Acouple of weeks ago, a group of ‘Concerned Northern Muslim Professionals’ stirred the hornet’s nest with an open letter to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll. The group, under the leadership of a certain Alhaji Mohammed Saidu, said in the letter that it drew its inspiration from a similar lamentation by Gen. Yakubu Gowon, on the deteriorating state of security in parts of the North.
Titled: ‘Echoing the Message of General Yakubu Gowon’, the group said, inter alia: The retired General and Elder statesman then called on the leadership of the Islamic faith in northern Nigeria to work towards stopping the Boko Haram carnage and also correct the negative ideology of the sect to the right Islamic teachings of tolerance, peace and love. He cited the Muslims in the south-west as a good example of peace and religious tolerance; to the extent of inter-marriages between Muslims and Christians in the south-west of Nigeria.”
Having been fired up by the challenge of the former Head of State, the Concerned Northern Muslim Professionals (CNMP) ran to the leader and custodian of their faith in the country, the Sultan. Theirs is akin to the story of a poor little school boy that was publicly chastised by his head teacher for his failure to cough up the term’s school fees. Battered and downcast, he packs his tattered bag and baggage and heads for home to meet his parents, sobbing and cursing the challenges that have come the way of his educational pursuit. However, unknown to him, his parents are equally dead helpless with the situation, but would nonetheless, call him, cuddle him and give him the assurances of returning him back to school after raising the fees from a planned sales of his farm produce at the next market day. The good news is that the poor boy completed his education, gainfully employed and now, he’s the bastion of the family!
Emboldened by the inspiring story of the poor school boy as enunciated above, the CNMP made for their father and rightly so for help. Read this: “This message of the former head of the Nigerian state was just a repetition of several similar calls by other prominent Nigerians across faith-divide. It is therefore becoming embarrassing to some of us that are Muslims and from the northern extract. We always ponder over what exactly do these respected Nigerians mean whenever they demand for the action of Muslim leadership to stop the carnage. As far as we know the Muslim and Islamic leadership in Nigeria comprised all the Ulamas and Emirs under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto; who doubles as the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and also the leader of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam. And as far as we know the Sultan and his team do not have weapons or control over the security personnel in Nigeria. Then, what action is required of them?
“After deep thoughts and self-scrutiny we got some hints on what additional things, apart from the traditional condemnation, the Sultan and his team ought to do or to have done; in order to save our country from the persistent shocker of the Boko Haram. We wish to respectfully state that some visible and invisible steps, actions and structures were supposed to have been entrenched by the leadership of the Nigerian Muslims, in order to achieve the following:
* A visible action towards stopping the spread of the radical ideologies of Boko Haram among Muslim youths that leads to acts of terrorism. This could be achieved through intellectual religious engagements/confrontation with the radical Islamic groups that can easily be defeated using superior arguments from Muslim clergy. This is supposed to be the preoccupation of all Emirs and Imams; under the leadership of the Sultan. Such an effort is surely capable of yielding the required result.
* Several Boko Haram members would have laid their arms and many wouldn’t have joined the erroneous sect. Unfortunately, this was not to be. There have not been any visible or invisible effort by the Muslim leadership to convene such engagements at even a single location, let alone covering the whole troubled region. That could be why demand for action on the leadership is repeatedly made by well-meaning citizens.
* An invisible local intelligence structure to augment the government’s security and intelligence provisions was expected by Nigerians. People are aware of the Mai unguwa intelligence mechanism that existed in the Muslim communities. In those good olden days, timely and accurate local intelligence was always at the disposal of the authority. People now wonder why such networks couldn’t be resuscitated by the leadership and even reinvigorated by modern technologies? The call on the current leadership of the Muslim umma for action against Boko Haram could be on such need to re-invent this mechanism; so that the terrorists are trailed and apprehended at community level before causing havoc.
*Visibility of greater concern to other victims of the Boko Haram (especially the non-muslims) is also another step towards sharing a collective pain and encouraging a united front against the insurgent Boko Haram. For instance, if the Sultan would be seen mobilizing wealthy Nigerians (muslims and non-Muslims alike) to donate to the victims of Boko Haram, or would be seen leading the Emirs and Ulamas on a solidarity visit to troubled communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, or even to the smallest church in any remote village among the severally attacked ones; an overwhelming difference could have occurred in the troubled minds of the victims’ relations; thereby exonerating the larger part of the Muslim Ummah. Such were the actions demanded by the respected voices of senior Nigerians!”
As a journalist, the Sultan is one of the religious and traditional leaders I hold in a very high esteem. He has always come across me, not only as a ‘gentleman officer’, but as a leader that craves and works for a peaceful, economical strong and religiously-tolerant Nigeria. As co-chairman of Nigeria’s inter-faith committee, the Sultan has demonstrated at different forums that he is not just a leader that is seated in the Caliphate, but one that also tirelessly works for the good and peace of all Nigerians.
Sir, may I propose that you treat the letter by the CNMP as an endorsement for you by the group that sees you as a leader that can stand and be counted, particularly in these perilous times? Your Eminence, may Allah continue to keep, guide and guard you as you do this for us. It’s a huge task, no doubts; especially as the insurgents are not in any way physically, politically and economically connected with you, safe their claim to be Muslims! Ramadan Kareem to you, sir.