By Sunday Elijah
The Muslim Community of Lagos State, comprising several Islamic organisations, has protested against what it calls the lopsided appointment of individuals nominated to form Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s new cabinet,
The Community marched to the Lagos State House of Assembly carrying placards and a banner with inscriptions such as: “Muslims say No to religious bigotry in Lagos”; “All we ask is fairness! All we demand is inclusion!”; “Stop the screening now, we want justice”; “Mr Sanwo-olu, you are violating the constitution (Section 14 Sub 4)”; “Gov Sanwo-Olu, this “bamu bamu layo” politics no good ooo” and “We reject Sanwo-Olu’s Duscriminatory project in lagos…. O to ge!”
President of the Muslim Community of Lagos State, Professor Tajudeen Gbadamosi, presented a protest letter to representatives of the State House of Assembly challenging the decision of the governor in submitting a ‘lopsided’ list of the commissioner nominees.
Responding, a Member of the House, AbdulMajeed AbdulFattah promised to present the letter to the Speaker of the House, assuring that the Assembly will act on their grievance.
“We… promise that we will do what will make you happy at the end of the day,” the lawmaker said.
Content of the letter
The letter, dated 16th August 2023 and addressed to Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, The Honorable Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja, was titled, “PETITION ON THE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MUSLIMS IN THE NOMINATION OF COMMISSIONERS”.
It reads in part, “We are here today to express our grievance and dissatisfaction against the blatant disregard for justice, equity and fairness in the proposed Lagos State’ Executive cabinet as contained in the list of commissioners nominees submitted by Governor Sanwo-Olu to this honorable House for your screening and confirmation.
“As you are aware, the list is a classic case of discrimination and religious bigotry, as it has 31 nominees who are of the Christian faith and only eight (8) nominees who are Muslims. This is not a new development, especially since Governor Sanwo-Olu assumed leadership of this State, as a matter of fact, it is has been elevated to a level of official state policy to deny Muslims their deserved positions under the Sanwo-Olu administration.
“For instance, in 2019, when Mr. Sanwo-Olu became governor, he appointed 14 Special Advisers, and only one (1) among them was a Muslim. Again, his State Executive Council, which had 43 members, only 14 were Muslims, and the remaining 29 were Christians. Also, of the 23 commissioners, 10 were Muslims and 13 of them Christians. Only 15 Muslims, with 35 Christians, made up the body of 50 Permanent Secretaries in his first term. These are just a few among numerous ways in which the Sanwo-Olu administration deny Muslims in this state their rightful place and number in leadership.
“The Rt. Hon. Speaker and honorable members, we want you to note that this list from Governor Sanwo-Olu violates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria particularly Section 14(4) and is further strengthened by section 192(2) both stating as follows.
““The composition of the Government of a State, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation.”
““192(2) Any appointment to the office of Commissioner of the Government of a State shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the House of Assembly of the State, be made by the Governor of that State and in making any such appointment the Governor shall conform with the provisions of section 14(4) of this Constitution.”
“With due respect Governor Sanwo-Olu’s list clearly violates these provisions of the Constitution and we accordingly call upon this honorable House not to endorse any action that violates our national grundnorm, especially one which equally violates good conscience and natural justice.
“The argument that Muslims have more elected officials in Lagos State in preposterous. This is even more so at a time when all the Six (6) Governors of the southwest are Christians and we the Muslims do not complain about this, because we recognise that they contested for offices and won.
“Why must Muslims in Lagos State always beg and fight for their constitutional rights especially since Mr Sanwo-olu became Governor? We recall with utmost sadness really, that until the Supreme Court ruled in favour of hijab for our school girls, successive Lagos Governments, never felt it should endeavor to align with the global best practice of accepting hijab in addition to abiding with the rule of law. The historic pro-hijab judgement was delivered in March 2022 and globally acknowledged. However, Governor Sanwo-Olu’s government in its peculiar idiosyncrasy chose to ignore this until a year later, after ceaseless pressure was mounted by well-meaning individuals.
“We the Muslims of, and in Lagos State wish to categorically state that the entire leadership of the Muslim Community of Lagos State representing various Muslim organizations, unequivocally and unanimously reject the list of commissioner-designates of Governor Sanwo-Olu and we demand a reversal and review to reflect 60% in favour of Muslims in a fresh list.
“We call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to reject the list as similarly done in the Niger State House of Assembly, where a noticeably minority Christian population demanded a reversal of the list of commissioners to reflect fairness and equity to them. We also call on you and the House of Assembly to impress on the government the need to respect the diversity of the state’s population and to appoint a more representative cabinet. We believe that this is essential for the future stability and prosperity of Lagos State.”