Written by: Taofeek Ajibade
Nigeria is a country located on the West Coast of African. Her vast expanse of land covers a total land area of 923,768 Km2 (356,668 sq. miles). With 36 state and 774 local governments and a population of over 190million, Nigeria is not only the largest population in Africa; it is also the most populous Black nation in the world
This population is made up of about 374 pure ethnic stocks with distinct languages. Three of them, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo are the major groups and constitute over 40% of the population. Though the official language is English – having been colonized by the British – three major indigenous languages, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, are equally popular and regularly spoken by millions of citizens in the country. There also exist three major religions – Traditional, Islam and Christianity.
Coincidentally, these religions are fairly evenly shared among the three main regions of the country – North, Southwest and Southeast/Southsouth. While Islam is the predominant religion in the North, Southeast/Southsouth Nigeria has an overwhelming Christian population.
In a dramatic divine balance, the Western region of the country is composed of a good admixture of Islam and Christianity.
After more than a century of British rule, Nigeria gained Independence on October 1, 1960. Thus, Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, celebrated her Diamond Jubilee on October 1, 2020.
The history of the country would be incomplete without the account of the contributions of religious organizations, Christians and Muslims, in many areas and at different phases of the development of this unique African country.
While Islam had existed in the country many centuries before the colonialists introduced Western education, the education of Muslim children was largely confined to Islamic religious studies. This legacy was sustained as Islam spread from the Northern part to the southern part of the country.
Given that the western education then introduced was dominated by Christians and for the fear of the proselytizing drive of Christian missionaries, Muslim parents were not willing to release their children for Western education.
Even though a few parents did release their children, majority of such children fell by the wayside and were eventually converted to Christianity.
This heightened the apprehension of many Muslim parents and further cemented their unwillingness to part with their beloved children for the sake of worldly education.
This unfortunate trend was the order of the day among the Muslims in the country till early 20th century when Ahmadiyya entered Nigeria.
The dramatic change in the status quo thus began with the arrival of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in 1916. It has since contributed immeasurably not only to the spread of the true Islamic teachings and moral probity of the most populous black nation on earth, it has also contributed immensely to its educational and health developments as well as the general welfare of its citizens and residents.
With about 500 branches across all states of the federation, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, till date, remains one of the leading Islamic organizations in Africa’s largest country with huge membership.
As far as the Nigerian society is concerned, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has scored first in some areas of human endeavours.
A concise account of this is given in the following lines:
1. FIRST MUSLIM SCHOOL IN NIGERIA
Following the apparent reluctance of Muslim parents to release their children to attend public schools for Western education, largely dominated by Christians, on the suspicion that their unsuspecting children could be converted to Christianity, the Colonial government in Lagos on June 16, 1896 established a primary school exclusively for Muslim children.
However, by 1906, the government had withdrawn its funding of (the public) school exclusively for Muslim children and consequently converted the existing one to Government School – open to children of all religious orientations and denominations.
Upon this withdrawal, the government made appeal to all Muslim communities in Lagos to build their own Mission Schools. Unfortunately, this was not to be until about a decade and a half later.
On September 4, 1922, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Nigeria, led by its first foreign Missionary, Maulana Alhaji Abdur Raheem Nayyar, who had arrived the country barely a year and a half earlier, made history by establishing the first Muslim School in Nigeria. The school was named Talim-ul-Islam Ahmadiyya School located at 33/37 Aroloya Street, Lagos Island, Lagos State, Nigeria and still exists till date.
This trail-blazing effort was recognized by the government with the following comment of the Resident of Colony, Dr. Henry Carr, at its formal commissioning:
“the credit to establish a Mission School for Muslims and their children belonged to the diligent effort of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Lagos, Nigeria as they were the first to make the great sacrifice to lead other denominations of Muslim sects to effect the establishment of the Muslim school in Lagos“
(Centenary History of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Nigeria).
Subsequently, the Community has since waxed stronger in its contributions to the development of education in Nigeria by establishing many more schools across different towns, villages and cities in the country with a view to bringing education to the doorstep of the citizens.
Today, secondary schools established by Ahmadiyya exist in at least seven states in the country, namely; Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Kano, Kogi, Niger and Zamfara.
Though, consequent upon a new education policy, the governments of the respective states have taken over the ownership of the schools, all the schools still exist with their original names – Ahmadiyya.
In addition, upon government take-over, the Ahmadiyya community, unlike other religious bodies, neither demanded, nor was given any compensation for its investment. It also did not withdraw its dedicated teaching staff from the schools as did other religious bodies at the instance of the take-over.
Notwithstanding this development, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community still has a few well-established secondary schools located in Kano, Nasarawa, Plateau, Oyo and Ogun States currently under its supervision as well as many primary schools across 10 states in the country. It is instructive to note that these schools are attended by Muslims and non-Muslims alike without any form of discrimination in all aspects of instruction.
The popular education drive of the Community has also ensured that pioneer Muslim professionals in different fields were Ahmadi Muslims.
For instance, the first Muslim lawyer and the first Muslim medical Doctor – Alhaji Jibril Martin and Dr. Saka Tinubu – were Ahmadi Muslims.
2. THE FIRST MUSLIM NEWSPAPER
Since its first issue on December 31, 1951, The Truth newspaper has remained the first and longest extant weekly newspaper by any Muslim organization in Nigeria.
Following the emerging popularity of online journalism, the newspaper recently added online publishing to its weekly print edition. Also, in the Nigeria Media circle, a former Amir and Missionary-in-Charge, Maulana Naseem Saifi was so active and prominent in the Nigeria Media arena that he became the Vice-President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). He served his tenure with enviable records of service. Today, another leading member of the Jama’at, Dr. Qasim Akinreti, was a former Chairman of the Lagos State council of the same media professional body.
3. HOSPITALS AND CLINICS
Another pioneering role of the Community is in the healthcare sector with significant contributions in the establishment of hospitals and clinics in different cities in the country.
The hospitals and clinics are run under the Nusrat Jehan Scheme.
Today, the Jama’at has five functioning hospitals/clinics in three states: Lagos (2), Ogun (1) and Kano (2). These hospitals attract patients from far and near within their respective neighborhoods owning not only to their good medical facilities but also to the competence and efficiency of their medical personnel.
Compared to industry standard, the hospitals provide quality services at very low charges.
4. BLOOD DONATION
Over the years, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has transcended from a mere religious body to a Community dedicated to serving humanity in all manners possible.
It has become famous, not only for its religious activities but also its unequalled strides in saving life through blood donation.
Today, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Nigeria is arguably the largest organized (group of) blood donors among all organized Muslim communities throughout the country, and perhaps the first even among all donors as there is no record of any religious organizations – Muslims and Christians – mobilizing as many members, and as regularly as Ahmadiyya does.
Every four months, not less than 500 members of its male Youth body are mobilized across the country to donate blood to hospitals and blood banks nearest to their respective branches.
Notable among these are the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan; Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo; and the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) which has blood banks across the country.
These figures are aside from the similar donations by both the elderly male (male above 40 years) and the womenfolk both of which could total about 500 thus giving a total quarterly donation of 1000 pints of blood.
In addition, there are mass donations at two major annual national events of the Jama’at – Ijtema and Jalsa Salana (National Conference) – each of which accounts for close to 1000 pints of blood.
So, in effect, it could be said that the Jama’at donates annual total of around 5,000 pints of blood to hospitals and blood banks for the use of humanity, irrespective of their religious leaning, caste or cultural orientations.
Another interesting side to this development, according to the oral testimony of the medical personnel in the different blood banks, is that whereas it is rare not to find in other (donor) groups, at least 1 out of around 500 people to be diagnosed with one STD or the other, no single member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has ever been diagnosed of any STD despite the thousands of blood samples taken from them.
This is nothing but the sheer blessing of Allah over this Community.
5. HUMANITY FIRST NIGERIA (HFN)
Another area where the Community has directly touched the lives of many citizens without regards to skin colour, tongue or religious creeds is the provision of social welfare/amenities through its worldwide Humanitarian agency, Humanity First.
Since the Nigerian branch was established in 2005, HFN has provided potable water and solar power to remote villages and hamlets, free of charge.
It has also provided food and clothing to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in crisis-ridden parts of the country, especially the Northern part.
One of the signature humanitarian interventions of the organisation is Gift of Sight, a medical outreach that is designed to help restore the sights of many people by providing free quality eye operations to the population.
Since the outreach debuted in 2017, a total of 1,498 patients have successfully undergone cataract surgeries, absolutely free.
Also, in addition to taking active part in disaster relief across the country, Humanity First Nigeria was a generous donor of 26,000 units of facemasks for free distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
This is no doubt a significant contribution to support the government in its effort to stop the spread of the pandemic disease that once tolled more than 50,0000 cases in the country.
6. STOP THE CRIME CAMPAIGN
Considering the fact that more young people are now getting addicted to drugs, becoming attracted to rape, robbery, internet fraud, ritual killings, and full-scale terrorism, a campaign against criminality could not have come at a better.
Without a doubt, the alarming crime rate in the country, nay the world, is enough to genuinely agitate patriotic minds who wish the best for mankind and come with a message of peace to the world.
It is in the light of this that the Youth body of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has taken it upon itself to embark on a wide campaign against crime, code-named STOP THE CRIME CAMPAIGN (STC).
