Ebonyi community where Islamic centre’s leadership tussle causes unrest

A Muslim community of Afikpo Local Government Area in Ebonyi state is crying out over what they say is a deliberate ploy by the authorities of Muslim World League to deny them the opportunity of appointing an indigenous director for the Islamic centre in the area. In this write up by AMARACHUKWU EGWUAGHA, the vice president general of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Dr Haruna Ogbonnanya Aja, and other Islamic leaders speak of the impending crisis over the imposition of outsiders/foreigners as directors when there are qualified indigenous individuals for the position.

Enohia community in Afikpo Local Government Area of Ebonyi state is in the news for the wrong reason. This is because there is a growing disquiet over what they call a high level of conspiracy against them. According to report, even though they have qualified Islamic leaders to lead the Islamic centre in their community, they have consistently being denied despite every agitation. This part of the state is where one can find the highest number of Muslim converts in the South East.

History of the centre
In an interaction with the vice president general of Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Dr Haruna Ogbonnanya Aja and another Islamic scholar, German Abdulam Islam, they revealed that there had been a grand conspiracy against them in the community right from inception. Aja in particular revealed that the centre came into existence in 1958 through the late Shiek Ibrahim Nwaguyi. The centre, according to him, was the first of its kind in West Africa with various departments. He said, “Islam came to Afikpo Muslim community in the year 1958 through the late shiek Ibrahim Nwaguyi. It is a known history that when Islam came, it took over the whole Afikpo and later domesticated it in Enohia where he came from. From there, he (Nwaguyi) made efforts along with his associates and they established the Islamic centre as early as 1962 or there about. Since then, the centre has been there functioning until the civil war started.”

The struggle to rehabilitate the centre after the civil war.

Aja, who explained the possible collapse of the centre after the civil war, decried its abandonment after the death of the founder, shiek Ibrahim Nwaguyi. He, however, explained how he initiated its rehabilitation by involving members of the Muslim World League.
“The civil war had a lot of effect on the centre to the extent that it was not functional after the war because the proprietor or founder, Shiek Nwaguyi, was more or less ill after the war because of so many other things or the outcome of the civil war.

“In1976 after he died at Owerri in Imo state, the centre went into complete abandonment. It was deserted and there was no activities taking place there any more. l was already out in 1974 on my search for further knowledge in Ibadan and later went to Saudi Arabia. In 1981, we had a refresher course in Ibadan organised by the Muslim World League; there, we went with about five or six persons from Afikpo who were elected by Chukwu Idam before that time.
“However, I who had been in Saudi Arabia know the terrain of that Arab nation and so made a move for us to get the Muslim World League involved by lodging a complain about the abandonment of the centre.

“It was not an easy task though, but I persisted. Even the man that took us there, Alhaji Idam wasn’t very much kind because he felt I was asking for too much, but I replied that it was still possible no matter how much he thought I was demanding. I made a case for them to understand that the centre was abandoned and needed extra effort to get it back.

“As I took it upon myself to get the Muslim World League involved, I was told to come and follow it up whenever I came back on holiday period, that was in 1982. I got them into the intervention properly and they came. That is why today, the influence of Muslim World League is there. I single handedly brought them; nobody else did that because at that time, the leader, like I said, had died. All these were between 1981/82.

Where the current problem started

Investigation by Blueprint Weekend reveals that having secured the intervention of the Muslim World League, the problem associated with the leadership of the centre came up. Aja, who said he could not take up the position due to his education, had to nominate Shiek Amanatala, an Indian who taught him in Ibadan to take up the leadership challenge.

According to him, “Very unfortunately, there was no one to be nominated for the leadership mantle of the centre because at that time, I was still in my 200 level studying Law. There was a suggestion to send me to go and supervise the renovations and possibly take over the running of the centre, but I was not enthusiastic because I know the value of education and luckily for me the Muslim World League consultant then in the person of Dr Abdulpahata Munsu supported me. The secretary general of the league then was called Sheikh Alihakan; it was my presence that made him approve the intervention.

