Part 2: Interview with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai on Sovereign National Conference and Other Matters


 

The is  the second part of the interview with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, with focus on calls for a National Conference and Sharia Law. As with the first part of the interview, this was originally posted on Nigeria Village Square website HERE. Enjoy!!

 

Now What Podcasts : The NOW WHAT podcasts Series are initiated by a desire to chart a way forward for Nigeria following the January 2012 Occupy protests, Boko Haram and other security challenges and the seeming slide to anarchy in Nigeria. Each week, members of the NVS forum will exchange ideas in a round-table and will also invite high profile guests to offer ideas

On Saturday February 25, 2012, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was our guest. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai spoke on Boko Haram, Sovereign National Conference, Security, and so much more in a very frank manner.

The following is transcript of the second part of the interview, with focus on National Conference and Sharia.


Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Part 2)


SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE

Anchor: Thank you Sir. The next series of questions will be taken on by Ajibola Robinson and they will be on Sovereign National Conference and other general questions. Mr. Robinson…

NVS: I’ll like to start off with a few questions about the National Conference. You’ll notice I started off removing the word Sovereign from the statement. With that said, let me go on to the first question which is: It appears a large groups of Nigerians have become increasingly frustrated with the current state of affairs in Nigeria. As an example, yesterday, even the 19 Northern governors called for a review of the revenue allocation formula to states. A number of Nigerians both home and abroad believe thatthese are legitimate issues to be discussed in a wider forum, at the national level and in a discussion that involves all Nigerian nationalities.

We are at a point where we should sit down as a nation and have some kind of dialogue. This wider discussion will allow all stakeholders to bring their various grievances to the table. Issues like State police, revenue allocation, resource control, state agitation, and even as yu mentioned earlier, states that want to have Sharia law. What are your views on this? And would you be willing to take part in a process to discuss these issues?

El-Rufai: I support the national conference. I think that any opportunity we have to sit and discuss the terms of our federation is a welcome step. I have issues with “sovereign” and I’m happy you didn’t even mention the word because I think its impossible when you have a sitting Government that is elected no matter how flawed the elections are to have a sovereign National Conference.

Yes we should have a National Conference, yes we should agree on who should represent various parts of Nigeria to that conference. And I think we should discuss everything, nothing should be pulled off the table. I support that. As to whether I’ll be part of it? It depends on how the membership of those that will attend the conference is determined.

If the people of Kaduna or the FCT where I live elect me to represent them, or select me or in whatever way, I’ll be happy to be part of it. That is not an issue at all, I think there many issues for discussion in the Nigerian federation, and we should talk about them and negotiate them.

 

NATIONAL SUMMIT GROUP

NVS: In line with the above, I’m sure you’re aware there is a National Summit Group that had their first meeting. Dr. Reuben Abati was here 2 weeks ago and he said government is looking to engage in dialogue with the National summit group. Are you a member of this group? And when can the group be ready for a real national discussion and on what key action points?

El-Rufai: No I’m not part of any National Summit group. The National Summit group, I think is something that’s being promoted by Tony Uranta who is a Jonathan ally. I was invited and did not attend because I will not attend any summit that the government has a hand in putting together because I don’t trust this government. I don’t trust the agenda of this government and I will not be part of anything that they have a hand in putting together. So I didn’t participate, and in fact I think that the whole thing was a choreographed arrangement to lead to a certain conclusion. What the conclusion is, we are waiting because we know there is an agenda somewhere.

 

NVS: That is an interesting point, but it appears you support the wider national conference, but just not the summit group…

El-Rufai: It is, it is. In fact at that summit, a professor, I can’t remember her name, asked the question- ‘who is paying for this? 3 nights in the Sheraton, this big hall, who is paying?’ and Chukwuemeka Ezeife, one of the organizers of the summit seized the microphone and said ‘I will talk to you off camera’ and to me that smells of government sponsorship. And the fact that those that are sitting there, if you look at their faces you’ll know that they don’t have the money to sponsor this kind of thing clearly proves it. I support a wider conference, that is not being engineered and sponsored or directed by the government.

I think that we must find a way for every part of Nigeria to come together to discuss about these issues and agree on them, but not when the Jonathan administration is the hand behind it. I would not be part of it, I would not be part of it.

