National Coordinator's Welcome Address at IWF's Round-Table for 30th Anniversary



I am highly honoured to welcome you all to this simple yet remarkable event marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Welfare Foundation. Exactly thirty years ago, i.e. 1st May 1984, a small group of Muslim scholars and activists met in Lagos to brainstorm over the challenges then confronting Islam and Muslims in Nigeria. The immediate prompt for the meeting was the cynical and regular portrayal of the Deen and its adherents in negative perspectives in the public domain. While the scurrilous attacks were highly orchestrated and sustained, the reaction of Muslims was weak and ineffective. The main weakness identified by the meeting was that Muslims were often emotional in their reaction to the deliberate undermining of the interest of Islam by non-Muslims. This was considered inappropriate because Islam being a religion based on knowledge had taught Muslims to dispose issues on rational terms. The meeting then resolved to become a body that would steer Muslims away from emotional to rational reaction on issues. Its raison d’etrewas to champion the intellectual approach to the propagation of Islam. Its ultimate objective is to serve as a ‘Think-Tank’ for the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. The body became known as the Islamic Welfare Foundation (IWF).

The meeting which led to the formation of IWF was chaired by Alhaji Saka Fagbo, then General Manager of NTA Lagos, who became the first National Coordinator. It was appreciated from the onset that the goal of propagating Islam through intellectual engagement would be daunting but members resolved to give their all to the task. Hence, they adopted the motto: My Life, My Sacrifice for Allah. Motivated by this spirit, IWF members have made sacrifice to achieve modest but significant gains for Islam in Nigeria and many of them did till their death. Ironically, the first IWF member to be snatched by death was Alhaji Saka Fagbo himself. That he was faithful to IWF motto of living and making sacrifice for Allah became hugely manifest after his death as his impact was felt. We pray Allah to reward his monumental service to IWF by admitting him into Al-Jannat Firdaos. Similarly, we remember Professor Abdul-Fatai Egberongbe and Alhaji Doyin Mahmoud all of whom served IWF till their death. May Allah reward them all with Al-Jannat Firdaos. The lesson for the rest of us is that we should resolve to serve Allah through IWF till death.

Thirty years of existence is worth celebrating in Nigeria where life expectancy of individuals and institutions is short. But it is gratifying to note that we are not just celebrating the survival of IWF as an organisation but also its vibrancy. One of the things we are celebrating today is that the dream of IWF founding fathers did not die with them. Against many odds, IWF has continued to fund research and publications that illuminate many issues with facts and absolve Islam and Muslims from deliberate and cruel misrepresentation by non-Muslims. For example, Muslims in Lagos were once accused of noise pollution. IWF commissioned a study on the subject which found that Muslims made the least noise. Similarly, when a few Muslims were appointed Vice-Chancellors of Universities in the South there was a deafening charge that Muslims were marginalising others in the University system. IWF commissioned another study on the staffing situation in the Nigerian University System. The finding was that the Muslims were ‘over marginalised’ in the system. All these findings were made public as the research reports were published. No one has ever challenged the findings. Happily too, no one has raised issues on the subjects again. This is a confirmation that our intellectual approach to the propagation of Islam has been effective.

In spite of our best efforts, enemies of Islam have continued to dig further into their trench by propagating falsehood against Islam and Muslims. The damage they cause these days is far more widespread because they have ICT tools at their disposal. The on-going National Conference amply illustrates this phenomenon. In the run-up to the Conference, Muslims rightfully complained that they were seriously under-represented. The enemies of Islam not only scoffed at this subtle protest, they also used their stranglehold on the mass media to muffle it. All of a sudden, the Muslims who are confirmed by all credible demographic sources to constitute the majority in Nigeria became an ‘endangered specie’. As if that was not enough, they went on to fabricate lies that a Muslim was manipulated to chair the conference committee on religion and that Muslims dominated the membership of the committee. As it turned out, Christians dominated the committee and there was also a Christian co-chairman. As usual, they went silent when the truth was revealed.

The foregoing re-affirms our position that revealing the truth is the ultimate weapon against the opponents of Islam. But the truth can only be discovered through painstaking research. I am delighted to inform that the IWF is re-dedicating itself to research and publication. For us, it is a divine mandate because Allah instructs in Qur’an 2:42 that ‘And do not mix the truth with the falsehood, nor hide the truth while you know (it)’. In line with this mandate, we are marking our 30th anniversary with this round-table on the theme ‘The Muslim Ummah in the Nigerian Polity: Issues and Options’to offer a platform to reel off facts on the political and socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Nigeria. I am sure the eminent scholars we have invited will do justice to this.

Let me state in very clear terms that the IWF is unabashedly and irretrievably committed to digging out the truth and publishing it. In line with this, the IWF will hold its annual ‘Conference on Islam in Nigeria’ (COIN) on November 23 – 26, 2014 in Ilorin. The theme of the conference is: ISLAM AND THE NIGERIAN STATE: A CENTENARY OF BRIDGING THEOCRACY AND SECULARISM. It is expected that this conference will help to showcase the contributions Islam has made to the development of Nigeria. The Foundation will also publish its journal, ‘Journal of Islam in Nigeria’ (JOIN) to harvest research reports on Islam and Muslims in Nigeria. Still in pursuit of our mandate to propagate the truth, IWF will as from the end 1435 A.H. publish an Annual Report on ‘The State of the Ummah in Nigeria’to make the world know the fate that has befallen Islam and Muslims in Nigeria in each year and dispel the falsehood that might have been peddled in this regard.

These are no mean tasks. I therefore seize this opportunity to invite individuals who share the ideals that IWF is pursuing to join the Foundation as members. I also express our readiness to collaborate with all institutions and corporate bodies that are genuinely interested in nurturing knowledge and the truth. It is our hope that humanity will benefit from our collaboration.

Before concluding this address, it is imperative to appeal that the Federal Government of Nigeria should as a matter of urgency take appropriate steps to ensure the immediate rescue of the young and vulnerable school girls abducted in Chibok by the insurgents. The life of every Nigerian should be protected by our government because that is the essence of governance. For almost three weeks, more than 100 school girls are left at the mercy of these criminals and government in our view has not shown enough commitment to securing their freedom. There is need for a more proactive, coordinated and concerted effort on the part of the nation’s security apparatus to put an end to insurgency in Nigeria. In our view, the best options are good governance, reduction of poverty in the land, creation of employment for the teeming unemployed graduates and total extermination of corruption from the polity.

I wish to apologise for my digression. I hope it is worthwhile. But permit me to digress a little more. I sincerely thank you for being part of this 30th anniversary celebration. I profusely thank all those who have supported in the past to achieve the modest success we have recorded. May Allah reward you all abundantly. We thank Allah whose Mercy and Benevolence have seen us through thick and thin. May He continue to lift IWF to greater heights.

Now to the task I have been assigned which is to welcome you to this event. Let me do it the best way I can by saying ‘Ahlan Wa-Sahlan Wa-Mar’aba bikum’. But once more, let me exceed my brief by saying that you are also warmly welcomed to our future engagements.