And (remember) when the disbelievers plotted against you (O Muhammad SAW) to imprison you, or to kill you, or to get you out; they were plotting and Allah too was planning, and Allah is the Best of planners. (Qur’an 8:30)
… Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed, We have made plain to you the Ayat (proofs, verses) if you understand. (Qur’an 3:118)
The attention of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) has been drawn to the leaked telephone conversation between Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Fauith Church Worldwide, otherwise known as Winner’s Chapel, and Mr Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the last Presidential election. In the AI-verified audio, Mr Obi sought the help of Bishop Oyedepo to persuade Christians in the South West, Kogi and Kwara states to support him in the election he called a “religious war”! The audio clip has been confirmed as genuine by Mr Kenneth Okonkwo, spokesman for the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council.
It would be presumptuous to say we are surprised by the audio of these two leaders who millions of Nigerians see as role models. We only find it interesting, just like many well-meaning and right-thinking Nigerians, that in the mentality of some politico-religious leaders in this country, Muslims are enemies who are to be vanquished and wiped off the face of the earth as it is done to the enemy in a typical war situation. If not anything, the audio has clearly shown who they are and it is only those who are like them that would find the conversation ordinary. Mr Obi must have carefully chosen who to speak with regarding his ‘religious war’ strategy. Bishop Oyedepo is the most visible and flamboyant figurehead in the South-Western Nigeria Islamophobia circle, and one of the leading national figures in this sordid industry. He has relentlessly, in broad-brush, denounced Muslims and made prosperous claims about Islam while addressing his home base. His naked hatred for Islam, some of which are detailed in national dailies, makes him to mingle freely with politicians whose desperation for power have made them deployed divisive and Islamophobic languages and tactics. Throughout the leaked audio, notwithstanding Mr Obi’s clear call to crude ethnic and religious politics, he received glowing encouragement and promises of unfettered supports from Bishop Oyedepo.
Despite the gravity of the leaked audio, we are not surprised because the Noble Qur’an has actually told us of the hatred, bigotry and bellicosity of some who claim to be Christians. In not painting every Christian with the same brush, the Glorious Qur’an also says, “… You will certainly find the nearest in friendship to the faithful to be those who say, ‘We are Christians’. This is because there are priests and monks among them who are not given to arrogance” (Qur’an 5:82).
Just in the spirit of Allah’s irrefragable words, we still believe there are Christians who do not share the deep-rooted prejudice of these men and still consider Muslims as important allies, not enemies. To those Christians, we have nothing but our utmost respect and promise of cooperation. We know that polarising the country along ethnic and religious lines is an ill wind that blows no one no good, this is why in all our messages mobilizing Muslims for the elections, in consistency with our policy on non-partisanship, MPAC only urged Muslims to see their votes as a trust before Allah and vote based on their conscience for only leaders that they consider best fit for the offices.
It is unfortunate that while Muslims have remained committed to noble principles and democratic ideals for nation-building and peaceful-coexistence, some Christian leaders have always been fanning the embers of bigotry and intolerance. They have sowed the seeds of hatred in the hearts of their followers to the extent that they see Muslims as enemies and wish to exterminate them politically and physically. It appears that politics is just a smokescreen to these hardened Islamophobes to execute their invidious ethnic and religious agenda.
Besides, we are also not surprised by the Obi-Oyedepo audio because we Muslims have followed with keen interest the undisguised pronouncements of some actors in the public domain. First, the voluble Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah had earlier made Muslims to know that the Christian gang-up against the candidacy of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was not even because of the so-called Muslim-Muslim ticket but because of the President-elect’s Islamic religion. He was apparently asking the Muslims to unconditionally surrender their majority and become slaves to the minority, an aberration in all democratic norms.
Second, the strident calls for Christians “to take back their country” frenetically made during the electioneering campaigns to churches provided intelligence to the Muslims about the plot of some candidates. It became clear that the annihilation of Muslims in the North and the South through policies and projects financed by public resources shortly before and after independence was not by accident. But they plotted and Allah’s plan is different.
In any case, MPAC still appreciates these desperadoes for assisting Muslims to understand the hatred they had disguised in the past. Their religious mobilisation for an electoral war made Muslims who were not persuaded to participate in elections to appreciate that henceforth elections should not be taken for granted. A proportion of the Muslims in political slumber were woken up by the religious campaign of some Christian clerics whose naked hostility towards Islam is only matched by their ambition to dominate by any means.
If bitter religious gang-up could be made against a liberal Muslim with a pastor-wife like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, only God knows the extent of hatred haboured by these elements against observant Muslims in (politics) Nigeria. However, our solace lies in the fact that Nigeria belongs to all of us and that the barking of dogs does not stop the movement of the train. Muslims will continue to do their best to live above board, champion causes for national progress and unity, and not succumb to the antics of those who wish to burn Nigeria down if their goals are not achieved.
While Nigerian Muslims would not engage in the condemnation of the entire Nigerian Christians for the crimes of a gang of unscrupulous clerics and desperate politicians, we have taken important notes of the genuine positive comments of some Christians. The few Christian voices of reason should not be subsumed in the irrational outburst of the treacherous ones. We must not fall into their mistake of generalization and we should not allow their hate speech to affect our relationship with the real men of God, not politicians in cassocks.
While MPAC calls on Muslims to be conscious of their perilous environment, it urges them to remain prayerful, peaceful and truthful to Islamic principles in our dealings with other citizens and while discharging our civic duties and responsibilities. Following the Prophetic example, we must not pay back the apparent evil with evil because evil will not prosper. Also, Muslims should not allow the obvious evil to make them lose focus of Christians who have exemplified noble characters and remained faithful to the sublime teachings of Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him).
Once again, we are thankful to those whose unwarranted attacks and religious blackmail have made politically docile Muslims to be more politically conscious. If they toe the same line in future, they will certainly get the same results. Insha Allah.
May Almighty Allah grant us peace, stability and development in Nigeria.
Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC)