Dr. AbdulHakeem AbdulLateef, a lawyer, politician, educationist, social crusader, Islamic preacher and Chief Imam of the Lagos State House of Assembly Mosque, is one Muslim many people appreciate.
His style of Dawah, is unique. Nearly on daily basis is on the road preaching the words of Allah across the country in spite of other commitments. Aside from his preaching he founded schools, which cater for the spiritual and worldly needs of Muslim kids. He once served in the Lagos-state House of Assembly, as a legislator as well a cabinet member of Lagos- State Executive Council, in the regimes of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola.
In this interview, AbdulLateef who holds a Doctorate degree of Philosophy in Law amongst other qualifications bare his mind on raging issues in the Nigerian politics and that of the Ummah.
Sir does religion has a place in politics?
Religion is all encompassing especially Islam. Almighty Allah that created us has organised everything, which has to do with our ways of life. Therefore, Religion has roles in governance. Governance comes from Allah, because human beings and the whole world are governed by Him. The world today is in crisis because many are governing without Allah’s modules, whereas He has made the world easy for us to govern, by giving guidance in the Quran. Q20:123. For one to succeed in Politics religion has to be a factor. The prophet (SAW) was a politician, for people like us to be involved it is to ensure only the goodness which the Almighty Allah established.
Are you saying, having your likes in politics is appropriate, than having them in confinement of religiosity?
Yes, if someone like us has the opportunity to be in power, he is expected to put into effect things that would bring peace in the Society. I would give an example. When I was in the Lagos State House of Assembly, a Bill was initiated on the same sex marriage, marriage between same sex , fortunately I was the chairman house committee on judiciary and I successfully due to my religious understanding of the topic ensured the Bill never scaled through. Today, it is a criminal offence for same sex marriage in Lagos- State. It attract ten years jail sentence and for those that witness such it is eight years. One can imagine, if such opportunity was not available. Ironically, do you know the Bill enjoyed powerful support from many ferocious groups and individuals? but when we presented our reports at the end, we had our way. Homosexuals and lesbians are to be quarantine to die naturally. So, let us have more learned clerics in politics and power.
Is God father syndrome real or an imagination in Politics?
Well, God father syndrome operates in every aspect of life, politics cannot be an exemption but like every human endeavour, it has its negative and positive aspects. I will give you a very clear example in Lagos State when governor Fashola was selected to be the candidate of the party, some people were against him saying it was god fatherism at work. But look at what Fashola did, he became the pride of everyone. I remember his administration, became reference point in governance in Nigeria. The so called godfathers exist everywhere in the world; even President Obama has godfathers. I can only add that god fathers are tools in the hands of Allah to put any one, He want in Power. President Jonathan cannot categorically, say that he knew everything about how he became president, Allah, directed the minds of those who were in charge to select him. At any rate, mention any politician in Nigeria and I would tell you that he is imposed.
But it seems God fathers always have their ways particularly the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu style of politics?
I do not think he has his ways all the time. Someone once accused him of his style, but he explained; if truly he imposed, he often presents good candidates and they often perform. He buttressed his submission with the first class performance of Gov, Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State. However, there are exemptions. In Ekiti State Fayemi lost at the general election that tells you that everybody has his own down moment, Asiwaju does not control anybody from his home nor imposes without consideration of other factors.
How turbulent is the political terrain in Nigeria?
It is turbulent. Greed, selfishness, corruption, embezzlement, high rate of poverty and unemployment had made it turbulent. The propensity to steal is very high in Nigeria, because politics looks attractive and they want to kill themselves to get there and those that embezzle public funds are not in jail. Regrettably, political office holders steal because the people make them to steal. When you go to their houses you see the number of people waiting at their door steps for favours. The solution to the turbulence in Politics is to make politics less attractive, by reducing drastically the resources that can be use to create ambiance of office. For instance, if the salaries and welfare package of a commissioner and other political office holders are on the same level with civil servants people will no longer fight over positions. I am an advocate of making politics less attractive, to reduce the turbulence and enhance service delivery to the people, in terms of good roads, employments, quality health care services, free and qualitative education and security of lives and properties.
The Lagos-State government policy on Okada ban seem not popular, your reaction?
I am a staunch lover of the ban and if people think the law on the ban of motorcycles- Okada on highways would be reversed they are wasting their time. There are thousands of roads in Lagos, motorcyclists (okada) are only restricted on few high way roads. These are the roads that have accounted for the great numbers of road accidents with huge injuries and deaths. Imagine a motorcyclist on third Mainland Bridge, Funsho Williams’s road and Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, riding recklessly, without helmets, carrying pregnant woman and school children. Such, cannot continue under a right thinking government, it is like aiding suicide. Anybody who visit the hospital should visit the okada section and see things that are terrible. With the law in place the number of people that get injured, died and maimed from okada accidents have swiftly reduced. These are verifiable statistics, those that have contrary views need to know the ban is a laudable achievement of APC government in Lagos- State which many States are imbibing.
What is your reaction to Cremation law in Lagos-State?
Islam is against cremation. It teaches that one day one will die and that because there is life in the grave (Barzakiyah), we should burry our dead properly. Perhaps the passage of the cremation Law occurred because those that were behind it were not adequately informed. The passage meant, the number of people in the house of Assembly, who believed in cremation outnumbered those who did not believe in it. I was not part of it, because I was out of the Assembly. That is why I always advocate for Muslims not to stay aloof in politics and Governance in the state.
Your style of dawah is Unique, what motivates you?
Well, Dawah is the calling to the path of Allah and for it to be effective, it must follow two conditions. The first is that one’s mind, goal, objectives and ways of doing it is to secure Allah’s pleasure and the other one is that it has to be according to teachings of the prophet SAW and not for commercial purposes. I do not know whether my style is unique, I only do mine in order to seek Allah’s favour. In the last 20 years I do not collect money for my dawah. It is a fundamental contradiction, for anyone to preach in a gathering and collect money to do that. Dawah is not the same with worldly show. I am aware, that there are Islamic preachers in Nigeria, which people have to pay thousands of Naira to before they come to a gathering; The Qur’an admonish, against such. Similarly, in my preaching’s I rather relate with my audience according to the Quran which is the divine manual, than just be speaking tons of Arabic that my listener would not understand as many others do. It makes dawah boring. How one can has a 30 minutes air time to preach and use nearly half of that time speaking Arabic? Another style that I adopt is to speak to the mind of the people by using the examples that are relevant to them.
As an educationist, are you satisfied with our level of educational quest? The Ummah is yet to get it right. Our major concern should be how many of us have huge knowledge on the Quran and Hadeeth. To me if you are a Professor in secular education and you cannot read the Quran, I do not see you as being educated because you would not be able to solve many problems, it is only the Qura’n that has answers to world problems.. But, we places priority on western education. Sadly, even our provisions for the western education are below standards. Initially, I also thought founding a western oriented school suffices, but after I founded such school and produces different category of professionals, I realised that there is a short fall and that short fall is how can you call yourself a Muslim and you cannot read Quran, cannot tell us why you are created, why you exists and how do you live in line with the Creator dictates. In order to correct the mistake, I founded another school targeting young Muslim children, whose brains are sharp without distractions to teach them the Science of Qur.an, Hadith and profound Islamic Knowledge. We have produced about 25 Hafis with additional ability to speak Arabic which is an international Language. I advise, this missing link, is what we all need to work for.