 

DOCTRINE OF SETTLED ISSUES

NVS: In an interview, the ex-President mentioned the “Doctrine of Settled Issues” Just like IBB today, Obasanjo in the past also informed the National Conference that discussions on the unity of Nigeria was a no go area, a settled issue as Nigeria was to remain a singular united country under all circumstances.

Recent reports from for twitter account, indicate you support a return to a pre-1966 Nigeria set up, with strong regions and a weaker center. Can you clarify the validity of this statement and if true, how will a 2012 and beyond Nigeria look like based on your pre-1966 ideas and more importantly how do you suggest we go about the process to restructure Nigeria?

El-Rufai: Well, look, both General Babangida and General Obasanjo were people that fought to keep Nigeria one, they were at the Civil War. Babangida took a bullet to maintain Nigerian unity. So you can understand his position, and I believe that Nigeria is better off together as one country, because the bigger we are the better, and I think our unity in diversity is better for all of us.

But that’s my point of view. I’ll prefer to see one Nigeria, I’ll hate to need a visa to visit Obi Ezekwesili or Dele Olojede or Ighodalo. These are my friends that are not from my part of the country but I want to assure you that if people want to put on the table the breakup of Nigeria, then it would be a legitimate topic. There’s nothing that cannot be discussed because there is no part of Nigeria that cannot survive on its own. So nobody should threaten the other. We must remain together if it is beneficial to all of us.

The situation where some people look at me because I’m from the north and say I’m a parasite is unacceptable, I’ll rather live with my poverty and dignity than to be insulted every day. So, those that are threatening to break up Nigeria should know that there are the Babangidas and Obasanjos of this world that are ready to take up arm to keep Nigeria one. But there are people like us that are willing to discuss it, so I do not fully agree with the Babangida’s doctrine of settled issues. That is his generation – he is a General and he had his reasons, and we all have our reasons for taking one belief or another.

Now, I have a preference for the pre-1966 Nigeria because we had strong regions, a fairly well functioning central government that was not too strong, and it worked. It engendered regional competition; it made all the regions of the country to develop their own internal resources. It had very little room for the kind of laid-back; wait-every-month-for-the-oil-money-to-flow. I think it worked better for Nigeria, it worked better for the North, for the West, the East and for the Midwest. How do we get there? I don’t know

The matter is we have 36 states in the federation with governors, with legislators and with Local Government chairmen, and you know what? They call the reins of power, they will not easily allow Nigeria to go back to the pre-1966 arrangement. But if I’m to have my wish we should be talking about Nigeria along those lines because I think that arrangement worked. Now we may need to tweak it and adjust it to take into account that we are in the 21st century and many things have passed under the bridge since then, but I think it worked, and I think if we put our heads together and think about a way, I’m sure we’ll find a way to negotiate and get to that end point. Do I have a road map? No, I don’t have.

 

SHARIA AND MINORITY RIGHTS

NVS: I think quite a number of people will appreciate that response. It cannot be of course argued that Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim and also it cannot be of course argued that the Nigerian constitution recognizes the practice of Sharia law. Hence one can see why those states would want to be ruled by Sharia law.

What is not apparent is that a number of people will take issue with your statement the rights of the minority Northern Christian people, like the huge populations of parts of Kebbi State, Southern Zaria et al are being respected as well as the rights of the non-Muslim Southerners by also not being subjected to Sharia law. Do you have some comments on this? As this is a major complaint of those people within Northern Nigeria.

El-Rufai: Look, listen, I am from Kaduna state, and we have Christian minority in my state, and we had Sharia under Governor Madaki. Sharia does not apply to non-Muslims, as it is all over. There is nowhere, I challenge you to bring out the case of any non-Muslim brought to Sharia court to settle a dispute or to subject him to the criminal law, it’s not true. There isn’t one case, not one, people just say these things without looking at the facts…

We know the case of Amina Lawal, we know the case of Fatima the woman that was convicted for adultery which was quashed at the Court of Appeal. So, even for the Muslims that appealed (their cases) ultimately Sharia law didn’t apply to them. But there is not one single case, and I challenge anyone in your forum and in the Village Square, to produce a situation in which a Christian was brought before a Sharia court and tried under Sharia law, it doesn’t happen.

 

NVS: ……I lived in Samaru we have the sharia court of law near the market. So I know Sharia has always been there, but it just looked like, with the advent of civilian government it took a different dimension, it became like the law of the land.

