President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposal to meet tomorrow with a cross-section of Muslim leaders in the southwest at Ansarudeen Central Mosque, Ajao Surulere, Lagos State, has met a brick wall, with most of the religious figures indicating their reluctance to attend. A source close to Mr. Jonathan told SaharaReporters that, unless there was a miraculous change of heart, the meeting is unlikely to hold.
Our sources said former Minister of State for Defense, Musiliu Obanikoro, had arranged the meeting. Mr. Obanikoro now faces growing public opprobrium over his inglorious role in the rigging of last year’s governorship election in Ekiti State. The former minister is one of several politicians of the ruling PDP caught on tape as they ordered a top military officer, Brigadier A. Momoh, to harass members of the APC in Ekiti in a scheme designed to secure victory for Ayo Fayose, the candidate of the PDP. Mr. Fayose was declared the winner of the election.
In a telephone conference, the secretary general of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Ishaq Oloyede, lauded the decision of Muslim leaders not to participate in a meeting designed to polarize and create disunity among Muslims across the geographical divide.
Northern Muslim leaders, including emirs, had earlier opposed a meeting of all Muslim leaders with Mr. Jonathan. Their objection had scuttled an earlier meeting the president had proposed with the entire Muslim leaders in the country. Two major Muslim leaders in the southwest disclosed that a meeting between and Mr. Jonathan would be a betrayal of the general decision not to draw Muslim leaders in the country into partisan conflicts.
The Muslim leaders also remarked that Mr. Jonathan’s alleged gift of N7 billion to the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to encourage them to mobilize political support for the president’s re-election had left CAN in tatters. “It may take a long time before the wound inflicted on the umbrella organization for all Nigerian Christians is healed,” said one Muslim leader.
Another Muslim leader told SaharaReporters that it was shameless to go about distributing money that belongs to the masses to a few religious leaders. “We want the money to be used to better the lot of all Nigerians,” said the source, an Islamic cleric in Abeokuta.
One of the Muslim leaders also said it was difficult to trust Mr. Jonathan who had reneged on his promise to redress the marginalization of Muslims in the composition of last year’s national conference. “When we complained about it, Mr. President promised to redress it, but he went back on his words when CAN President, Ayo Oritsejafor, told him to ignore us.”
Some of the Muslim leaders stated that Mr. Jonathan had always ignored the pleas of Muslims for fairness and equity in appointments to top political appointments. “He never sent an invitation to us to meet with him before. Why is he now enthusiastic to meet Muslims [a] few weeks to the election,” one source asked.
SaharaReporters learned that the chief imam of Ansarudeen mosque, Abdurahman Ahmad, was given the assignment of telling Mr. Jonathan and his team that the southwest Muslim leaders were not enthusiastic about meeting him.