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Corruption is SHIRK - Alhaji AbdulAzeez Folorunso Alatoye

Alhaji Abdul Azeez Folorunso Alatoye Esq. L.L.B, HND, Barrister at Law, founder and senior partner of Ascension Consulting Services, Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK); a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN); Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Member of Nigeria Taxation Standard Board, Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management and an advocate of honest service to Almighty Allah and humanity.

Before his current appointment by the Supreme Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at worldwide Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be His Helper) as the Amir of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria, he had served the group in various capacities.  Naib Amir South West region, Naib Jalsa Officer II (Deputy Conference Officer II),  Treasurer; Vice Chairman Humanity First Nigeria; Chairman Sad Sala Jubilee Committee; Chairman South West Mosque Building Trust Fund Committee; Chairman Economic Empowerment and Development Committee, among others.

In this no-hold barred interview with Abdussalam Abdulfattah and Muhammed AbuRidwan at the group’s headquarters in Ojokoro, Lagos Nigeria, he admonish Muslims to shun corruption and explains the Jama’at position on many issues.

What are the focal points of your administration?

We are focusing on seven key areas. The first one is on the spirituality, by that; we are encouraging our members to be closer to Allah, behave in a Godly way, and do good always for Allah watches. The second is preaching morality, by morality we mean doing the right thing at the right time by people without waiting for government or leaders to prompt them. Morality is very important to us as a religious group. Of course, it is the foundation of success of any society. Thirdly, we are inculcating on our members and friends the spirit of obedience to Allah and doing justice as espoused in the holy Quran.  Fourthly, we shall be ensuring that we teach people to respect the differences in other people’s backgrounds; tribes, cultures and religions. If we accord respect to each other, there shall be peace in the country. Also, we are focusing on act of competence. In order words we shall relate with you based on your competence. Henceforth, the best competent and trustworthy persons are to be hired to execute our policies, undertake our religious activities as well be promoting the ideals of the Jama’at. Our administration will ensure members exhibit competence within and outside the Jammat activities. This is actually one of the teachings of the Holy Quran in the story of prophet Musa (AS) at Median and this we want to preach to Nigerians in general. In addition to these five focal areas, we shall be preaching the need for every Nigerian and particularly our members to make honesty and trustworthiness their watchwords. Here, we shall be appealing to the conscience of Nigerians and that of our members, to live above boards. The last thing we will focus on is prayers. We are focusing on getting Nigerians to be more prayerful, seeking almighty Allah’s help in our lives and for the country’s growth. For instance, Nigeria is endowed with human and material resources; but it seems what is still missing is divine intervention and divine help. In summary, all these seven focal points, spirituality, morality, obedience to Allah, respect for each other, competency, trustworthiness and prayers are encapsulated in Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at mantra ‘Love for all, Hatred for None’. If we love, do good to ourselves and maintain the act of justice; then peace will reign in Nigeria as the title of your magazine The PEACE also promotes.

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Sir, can you enlighten our readers on the emergence of an Amir in your organization?

That is a very good question. Let me start the enlightenment this way. Nigerians and particularly other Islamic groups can learn a lot on the elective process that usually produces our Amir.  For emphasis, our Amir and all the members of the management are working for the Jamaat for free, because we have our primary sources of income. We cannot be receiving salary from our work places and still be receiving from Jamaat. The Jamaat has rules and regulations that it follows. The tenure of an Amir is three years but renewable as long as the leader of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Khalīfatul Masīh al-khāmis Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be His Helper) pleases. We give that respect to the institution of khilafat. It is whoever the Holiness approves that becomes the Amir. Usually, in his kindness he might pick the one with the highest votes or the least votes amongst the names submitted for his approval. Our immediate past Amir, Dr. Aderenle Mashood Fashola spent fifteen years in office and for those times, he was subjected to electoral process every 3 years and we kept voting for him until the last election.  The election, that produced me as the Amir best describes how our Amir emerges.  At the election, I personally voted for Dr. Fashola to continue in office, but incidentally people also voted for me and when the results were presented to our leader, the mantle of leadership in Nigeria, was reposed on me. One becomes the Amir with honesty, love and hard work for the Jammaat. The position is not heritable and election often conducted without rancour but love. Everyone is supporting others to succeed. I think this is something Nigerians need to learn from us. Currently, I am enjoying the full support of Dr. Fashola the immediate past Amir as he also enjoyed the support of his predecessors. By extension, if we juxtapose this into Nigerian style of governance the country will be better.  Government should not be based on personality but continuity. That is what we want Nigeria as a country to imbibe from us.

