Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, Secretary General NSCIA
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs held its 2013 National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on 27th Jumaadath Thaani 1434 (7th May, 2013), at the Jama’atu Nasril Islaam Conference Hall, Kaduna, and superintended by His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the NSCIA, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, mni., CFR.
My purpose today is not to report on the proceedings of this NEC meeting or give a summary of what happened. I will attempt to place myself in the position of a Muslim in Nigeria, seeing things from outside, and not as a delegate to the NEC meeting.
Before the 2013 NSCIA NEC meeting in Kaduna, I was inclined to think that NSCIA is nothing but a high-sounding umbrella body doing and signifying nothing; that it is not a match to its Christian counterpart, which, in spite of its internal strife and leadership tussle and the ireful, choleric disposition of its current president, CAN’s voice is loud and clear on all issues affecting Christians; but NSCIA is a redundant council, reacting only to issues when they occur, and never proactive; that its leadership does not know or note the efforts of various Islamic bodies in Da’wah; that NSCIA is silent on crimes committed by insurgents in the name of Islam; that this is a docile council, equal to a branch of the government of the day, that has a lot of resources which deplete rapidly devoid of accountability and proper auditing.
This Kaduna meeting taught me a lot of things to the extent that I was tempted to add New to the council’s appellation. I now know that the entire Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, through its various delegates, Islamic organisations and principal officers of the council, are the actual NSCIA. Our efforts in Da’wah, our radio/television programmes, our weekly columns on national dailies, our writings on internet blogs, and our Friday Khutbahs are all avenues of sanitising the Ummah on what we, as Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs do for the advancement of the Deen in Nigeria. There is no NSCIA without the Muslims. We are the NSCIA. Through these forums of Da’wah, as mentioned above, Muslims should dictate the affairs, and take ownership of the NSCIA by assisting the leadership with counsel on what to do concerning issues affecting us. If we say ‘sad things are happening to Muslims’ and prima facie, it is as if nothing is being done, though, Allah knows that the leadership is doing a whole lot, some apparent, some concealed, but, it is also, we, that should stop bickering, and tell the truth to our leaders and proffer solutions to what affects Islam and the Muslims as well as the nation where we reside and call our own.
NSCIA is the coordinating bodies of all Islamic associations and organisations. The meaning of this is that Muslims in Nigeria are the NSCIA; the two are inseparable. We fail when we allow it to fail. Under NSCIA we bring our myriad experiences to bear; what works for Ansarudeen in this area will be merged with how NASFAT handles similar issues elsewhere or how Muslim Consultative Forum deals with certain issues affecting Muslims, and these methods would serve NSCIA in other fronts. This is how it should be. We should put a stop to the habit of sitting down, doing nothing but accusing others of what we are guilty of. We have to make NSCIA what we want it to be.
I also understood that because of the goodwill and access to those in power of the leadership of NSCIA, it does not in any way make it a branch of the government or an organisation of the government. Yes, it a religious organisation, but it is still non-governmental, and as such it should have financial independence for it to be accorded the deference it deserves. We should not, therefore, wait for government largesse to fund the activities of our NSCIA. Let us have a budget of our annual activities and source for the money from us through levies on Muslims, our various organisations and any halaal venture that we may envision for the council.
All the above is doable given the style of leadership of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar mni., CFR. I was highly impressed with the way His Eminence conducted the proceedings of this Kaduna meeting. There was need to fill in some vacant positions namely: Deputy President General (South), Secretary General of NSCIA, Deputy Secretary General (North), Deputy Secretary General (South) and Treasurer. Most of us were expecting voting in the manner obtained in democracies. I may not be wrong if I say that not all those sitting in the Jamaa’atu conference hall were delegates. Many could be there for the purpose of giving more votes to whomever they preferred for a post. But His Eminence reminded us that Islam has its aegis against political rancour and bitterness through the Electoral College (Majlisush Shuuraa). Thereafter, His Eminence commenced the process of transparent appointment of a 13 man Shuuraa council headed by the Shehu of Borno, to consider nominated members and recommend new officers for filling the vacant positions. This wise, proactive intervention by His Eminence, the Sultan, nipped in the bud any unforeseen difficult situation that might arise if other ways of election were used. The appointment of the Shuuraa members was so plain that everybody was free to nominate or reject the appointment of any member. And when the Majlisush Shuuraa finished and submitted its assignment, the meeting approved it unanimously. This was achieved through the leadership of His Eminence which is guided by Islamic ideals: no bullying, no coercion; everybody was respected, listened to and given the chance to say no to anything that they took exception to.
Despite his military background, His Eminence is not dictatorial. He said, ‘We only hear from you to be able to know what to say’; even though the intellect and knowledge that emanate from his words leave you in no doubt as to the discipline of the mind of the speaker, and fact that he has more information on the issue you labour to bring to his attention.
The closed-door meeting lasted for about 7 hours with His Eminence remaining in his seat for 6 hours at a stretch (before going for salaah), answering questions frankly without mincing words, commenting on issues raised by other participants, directing speakers to the microphone after picking the next to speak, and in some occasions, correcting misconceptions and setting the records straight. No weariness or sign of fatigue touched His Eminence, the Sultan. Would that I was a military-trained person! Very few of us endured sitting for that long without moving to stretch our legs or answer the call of nature.
Henceforth, we shall not be silent on political matters. It is high time we asked for our right, and not to wait for anybody to give it to us! Let us encourage and support the good among us to test their popularity at the polling booths. The evil ones should be exposed for what they are and be distanced from public office.