Since it began in 2016, the campaign has travelled far and wide within the country visiting primary and secondary schools which have recently become the hotbeds of criminal activities.
At each point of call, leaflets written in multiple languages have been distributed.
The Youth body has also sponsored radio jingles and organized lectures and seminars for the students right in their schools in a bid to ‘catch them young’.
In 2018 alone, over 17,000 students were directly reached in their respective schools across 9 states in the country.
By 2019, not less than 23,471 students in 9 states were direct beneficiaries of the campaign.
Likewise in 2020, between January and March when COVID-19 lockdown started in the country, another 22,407 students were tutored on the negative effects of crime on their future aspirations.
As much as the positive effect of this may not become apparent at the moment, its future impact on the life of the children is undeniable. By channeling its effort and energy to training the young ones in good character and modelling them to become responsible citizens, the Ahmadiyya Community has demonstrated its unyielding commitment to social development and nation-building.
7. TREE PLANTING
The significance of tree planting to a sustainable ecosystem cannot be overemphasized.
At a time the world is battling with deforestation, flood and rising carbon dioxide resulting in high earth’s temperature, experts have proffered that planting trees could help stem the tide.
This change in the ecosystem, according to scientists, has implications not only for Arctic livelihoods, wildlife but also for sea level, with significant consequences for low-lying land and islands including the people that live there.
On the other hand, if trees can be planted around, according to the ITF, “they have the power to mitigate human-made global warming and protect the atmosphere. Because trees absorb and store CO2 away from the atmosphere, forests form “carbon sinks” trapping tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and protecting us from human-made climate change.
Simply put, the more trees we plant, and the more we slow down and reverse deforestation, the greater the Earth’s ability to lock carbon out of the atmosphere and slow global warming.”
It is in the light of this that Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, through its Youth Wing, has embarked on Tree planting Project.
As a way of supporting a friendly ecosystem in the country, the Project was flagged off a few years ago with hundreds of trees planted in strategic locations in different towns and cities where the effect of global warming is highest.
In the year 2019 alone, a total of 824 trees were planted across 6 states of the federation.
TESTIMONIES OF NATIONAL FIGURES AND LEADERS OF THE COUNTRY
A few of the comments of leaders of the country on the activities of the Community are hereunder presented:
In a congratulatory message to the Jama’at at its 67th Annual Conference in 2019, the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun said : “We will continue to support you especially (in) the area of social support which the Ahmadiyya is well noted for. We look forward to area of cooperation so that we can work together to improve the socio-economic lives of the people in this state“
As a special Guest at the Centenary of Ahmadiyya in Nigeria, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo made this insightful remark about Ahmadiyya: “the contributions of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at to Islam in particular and national development in Nigeria at large cannot be over-enphasised. Without equivocation, it was this great organization that blazed the trail for the emergence of highly respected Muslim intellectuals and professionals. Something striking about the emergence of the organisation that must be acknowledged is that it is a pace-setter or trail blazer for Muslim organisations in Nigeria.”
In this and many other respects, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Nigeria has contributed – and is contributing – in no small measure, to the socio-economic development of the country in a free, non-discriminatory manner.
In fact, as shown above, it has done this to the applause of not only common citizens but also high ranking government officials, political leaders and public figures.
Here, I end thus write up with the second stanza of Nigeria’s National Anthem:
Oh God of creation,
Direct our noble cause,
Guide our leader’s right,
Help our youth the truth to know,
In love and honesty to grow,
And living just and true.
Great lofty heights attain,
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reigns
As Nigeria clocks 61 as an Independent country, I wish all citizens and residents a happy anniversary, unbounded economic prosperity and social harmony in the coming years.
- https://www.nationalpopulation.gov.ng/ accessed on 15/09/2020.
- History of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria (2016). Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’atNigeria.
- National Welfare Office, Majlis Khuddam-ul Ahmadiyya, Nigeria.
- Annual Report (2020). Humanity First Nigeria.
- Annual Report (2020). Office of National Project Coordinator, STC. Majlis Khuddam-ul Ahmadiyya, Nigeria.
- https://internationaltreefoundation.org/why-trees/ Accessed 20/09/2020.
- Annual Report (2020). Office of National Project Coordinator, TP. Majlis Khuddam-ul Ahmadiyya, Nigeria.
- https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vanguardngr.com/2019/12/buhari-osinbajo-govs-lauds-ahmadiyya/amp/ accessed on 17/09/2020.
- https://www.google.com/amp/s/blackboxnigeria.com/centenary-obj-lauds-ahmadiyya-muslim-jamaat/amp/ accessed on 17/09/2020.
Taofeek Ajibade,is a member of the Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria. The Muslim Writers Guild is dedicated to defending the honor of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).