Amidst controversies trailing the clarion call for a National Conference in Nigeria, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has expressed fears over the possibility of convening such a conference in the country as presently canvassed for by the proponents.
The group said the Federal Government is currently focusing on and fine-turning the electoral process in preparation for the 2015 general election in addition to its present efforts geared towards addressing pockets of political schism, especially within the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
MURIC noted that the government cannot effectively combine preparations for a general election with a national conference because a reasonable length of time is needed to adequately prepare for the hosting of a National Conference and the need to avoid a clash of interests while holding the conference and election simultaneously.
“National Conference is not a picnic. The Federal Government needs full concentration to plan and execute it successfully. But with the myriad of problems currently facing the ruling party, PDP, the Federal Government cannot effectively combine preparations for a general election with a National Conference. A word is enough for the wise”, the group warned in a statement signed by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The group also observed that the idea of convening a National Conference, was even belated in view of the various challenges facing the country, adding that the worst communities are those in which the members shun dialogue among themselves. “Everyone takes to fisticuffs at the slightest provocation. Such communities find it hard to coexist peacefully. This is the parable of our country, Nigeria”, the statement added.
The statement however pointed out that since the idea of a National Conference has gained momentum in the corridors of power, it therefore indicates a positive signal that Nigeria is now on the right track of peace and stability.
It equally observed that a 2-day National Political Summit on the Future of Nigeria which was held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from 3rd to 4th September, 2013, was designed as a precursor to a National Conference and that the Presidency, the National Assembly (NASS) and the media have also shown signs of positive inclination towards the conveyance of a National Conference.
“Yet there is a snag. The focus right now appears to be ethnic nationalities alone. To build a just, equitable and egalitarian society, the proposed National Conference must not bar any major stakeholder from participating and presenting its grievances and positions. In particular, Nigerian Christians, Muslims, and traditionalists must be adequately represented”, it stated.
The statement further warned that in view of the fact that most conflicts in the country have been traced to religious misunderstanding, any National Conference or sovereign National Conference which side-lines the religious groups, amount to merely embarking on an exercise in futility.
It also noted that Nigeria as it stands today is a neo-colonialist project serving the purpose of the colonial master and the imperialists alone, adding that the parochial method employed by the colonialists who virtually eliminated all vestiges of Islam which they met on ground is the crux of the matter and that such issue must be tabled on the floor of the planned national conference.
“This they did by using sheer force, ‘divide et impera’ and so many other subterfuges until they almost totally destroyed Islamic institutions and landmarks. As a result of this, Muslims in Nigeria of today feel alienated, ostracized and marginalized.
“Worst still, Muslims are stigmatized as fundamentalists, fanatics, terrorists, etc each time they seek integration into the Nigerian project. Of course this is a major grouse of Nigerian Muslims and it has informed most of the religious conflicts in the country. To Nigerian Muslims therefore, our so-called independence in 1960 was cosmetic, our republican status in 1963 was window-dressing and our democracy today is a monumental fraud”, the statement stressed.
The statement added that the British bequeathed to Nigeria a legacy which was heavily tainted with Christian coloration in all aspects of life including, education, health, law and social perception, noting that it was a deliberate attempt to keep both Christian and Moslems divided.
“But haven’t we lived together long enough to know how to detonate the time bomb? Must we live with the nightmare of a colonial booby trap all our life? It is therefore very clear that Nigeria needs a rigorous reiteration programme. Something is just not right. This 1914 Amalgamation of a thing needs to be Nigerianised. Muslim are not integrated into the Nigerian polity. There is an urgent need to fully integrate the Muslims and give them the sense of belonging.
“Muslims are still complaining today as they did more than a century ago. Yet nobody is listening. Muslims are prepared to live in peace with their Christian neighbours and of course with people of all other faiths and cultures. The National Conference is imperative but religious groups must be an integral part of it.
“Finally, we suggest that representatives of the NASS should also be involved as participants in order to solve the riddle of holding a National Conference while we have a sitting NASS. Also, the timing must be properly set. The proposed National Conference must take off after the 2015 general elections, not before”, the statement further recommended.