Justice Mohammed Tanko’s Faux Pas

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Nigeria since inception has always been a secular state though there have been futile attempts to Islamize her. We recall the attempt in 1986 by the then regime of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to take her to the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) which led to the abrupt resignation of Air Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe.

The Sharia law which gained force in the year 2000 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in the saddle. It gained a strong grip in the north with threats to come down to the south west where there is a sizeable Muslim population. It was rather political with pundits opining that it was an attempt to destabilize the government of Obasanjo since the north couldn’t get power through the ballot box – it was an attempt to do so through the back door. Only the poor were affected with their limbs being cut off while the corrupt wealthy were hailed as the ‘Pillars’ of Islam.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed made a statement in Ahmadu Bello University recently that the 1999 constitution should be amended to accommodate a more expanded implementation of the Sharia law in the country. He also picked holes in the fact that the English language was used to teach the Sharia law in the tertiary institutions arguing that the language of instruction should be Arabic and the change should be effected forthwith.

This is rather tragic given the fact that Nigeria is a secular state which even the constitution guarantees so why is the Chief Justice desecrating his sacred office to promote religious bigotry? Why has he decided to act like a Grand Khadi rather than the Chief Justice who should be secular and not promote in any way the evil called religious fanaticism?

This statement is sad given that the northern part of the country is prone to violence and the non implementation of the recommendation of Tanko Mohammed could lead to the masses being sinisterly manipulated to take up arms against the hapless Christians and people of other faiths. Public office holders should greatly weigh their statements as they are capable of igniting gargantuan flames of fire given that the parlous economic situation is making the nation sit on a keg of gun powder which can explode at anytime.

It is sad that Justice Mohammed who is supposed to be the number five man in the country wants to relegate other non Islamic faiths to the background in his bid to attempt to Islamize the hitherto secular nation. How would he feel if a Christian jurist at the Supreme Court made a similar call for the constitution to be amended to better accommodate the Christian faith or if such a call was made by the Vice-President who is not only a Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the nation’s largest Pentecoastal church but also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria to boot. What about if a highly placed traditional worshipper made such a call for his own faith? The nation would slide into chaos if everyone were to act according to his or her whims and caprices. That is why there is the law which was made to regulate the behaviour of man. It is shocking that the public face of the judiciary which is the organ that interprets the law can descend so low as to be calling for the propagation of the ideals of his faith over others in a country where the issue of religion is so sensitive and touchy.

I suggest that there should be a code of conduct to guide the public utterances of the holders of sensitive and high offices in the country. This will go a long way to curb their excesses especially when they are backed by stringent sanctions. Public office tends to make many Nigerians lose their sense of decorum and so there is the need to whip them back to line in order to avert the dangers of such inciting statements or actions.

The CJN has crossed the line and should either retract his statement which was made in bad faith or should tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians for offending their sensibilities especially in endangering the lives of his fellow countrymen of the Christian faith resident in the northern part of the nation. There should be pressure mounted on him by the National Judicial Commission to do either of the aforementioned acts so as to serve as a deterrent for others who feel they can promote bigotry in any form through their positions which is funded by tax payers.

There should be zero tolerance for bigotry especially that of religion as it has brought untold pain and hardship especially as it’s the hoi polloi who will bear the brunt.

Enough of potential bloodshed; the CJN must be forced to eat the humble pie in the nation’s best interest.

Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria and edits www.africanbard.com. He can be reached on +2348167677075.

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Articles by Anthony Ademiluyi