El-Rufai: No no no no, let me explain Ajibola. What we have in the Northern states from time is the Penal Code. The Penal Code… of Northern Nigeria is based on Sharia. It was brought from Pakistan and Sudan, and modified and enacted for Nigeria. That’s what we have, the Penal Code that apply to all the northern states.

But the penal code is not strict Sharia, it’s a mix of customary law, a bit of Sharia and the common law. But you have Sharia court and Area court, and so on and so forth.

Sharia court then deals with only personal Islamic law- marriage, inheritance, divorce and so on and so forth. That was the scope of Sharia court then. What happened in the first Obasanjo term was, starting with Zamfara state and then across 11 northern state, the governors decided to expand the scope of Sharia law to include the criminal law, so when you steal a goat instead of going to prison for 3 months as it obtained in the penal code for instance, they cut off your hand. That is the only addition. And in all these laws, in all the Northern states that I know adopting Sharia, there were clear caveat that this does not apply to non-Muslims. The Penal code is the one that still applies to non-Muslims, and you have in many states in the North like Benue state, certain aspects of even the Penal code like the aspect relating to adultery, are not applicable.

So the penal code is a very flexible form of legal system, which I think, as a Muslim, I think have gone far enough to take care most aspect of Sharia as they relate to our personal lives as Muslims. But those governors crossed the line and went into criminal law, and that’s what this is all about. But like I said, even when they did cross the line and many of us disagree with them – even then, it did not apply to non-Muslims.

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15 thoughts on “Part 2: Interview with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai on Sovereign National Conference and Other Matters

  1. Many members of the Northern elite are in denial over the impact of the introduction of Sharia criminal code on the non-Muslim population. El-Rufai belongs to that class.

    Theoretically, Sharia does not apply to Christians, but what does Sharia have to say about a Muslim converting to Christianity? What kind of atmospherics does Sharia create in a religiously and ethnically diverse state like Kaduna? We are all witnesses to what happened in Kaduna, where a serving governor (Makarfi) was derisively called “Pastor John” for rightly seeing the difficulties inherent in implementing a more aggressive form of Sharia.

    We all know how Sharia contributed to the atmosphere of tension and violence in Kaduna State.

    Then he glosses over Amina Lawal as if it did not take the concerted effort of NGOs at home and abroad and pressure from foreign countries to influence the outcomes from the Sharia courts. Several contestants from Miss World even pulled out on account of that case. The Amina Lawal case was even discussed on Oprah! She was offered asylum by Brazil and Italy.

    What about Bello Jangedi whose hand was cut off? What image does the North want to show to the wider World? No wonder investors are fleeing the North in droves.

    The wider point is that the North is not managing diversity well. If you want to understand how religious and ethnic diversity should be managed, take a trip to South-Western Nigeria. If you want to understand how the introduction of Sharia and asserting your “Islamic identity” in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state can lead to permanent division and antagonism – take a trip to Sudan.

    A word is enough for the wise.

  2. You have to really research deep to understand the context of shariah law before you passed your comments opposing what he says, after all in Nigeria’s constitution, there is faith in Man’s ability to make rational decision.I f he does, the teachings of the faith he decides to follow have to be followed the way it should.Any penalty that comes after violating the rule should not be seen as a bad act. Think twice.

    • My point is not about the rightness or wrongness of Sharia, it is about the practical difficulties in implementing it. Ahmadu Bello rightly saw this and stayed clear from the sorts of controversies much less politically sophisticated leaders seem to generate on a daily basis.

      Whether you like it or not, Christians are also an integral part of both the North and Nigeria (whether they are a majority or a minority is irrelevant). If we are going inject an extra dose of religion into our legal systems, we need to weigh the consequences very carefully.

      Let me also remind you that there is also a lot of scholarship about the “Christian state” (if in doubt read “The City of God” by St. Augustine). Wisely, Christians have chosen not to emphasise it.

      This is why my view is that the question of Sharia needs to be handled with extreme care. It is not enough to say “it is okay by me” and then assume that all is well. Like Bishop Onaiyekan said, we need to discuss this issue once again as a nation.

