I read on The Nation Newspaper on Tuesday 12th March, 2013 that President Goodluck Jonathan pleaded with Governors of some states in the Northern Nigeria where Christians were not sponsored for the last Pilgrimage to Jerusalem to shun discrimination.
However, with due respect and humility, the President contradicted himself and misrepresented the true position of things in his statement that;
“The country is secular and all the tiers of government, federal, states and local government must be run secular to ensure that every citizen has equal right”
In the first place, it is important to correct the erroneous impression that Nigeria is a secular state. Nigeria does not have any feature that makes it secular in nature. A secular state means a Godless society; a society where no religion is recognized. See the decision of the House of Lords in the case of Bowman v. Secular Society (1917) A. C 406.
In Nigeria, judicial notice of the fact Islam, Christianity and Traditional religions are recognized must be taken without any reservation. There are many examples to show that Nigeria is not a secular state.
A conclusive example is the instant call by the President on those Northern states Governors to sponsor Christians for Holy trips to Jerusalem. So, if Nigeria is a secular state as wrongly claimed by the President in his comment above, why should he make such a religious call?
Secondly, it is interesting that Mr. President is making a lawful case for the Christian minorities in the Northern Nigeria, albeit under the erroneous reason that Nigeria is a secular state. Whereas, when Muslims tried to make a case for non-interest banking system in Nigeria, there were all sort of noise everywhere.
No one is accusing Mr. President of Christenizing Nigeria after making that statement. But when Sanusi Lamido Sanusi innocently and diligently introduced Islamic banking system to solve our economic problems, he was alleged of trying to Islamize Nigeria.
What kind of country is this where citizens are not allowed to practice their religions properly despite clear constitutional provisions that deal with freedom of religion and conscience?
When Ogbeni Raufu Aregbesola approved the use of hijab by students in schools in Osun State, he was alleged of trying to Islamize Osun State. But when he approved the learning of Ifa (Oracle consultation) in the schools, the hypocrites kept quiet.
Having clarified the fact that Nigeria is not a secular state as misrepresented by the President above, I’m personally not in support of sponsoring citizens on Holy Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia or Jerusalem with state funds.
My reason for this is that the pilgrimage is only compulsory upon those who have the means to go. I see no reason why such huge sum of money should be committed to non mandatory trips on yearly basis.
The activities of our governments at various levels in this regard shows high level of misplacement of priorities. If such funds go into power projects, education and roads projects, it would go a long way to provide us our immediate needs.
Of course, it is the prayer of almost every Muslim or Christian to go to Makkah and Jerusalem respectively, at least once in a lifetime. But, as a Muslim, I believe Hajj is a unique spiritual exercise that no matter how much you struggle, if you are not called or destined to go, you would never go. I pray God makes it easy for us. But we must note that it is not our priority.
Over the years, the politicians have used Hajj and Jerusalem pilgrimage to distract the attention of Nigerians from the main issues they are meant to tackle holistically. The issues of corruption, insecurity and unemployment are there for them to resolve.
In Nigeria, sponsorship of pilgrimage by governments are primarily based on political affiliations. And when they get to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem, they rain curses on our leaders for failing to make Nigeria look like Makkah, Madeenah and Jerusalem. Nothing stops them from building a country as well as United Arab Emirate, Qatar, Saudi Arabia etc. Is it not the same oil they have that God blessed us with? Nigeria is too rich to be poor.
If our governments provide qualitative leadership, majority of Nigerians would not suffer and we would all have opportunity to aspire to perform pilgrimage voluntarily without governments’ sponsorship. But our leaders know what they are doing. They want us to remain in abject poverty, so that they can continue to utilize our vulnerability to their own political advantages.
Finally, even if Christians or Muslims are to be sent on Pilgrimage with state funds, they should be qualified persons. The condition for qualification must be fair, plain and judicious.
Sponsorship should not be based on closeness to governments in power or on the ground of politics. All citizens must be given equal opportunities to serve God with state’s resources.