“When the issue of who comes here came up, they said that I should go because they did not know about my studies. When however he asked me, I told him I was not ready to go insisting that I still had two years to complete my studies. The secretary aligned with me because of my education but gave me the task of nominating the person that would be there. However, I could not lay hand on anybody because I was not experienced then. I had two people in mind actually. One was Shiek Albdoshia Adentila from America and the other person was Shiek Amanatila from India whom I said earlier was my teacher in Ibadan. He was, however, too scared to come here because our place is predominantly a non Muslim area but I encouraged him. That was why we had an Indian as a director in the place at a time.

“It was agreed that once I finish my studies, I will be sent to second him for two years and then take over from him.

What gave birth to suspicion

Further explaining how Amanatila broke the agreement reached, Mr Aja alleged that he formed a colony of Indians and Pakistanis in the centre which created suspicion among the people of Afikpo and beyond.

“You know power is intoxicating and because of the money Rabita approves. In 1982, they approved 1million US dollars as a take off grant for reactivation and other things. The man now runs the place as Indian and Pakistani colony. This now raises suspicion as people started asking to know his real intention. There was a lot of agitation from the people as early as 1983.

By 1984 when I graduated, there were lots of mutual suspicion and conflict. The people I recommended to work with him were thrown away because he wanted to constitute his own team. So, that was where the crisis started.”

While giving further insight into the crisis, Aja said that attempts were made to calm the situation as the attention of foreign bodies were drawn but said the whole efforts were fruitless as the man in question took ill and was flown out of the country.

“I stood my ground because the man knew the agreement reached in Saudi Arabia that he should stand by it, so, I maintained a stand that some people should come and intervene. He accepted the truth just like the people also knew. They however blamed him for violating the terms of the agreement, but curiously he took Ill and was flown out of the country. Since then, he has not returned.

“The people he left behind started having disagreements over succession but later, local politics played out. That made most of them to pull out and some ran away because of the fear of unknown. However, people like Alhaji Bako collaborated with the Indian man to implant his own agenda which was why one Togolese (Usman Mama) was bought.

How conspiracy finally reduced the centre to school

According to Aja, “The crisis continued and became worse such that we lost everything in the centre donated by Rabita. So, when they came in 1982, there was no serious presence of an Islamic centre in the whole West Africa except Senegal which was hosting World Muslim League. They approved a hospital and a higher institution which was originally the highest vision of Shiek Nwaguyi. So, we lost the opportunity of having these institutions because of the conspiracy and inactivity of the man there. The man was so conservative that he didn’t want anybody to know what was happening there because he felt he meet a gold mine, so Senegal benefited from what we should have gained. That was why Rabita pulled out and they now reduced that place to a school. It was meant to be an Islamic centre with so many departments like education, medical, welfare and so on which was the original concept.”

Aja said that when Rabita realised that Nigeria has several advantages like being a very big country in Africa, they wanted an office in the country, yet because of this same selfishness, someone who went by the name Shiek Fadik who studied in Egypt but originally from Chad quickly came as Rabita representative to Nigeria to start the office. Rather than establish it here, he said that it was established in Abuja. “Because of what I told you, he now transforms himself as a Nigerian and the school was attached to him.

“Many years after, he never visited Enohia again. He only made Usman Mama his boy to come here only when there is money to pay salary. That’s why the place has continued to remain in ruins. A lot of mismanagement took place that derailed the objective of the founder.

We need indigenous leader

While Aja justifies the desirability of the agitation from his people, he stated that prophets do well among their localities because of the understanding and the existing relationship they share with their people.

According to him, “It got to a point where Rabita became incubated and we never wanted them to make a change; we told them not to send a prophet who is not from this place. when you send a foreigner, he will not know how to pass the information to the people. These people don’t know our culture; they don’t know the place; they don’t know our language and they don’t even associate with our people, that is why there are a lot of suspicion because most times, people feel there is something secret going on there. If you check the history of prophets, they are always among their people who know them and they in turn understand the people.

We have a lot of qualified people around; a lot of scholars who are qualified to assume that position, but at the turn of event, we saw a very high level conspiracy coming from outside this environment.”

He therefore called on Rabita to look into the matter while nursing the fear that if not properly handled, may cause irredeemable crisis in the Muslim community of Enohia in Ebonyi state.

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