  3. Really, I am a Muslim from southwest Nigeria. one would only be a HYPOCRITICAL muslim if one opposes an establishment of SHARIA in any given society and its strict enforcement of observance to such divine law. However, looking at the nature of Pluralistic Nigerian society and the supreme SECULAR legal system (which frustrates all sharia bound judgements of the states via appeal in the federal…), we would only be deceiving ourselves as Muslims to think Sharia would work (unless we are going to be operating its caricature version as it is inherent in Northern Nigeria where Political big thieves and Big prostitutes are spared of the Rod of Sharia and small thieves and poor adulteresses/adulterer are punished with cities/towns’ outskirts full of outlawed ALCOHOLISM of the highest order, making Nigeria Brewries to record more sales in the north than southern Nigeria). Hence, if we are not going to end up as unconscious hypocritical muslims, it is better we put into consideration the religeouis interests of other non-muslim Nigerians. This was what was considered in Lagos state (which has over 80% Muslim house of assembly members with muslim governor and over 80% muslim population) when some devoted muslims tried to pressurize the governemnt of Lagos in year 2000 to introduce sharia .

  4. Really, I am a Muslim from southwest Nigeria. one would only be a HYPOCRITICAL muslim if one opposes an establishment of SHARIA in any given society and its strict enforcement of observance to such divine law. However, looking at the nature of Pluralistic Nigerian society and the supreme SECULAR legal system (which frustrates all sharia bound judgements of the states via appeal in the federal…), we would only be deceiving ourselves as Muslims to think Sharia would work (unless we are going to be operating its caricature version as it is inherent in Northern Nigeria where Political big thieves and Big prostitutes are spared of the Rod of Sharia and small thieves and poor adulteresses/adulterer are punished with cities/towns’ outskirts full of outlawed ALCOHOLISM of the highest order, making Nigeria Brewries to record more sales in the north than southern Nigeria). Hence, if we are not going to end up as unconscious hypocritical muslims, it is better we put into consideration the religeouis interests of other non-muslim Nigerians. This was what was considered in Lagos state (which has over 80% Muslim house of assembly members with muslim governor and over 80% indigenous muslim population) when some devoted muslims tried to pressurize the governemnt of Lagos in year 2000 to introduce sharia .

  5. Short and precised..never think dat d interview would end soon.unity in diversity is jst a mirage in 9ja politics especially durin these admstration of Gj were there is inequalities in dstribution of ntion wealth,insecurity and uncertainty dat kep ruinin our lives!shari’a jst as malam said wud b only aplicable to d muslim only and sovereignty belong to entire populaces,gvt drived there functions 4rm d constitution of state.

  6. Maduka,i tink u r ignorance of shari’a as well as theory of state.even d theory of divine origin and divine right of king noted ethtical standard and ethos of the soceity therefore shari’a is made to sweep al human sins on earth as wel as to create scruplous atmsphere to al citizen not as u tink dat is made to create tension because islam recgnse and respect odas ple religion.

  7. What we need in Nigeria from any conference is to create autonomous regions, people of similar identiy form thier own enclave and develop according to thier dictates. Nigeria (north and south) were amalgamated for two reasons; one is to retard the spread of Islam, secondly to make sure the country never developed, the record is there in the colonial office. If we really care about development, nigeria can confortably split in to 6 or 7 countries. There are many developed countries in Europe that have population of less than twenty million.I disagree with El Rufai that the bigger we are the better. Northeners are not Lazy or Parasites, it was the coming of the white that retards our development, we have constitution, courts, and admin establishment, when the white came he replace our Laws with another one. In islam, minorities are well protected, I remember during the period of second Caliphate Umar, he saw an old Jew who is weak and cannot earn a living, he told him when you were young you paid your taxes, therefore now it is our turn to pay back, the Caliphate instruted that the jew should be paid monthly pension. What is going in South West is blind tribalism, there is nothing like diversity in the South West, if u are yoruba u must support yoruba period, religions have NO place in the heart of 99 percent of yoruba, so nobody should give south west as an example of unity in diversity. In fact the term UNITY IN DIVERSITY has never work anywhere in the world and it will definetly not work in Nigeria. The ealier we stop deceiving ourselves the better, People like El Rufai and his counter part in the south like Wole Soyinkla are just Paper Tigers, they have no any contact with the masses on both sides of the Niger, they are simply the products of Neo Colonialism, and big beneficiaries of failed state.

    • If you actually believe the reason the amalgamation occurred was to retard the spread of Islam, you’ve got serious problems.

      Secondly, there is a wealth of empirical evidence to prove that your assertion that “in Islam, minorities are well protected” is patently false. Go and ask the Copts in Egypt or the Dinka tribesmen of South Sudan or the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Indonesia (they are not regarded at “true Muslims”) or Asia Bibi and the Christians of Pakistan or Chaldean Christians in Iraq.

