The Director of Muslim Rights Concern, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, has come down hard on the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, saying its opposition to the Sukuk Islamic bonds by the Federal Government shows that it is acting like a spoilt child. How do you respond?
In the first place, whoever that Ishaq is, I have gathered that he is a professor of eschatology, if I’m right. Eschatology, to me as a Christian, is the doctrine of the last things. So, if he’s a professor of eschatology, I think he should concentrate on the things that are happening in the last days. Having said that, I want him to know that when we wrote about Sukuk, we did not address it to any Muslim leader or Muslim group. We were talking to the Federal Government; a government that has vowed to uphold the constitution. We saw that the government was violating the constitution and that was why we wrote.
What aspect of the constitution did the Federal Government violate?
Section 10 says no government, state or federal, should favour one religion. But if you observe the things that are happening in this country, they are happening in favour of a particular religion. The Sukuk loan is a Sharia-bond loan. Sharia is Islamic. That is why we sought to get the attention of the government.
But the Federal Government has reportedly acquired the N100bn Sukuk bonds. Are you saying it should be reversed?
They should reverse it. We, as Christians, will keep speaking. We will do the right thing.
Looking beyond religion, the Federal Government has defended its decision to obtain Sukuk bonds, citing the benefit of zero-interest loans for the economy. What is your take on this?
You are a Nigerian just as I am. All those things that they said would benefit us, have they benefited us? All the money that has been collected in billions, where are they? Who is having those monies? Or is it just paper report? If we are really serious, the management of our economy should take us to a higher ground so that we would be able to survive. I don’t have complete trust in our government when they keep telling us that this thing is going to help us, but instead of helping, we are back to square one; even worse than where we were. That’s my concern, and I would rather we follow our constitution and do the right thing.
Like I said earlier; when it comes to money in Nigeria, I’m concerned. Look at the road that has been taking lives between Abuja and Lokoja; and lots of other roads that are killing people all over the place. So many governments have told us they are going to fix it. But has it been fixed? Or is there magic in Sukuk loans that is going to do it now? I don’t think so. I think the Sukuk loans will follow the same path and end up in people’s pockets. All I’m saying is that Sukuk is a Sharia loan, meaning Muslim loan, and that is why we are talking to the government and not to any individual. We do not have any issue with any Muslim; we are talking to our government that is representing Christians, Muslims, atheists, traditional rulers, and basically all Nigerians. That is why we are getting their attention; not to engage ourselves with any particular group.
Don’t you think Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who is a pastor, and the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who is a Christian, being in the Federal Government should elicit some trust from CAN?
Why should it elicit trust from CAN? Did CAN send them there? We do not know how they got there, and do you want them to start fighting with the person who put them there because they are Christians? That is not the issue. What is very hot right now is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation thing. Is (the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources) Ibe Kachiwku not a Christian? But you find a Muslim under him who disrespects him and does whatever he wants to do. That’s the way it is. They bring a Christian by name and put him there, but he does not even know what is really going on there. We are Nigerians. We have lived it; we are seeing it. We are not doubting their Christianity, but I am saying that he that pays the piper calls the tune.
CAN argues that the Sukuk bonds subscription is a plot to Islamise Nigeria, but the argument by MURIC is that Nigeria cannot be Islamised because of the almost equal number of Christians and Muslims in the country. What is your response?
I don’t see any statistics that shows that we have an equal number of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Look at the appointments that the current president is making, and tell me any key position that is being held by a Christian. Tell me one. When we talk about Islamisation, we are not saying that they will just wake up one day and make everybody Muslims. But when you change laws to suit one particular religion, then there is cause for alarm and that is where we’re pointing the attention of the government to. They swore to protect and uphold our constitution. But what they are doing is one-sided. That is why we are trying to get their attention. On the issue of Islamisation; look at the key positions in this country, be it security or whatever, they are all headed by Muslims. Laws are made and signed by people that are there. They bring Christians and put them aside as they (Christians) watch. They say we are equal, but it is clear that we are not. This government has never shown to us that we are equal. Make no mistake about that, please.
Prof. Akintola argues that more Christians than Muslims benefited from Sukuk bonds, and that CAN is a rabble-rouser. Do you agree?
With the kind of words he is using, he needs to check himself if he’s really a leader that he’s supposed to be. Let him show us the relevant statistics. Just because I bear the name, John does not mean that I am a Christian. But again, let me not go into it. We are not talking to Prof. Akintola. We are talking to the Federal Government of Nigeria. So, please, if Prof. Akintola has any complaint that the government has shown it favours Christians more than the Muslims, let him talk to the government, and not to CAN.
The professor also accused CAN of Islamophobia, for whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment.
I said it earlier that he does not know what he is doing there as a Muslim leader. It is really sad and unbecoming that the Muslim leadership entrusts such sensitive position to an individual that does not know much; only how to quarrel and use hate speech that the government says it is against. I think the government should talk to him about hate speech. To me, the words he has been using qualify as hate speech.
How do you think the Federal Government can constructively handle CAN’s reservations concerning Sukuk bonds?
From the little I know about Sukuk bonds, anything that money is used for, is shared with Saudi Arabia. It’s an Islamic thing and I believe that if this money was from a Christian perspective, the Muslims would not agree. So, all we’re saying is that the government is supposed to be for all Nigerians. Don’t fight one religion. We have written and we are going to take steps.
Does that include going to court?
If it means going to court, then we will.