By Barr Emperor Nnabuihe Iwuala (KSC)
On the 16th November, 2013 at the National Mosque Abuja, seventeen youths from Imo State publicly renounced Christianity and defected to Islam.
However, that event would have passed unnoticed to me except for the involvement of Governor Rochas Okorocha in it.
In other to appreciate and encourage this change of religion, Governor Okorocha joined two Moslem governors from the northern part of Nigeria to dole out millions of naira to each of the new converts. In fact, the governor announced a token of =N=2 million to the each of the 17 new converts from Imo State.
National Christian Watch, a Lagos based Christian organization in August 2014 conducted an online research on ‘the effects of monetary induced conversion from Christianity to Islam’. The report of the research also published online revealed that the population of Imo State may become 40% Muslims and 60% Christians by the end of 2019 if Governor Okorocha’s cash-for-Islam initiative is vigorously sustained.
I have no problem with anyone converting from one religion to another especially where one is truly convinced to voluntarily change faith. This ought to be personal and shouldn’t be the business of the state or government to encourage or sponsor.
It has been generally agreed that Jihad, which is an Islamic practice, is ‘a Holy War’ or ‘struggle’ in defence of Islam. Islamic scholars have also agreed that this practice could be achieved through the use of ‘force’. Presently, the greatest security issue challenging Nigeria is the activities of the dreaded Muslim sect called Boko Haram and there is no doubt that this sect is an Islamic jihad.
However, it is on record that Governor Okorocha has never openly and vehemently lambasted the activities of this dreaded group or fought against it. In stead, whenever Islam is associated with Boko Haram, the governor comes in defence of Islam. Ironically, at a time the silence of the spiritual authorities of Islam are deafening with regards to the activities of this sect, the governor has taken it upon himself to become the faith’s image maker; he never spared opportunity to sugarcoat Islam as a true, peaceful and charitable religion but never spoke of Christianity in equal glowing terms. To make matters worse, Okorocha defected from APGA (supposedly Igbo party) to APC, a political platform that prides itself as the Nigerian version of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. Short of calling Boko Haram freedom fighters whose murderous agitation will end when APC assumes power, Okorocha dismisses every allegation about Boko Haram being part of a wider agenda to Islamize Nigeria; he often claimed Muslims are in majority victims of extremism. But who are the extremists in the first place?
Since the commencement of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, over 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced. Some of the displaced persons are from Imo State. Unfortunately, the Governor Okorocha, so far, has done nothing to help the resettlement of these displaced persons who have returned to Imo State devastated. He neither gave them jobs nor financial assistance like the one he gave to the said new Imo Muslim converts.
In Imo State, it is not news that Governor Okorocha constructed a second Mosque in Orlu and hosted the Islamic Women Council meeting in Owerri which critics said was packaged to recruit young Igbo ladies into Islam. Worse the governor’s grandiose proposal to construct a third mega mosque with golden dome at Control, few meters away from the Assumpta Cathedral Owerri. When this 3rd Mosque is completed , what will welcome any person coming into Owerri will no longer be the magnificent Assumpta Cathedral but Okorocha’s golden Mosque.
I am convinced that no Muslim governor in Nigeria will build church for Christians in his state or give financial reward to people for converting from Islam to Christianity.
On the other hand, I am also convinced that Governor Okororocha has never and will not give monetary inducement to an Imo Muslim that converts to Christianity.
Therefore, the way things a going, Christianity may become a minority religion by the next 25 years by the time Boko Haram finishes with the depopulation of Christians in Nigeria if leaders like Okorocha are not stopped.
Interestingly, the Roman Catholic Church that is largely responsible for Governor Okorocha’s election victory in 2011 is today disappointed in him not just because he refused to redeem the financial pledge he made to them but because of the economic strangulation of the members most of who are contractors. It is said that he awards major contracts only to his Arabian and Lebanese cronies, thereby killing local businesses.
I like the fact that Muslim leaders are serious about their faith, hence I expect Christians in leadership to also reflect serious commitment to their faith, accountable and responsive to those that voted them into office.
It is only in the regime of Rochas that primary school teachers who retired from state schools are not paid their pensions for more than a year. This group of pensioners form 70% of the entire pensioners in the state. Regrettably, as at the time this write-up which is towards the end of the year 2014, Governor Okorocha is still owing these sect of senior citizens arrears of unpaid pensions from November 2013 till date which comes to a total 13 months. The issue of gratuities cannot be discussed now until pension is attended to. The predicament of the above retirees is even better than that of their colleagues who retired from the Imo Newspaper and Imo Broadcasting Corporation.
Therefore, if Governor Okorocha does not know how best to use the common fund of Imolites entrusted in his hands, he can use them to re-settle and rehabilitate some citizens of the state displaced by the activities the Boko Haram and pay pensioners.