Sir, Do Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at undertake humanitarian services in addition to her religious services?

Thank you very much. Ahmadiyya has many different areas of humanitarian services in which we support Nigerians regardless of religious affiliation.  We build; primary and secondary schools, particularly in rural areas where such is rare. Knowledge for all is very important. The current situation of keeping people out of schools in many parts of Nigeria is not acceptable. If we have the opportunity of floating schools in rural areas of the Northern states and bringing all the children to school, we would be very glad to do that. Sometimes we travel for hours in the bushes of rural areas to construct such schools. Provision of health services is another key area of our humanitarian services.  Our specialty is on rural health outreach. As we speak, we have some very experienced Medical Doctors and personnel’s providing health services to Nigerians living in rural areas across Nigeria. We organize our health services under the maxim, ‘health for all’ with emphasis on treatment first. The eye clinic in our Kano hospital is actually leading in that area because every month it treats not less than fifty people free. Our hospital in Ojokoro takes care of many Nigerians at subsidized rates. The money it collects is to make sure that we still buy drugs and maintain the hospital.  Other areas of humanitarian services include disaster managements during natural and man-made disasters, establishment and maintenances of orphanages to take care of the children, inmate’s health needs, feeding and education. The orphanages are important in our scheme.  It is to give these children chance to live out their destinies after all the holy prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was an orphan and he succeeded to be the best of human being.  We have also been to many IDP camps offering different levels of assistance. Our experiences in these IDP camps are not palatable; the Federal Government and agencies concerned need to improve the situations in these IDP camps as they reek of corruption. The truth of the matter is that what many provide is not reaching the residents in the camps. Once, we went to the IDP camp in Benin and Abuja with various things; we were not allowed to self distribute. The officials outrightly said ‘No’ and we were at liberty to take our things back with us if we could not drop them. What I experienced in the camps still makes me sad. How do we want God to have mercy on us as a country? When we see people suffering and we are unable to alleviate their suffering.  These and many others are part of the humanitarian services we do. We shall do more, if we had more money.

How much of interactions are there with other Islamic groups?

In Nigeria, as well as worldwide, we relate with other Islamic groups. We welcome many groups who are willing to identify with us, but there are few people who head some other organizations who do not move close to us because of their protectionist tendencies and territorial defence against our mode of Dawah that can liberate their members. Many actually love and cherish our relationships because the way we are structured is unlike the way some other Islamic groups are structured. All we do here is an act of sacrifice. For instance, we have to donate certain percentage of their resources that is convenient for the growth of Islam. However, some are not comfortable with that, thus champion hatred towards us. We preach peace, even some few who question our mode of Dawah still benefit from many of our programmes and activities.

Some criticize Ahmadiyya for her stand on the Prophet hood status of your founder; what do you have to say?

The criticisms are baseless. It is a subtle blackmail and akin to giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. For instance, there are major things in Islam that makes somebody to be a Muslim. The first one is believe in Almighty Allah and the holy prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) which we do. Number two, we are Muslims and our religion is Islam where we believe in the five pillars of Islam. Number three is we read the same Qur’an because despite their lies they have not been able to produce a different Quran from the holy Quran that we all read. They allege we don’t go on pilgrimage to holy lands, whereas I had done my Hajj as prescribed and so are many others. Our founder, Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, the promise Messiah (A.S) always exalts, the holy prophet Muhammad (s.a.w).  Similarly, all our khulafa honour the holy prophet (s.a.w). We also believe, Prophet Muhammad was the khatama Nabby even before the creation of Adam.

What efforts are you making with reference to the use of Media to erase misconceptions about the Jama’at?

