Filed in General by on May 16, 2012

Nigeria not a secular state
By Muhideen Adesokan
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

While managing recent political developments in Osun State, Governor Rauf Aregbesola misrepresented the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria by incorrectly asserting that “…Nigeria is a secular state…” It is of utmost importance to promptly refute his assertion, in view of the fact that the constitution is the ultimate legal document on which the underlying issues at hand will, if necessary, be resolved. It is then expected that the two sides to the current lively debate in Osun State will proceed on the basis of constitutional facts rather than Received Mythology.

Constitutionally, Nigeria is not a secular country. No part of the 1999 constitution declares Nigeria secular. It suffices to repeat Dr. Abdulateef Adegbite’s 12-year old challenge to proponents of the Secular Nigeria Myth to present exact statement(s) in the constitution supporting their position. As governor Aregbesola correctly noted, Nigeria is a multi-faith country in which a wide range of faiths thrive. In practical terms, the very highly significant role of faith in our national life can be attested to with numerous instances.

For example Sunday, a holy day for our Christian colonial masters, was retained as a work-free day after independence. In addition, General Yakubu Gowon’s Regime made Saturday an additional work free-day apparently in deference to a Supreme Court ruling issued at the behest of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Furthermore, the constitution declares our national motto as Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. It refers to God at the end of our National Pledge and the second stanza of our National Anthem. Judicial Calendars at state and federal levels are marked by activities that include specially dedicated Muslim and Christian faith activities.

Our presidents and governors conspicuously occupy front rows at Mosques or Churches as well as host feasts to mark religious festivals. President Olusegun Obasanjo even delivered sermons from the pulpit that were broadcast on the national television. None of these would be possible in a secular country. See for example France where Catholic Nuns in formal dress with visible crucifix or Muslim women in Hijab are banned from public buildings or transport.
Whose purpose does the ‘Secular Nigeria Myth’ serve? It appears the myth is only ever used by agents of Islamophobias, a bulwark against Islam/Muslim interests. Recall for example the protests against Nigeria joining the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in the 1980s.

This was notwithstanding the fact that neighbouring Cameroun under President Paul Biya was a member at the time and no forcible conversions of their non-Muslim population to Islam resulted. The noise raised in the 1980’s against the government’s support for Muslim pilgrimages to Makkah only subsided after a similar gesture was introduced for Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome. Recall also the dust raised when the constitution drafting conference under General Abdusalami Abubakar’s regime included in the draft constitution a provision placing Shariah as a source of Nigerian laws on an equal level with the Common Law.

Regarding the latter, secular mythologists conveniently forget that Common Law is itself derived by our Christian colonialists from the Biblical Law. More recently, the Secular Nigeria myth was used to relentlessly assault the introduction of non-interest banking by the Central Bank of Nigeria. To the credit of the Bank’s leadership, they held firm.
With the constitution review now fully in motion, people of faith across all faith groups need to get engaged with the process and seek the insertion of a declaration that Nigeria is a “…multi-faith and multi-ethnic country….”. They owe it a duty to their faiths and communities to ensure that secularism is NEVER inserted into the final document.
The two sides to the present debate in Osun state are wished a lively time in pursuing their arguments to the fullest extent within the context of constitutional reality as opposed to unfounded myths.

Adesokan writes in from Leicester, United Kingdom,


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