BOKO HARAM, SHARIA COUNCIL AND THE ISLAMIZATION OF NIGERIAN ECONOMY
When the U.S. intelligence came out with the report in 2005 that Nigeria risks disintegration in the year 2015 if she does not deal with government corruption, security issues, electoral reform and infrastructure problems, many especially within the PDP party rebuffed the report, arguing that the nation is strong, vibrant, united and marching on toward achieving its ‘Vision 2020’ - the Millennium goal of being one of the twenty largest economies in the world in 2020. These assertions were made despite the seemingly myriad and very serious problems confronting the nation. Since the return to democratic governance in 1999, the nation has been fighting corruption, bad leaders, greedy and rapacious politicians, political thuggery, violence and killings, armed robbery, kidnapping, Niger delta militancy, murders and injustice, holy war, ethnic and tribal hatred, lack of national core values and patriotism.
In September 11, 2001, aftermath the dastardly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC, that destroyed the two tallest buildings in the New York city with hundreds of businesses, taking the lives of more than 3000 innocent people and left thousands jobless; CNN spotted huge celebrations in some parts of Northern Nigeria. Since then al-Qaeda has been recruiting and training young people in Northern Nigeria, including camps in other parts of Africa, to carry out Jihad on the Western rich nations. Currently, there are Muslim sects like Hausa/Fulani herdsmen, Maitatsine, , Kala-Kato sects and now Boko-Haram located in Borno, Jos, Kano, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Sokoto, Bauchi and other major Northern regions training and brainwashing young Muslims to hate America, Israel and kill anyone who opposes Islam, Muhammad, and Allah.
In a CNN interview, after 911 terrorist attacks, the late and former leader of All-Qaeda, late Osama bin Laden, said, “We declare jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal whether directly or through its support of the Israeli occupation. For this and other acts of aggression and injustice, we have declared jihad against the U.S., because in our religion, it is our duty to make jihad so that god’s word is the one exalted to the highest and so that we drive the American away from all Muslims countries.” The late Bin Laden made several tapes and gave several speeches calling young, able and courageous Muslims worldwide to rise up against America, Israel, and Christians.
On February 22, 1998, Bin Laden issued an edict calling for death to America, including civilians. At that time, he announced the creation of the ‘International Islamic Front’ for jihad Against the Jews and Crusades. In a subsequent interview with Time magazine, Bin Laden said, “Thousands of millions of Muslims are angry…hostility toward America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God. I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America” (Time, December 23, 1998). For fanatical Muslims, it is pure joy to kill and be killed for Allah. Radical Muslims believe that they have a mandate from Allah to wage jihad against anyone who opposes Muslims. They believe what they are doing is for a righteous cause. Moreover, if they believe that by doing this evil they are serving Allah, nothing will dissuade them from doing it.
In December 25, 2009, the world held its breath following the foiled attempt to detonate US Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam-Schipol airport heading to Detroit, Michigan with 300 passengers on-board by a silver spoon fed, Ivy League educated Nigerian youngster – Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab. The satanic attack foiled but did not exempt Nigeria from being listed as a ‘Terrorist’ nation by the U. S. government.
Nigerians were angry and our political leaders fumed including the former Information and Communication Minister, Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Nkem Akunyili, who called on the United States to remove Nigeria from such a scandalous list and promised that Nigeria will cleanup her acts through her famous rebranding program. And just last year, Nigeria was officially removed from the list; however, the damage was already done. Despite the efforts, Nigeria remained strong in domestic terrorism, public treasury looting and money laundering schemes. Government corruption and domestic terrorism – ethnic cleansing, political, religious, bias economic policies have been going in Nigeria for decades.
And so last October, during the Nation’s Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary, Nigeria was ushered into a new phase of advanced terrorism – with spate of bomb blasts and suicide bombers in Abuja and various Northern regions of the country killing innocent citizens and politicians – actions simply motivated by ethnic hatred, religious intolerance and political thuggery. The lecherous destruction of human lives, their businesses and means of livelihood of innocent citizens are not just abhorrent but a total disrespect and disregard of the Rule of Law and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
After what many perceived to be the freest and fairest election in the nation’s history, with the overwhelming win of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from oil rich South-south region of Nigeria, the Hausa-Fulani Oligarchy – those obsessed with power and presumed birth-right to rule Nigeria have begun what could ultimately lead to disintegration of Nigeria. Since this year, the so-called Boko-Haram, an Islamic Muslim terrorist sect has been maiming, destroying, rampaging and killing innocent Nigerians at will in various states of Northern Nigeria and yet the Federal government, State, Local and even the nation’s security agencies are unable to tame this radical and dangerous Islamic sect. In fact the sect has boasted of their superior weapons over the Federal government and security agencies.