It is an intentional misconception and conspiracy to garb us in a robe that does not fit us. We are doing our best to let the world know what Ahmadiyyat stands for. Although it is difficult to erase the misconception from certain international cliques who already have a scheme not to agree with us for their selfish reasons, our true positions on the concocted areas of difference. Nonetheless, we shall continue to use the media to get people especially at the grassroots to understand that this is who we are. By that, I am agreeing with you that we need to step up the efforts in terms of explaining our faith, especially in those areas that people think Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria, is ambiguous. We need to do more in that area and we shall step up on that In Sha Allah.

Are there roles for Islamic Organizations in the current fight against corruption in the country?

Let me say that corruption is an offshoot of an act of ungodliness, lying.  Lying is a precursor to corruption and it is one of the four greatest sins in Islam and the holy prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) admonished us against it. Others he mentioned are: seeking partnership with Allah, disobedience to parents and killings. Anybody who wants to steal something will have the mindset that he is going to lie if caught. Our founder once said anybody who commits theft is no longer relying on almighty Allah; he is relying on his own intelligence to manipulate things and it amounts to shirk. So all our Muslim brothers and sisters who are in government or working in private sector and are manipulating things, they need to know that this is an act of shirk. Therefore, Muslims should be preached to, to desist from corruption, it is an ungodly act that equates shrik. Here, we do not welcome any corrupt practices from members, because corruption is not in line with the teachings of Ahmadiyyah.

Do Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria, members participate in Nigeria politics?

We do strongly recommend to our members, as part of their civic responsibilities to participate in politics and contest for any position in the government because good and honest people like them cannot step aside to leave politics for charlatans who eventually, will misrule Nigeria. khalīfatul masīh al-khāmis, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (may Allah be His Helper) our leader at the last United Kingdom annual Jalsa Salana, in his speech, encouraged members to participate in governance, and contest for different political posts. Here in Nigeria, the Jama’at, once had a serving Governor in Ogun State as a member who is a Major General. In recent democratic experience, we have a member at the National assembly. Similarly, in Lagos state House of Assembly, we have at least two honourable members. The Jama’at tells them it is not about them winning every time, but participation to impact on the political landscape.

How much respect does the Jama’at accord her women?

Marrying more than one wife or polygamy is an instruction in the holy Quran. We are neither the creator of the world nor the regulator of the world.  Therefore, whether we like it or not, His words remain supreme and we shall ultimately account for our actions with Him. I see polygamy as being allowed for the protection of women.  Allah in His wisdom, allows it so who are we to question it. There are a lot of benefits but unfortunately people who practiced it wrongly are painting it negatively. It is not about sex in my honest view; relationship with woman is not about sex it goes beyond that. So marrying more than one wife is an act of protecting woman and in a very respectful manner that is the way I see it. For instance somebody who lost her husband at a tender age and do not get a man to marry again what will happen to her life afterwards? She will be exposed to a lot of indecency, which ordinarily polygamy would have protected.

What are your views on polygamy?

Marrying more than one wife or polygamy is an instruction in the holy Quran. We are neither the creator of the world nor the regulator of the world.  Therefore, whether we like it or not His words remain supreme and we shall ultimately account for our actions with him. I see polygamy as being allowed for the protection of women.  Allah in His wisdom, allows it so who are we to question it. There are a lot of benefits but unfortunately people who practiced it wrongly are painting it negatively. It is not about sex in my honest view; relationship with woman is not about sex it goes beyond that. So marrying more than one wife is an act of protecting woman and in a very respectful manner that is the way I see it. For instance somebody who lost her husband at a tender age and do not get a man to marry again what will happen to her life afterwards? She will be exposed to a lot of indecency, which ordinarily polygamy would have protected.

What is your message to Nigeria Muslims?

My key message to Nigeria Muslims in addition to my wish for everybody joining the Jama’at is that I want the Nigerian Muslims and the Nigeria government to avoid riba (interest) in their transactions. We have to learn to live on profit not interest. A government once took us out of interest burdened economy, but today, we are back into it, because it is the plot of interest propelled people of the banking sector who lives on the profits we are making to make people to suffer. It is declaration of war against Allah. We will never know peace as long as we continue to live on interest.

Photos Bayo Ewuoso

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