‘Why many people have wrong perception about Nigeria’
February 27, 2023
A global scholar, Dr Ismail Menk, with millions of followers across his social media platforms, has been touring the world to deliver message of peaceful co-existence and justice and helping the world to close ranks.
Popularly called Mufti Menk, his personable style and down-to-earth approach have made him one of the most sought-after scholars. TAJUDEEN ADEBANJO met the Zimbabwean-born scholar, who holds a Doctorate of Social Guidance from Aldersgate University when he came to deliver a lecture in Lagos, excerpts.
What brought you here?
Thank you, my brother. I have arrived in Nigeria for a convention. The convention is about helping the people to navigate through the challenges of the times. Many people have suffered losses, many people have struggled; many people are still struggling as a result of disasters. Together with that, the challenges that we are facing across the globe have not made it easy for people to recover. So we thought of empowering people and guiding them towards achieving contentment because we may not be able to help improve every single aspect of their lives but we would contribute by spreading a message of goodness, peace, spirituality, religiousness, kindness, character conduct, morals and values.
How would you describe Nigeria and Nigerians?
I think many people internationally may have the wrong perception of Nigerians due to interactions with some elements who may have been unruly but it’s unfair to judge a population of over 200 million based on the actions of a very small percentage even if you say 1.5 percentage of 200 million, it’s a massive number. If that number is unruly, it’s unfair to actually judge the rest on that.
I have found Nigeria to be a beautiful place; it is a very modern country, yes, it is part of the third world but people try very hard, and I have seen a lot of beautiful achievements. I visited the Eko Atlantic City, I was extremely impressed and I think that particular place in the near future will be the dream city of Africa. People don’t know much about this, the international world is unaware of this type of project in a country such as Nigeria.
Also, we have hospitality which is amazing. Yes, we may have some people whose temper flares and a few who might have been unruly, but is that not in every country? I feel that for those who visit; it is their duty to let the rest of the world know of the good experiences as well. You know when there is a road or a highway that has been made, people talk of the five accidents that took place on the road. Still, they don’t talk of the five million people who used it without any accident. I am not undermining lives or safety but I am saying that sometimes we tend to forget the vast goodness because of a few things that we might have heard that are wrong.
If you take a look at social media when they speak about Nigeria, at times, there is a perception that people are generally corrupt, they have an element of lawlessness or perhaps they are fraudsters which is untrue. As I said, a small pocket of people who may have that is in every country. If you come from my country, Zimbabwe where the population is 15 million, the elements of unruly people might be the same percentage but it is definitely less in number, because of being less in number, people forget that percentage-wise, the same percentage of 280 million is much more.
Worldwide, how best do you think the world can achieve unity because it seems that’s the problem everywhere?
I think we need to learn to respect one another with our differences and we need to recognise that we would not follow the same school of thought and we would not all follow the same understanding. The differences, if you look at them, are not major in most cases but we make them out to be major and we tend to follow a path of disrespect at times. We tend to follow a path of discord, a path of disunity, a path of creating gaps where it is not necessary at all. We need to learn to respect one another irrespective of whatever faith we belong to. It is important to respect one another in disagreement. Unity does not mean I need to be exactly like you; unity is not uniformity. Uniformity means we are all the same, unity is when we can respect the differences that we have, we would be united but the problem is people become very loud and insulting towards others when they differ.
I think that what we all need to realize is that my understanding or my own view of what should and should not happen will not be the same as others and certain civilisations will never be the same as other civilizations. The minute that you have one that tries to impose its values and its views on others, that’s where the problem lies. So, if one civilization has a set of values and the other does not share the same values, we can live in unity and we can live with respecting one another on condition that we respect the difference but the minute we start we start to impose what we believe on others, then we have a problem.