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How Muslim World League came to Sokoto

It was the grandest Muslim conference held in Nigeria in a long time, and Vice President Mohamed Namadi Sambo spent three full days in Sokoto attending it. It was the first conference of the Muslim World League ever held in Africa, and it was a small miracle that Sokoto was chosen as the venue for this event.

Quite right, Sokoto was always in very good standing as the capital of the old Sokoto Caliphate, one of the most remarkable phenomena of Muslim state building and religious reinvigoration ever seen on the African continent. The Muslim World League [MWL], also known by its Arabic name Rabita al-Alam al-Islami‎, is one of the largest Islamic non-governmental organisations in the world with its headquarters in the holy city of Makka, Saudi Arabia. It was founded in 1962 by eminent Muslim figures from 22 countries led by the then Saudi Crown Prince Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz, who later became King of Saudi Arabia. Back in the 1960s, the Sardauna of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello was one of the important figures who promoted the MWL’s world-wide work, which included advocating the application of the rules of the Shari’a either by individuals, groups or states and coordinating the efforts of Islamic preachers the world over.
Other functions of Rabita include developing methods for the propagation of Islam, peacefully in accord with the Qur’an and the Sunnah; education and culture; holding symposia, rehabilitation, and refresher courses; bringing intellectuals and opinion leaders together during the pilgrimage season with the aim of fostering closer relations among them and urging them to develop practical methods of raising the standard of Muslims in the world; overseeing the activities of the Fiqh Council and lending it the support it needs to find Islamic solutions to contemporary problems; promoting activities that aim at spreading the Arabic language and raising the standard of teaching to both Arabs and non-Arabs; setting up branch offices as well as Islamic centres to serve the purpose of Islam; extending urgent relief to Muslims affected by war and natural disasters; and making the activities and construction of mosques more effective.
Enter, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, governor of Sokoto State since 2007. Two years ago, a delegation of the International Islamic Relief organisation [IIRO], one of the eight agencies of the MWL, visited Sokoto and undertook a tour to inspect some of the social programs the Sokoto State Government has been undertaking since 2007, many of them closely associated with the Islamic religion. Six of such programs, in particular, won high praises from the IIRO delegation. One of them is the Youth Development Program under which thousands of youths were trained to start a new life and become productive and self reliant. At the end of their training, they were given tools and working capital to set up their own small-scale businesses.
The second program that won high IIRO praise was the payment of monthly stipends to disabled persons. Governor Aliyu Wamakko embarked on this program within his first few months in office. He had a census taken of the large number of disabled persons who roam the streets of the state begging for alms. Wamakko wanted an end to street begging, so all the persons who met the criteria of disability were placed on a monthly stipend of N6,500. Right now there are 8,000 persons registered under this program, which costs the state government N45million every month. The third very laudable program is about Almajirai. Since 2008, the Wamakko administration has established very good integrated model schools for the Almajirai. This concept was copied by several states and ultimately by the Federal Government; President Goodluck Jonathan was in Sokoto last year to commission an integrated Almajirai school under a Federal Government program.
Also highly praised by the IIRO delegation was the Grassroots Preaching Program. Back in 2008, Wamakko ordered a research which discovered the need for enhanced education in the state’s rural areas. As a result, three Muslim scholars were recruited in each of 23 Local Governments of Sokoto State, a total of 69. They were designated as grassroots preachers, paid a monthly allowance and provided with motorcycles. They go round the villages for preaching, education, settling of crises and discovering those in need of one assistance or the other.
The fifth program that won high praise was the Arabic Proficiency Training Program. Under this program, many students were sent to Arab countries to pursue different courses ranging from medicine to ICT and to also acquire proficiency in Arabic language.
Finally, there is the Wamakko administration’s Zakat program. Under this scheme, food as well as medical attention and drugs are provided to the less privileged. It also includes the provision of shelter to orphans and aged, as well as the treatment of mentally ill patients at the state’s Neuro-psychiatric Hospital at Kware. These programs and other similar ones combined earned for Governor Aliyu Wamakko a membership of the International Islamic Foundation for Education which is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An eminent delegation from the Foundation was in Sokoto to deliver the letter of membership, which also undertook a study tour of the social programs. Their report drew the attention of the Secretary General of the Muslim World League Dr. Abdullah bin Abdul Mohsin al-Turki, and it ultimately earned for Wamakko a membership of the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League. This was no mean achievement considering that the last Nigerian who ever occupied this position was the late Sir Ahmadu Bello. Apart from this appointment, the League also agreed to open its Africa office in Sokoto. To boot, it agreed for Sokoto to host its 2013 International Conference, the first ever held on African soil.
Apart from the Vice President, the conference that was held in Sokoto at the end of March had in attendance the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad, Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, host governor Aliyu Wamakko and several other state governors, as well the cream of Northern Nigerian Muslim and Christian political leaders, academics and clerics. Archbishop Josiah Idowu Fearon, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop John Hayab and Pastor James Wuye were among the Christian religious leaders that spoke at the event. Among prominent Muslim scholars who also spoke were Professor Shehu Galadanci, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, Sheikh Ishaq Rabi’u and Dr. Aminuddin Abubakar. The conference harped on one message, peace, and the conference communiqué also dwelt on how to secure and promote peace and peaceful coexistence in Nigeria through inter-religious dialogue. It was a very worthy conference, held at a very appropriate time and which sent out a very appropriate message. What started it all however was Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and his social programs.
Jega is Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Daily Trust, Abuja

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