, calling for the sanctioning of the Minister. But in a rebuttal, Dr. Mohammed denied ever making such a statement.

According to him, he only said Nigeria was “the largest Islamo-Christian country in the world” during the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation  (OIC) which recently took place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This issue is causing quite a stir in an already super-charged atmosphere in a country wracked by the murderous campaigns of Boko Haram extremists demanding for the Islamisation of Nigeria. It sends a very worrisome signal. Given the fact that as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Nigeria Dr. Mohammed is one of the foremost officials that represent the voice and face Nigeria in the international arena, it is important that we establish exactly what he said.

We want to know whether he actually said those words attributed to him or he is simply being maligned or quoted out of context. The NTA, fortunately, should have the records and should be able to provide it for independent and credible scrutiny.

It will be a most unfortunate disservice to this nation if indeed he said so. In fact, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed’s admission that he described Nigeria as an “Islamo-Christian country” shows he does not understand the true constitutional definition of Nigeria.

Nigeria as an “Islamo-Christian country” means that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has accorded Islam and Christianity the status of official state religions of the country, which is definitely not so.

Nigeria has no state religion. But Nigeria has given Christianity and Islam special preferences, which account for the fact that offiicials are sworn into office with the Bible or Qur’an only because the overwhelming majority of Nigerians are followers of the two faiths. Professor Wande Abimbola once declined to be sworn in on the Qur’an or Bible, opting to be sworn in according to Ifa religion and he was obliged.

We call on the Federal Government to look into this matter and establish Dr. Nurudeen’s culpability or otherwise, as well as his motives for delving into this sensitive issue in this most inappropriate manner.

If found ill-qualified or psychologically too immature to hold such a sensitive high office he should be relieved of his position immediately. We cannot afford keeping irresponsible officers on the job when we are going through the worst region-related violent threat to our national survival.