The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs was reported to have described the Bill for Ecclesiastical (Christian) Courts in Nigeria as an invitation to chaos. What do you think?
I am disappointed in that statement; whoever said that, have said something very disappointing. How can such a bill (Bill for Ecclesiastical Courts) be an invitation to chaos? We have had several bills sponsored by Muslims, have those bills led to chaos? Whoever made that statement, can he explain to us why and how the proposed bill can cause chaos in Nigeria? Muslims have initiated bills and Christians have tolerated them without making unnecessary criticisms. Whoever is thinking that there will be chaos if the proposed ecclesiastical courts become a reality should unleash the chaos. We are not new to chaos in the country. Nevertheless, I do not see how a harmless bill by a Christian should bring about chaos in Nigeria.
Some (Muslims) are always after chaos. I do not know why they like chaos. Their reaction to everything about Christians always results in chaos. It is just chaos, chaos, and chaos. Is it that they want Christians to remain quiet in the face of flagrant marginalisation? Do they want Christians to sit and keep calm while they are being trampled upon (by Muslims)?
Some people have asked, ‘What is the value of the proposed ecclesiastical courts to Christians?’
What value has Shariah (courts) been to Muslims? I do not understand why people always support Muslims when there is an issue between Islam and Christianity. We are all Nigerians. We have no other country but Nigeria. Why should another (religious) group be favoured over the other? A lot of things happen in this country that Christians tolerate. They should give us a break. Everyone, irrespective of their religion, has a right to live peacefully in the country and freely practise his religion. Regrettably, those rights are guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution but in the North, Christians are not allowed to practise their religion freely.
Is the Christian Association of Nigeria in support of the proposed bill to establish ecclesiastical courts across the country?
What is the issue about the bill? When the Muslims brought their own bill (Sharia law), did anybody oppose it? Now, a Christian brought a bill before the House of Representatives and some Muslims are already kicking against it. Why? Why are they kicking against the bill? Christians are not reacting negatively against this same bill which is likely to affect them more than any other person. The sponsor of the bill is a Christian. I do not want to go into details of the bill. Christians did not deny Muslims to pursue their own cause (establishing Sharia courts); they should not deny us the opportunity to pursue our own cause. It is none of their business. They have their Shariah (laws and courts) they have been pursuing. Why are they insisting on making sure that our voices are not heard?
Some have claimed that the proposed bill is an attempt to further Christianise Nigeria. What do you think?
What examples do they have to prove that? When we talk, we give examples. We can cite the example of how Shariah is being operated in the North. The world is a witness to how they (Muslims) are kidnapping our daughters, forcibly converting them to Muslims, and forcibly marrying them off. We are disregarded and treated with contempt. They kidnap and forcibly marry our daughters – is that the way to get married? If their religious dictate allows that, our own religion does not allow us to do that. It is ungodly and inhuman to force anyone to convert to another religion. We have continued to tolerate them. They should not continue to push us; the direction in which they are pushing is not good at all. What is the complaint about public holidays all about? Who is stopping them from having additional days to their public holidays? Things were not always like it is now. There are selfish people who are pushing forward an ideology that can only lead to a situation where there will no longer be a united Nigeria. Are they not ashamed to be saying these things?
They should not make the issue of holidays a religious issue; let them talk to the government. I do not understand why they should make a mountain out of a molehill. This is not a religious issue at all. They are just making a noise. All they are intent on doing is to create a religious crisis and we will not help them to achieve that – before you know it, they will start burning churches and maiming people. I know there are good Muslims out there; so I want to be very careful. It is not my intention to make everybody (Muslims) look bad. If Friday is made a work-free day, what happens? The heavens will not come down. The Sunday we have is our inheritance.
What is the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council doing to douse the religious tension between Muslims and Christians?
That question should be directed to the co-chairman of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, who is also the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Saad. NIREC is being co-chaired by the Sultan and the Catholic. They should be able to answer that question. In terms of religion, my fear is that peace is gradually running away from us. A lot of things happening in the country today are so confusing. Christians are being marginalised like never before. There is no question about that. If you look at national appointments in the country you will be convinced that Christians are being marginalised. If Christians are favoured as much as Muslims are today, you can be sure the country will be in flames. Muslims tend to claim superiority in every aspect of our national life. But I can tell you that it is just a matter of time when things will change.
For Christians in the North, are the proposed Christian courts the priority at the moment?
We have nobody to help us. Anything we need, we do not have anybody, anywhere – government and individual – who is ready to listen to us. But, let me be very clear: whatever law is made or proposed to protect the interests of Christians who are usually marginalised is a welcome development.
People have been saying the Christian Association of Nigeria is sponsoring the bill. No. The fact that a fellow Christian sponsored the bill that is fighting for the protection of Christians even though we do not know what the bill says, we are in support of him. But to talk about excitement without knowing exactly what is in the bill is nothing. The truth is that I do not see anything that can excite Nigerian Christians for now; everything is gloomy.
What is your reaction to those who think establishing Christian courts in the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory is a stupid idea?
We have tolerated them enough. People should choose their words wisely. The ecclesiastical courts have nothing to do with them. They should make room for peace. Fulani herdsmen have been maiming and killing our people. When we cry out, what we hear is that those herdsmen are foreigners. We are left with no one to cry to. All we can do right now is to cry out to our God. If those people are foreigners and are allowed to carry AK-47 rifles and kill people who are citizens of the country, what does that tell you about those in charge of this country? I forgive whoever thinks the proposed bill to have Christian courts established across the country is a stupid idea.
Some feel it is curious that CAN was not carried along before the bill was presented to the House of Representatives. What do you think?
What is CAN? CAN is the Christian Association of Nigeria. Once you are a Christian, you are part of CAN. Therefore, for a Christian to stand up and present that bill before the House of Representatives he is representing Christians. On the issue of consultation, that is an in-house issue we are handling.
Why didn’t they stop the implementation of Shariah? Why are they trying to force Shariah on people who are not Muslims? If they want to stop the ecclesiastical courts, then they should let the Shariah laws and courts be abolished.