Let me start on this crucial note. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) – like other organisations, be they religious or non-religious – has the constitutional right to express its opinion on any government policy it disagrees with. However, it is my opinion that some allegations, such as the Christian body’s latest claim that the Federal Government’s Sukuk Islamic bond is an attempt to Islamise Nigeria, should not have been given any prominence by the media in the first instance.
In fact, when the controversial press release was sent to a media platform I belong to for publication; it gladdened my heart that non-Muslim journalists were the first to turn it down for its frivolous and baseless allegations.
Someone (name withheld) wrote: “Not here, please…! Kemi Adeosun (Nigeria’s Finance Minister) approved it and even celebrated it. Is she not a Christian? Please kill it (a term for preventing the publication of a story). It cannot fly. We are talking about reviving the economy, you are here talking about religion.”
Another journalist (name withheld) on the Whatsapp platform asked: “Will Sukuk make me a Muslim without my consent? The Christians should go and design a better financial product…and let’s make lives better.”
Unfortunately, the press release signed by Rev. (Dr) Musa Asake, the General Secretary of the Association found its way to the front cover of many Nigerian newspapers. They reported the story with different sensational headlines. The cover page of the September 20 edition of The Guardian reads: “CAN decries FG’s plan to introduce Islamic Finance”. The Punch followed with “Sukuk bond part of strategies to ISLAMISE Nigeria – CAN”, while Vanguard preferred to use “Sukuk is Unconstitutional – CAN” as her headline, among other online and mainstream media.
As at the time of compiling this report (today, Friday, September 22), few notable Muslim organisations have reacted to CAN’s allegations, but none was given the prominence accorded the controversial press release. Professor Lakin Akintola’s MURIC published a brilliant rejoinder, titled, “Opposition to Sukuk: CAN is Playing Dog in the Manger”. However, it was published by online media only, despite the fact that MURIC’s release has been in circulation since Wednesday September 20, a day after CAN’s venom was unleashed on the populace.
Sadly, a reliable source informed me that a leading Muslim organisation is planning to place an advertorial in some of the newspapers that popularized CAN’s provocative allegations, in order to protect the Sukuk investment scheme, which has no other aim than to help rejuvenate, redevelop and revitalize the nation’s ailing economy. And guess what? Newspaper advertorials don’t come free. A single advertorial page goes for 400 thousand naira or more. Yet, it may not even get a space on the front cover of many of such newspapers.
The Nigerian Muslim community experienced the same ugly scenario in the hands of CAN and their propagandist media during the Hijab ban saga of 2016 in Lagos and Osun States. Those indicted media facilitated a relentless and malicious attack of the respected attire (the Hijab) by unscrupulous elements on the pages of their newspapers, but denied Muslims the opportunity of rejoinders.
The Nation newspaper for instance published an editorial titled “The Curious Verdict” on June 16, 2016 to rubbish Justice Jide Falola’s judgment, which granted the right to wear the Hijab to willing Muslim female students in Osun schools. However, the newspaper denied the Muslims the opportunity of a rejoinder, until The Muslim Congress (TMC) paid for a full page advertorial to condemn The Nation’s biased editorial and The Guardian’s misguided article, titled “Unveiling the Hijab”, which was published on June 21, 2016.
True journalism is dying in Nigeria. If it were to be in the past (as we were taught in journalism school), CAN’s poorly researched press release would have been proclaimed DEAD ON ARRIVAL at the Editor’s desk. It is a piece of trash, a concoction which is based on selfish, poorly thought-out and primordial sentiments. And where is the place of trash? The waste bin, of course.
However, because of the bigotry of some Editors and reporters, as well as the hatred they harbour for Islam, the trash became a prominent “news item”, and was accorded ample prominence on the cover page of several newspapers by regular brown-envelope and bigoted propagandists in the Nigeria media. All these happened without considering the propriety of such reportage, and its effects on the Nigerian populace, who are yet to recover from the hostility generated by the Kanu-Biafra agitation.
Evidently, they are happy now. You know why? Their nefarious stories have garnered them the required traffic on their online news platforms. They thrive on sensational news. The adherents of the two religions (Islam and Christianity) are now throwing textual cudgels at each other on the social media, and those without religion have turned them to laughing stocks, saying: “If we do not kill religion in this country, religion will kill us.”
It is high time the Nigerian media desisted from spreading lies. They must stop being responsive and reactionary. Instead, they should start being responsible. They should stop heating up the already overheated polity. Poorly investigated stories bereft of sound logic and solid facts like this should not be given prominence in the public domain, particularly on national dailies.
Our country’s interests should always come first before profit. Allah warns us against spreading lies (in the media): “O you who believe! If a Faasiq (liar, evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done” (Q. 49: 6).
How would a country become Islamised for adopting a non-interest lease asset facility? The same Sukuk that has been adopted in several European countries, including Britain, France, Italy and Germany.
Are we really serious in this country? This is the same way CAN used the instrument of the media to condemn the introduction of the Islamic banking system in Nigeria, describing it as an attempt to Islamise Nigeria. Fortunately, many Christians, including the South East governors and several non-Muslim Nigerians are now beneficiaries of the system, yet the last time I checked, they are still Christians.
One of the journalists (a non-Muslim) on the platform summed up the problem with Nigerian journalists in the 21st Century as thus: “Most journalists don’t read and do research. Go and find out how Sukuk loans work before you support those clowns called CAN. It is far better than any bank loan in Nigeria. I mean the terms and conditions.”
Interestingly, a Muslim journalist concluded at the end of the discussion: “Thank God that you are the one talking about the issue here (on the platform). If it had been a Muslim brother or sister, I believe bashing would have come from left, right and centre. I hope our people will understand the principles of Islamic banking and its benefits”.
So, what are you waiting for? Do you understand what Sukuk is all about? You should make your findings too, before you start condemning a scheme you have no knowledge of. On this note, I urge you all to read the recent write-up of Elder Yinka Salaam, titled “CAN, Sukuk and Alleged Islamisation Plot” Google it. It is all over the place.
I appreciate all the Muslim organisations and individuals who have always shown the requisite concern about the affairs of Muslims in Nigeria. Keep working, and avoid the distractions of the distractors in your midst. May Allah strengthen you all.
I also call on Muslim professional bodies to continue to educate the general public on the significance of the Sukuk scheme. Write as many rejoinders as possible, and send them to the media (hoping that they will give you the needed space without demanding for “brown envelope”). You can also use the social media to correct the erroneous and malicious statements of CAN and its allies. May Allah further proliferate his Deen among mankind, and grant us good rewards from Him (Amin).
_ – Rasheed Abubakar is a journalist and the author of “Hijab and the Nigerian Press”
Credit : Aledeh.com