In the past year or so, we have seen the gory pictures of crushed skulls of innocent lives. The Hausa/Fulani Muslim herdsmen went on killing rampage at Dogo Nahawa, Zot and Ratsat Christian villages in the remote area of Jos, Plateau State. The horrifying pictures of children, women and young people massacred with machetes, guns or burned alive, a dastardly and satanic act carried out by the Hausa/Fulani Muslim herdsmen on the Berom Christians of Jos are direct result of years of ethnic hatred, religious intolerance, tribal politics, cowardly leadership, visionless politicians, and conspiratorial government.
This is simply jihad. It’s so sad that politicians don’t want to call it what it is. The Southern politicians, leaders, and journalists are simply cowards. They can’t speak the truth. What are they afraid of? What are they living for; when the precious lives of children and women are being extinguished and snuffed out in such a savage and barbaric manner? The Southern politicians, the army, police and journalists have mortgaged their soul for a pot of porridge and thereby compromised the dignity of their professions. They have simply become cheer-leaders and not front-leaders.
Rather than taking decisive action, the Federal government is now negotiating with terrorists, while the Northern State governors, politicians and their leaders frown at using force to deal with Boko Haram. Just this week, the Sultan of Sokoto and President of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, a respected traditional and Islamic leader, said, “that Boko Haram sect was not responsible for the cases of bombings and violence in some states in the North, adding that the controversial Islamic banking is a fait accompli and that opponents of Islamic banking are ignorant.” The President of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, Dr. Datti Ahmed, on July 25, warned that, “Muslims would rather go to war than give up on the plan to introduce Islamic banking by the Central Bank of Nigeria. In his words, Muslims would defend the implementation of the policy with the last drop of their blood." The Sharia Council had threatened to go to war if the proposed banking system was not implemented.
Their insinuations and threat to go to war are cowardly and unfortunate. One of the beauties of democracy is the freedom for people to express their personal views through legitimate disagreement and debate without name calling, insults, personal attacks and insinuations which can sometimes be based on ignorance. In any civilized society, people can have constructive and participative discussion and debate without controversy, conflict, insults and innuendos. The members of Sharia Council have demonstrated that they lack wisdom, discernment, insight and courage. Their outburst and chest-thump rhetoric is sad and unfortunate. I am amazed that this elderly and perceived respected group is ready to fight with the last drop of their blood if Islamic banking is not allowed to operate in Nigeria. Their inciting comments, abusive words, and insults in a matter of such national importance can plunge the country into serious chaos and war. They are the ones that lack wisdom and foresight. It is really sad and unfortunate, that Nigeria is heading towards disintegration if caution is implied.
Let me start first with the issue of Boko-Haram. I have written extensively on this dangerous sect. Despite the insults, threat and attacks from Muslims around the world, I still maintain with due respect, that Boko-Haram is an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hezbollah, Mujahedeen, etc. Boko Haram has sponsors – organizations and politicians behind them and supporting their actions. If the Federal Government does not stop Boko-Haram, Nigeria risks the “intifada” against the nation of Israel going on today. Their ultimate aim is to overthrow Christianity and impose the “Rule of Allah”, and Islamize Nigeria and its economy.
Nigerians should brace up for the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism and Jihad, unless well meaning Nigerians and Southern leaders rise up to the occasion. This is the political and religious reality of the day. This is not the time to hide under the pretense of prayer asking God to answer by fire and sword of the Holy Spirit and the Southern leaders receiving the crumbs under the table, but it is the time for realistic national discourse about the unity of Nigeria as well as time for self-defense and protection. It is time for wise thinking and courageous leadership. The Southern politicians should stop the betrayal bite biting, gossiping and selling themselves short.
Apart from using violence and politics, the conspiracy to Islamize the nation’s economy has begun with the misguided Islamic banking program being pushed into the throat of Nigerians by Central bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. It is sad indeed that the so-called economists, finance exports and bank gurus from the South are not talking; rather it is the religious leaders – most of whom do not have expertise in the subject. I applaud the courageous stand-off of Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), who has adamantly opposed to the idea of Islamic banking stating that it needs to respect the rule of law and guidelines of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He also challenged the empty threat of the Sharia Council, when he said, “nobody or group had monopoly of violence.” By nature, all humans are violent. The flesh is not saved; it is the soul that is saved. So, Christians are capable of violence too, but Christians make the conscious effort to subdue the violent nature of the flesh. There is nothing good about the flesh of any human being. We all are capable of evil and wickedness.
By the way, the so-called Islamic non-interest banking has not been successful in most of the Middle East and Muslim countries where it has been in operation for years. Rather, non-interest Islamic banks have created higher inflations and poverty. In a nutshell, it is a detrimental economic policy in a secular and liberal thinking nation.
First, why does it have to be called Islamic banking? Second, why not simply call non-interest banking without strings attached? Nigeria is a secular state and every bank business in the world is out to make money – including union banks, cooperative banks, community banks, microfinance, mortgage banks and so forth. There is nothing particular about non-interest banking. The Islamic banking is a system of banking that is based purely on Islamic jurisprudence, law, rules and guidelines. Third, why now? Fourth, does Islamic banking meet the requirement of Central Bank of Nigeria and vision 2020? Fifty, is it part of President Jonathan’s transformational economic agenda which he unveiled this week? Sixth, why the rush, when the head of the president Jonathan economic team, Mrs. (Dr.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has not resumed duties? She has said, during her conformation exercise at the Senate that the proposed Islamic non-interest banking has to be looked into properly.
Seventh, will Islamic banks employ non Muslims? Eight, who will be their customers and in what way will it, operate business? Nine, who will be the shareholders, Will the Christians be allowed to become shareholders, stakeholder, Board of Directors, or Board of Trustees? Ten, will hands are cut off when someone writes a bad check or steals from the bank? These and many questions that needs to be asked and the intricacies sorted out before the rush to approve such national economic policy. I am disappointed with National Assembly as always, rushing to support or approve such economic program without questioning and understating the impact of such policies on a national scale. By the way, most of them in the House of Representatives cannot not even define economics, talk less understanding the intricacies of monetary economics and finance.
The Islamic non-interest banking must be stopped until serious questions are answered regarding how it is going to operate in a secular and liberalistic Nigeria. Nigeria is not a Moslem nation and members of Sharia Council must understand that. I do not see the rush to establish non interest Islamic banks in Nigeria. It is not one of the requirements for Millennium goal of 2020. President Jonathan’s economic team must review it seriously - examining its ramifications or usefulness to the nation’s economy before implementation.
It is because of these kinds of biased national polices, injustices and undemocratic national discourse that led the renewed fight, revival and formation of several groups (MEND, MASSOP, OPC, and others) calling for peaceful separation from Nigeria. Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, the leader of the revived movement for the actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is strong, courageous and passionate about the movement he leads despite threats, imprisonment and killings of his followers by the federal government. Alhaji Mujahedeen Dokubo Asari, the fearless and outspoken leader of the militant Ijaw youth, has persistently and passionately called for an independent state of Ijaw people and a peaceful separation of Niger Delta people from Nigeria. The military dictator Abacha was able to silence the people of Ogoni after the brutal killing of Saro Wiwa, a man of high intellectual ability. Mr. Ledum Mitee is the leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni people today and he is very active and fighting hard for his people. The Southeast indigenes of an oil rich peninsula, Bakassi, which was given to Cameroon by Major General Gowon for compensation of the civil war, are currently agitating for their own state – fighting the French, Cameroons and Nigerian government.
I have lived enough to see punitive economic measures used to impoverish and annihilate races and people groups. At the end of Nigeria-Biafra civil war in 1970, General Gowon came in to power as the head of the state. The oil prices were at all time high in 1970’s that General Gowon boasted to the international community that he doesn’t know what to do with the excess external reserves. Despite the abundant foreign reserves, his economic team advised him to introduce monetary policies that were purely punitive and spiteful treatment against the Igbo speaking people. Their British economic and monetary policies decimated the accumulated wealth, dehumanized and destroyed the entrepreneurial spirit of the peoples of the Eastern region.
After nearly nine years of non performance government of General Gown, the military peacefully ousted him, and then ushered in the short-lived administration of General Murtala Mohammed, which paved way for another military General in the name of Olusegun Obasanjo to head the government. Despite the excess external reserves and more than $25 billion oil revenue during his regime, General Obasanjo surprisingly introduced austerity measures and imprudent fiscal measures which had severe effects on millions of Nigerians. Poverty, pandemic diseases including images of kwashiorkor and other health hazards of the war era became rampant and afflicted many Nigerians especially the children and elderly.
General Obasanjo cowardly managed to finish his three-years, which ushered in the first democratic elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a school teacher in 1979. In October that year President Shagari and his administration quickly discarded the austerity measures instituted by outgoing Obasanjo’s regime. The inept government of Shehu Shagari with the monumental corruption among his cabinet led General Buhari to oust him in a bloodless palace coup. General Buhari re-introduced the stringent fiscal responsibility and instituted war against indiscipline and corruption in the country. However, his fiscal policies did not survive due to another palace coup that brought in yet another general, this time, the so-called Maradonna of Nigerian politics, the dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida.
General Babangida introduced perhaps the most brutal economic and monetary policy known as Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). Rather than achieve the economic benefits promised by General Babangida and his protégées, SAP created a comatose economy with wrenching problems - severe inflation, massive unemployment, declining foreign reserves, huge balance of payments and a valueless Naira. General Babangida celebrated corruption, enthroned the new super rich while millions of Nigerians suffered. Until today, General IBB and his cronies have not accounted for the 1990’s oil windfall and the billions that were made in oil revenues. In fact, the era of IBB led to the beginning of the moral decadence and purposeless society that we have today. The depth of corruption and degradation led to moral decline, ethical and spiritual decadence at all levels in our society.
The cancellation of 1992 democratic elections won by Chief M. K. O Abiola and the civil disobedience of that period led to another palace coup, bloodless that ushered in another visionless ruler by the name of General Sani Abacha. He ruled for five years and did not even understand what the nation’s economy was all about. He disbanded SAP programme and introduced a monetary policy that began the official pegging of the Naira against dollar and other industrialized currencies. During Abacha’s era, the official rate of Naira rose to nearly 200 Naira for a dollar. He destroyed the Naira and basically rubbished the Nigerian economy, which actually elevated greed, bribery, and corruption and enthroned most of the crooks, cronies and rapacious politicians we have today as leaders in our nation. The present government is still negotiating the billions that he stashed away in Swiss banks. The billions he looted out of the country are still being located around the world and can never be completely recovered despite the efforts of President Obasanjo and subsequent governments are making to repatriate those financial assets back to Nigeria. The late Abacha was perhaps the worst military ruler and dictator Nigeria has had.
Today, even with the return to so-called democratic government has been a dismal failure as well. In 1993, General IBB demonstrated such a disdain for democracy when he canceled what has been described as one of the fairest and freest election in the history of our nation, surprisingly won by his friend, a business mogul M. K. O Abiola. The political maneuvering during that time once again ushered in for the second time, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, this time as democratic president. On the advice of World Bank and IMF, he brought in a few technocrats like Mrs. (Dr.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Back executive and now president of World Bank, who quickly introduced economic reforms cleverly named NEEDS, SEEDS, and PRIVATISATIONS and BANKING reforms.
It was supposed to be a workable economic plan to improve the economy, rebuild dilapidated infrastructure and help poor Nigerian masses rebuild their lives. But it was not easy for the finance guru. She had to deal with the corrupt systems of the Nigerian establishment as well as corrupt politicians. There is no doubt that Nigerians are sometimes clever at sabotaging any economic policies that will hinder their illegal way of doing business and livelihood. However, I also believe that those economic acronyms were vicious strategies to deceive Nigerians and loot the national treasury at the expense of the poor masses. When President Obasanjo could no longer tolerate her, he unwisely deployed her to the foreign affairs ministry. Being a wise woman and an international asset, she quickly resigned herself from the corrupt government of Chief Obasanjo.
Immediately, the named NEEDS, SEEDS, the privatization and banking reform exercise off course ended up into the hands of a rapacious and powerful few. That was how the rift between president Obasanjo and his former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar started. Today, we read and see the scandalous stealing and fictitious looting by the CEO/Directors of those major privatization exercise and bank reforms.
The appointment of Mallam Sansui Lamido Sanusi to sanitize the banking sector was a welcome idea. Sanus’s banking reforms including the recapitalization reform exposed many bank CEOs who were involved in scandalous and un-collateral loans that were given to themselves by using fictitious names and non-existent companies. Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, one of the admirable Bank CEO’s, who received worldwide accolades, was exposed. However, the chief Imam of CBN, as he is know today has carried out many banking reforms that are beginning to be suspicious including appointments of new bank CEO’s favorable to the North, higher interest rates, limit cash withdrawal policy, and even the recent non-interest Islamic banking, which is creating much controversy. Is Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is becoming the most dangerous person in Nigeria, rather than Boko Haram sect or even the members of Sharia Council, who are ready for war. The conspiracy to Islamize the economy has begun.