      A few years ago we were treated to the unfortunate spectacle of an Afghan man being sentenced to death for committing “the crime” of converting to Christianity”. Attempts were made to label him as being “insane” to save Hamid Karzai the embarrassment. Eventually he was offered asylum by the Italian government.

      I am less interested in what Caliph Umar did more than 1,500 years ago. I am interested in the levels of intolerance exhibited by present day Muslims (both in Nigeria and abroad). Levels of intolerance that would make both Ahmadu Bello and Caliph Umar weep.

    • While i join you to disagree partially with Maduka that all is not as rosy as Maduka thinks in terms of Unity amongst the Yorubas, but it is so obvious you have joined the train of those Bigoted ignorant northerners who not only thinks until one is an HAUSA/FULANI one is not a MUSLIM, but also thinks the best place where ISLAM is practised in the world is Northern Nigeria. Thank God we have an Igbo (MADUKA) here who could testify to the apparent RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE in the southwest. Just because there are no situations where you see the Yoruba Muslims burning churches, or Christians burning mosques in southwest; or Yoruba Christians killing Yoruba Muslims in southwest; or Amadiyah muslims not being ostracized or molested in southwest by Sunni muslims/self-acclaimed genuine muslims in southwest; or Muslims can’t live under the same roof/house/building with Christians or JUST BECAUSE THERE HAS NEVER BEEN TIME WHERE YORUBA MUSLIMS JOIN IGNORANT/CALLOUS SELF-ACCLAIMED HAUSAS MUSLIMS IN THE NORTH TO MASSACRE CHRISTIANS OR BURN CHURCHES UNDER THE GUISE OF FIGHTING JIHAD…should not have warranted you to reach the conclusion that 99% of Yorubas do not have religion. Everyone reading your comment knows that you are really making mess of inherent facts about Southwest. Every objective Nigerian knows that the Reverse of what we do in southwest in terms of religious tolerance (READ QURAN 5:83, 60: 8 and read or google QURAN 22:39-40 to know the essense of JIHAD and responsibility of muslims to protect all places of worship including Churches, but excluding shrine) is what is obviously killing the north today where Muslims can’t stay in the same district with Christians talk less of Areas, streets, house, room e.t.c. Even the Arab expatriates testify to the indisputable fact that “though Hausas boast of higher number of dedicated Muslims than the Yorubas in Nigeria….but in terms of Valid and progressive Islamic Knowledge, the YORUBA ISLAMIC CLERICS ARE IN THE FOREFRONT IN NIGERIA. Hence, pls do not falsify religious situational reality of Southwest just because MUSLIMS WORSHIP PEACEFULLY IN A MOSQUE DIRECTLY BUILT OPPOSITE/BESIDE A CHURCH WHERE CHRISTIANS WORSHIP PEACEFULLY WITH FAITHFULS OF TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS STAYING IN THEIR SHRINES PEACEFULLY. AND THIS IS WHY LAGOS STATE ALONE IS NOT ONLY BOASTING OF HIGHEST NUMBER OF MOSQUES IN NIGERIA (even far more than Kano), but ALSO COULD BOAST OF HIGHEST NUMBER OF CHURCHES. This what is needed in the north to not only accept you people’s Arrogance of being the true observers of ethics of Islam, but also to obliterate many northern Christians recent articles flying around the internet to incite Southwestern Christians against Southwestern muslims.

  8. Sharia was successfully in operation in the north for a century before the Europeans arrived and systematically outlawed same, the question is why was there no protest and resentment from the minority pagans of the time, the simple answer is because it does not apply to them, the recent attituide from the minority christians of the north is fuelled from outside, every one knows northerners no matter their religion or tribe are tolerant people.

    • Abdul,

      1. This isn’t the nineteenth century, this is the twenty-first. The problem with people like you is that you cannot make up your minds as to whether to go back in the past or move forward with the future.

      2. There was a lot of protest and resentment to Dan Fodio’s Jihads from the “minority pagans” of that time. The resentment still lingers on today (go to Jos).

      3. On the contrary, the current push for “political Islam” which I suspect you adhere to is fuelled from outside (Saudi Arabia, Iran to be precise). Christians in the North and Middle Belt are merely reacting to the mix of Salafist theology and ethnic supremacy your types delight in rubbing in their faces.

  9. Iam actually proud of my role model nasiru el rufai. Continue telling them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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