Peace be on you all.
It is my honour to congratulate your Excellencies on your victory at the last gubernatorial polls. I thank your Excellencies for all you have done for your peoples within the few months of your leadership in your states. I pray to Allah (SWT) to grant all of you long life, continuous guidance and steady health.
Though this letter is a bit belated, I also want to quickly congratulate you for maintaining the peaceful coexistence amongst all socio-political and religious groups in your states, though the Muslim communities of your states are maintaining uneasy calm amidst uncertainty over their socio-political existences under your governments. However, I must appreciate you for the developmental strides in the past few months of your leaderships. I pray the Almighty continue to guide and protect you to deliver dividends of democracy to our people. May He also continue to encourage you to do more for the religious, political and cultural minorities in your domains. Ameen.
In January 2010, I wrote this kind of letter. I saluted your predecessors for what they were doing for the Muslims in the South-East, however palpably insignificant. I recalled that Muslims in the South-East of Nigeria have been law-abiding, politically conscious, educationally moderate and culturally astute. I also recalled the fact that they were numerically minor, economically weak and politically denied.
I wish to bring to your notice some reports and complaints from the Muslim communities of your states. I am an advocate of peace and the rule of law and as a Nigeria where freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed, I feel obliged to speak against oppression, political exclusion and denial of fundamental human rights of the minorities in your states. I am quite conscious of the fact that South East is predominated by Christianity. There is no doubt also that Muslims of Igbo extraction exist in every state of the region, though in minority.
One special complaint of serious concern is your political appointments into positions. The government-Muslim relationship in the region only revolves around Hajj related-matters. It is the only link between the Muslims and the governors of the region who sponsor few Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Land. I want to ask if it is only Hajj that Muslims can benefit you’re your governments? Why are Muslims only compensated with appointments into Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards after every political dispensation in the South East? In addition, why do your Excellencies prefer to relegate Igbo Muslim to second class citizens by denying any political appointment in your cabinet and at the federal government? Are Igbo Muslims in your states not eligible into your government as commissioners, chairmen/directors or board members of state agencies and parastatals? For God’s sake and for equity, fairness and justice, when will your Excellencies change this ugly trend against Igbo Muslims? This trend runs through all the five states of the South East, as if you have guided meetings to perfect this. Remember that Nigeria is a democratic setup. And remember too, your Excellencies, that Northern governors and ex-presidents have recognized the Christian minorities of the North by economically and politically empowering them. Why are your Excellencies totally different in this regard? What is the crime committed by your Igbo brothers and sisters who are Muslims?
You cannot deny the existence of Muslims who are worthy of appointments to serve in your cabinets. They are qualified Muslims who can work with you at any given capacity. These Muslims worked for the victory of your Excellencies during the campaigns at their places of birth and work within your states.
The second point that calls for concern is the refusal of your Excellencies to respond to letters to you from Muslim leaders and nationally recognized Islamic organizations in your respective states. This is a very dangerous path because silence can never suppress the demand of the oppressed. It may work a short time. But it is better to respond to issues raised by your citizens, even though they are in minority, than intentionally neglect their complaints and requests.
There are reported cases of written complaints, requests and petitions to your Excellencies which are NEVER attended to. You hardly grant audience to these your subjects, except during Islamic festivals. This is not a good norm in democracy. You give incentives and gifts to the clergy men and visit their worship places. You do not remember your brothers who are Muslims. You allow them to fight over the leadership of Hajj boards every time. Life is therefore, miserable for them under your leaderships.
In the simplest words, your Excellencies, the Igbo Muslims in your states are not being encouraged to seek equal rights like other citizens of their states. I do not really know what you think they should do to be equaled with other citizens of their respective states. Are you, by your actions against them, insinuating that they should abandon their Islamic faith and become Christians? Surely that is a hard pill that could be forced on a people.
I plead with you not to be moved negatively by this letter. It is written with god intention and for the good of democracy and the oneness of Nigeria which all of you and my humble self believe in. The silencing of the minority and oppressed is dangerous. Even upon that, you and I know that Igbo Muslims in your domains have never posed any threat in their existences. I urge you to heed to the voice of wisdom and nothing can be more assuring if you engender the political will to do the needful in this matter.
I want to reassert that if there are specific sacrifices or terms and conditions required of the Igbo Muslims so that the religious acrimony, social alienation and political exclusion against them will stop henceforth, it is within the powers of your Excellencies to summon them, even during sallah homage as usual. The terms and conditions will surely be met so long denouncing of faith is not a part. I, therefore, strongly appeal to your Excellencies to recognize the Igbo Muslims in your states and carry them along in the governance of your states. You are elected by the citizens of your states, including the Muslims. So, I do not see any justification for you to oppress them basically because they are Muslims.
May our God of change change your harsh dispositions against your Igbo brothers and sisters who are Muslims. May He guide you, protect you and continue to inspire you to do your best for the people of your states which are all part and parcel of Nigeria. Ameen. I am going to write to other state governors of other geopolitical zones on matters of interest for our national cohesion and development.
Ajah is an advocate of the rule of law and good governance and writes from Abuja