The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) – which comprises retired generals and Christian elders – says a jihad has been launched in Nigeria in a bid to eradicate democracy and supplant the nation’s constitution. This, they say, is the real problem with Nigeria.
The NCEF is not just a wishy-washy group. Its last meeting, where it raised fears about the imposition of sharia ideology in Nigeria, was attended by eminent Nigerians such as Solomon Asemota (SAN), Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (retd.), Gen. Zamani Lekwot (retd.), Moses Ihonde, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), Shyngle Wigwe and Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
Fundamentally, jihadists see violent struggles or wars as necessary in order to defend their ideology. Modern jihadist movements, which emerged in the late 70s, led to the formation of various terror groups in the world.
The NCEF sees the activities of Fulani herdmen and Boko haram as a form of violent jihadism. And for other crisis in Nigeria, the group argues that the conflict between sharia ideology and national ideology has been responsible for the crisis unfolding in the country.
However, many scholars have argued that the concept of jihad has been bastardized and that it is extremely different from the jihad – ‘holy war’ — led by Usman Dan Fodio in 1804 in northern Nigeria, which led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate – a caliphate that was able to unite northern Nigeria.
The unification of northern Nigeria by the Sokoto Caliphate, the north’s common religion and its emirate system helped the British, during colonial rule, in the administration of northern Nigeria.
In spite of this, religion did not become a burning issue in Nigeria’s national politics.
But things changed in 1986, when Nigeria secretly decided to upgrade its membership in the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) from an observer to a substantive member. This opened the floodgate of suspicion between Christians and Muslims. And this hasn’t waned.
The current debate on the merging of Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Religious Studies in Nigeria’s school curriculum is an offshoot of the distrust between the major religions. And, of course, the NCEF did not forget to mention this issue.
Religious conflicts – not only in Nigeria – have one common narrative: the citing of attempted domination of one group over the other and, thus, groups use this fear to whip up religious and ethnic sentiments which could lead to violence. This domination narrative could take political, economic or social undertones.
Sadly, the NCEF seemed to have trivialized some of the issues and avoided undertaking a root cause analysis. The NCEF insisted that if grazing reserves must be given to Fulani herdsmen, it must be within the Sambisa forest. What stops these violent herdsmen from using the Sambisa forest the way Boko Haram used it?
However, the group rightly observed that the presidency seemed to be at war with itself and, of course, with the national assembly. And this is where the problem is.
Nigeria should come up with political solutions to solve its religious and ethnic conflicts. The government should lead by institutionalizing a national ideology – one devoid of religious interference.