RE: Three Questions For Pastor Tunde Bakare; A Rejoinder By Solomon Apenja
Reacting to Pastor Tunde Bakare’s admonition that the chairman of the National Conference, The learned retired jurist, His Lordship L. Kutigi conducts the proceedings of the conference in a secular way devoid of religious colouring, (like starting with the ‘bismilahi rahman rahim’) Muktar Nadama posed the following three questions to the pastor:
1.Whether the pastor Tunde Bakare does not know that the faith of the learned Justice Kutigi (and that of every muslim) requires him to commence every lawful action with the recital, same freedom which is guaranteed by the constitution.
2. Whether the pastor Tunde Bakare seeks the chairman and Muslims at the conference to disobey Allah just because they participate at the conference?
3. Whether the pastor Tunde Bakare genuinely feigns ignorance of the relevance of same phrase, himself being a graduate of Islamic studies, versed in the Quran.
After reading the post put forth by a gentleman for whom I have the utmost respect and whose commitment to a just, secular Nigeria is without question, I thought a discussion between us would put my view in perspective before him.
Then there was the news that the pastor was accused of islamophobia and a myriad of complaints by highly placed Nigerians that Muslims were being marginalised by the conference. That gave impetus to my desire to pen my opinion, which is in fact not reflective of what answers the pastor would give in his own behalf. These are just the thoughts of a Nigerian who sees himself as not swayed by any biases.
- Whether the pastor Tunde Bakare does not know that the faith of the learned Justice Kutigi (and that of every muslim) requires him to commence every lawful action with the recital, same freedom which is guaranteed by the constitution?
The right of every Nigerian to his religious ethos and precepts is indisputably guaranteed by the constitution. This fact however, does not have supersession over the secularity of the Nigerian state, which is also constitutionally guaranteed.
Above all things, the prime focus of the Nigerian constitution is the preservation of the state. The state stands above all. The state is more important than any one Nigerian or group of Nigerians. The Nigerian state bears more relevance than our individual, collective, several or cumulative rights as Nigerians. Nigerians will come and go but, Nigeria will live forever. The constitution has taken cognisance of this reality.
Every Muslim has the right to practice his faith, including to say whatever his religion mandates him say. In much same way, every Christian has the right to profess and propagate the gospel of Christ, including using every opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus. He might choose to do this by deciding to start every discussion at the conference with ‘in Jesus name’ or ‘praise the Lord somebody.’
Were both religions allowed unfettered freedom of practice at the conference, would not proceedings be turned into an unpleasant cacophony of unnecessary controversy over an issue very unimportant as religion?
To stem the madness likely to arise from the clash/conflict of religions, the Nation’s constitution stipulates that Nigeria shall be a secular state. This presupposes that, as much as is possible, religion should not be an issue in Nigeria. Religion may be a personal, private thing accruing to the citizen ONLY. It must never be part of official government activities.
The chairman of the conference, being Nigerian, has an inalienable, constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom to practice his religion. That is in his status and position as a Nigerian citizen. However, acting as the Chairman of the conference which is made up of Nigerians of other religious persuasions, he does not have that right. To allow him that right would mean to offend Pastor Tunde Bkare –and others like him- who neither professes his faith nor believes the chairman’s beliefs.
The conference is not a private event. It is an official state-sanctioned gathering of Nigerians to discuss the many problems bedevilling our country, one of the greatest being religion. If the chairman was allowed his ‘bismilahi’ and Pastor Tunde his ‘praise the Lord somebody’ would that not be unfair to the many of us who are pagans and practicing animists? Have we not been marginalised enough already? That, is the reason the constitution mandates secularism.
In any case, the Pastor’s challenge has given rise to one of the most innovative idea in Nigeria’s recent history. We had hitherto, already begun to see controversies surrounding why the prayer of a particular religion must always be said before that of the other whenever prayers are requested to start or end official activities.
The ‘O! God of Creation’ is neither Christian nor Muslim. It neither prays to the Christian God nor the Muslim God. It is a prayer to the Nigerian God at the end of which we all chorus ‘Amen.’ For that alone, I stand with Pastor Tunde Bakare.
- Whether the pastor Tunde Bakare seeks the chairman and Muslims at the conference to disobey Allah just because they participate at the conference?
Delegates to the conference are in attendance because they are Nigerians. They are not in Abuja because they are Christian or Muslim. The Twelve Million Naira they are each going to be paid for sitting and discussing for ninety days is going to be paid them by Nigeria, not Christianity’s God nor Islam’s Allah. Nigeria is paying them.
Delegates have a choice to either do what Nigeria has asked them to do for her, to discuss her and chart her a new course. They may wish to just vacate the conference if ever they feel that there is the likelihood of conflict between Nigeria and their God.
In Abuja, their master is Nigeria. If they were to choose another master other than Nigeria, having ‘chopped’ Nigeria’s Twelve Million Naira then, they will have been guilty of fraud. The good conscience and truth which is the hallmark of their religion would require that they be honourable and not do that. They certainly cannot serve two masters. God -the Christian and the Muslim ones- frown at such despicable conduct.
They each have a choice between Nigeria their country, and, their religion. The earliest they decided, the better for their souls, because, lairs, fraudsters, cheaters all go to heaven. Cheating, lying, defrauding in the name of God doesn’t help. Hell beckons all who come to the conference in Nigeria’s name and pander to religion or ethnicity.
This doesn’t arise a conflict between obeying one’s country to displease one’s God. All it seeks is to breed harmony between all peoples, which is itself, a loftier aim of religion than worship and doctrine. And if need be, between your country and your God, choose your country because in service to fellow country-men do you truly serve your God. The soul of man is personal, but his country is joint and collective. Selfishness would be tending one’s soul while destroying the life of others. In the end, even the soul is lost.
- Whether the pastor Tunde Bakare genuinely feigns ignorance of the relevance of same phrase, himself being a graduate of Islamic studies, versed in the Quran.
I am not in position to speak for Pastor Tunde Bakare on this last poser. He alone knows what he knows.
However, I may be in position to add that, it is not important what any religious doctrine says. The interest of our Nigeria should and must be the most important thing to us Nigerians.
Above our religion, our beliefs, our faith, our ethnicity and tribe we must commit to put Nigeria first.
Religion will take us to heaven, a heaven of which we aren’t sure. But love for Nigeria will build us a certain home here on earth, albeit temporarily.
We may go to heaven from being good Christians and Muslims, but it also matters whether we bequeath a good country to our children on earth while we go in pursuit of our heaven or jannah.
I hope it is one of those questions God asks at the gate to heaven: “HOW WELL DID YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR EARTHLY HOME NIGERIA TO DESERVE A SPACE HERE?”
The National Conference is our opportunity to reinvent Nigeria. Religion must not derail us. We cannot allow that.
Oga Muktar Nadama, I disagree with you, and vehemently so.
God bless Nigeria.
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