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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Nigeria's Cleric President



Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, recommended the inclusion of two new islamic books, written by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, into the curriculum of Federal Government Colleges throughout the country. He said that his action was necessitated by the declining moral and religious values in the country.
Nigerians elected Buhari as the president of a constitutionally secular country. He is not a cleric. If Buhari wants to be involved in religion, I suggest he looks into the use of public funds by the impoverished governments of the northern states of Nigeria to send pilgrims to Mecca. These are the same states whose governors are unable to pay the salaries of civil servants and teachers. Some southern states have also started sending pilgrims to Jerusalem.
Why should public funds be spent on anything religious when none of these northern states can boast of even a handful of standard primary and secondary schools, decent community healthcare centres and basic emergency and security services? While Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, is being ravaged by Boko Haram militants, and its economy grounded, the governor, I am quite certain is still able to send pilgrims to Mecca. Why spend state funds on anything religious at all? I do not know how long this scam has been going on, but I have never heard a voice raised, or read an article written against it. Who told Mr Buhari that our moral and religious values were declining and needed a boost? Was it one of his many electoral promises? Did he appoint an adviser on morality and religious matters? Does he intend to create a ministry for morality and religion? Nigeria has much more pressing problems for which he was hired; the religious leanings of Nigerians should be the least of his worries.
I put it to president Buhari that his war on corruption will not be complete if he refuses to see that the money budgeted for these pilgrimages is just another avenue to siphon state funds. These pilgrimages use chartered flights and as is usually the case in Nigeria, the aeroplanes will most definitely belong to some crony or political party loyalist, or even the governor of any of the states that pay for such pilgrimages. It is also plausible that they or their political allies, friends or relatives, would have some interest in the operating airline.
It is sad that Buhari, in whom Nigerians have invested so much faith, has seen it fit to dabble into religion. Former Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida, and Sani Abacha, both Generals, were involved in controversies surrounding Nigeria's membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC. Immediate past president Jonathan's shameless flirtations with various pastors, especially Ayo Oritsejafor was well known. While Abacha died in office, the other two have retired to ignominy.
Education in Nigeria is comatose and should, as a matter of urgency, have life breathed into it. Buhari should do well to steer clear of the tragic trajectory of being involved in religion while in office. He has so much on his plate and it would do him no good to add to it, the controversy of religion.