Tempers rose on Tuesday at the ongoing National Conference in Abuja as the delegates engaged in a serious debate over the dominance of Islam in the 1999 constitution over nil mention of Christianity in it. The drama started when the two delegates representing the Christian leaders, Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese of Catholic Church, Joseph Bagobiri and Pastor Emmanuel Bosun (Ogun State), raised the issue, which they tagged as unfair treatment to the Christian religion in the country. However, the Muslim delegates in attendance got angry at their submissions.
The Christians submitted that the constitution of Nigeria was in favour of the Islamic religion and they asked that the imbalance should be corrected.
The Bishop, Joseph Bagobiri opened the debate. He listed detailed analysis of the Nigerian constitution and how it didn’t have any mention of Christianity or the church in it while Islam was mentioned repeatedly.
He stated that the adoption of a particular religion by states must be done away with because in a country like Nigeria, neutrality was needed.
He said there were Islamic courts and so it was only normal to extend the hands of fellowship to Christianity by establishing ecclesiastical courts to handle Christian related disputes, like the Sharia court; and that funds should be provided for the courts so that christians can have a sense of belonging in their own country. He also said that religious imbalance must be addressed as an issue in the conference before it tears the country apart.
He said, “In the 1999 Constitution, Shariah was mentioned 73 times, Grand Khadi 54 times, Islam 28 times, Muslims 10 times and there is no single mention of Christ, Christian, Christianity or church. Some mischievous elements are taking these lapses in the constitution to come to the ungodly decision that probably the state is an Islamic state.
“So, what are Christians doing here while 100 of our churches are burnt down and Christians are being killed? In fact, it has reached the stage of genocide. I will cite one example – In one denomination in Plateau State, the Women’s Fellowship as at 2001 had 500 registered widows and by 2008, they had 900 registered widows. By February 2014, they had 25,000 registered widows.”
But the former Governor of Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero, citing Order 9 rule 7 raised a point of order. He said;
“A delegate must confine his contribution to the subject under discussion and will not introduce matters irrelevant thereto. The speaker on the floor is bringing issues that are not related to Mr. President’s speech. I therefore want the Chairman to call him to order. He is bringing diversionary issues that are very sentimental.” But the Deputy Chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, said Bosun could not be ruled out of order since others had been allowed to speak. He said he would only plead that delegates should mind their contributions so as not to offend the sensibilities of other people.
Before the uproar enveloped the conference, the leaders of the conference saved the situation.