All praises and adoration are due to Allah, we testify that nothing deserves to be worshiped beside Him and we equally testify that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is messenger of Allah. We beseech His choicest blessings upon the noble soul of the prophet, his households, his companions and the generality of Muslim faithful until the day of Judgement.
Southsouth/Southeast Muslim Ummah is an interest group for all the Muslims from these zones in Nigeria. The political and economic deprivation of the Muslims from this part of Nigeria have become unbearable and so compelling, such that if nothing is done any very soon, situation might move from deprivation to religious cleansing something quite sinister.
This appeal is intended for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, as well as the entire Muslim Ummah of Nigeria, especially Muslims from Northern and Southwest Nigeria. It is an effort to spotlight the sufferings endured by the Muslim minority in the Southsouth and Southeast of Nigeria. It also tends to passionately secure their interventions’ in alleviating the sufferings in line with the Prophetic injunction:
من نفَّس عن مؤمن كربةً من كرب الدنيا، نفَّس الله عنه كربةً من كرب يوم القيامة،و من يسَّر على معسَّر يسَّر الله عليه في الدنيا والآخرة ، و من ستر مؤمناً ستره الله في الدنيا و الآخرة ، و الله في عون العبد ما كان العبد في عون أخيه.
This is loosely translated to mean:
“Whoever relieves a believer of one of the distresses of this World, Allah will relieve him of one of the distresses of the Day of Resurrection. And whoever makes things easy for someone in difficulty, Allah makes things easy for him in this world and the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the shortcomings) of a believer, Allah will cover him up in this world and the Hereafter, and Allah helps the servant as long as the servant is helping his brother.”
Islam has been existing in these regions for a long period of time. Islam first came to Igboland through traders in Nsukka Zone (Ibagwa, Enugu Ezike and Alor Agu) in the present day Enugu State in the 19th Century. This is exactly the same time Islam was also embraced by the indigenes of Auchi in the present-day Edo State. It is worthy of note that one of the biggest Islamic centres in Nigeria is located in Afikpo, Ebonyi State. Built in 1953, this centre has produced generations of Islamic scholars in Nigeria.
The first Central Mosque in Port Harcourt which exists till date was built in 1896. Before the end of the 20th century, several nooks and crannies in the present Southsouth and Southeast regions already had handfuls of Muslims converts. As it stands today, there is virtually no part of the two regions that have not got its fair share of teeming Muslim converts.
Some of prominent Muslims from the South-south and Southeast include Alhaji Ibrahim Alex Fubara, Alhaji Abubakar Orlu, Late Dr Alhaji Ahmad R.T. Okiri (JP) Late Chief Abdulazeez Chivuzor Ude, Ustaz Isa Okonkwo, Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo, Professor Aminu Igwegbe, Late Alhaji Muhammed Arise Kagbara, Sheikh Haruna Ajah; just to mention a few. These are/were professionals in their respective fields with indelible marks and verifiable, lofty achievements in Islam, politics and business. Despite the giant strides of some of the Muslims from the regions, they are relegated to the background when it comes to economic empowerment and political recognition.
It will interest you to know that despite the full participation of Muslims from the Southeast/South-south zones in political activities since the advent of democracy in Nigeria, to ensure that they are being represented and recognized in their various states, there is nothing to show or reflect that such exists. We can be given a voice to be counted as citizens of our beloved country by the benevolence and magnanimity of President Bola Tinubu, and our brothers and sisters in Islam who are privileged to be in power.
Former President Obasanjo gave attention to the minority Christians in the North during his time as President. The likes of Professor Jerry Gana, Ishaya Mark Aku, Senator Iyoricha Ayu, Nenadi Esther Usman and others were appointed ministers in the regime of the former president. By so doing, they were strategically positioned not only to have a voice and sense of belonging, but also became a force to reckon with in the same states where they were minority.
It is on record that the Southsouth and Southeast Muslims have always given the All Progressives Congress (APC) party bloc votes during elections. In the same vein, we are also assuring the present government of our solidarity and full support in the efforts to reposition the country under the mantra of Renewed Hope.
Below are few of the myriads of challenges we Muslims from these zones face in our daily life in the South-South and South East zones.
- Deprivation from all political benefits:
Muslims from the Southeast/South-south zones always go unrewarded after their participation in electioneering activities in their various states, because of the non-inclusion of their names by their various States’ Party Excos. Secondly, their inability and/or lack of capacity to afford what it takes to lobby for the after-election benefits, is another setback.
Furthermore, Muslims from the Southeast/South-south zones lack equal employment opportunities, political appointment and elective positions, owing to the lack of recognition by their own people. The politicians among the Muslims in the regions are out-rightly told that their names and religious practices have made them unacceptable by their people, and that democracy and political participation are all about acceptability.
- Incessant Discrimination
The continuous discrimination against Islam and the Muslims from the Southeast/Southsouth zones is becoming alarming and worrisome. Even at the Local Government Area level, Muslims are forced to change their Islamic names before they can be issued Local Government identification letters. They are never appointed into key political offices, nor allowed to contest even as councilors at ward levels. Many states from the Southeast/South-south zones have no Muslims working as civil servants.
Before making our appeal, it is quite expedient to acknowledge and show our profound appreciation for the magnanimity of H.E. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for breaking the record in appointing one of our brothers, Hon. Abubakar Momoh, a Muslim from Edo State, among the ministerial nominees. This is the first of its kind since the return of democracy, despite the relatively high percentage of Muslims in the state.
The South-south and Southeast Muslim Ummah therefore make the following appeal:
- Political and Economic Empowerment
Sequel to the above stated, the Muslims from the South-south and Southeast regions are appealing to President Bola Tinubu and the entire Nigerian Muslim Ummah, to come to our rescue. We have qualified Muslims who can fit into any political positions as well as other opportunities. We are asking for equal privileges and rights as far as political and economic empowerment is concerned. We are neither Hausas/Fulani nor Yorubas. Interestingly, we are Igbos, Ogonis, Ibibio, Auchi, Ijaws, Ishekiris, etc, and above all we are Muslims.
Allah says in the Quran 49v13: “Human beings, we created you all from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another”.
We have Muslims from these zones who are Islamic scholars and reputable Imams, lawyers, medical doctors, artisans and senior officers in the military and the para-military, academicians, politicians, seasoned technocrats, business executives, professionals in other various fields, etc. Some of them have attained high academic qualifications and trainings, including Masters degrees, Doctorates and professorship. We have a professor in Arabic literature. However, despite all these lofty feats, these individuals have numerous tales of woes for choosing Islam as their faith.
This is a passionate appeal to our brothers and sisters from the Northern and Southwest parts of our great country to consider Muslims from South-south and Southeast, to occupy political positions that can give recognition to the Muslims from these zones and provide an equal sense of belonging.
We are also making special appeal to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to consider Muslims in our zones for appointments, in order to achieve political inclusiveness that will remove us from the shackles of political oblivion that we have experienced for decades.
We are hopeful that our legitimate request would be given speedy and favorable consideration by our brethren and the government, even as those who superintend over our woes in the zones are also making their own demands for slots in the Northern states and Southwest zone. A good example of such demands from Ohaneze Ndị Igbo in Niger State is captured in the Punch Newspaper of Friday, 4th August, 2023, under the caption “Igbo Demands Cabinet Slot in Niger, …”.
May Almighty Allah grant His favors on President Bola Tinubu and the Muslim Ummah of Nigeria.
USTAZ ISA OKONKWO
DR SULAIMAN ZAAGHA
MAL. SHEU ARISE KAGBARA
NATIONAL PUBLICITY SECRETARY.