By the way, cashless economic policy is not achieved by imposing the amount of cash that citizens should withdraw from the bank or carry on, but it is mostly achieved by pushing for businesses to demand and accept electronic payments rather than cash. The banks should introduce incentives to motivate customers to deposit their cash and induce the use of electronic means of payment as well as encourage businesses to issue electronic cards to their customers. Such electronic payments should be generally accepted as means of payment everywhere, provided it is safeguarded from forgery. The primary task of CBN and banks generally as economic pacesetter should be to encourage companies and businesses to compete, invest, and hire strong and well-educated workforce. The banks today should have a vision to use information technology to benefit consumers and stimulate investment, innovation, and create jobs and not the kind of crude and bias polices that Mallam Sanusi is advocating for.
The issue of Boko Haram, Islamic banking and other national discourse must be addressed quickly by President Jonathan and his cabinet – otherwise Nigeria risks total disorder, chaos and anarchy, which some folks intoxicated and obsessed with power desire. The radical Islamic sect and Sharia Council that want to go to war must be stopped now. These are ominous signs of anarchy and chaos. These are uncertain times that require strong and courageous leadership. In this country, we should be able to have constructive and participative discussion and debate without controversy, conflict, insults and innuendos. The ultimate responsibility of government is to protect the welfare of ordinary Nigerians. The government has responsibility to promote the welfare for all Nigerians. Government must remain the chief service provider. It cannot shirk from that responsibility.
President Jonathan has put together a strong cabinet of ministers, even though many perceive his cabinet to be old tycoons and with a few technocrats like Mrs. (Dr.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Professor Barth Nnaji. His cabinet may not rival that of former President Obasanjo, but I believe it is not necessarily the caliber of people that make up the cabinet as much as the zeal, passion, patriotism and the courage to lead and make right decisions. As a matter of fact, the ministers don’t really do the work; they only inspire vision, motivate their employees, make final decisions, do the talking and lead courageously.
President Jonathan should concentrate on leading and not pushing the law to change Single Six-Year Term for presidency and governors, which is unnecessary now. He should concentrate on providing leadership- fighting against insecurity, crime, violence, moral and social decadence, bribery and corruption, and fighting for national reconciliation, unity of Nigeria, job creation, healthcare for all Nigerians, and power and energy sufficiency to fuel the economy, clean water, and environment. What Nigerians are agitating for is a ‘Sovereign National Conference’ or some sort of ‘National Reconciliation’ and not pushing for Constitutional Amendment of single tenure for presidency and governors. The six-year single tenure seems to be concocted with hidden agenda and it is really uncalled for at this time.
Religious conflict is a huge leadership challenge and a major threat to the security, unity and national progress of Nigeria. Religious ignorance and intolerance breed violence and religious violence and war have decimated more lives in Nigeria in the last 40 years than hunger, disease, and accidents combined together. Northern Nigeria especially has been a battleground between Islam and Christianity. Since 1960, Nigeria has had some many incidents of religious extremism and Islamic fundamentalism in its attempt to Islamize the nation. Islamic fundamentalism, fanaticism, terrorism and jihads are a big threat and enormous challenge for our nations’ leaders. I call upon Nigerian government, political leaders, religious and civil leaders, Imams, clerics, Islamic scholars, moderate, modern and conservatives Muslims and business leaders, to work together in resolving the imminent threat to Nigeria’s unity. Nigerian religious leaders must work together to ensure that Christians, Moslems and paganisms become partners in this 21st century rather than enemies in solving the social, economic and political obstacles facing our nation. They must work together to hold our politicians and government leaders accountable to the promises and principles of fairness, justice and equity.
Christians, Muslims, Animists, and others must be involved in shaping public policies, laws and decisions that will promote unity and progress for all. The religious leaders must work together to educate their followers about tolerance and peaceful cohabitation? As human beings we do not grow in isolation rather we grow, develop and mature as people in the context of love, relationship and fellowship. And until we learn the cardinal principle of Islam and Christianity, which is forgivingness and reconciliation, we will never live in peace. Without genuine forgiveness and reconciliation, there cannot be unity and peace. Another cardinal truth of Christianity and Islam is love and without love, we cannot have genuine relationship. Relationship is the most vital aspect of life. Relationship is in fact the greatest human asset. Character, courage, love and relationship are the greatest assets and essence of every major faith in the world. Christians and Muslims must understand that they are siblings from the same great grand father – Abraham. Let’s surrender to the true heir and heritage of Abraham, our great ancestor.
Written by Chima Kingston Ekeke, Ph.D., is a theologian, IT Consultant and author of several books. He is the president of Leadership Wisdom Institute.