The Convener of Save Nigeria Group, SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has said his remarks on the first day of plenary at the National Conference that Chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi should refrain from starting his speeches with a short Arabic phrase should not be misinterpreted as disdain for Muslims and their faith.
Mr. Bakare had on Tuesday drawn attention to the short Arabic phrase that usually precede Justice Kutigi’s speech at the Conference’s sessions and instead called for a uniformed prayer at all meetings of the Conference.
“Mr. Chairman, yesterday you said something at the inauguration of the Conference and I did not understand”, the clergyman started, “Today again, you said it. I think you should pray in the way all of us understand because if I stand up and say, ‘Praise the Lord somebody’, we will turn this place into a church service”.
While the representatives of Christians at the Conference have since distanced themselves from Bakare’s comment, saying it does not represent their official position, a group – Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC – on Thursday morning derided the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, former vice-presidential candidate’s “attack” on Justice Kutigi, alleging that it was a premeditated demonstration of his hatred for Muslims and Islam.
But Bakare has now denied the charge, saying he made the comment in the interest of national unity, cohesion and mutual co-existence at the conference.
Speaking in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Bakare said: “What we are saying is that let us adopt one simple language so that no one reads any religious connotation into anything we say or do. We are not here for regional or religious issues. We must not be divided by tribal sentiments and religious prejudices. We must focus on building a new Nigeria”.
According to him, there was no way he could hate Muslims having been born and raised a Muslim himself with many of his relatives, friends, associates and even workers staunch Muslims. “If I hate Muslims, I would not have accepted to be a running mate to a Muslim in the last presidential election”, Mr. Bakare explained.
“I was born and raised a Muslim. I’m well versed in the Qur’an having graduated from Islamic school on April 16, 1967. “Many of my relatives are still Muslims. My older cousin was recently made the Are Adinni Musulumi of Egbaland and my family was well represented at the ceremony.
“I have no Islamophobia of any kind. Even in my businesses, I employ Muslims and non-Muslims and even those who don’t believe. I was born in the South but raised in Sokoto. My father was known as Sani Arewa and that is what is written on his tombstone. My uncle was Sarki Yoruba in the Sultan’s palace.
“So, you can see that I’m in no position to hate Muslims. All I’m saying is that we should be fair to one another. God created only one race. And that is the human race. We should not let religion or tribes to divide us”, he stressed.