Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan said on Friday 22nd May, 2015 that he would be an advocate of peace in the country after leaving office. He was quoted as saying, “One thing that I have decided to do after leaving office, is to make sure that I will be talking to all faithful of all religions, Christians, Muslims and other religions the need for Nigerians to live in peace.”
While we agree that there is every need for peaceful coexistence, we of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) regard Mr. President’s latest declaration as immodest, belated, hypocritical and an absolute afterthought.
President Jonathan’s request to become an ambassador of peace is baffling. People do not ask for honour. It is given freely, willingly and spontaneously. Honour is earned through quality leadership, not demanded and snatched via rough tackles and arm-twisting. People who are truly honourable do not lobby for it. The quality of honour is like the golden fish. Honour has no place to hide. People will see it wherever it is even without showing itself. So why is our outgoing president parading himself as a peace ambassador?
A peace ambassador must be acceptable to all parties but the case of Jonathan is different. He is not acceptable as an ambassador to Nigerian Muslims. We cannot accept Jonathan as a go-between in matters affecting us and our Christian neighbours because his sins against us are so many that we have stopped counting. But we continued to respect him because of his exalted office. We believe that respect for the office of Mr. President is respect for our country, Nigeria.
MURIC complained when President Jonathan marginalized Muslims in ministerial and other appointments. We cried out when Jonathan turned his national conference to an overwhelmingly Christian conference. There are many more. Just recently and a few days to handing over to a new administration, Jonathan gave Nigerian Muslims a direct slap on the face when he selected members of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) without consulting Muslim leaders at all. How can Jonathan shave our heads in our absence? No good ambassador will do this.
It means that if he becomes ambassador of peace, at worst, he would just sit down in Otuoke, invite the Christians and take a decision without meeting the Muslims. Or, at best, he would ignore the recognized leadership of Nigerian Muslims and simply handpick the minority Muslims in his state to represent all the Muslims of Nigeria. Respect begets respect. Jonathan has forgotten that people below are watching those on top.
How can Jonathan be an ambassador of peace? His militant kinsmen threatened the rest of Nigeria with hell on earth if he lost the election and he kept quiet. His wife publicly insulted Northerners in particular and Nigerian Muslims in general calling us people who produce children without caring for them and the husband kept mute. Jonathan has no sense of justice. Neither can he call those under him to order. How can such a man be crowned ambassador of peace?
Except the few political jobbers in his government, Nigerian Muslims have no confidence in President Jonathan. How can we repose confidence in him when we could not get justice, fairness and equal rights under him? How can we accept him as an ambassador of peace and a fair umpire when he was not fair to us when he was in government. President Jonathan wants to be rewarded for what he did not work for. He wants to sow where he did not reap. We will not accept that.
Nigerian Muslims know political and religious leaders who deserve their respect and who they can accept as ambassadors of peace. We do not wish to be misunderstood. There are Christians among such leaders whom we respect. Even the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has produced leaders who are devoid of prejudice and hatred against Nigerian Muslims. ArchBishop John Onaiyekan, former CAN president is one of such leaders. Bishop Idowu Fearon of Kaduna Diocese is another. There are many others.
Jonathan’s claim to deserving ambassadorial honour between Christians and Muslims is false, baseless and therefore unacceptable. In fact, by marginalizing Muslims and maltreating them, Jonathan did more harm to Christians in Nigeria because those actions of malice against Muslims stoked up anti-Christian sentiments in the minds of the former.
Any leader who engages in favouritism for people of his own faith while ignoring those of another creed is setting the two groups against each other. MURIC therefore advises the President-Elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to pursue a policy of fairness and openness to all, to give unto Christians all rights and priviledges due to them without forgetting the demands and complaints of Muslims.
What Nigeria needs is not necessarily a Christian or a Muslim. We need a leader with an iron will, a leader to whom riches mean nothing, a leader who cares and feels for the jamaheer (masses), a leader who has zero tolerance for corruption and utmost respect for the rule of law.
We advise President Jonathan to stop building castles in the air and to face the reality on ground. He is not leaving office as a hero but as a leader who messed up the economy of his country, glorified corruption and divided Nigeria along religious and ethnic lines. How can such a man demand the exalted position of a peace ambassador?
Finally, we urge the international community to ignore Jonathan’s image-laundering efforts after his woeful performance in office. He is not acceptable to Nigerian Muslims as a peace ambassador. Rather, we regard him as one of the major causes of Nigeria’s woes, an unmitigated disaster in Nigeria’s search for quality leadership and the worst president Nigeria should never have had.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)