Muhammad Jameel Muhammad chronicles the history of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), which turned 64 today. He identifies the progress made so far as well as the challenges.
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria was established 18 April 1954 at the Methodist Boys’ High School Lagos, at a meeting convened by brother Tajuddeen Aromasodun and attended by the likes of brothers Lateef Adegbite, Saheed Alade, Momo Sanni, Shehu Musa, Fatai Mabadeje, and sisters Zaidiat Anibaba and Mabadeje. These brothers and sisters consequently became the founders of the Society and some of them serving as its first set of National Executive Council under the leadership of Dr. AbdulLateef O. Adegbite of blessed memory.
The main objective at the formation of the Society was to protect the Muslims from the crusade of the colonial missionaries who were using access to western education as an avenue to rob Muslim Students of their faith in Allah and to bring Muslims in a closer union as well as having sound Islamic knowledge.
In the words of Dr Adegbite, the first decade of the Society (as cited by Abdul Kareem 2014) was a ‘Decade of Crusade’. Let us not forget that it was this crusade to survive as Muslims or submit to Christianity that assisted or rather propelled the founding fathers of the MSSN.
The Society got its first major encouragement from the late Oba (Chief) Adeniji Adele of Lagos when he hosted the first National Conference. The Muslim community further appreciated the existence of the Society. The Muslim parents, having understood the objectives of the Society, undertook a campaign ‘Operation Join MSSN’ (AbdulKareem, 2014).
The campaign by the parents and resoluteness of the leaders paid off as the second National Conference, which was held at Ijebu Ode saw a large turnout of members and registration of the Nigeria’s Premier University, University of Ibadan, as the first higher institution branch.
By 1958, the Society through its activities, had the recognition of the Western region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Christian, who advocated for secularity in Nigeria and regarded Muslims as fanatics. He invited the leadership of MSSN to an official government ceremony. The Society, being non-tribal and apolitical, had then Alh D. S. Adegbenro, Alh Ahmadu Bello Sardaunan Sokoto and Mal. Aminu Kano as its Patrons. The Crusade continued especially with the registration of University of Ibadan which was a mini Nigeria because of the existence of students from all parts of the nation in it.
The Second Decade in the history of the Society was, in the words of Brother Abdur Razak Solaja, the 7th National Amir who coincidentally was the first Amir in the second decade, the ‘Decade of Consolidation’. He brought about remarkable expansion through various initiatives, policies, and programmes like seminars and conferences. During this decade, the first tour to the North by the National Leadership of MSSN was undertaken by The Hussain Abdul Kareem(the oldest living National Amir, 1963-1965)- led executive.
This decade also saw the creation of 8 Area Units in the regions of the Country namely; West Area Unit A, West Area Unit B, West Area Unit C, Near-North Area Unit, Far-North Area Unit, Bauchi-Adamawa Area Unit, Mid-West Area Unit and Lagos Area Unit. The time also witnessed partnership with International Organisations and the initiation of programmes like the Islamic Vacation Course (IVC ), which has become synonymous with the itself MSSN.
The Third Decade was tagged by its first National Amir as the ‘Decade of Propagation’. Nigeria witnessed the creation of 19 States within this period and, for ease of propagation, the MSSN established 20 Area Units. All States had an Area Unit with exception of Oyo which was divided into two. For ease of administration, programme convenience and to reduce distance, the Country was divided into two i.e. A & B Zones. A Zone (Northern Nigeria) and B Zone (Southern Nigeria). Also, to cater for membership of the Society who have either graduated from secondary or post secondary schools but still identify with the objectives of the Society and the concept of studentship in Islam, Central branches were introduced in towns and cities to take care of their needs. All these were witnessed within the propagation decade.
The Fourth Decade was labelled by its first National Amir as ‘Reformation Decade’. The Society, during this period, was engulfed in internal crisis especially in the B Zone that threatened the coherent existence of the Zone and the Society in general. Alhamdulillah, this was later surmounted with the intervention of the Board of Trustees. The A Zone also had its share of internal challenges during this period especially on ideological front over what constitutes Islamic government and how should it be established. But despite all these challenges, additional Area Units were created with the creation of additional States making the Units to be thirty one (31) including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Most Islamic Organizations that emanated from the MSSN or its members were established during this period.
The Fifth Decade was seen as the ‘Decade of Rejuvenation’. After the numerous internal crisis and challenges, it was natural that there will be the need to reinvent some of the wills and even bring to bare the objectives and workings of the Society especially to the members who joined during this period. The Society got involved in a lot or seminars, retreats and publications. The constitution the Society was also amended to address some of the causes of the crisis.
The political space and governance in the Country had a positive feel of the trainees and cultured members of the Society and Nigeria was better for it The celebrations of the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the Society marked the beginning and the end of the decade.
The Sixth Decade and the last decade under review is in the words of it first National Amir ‘Decade of Reintegration and Consolidation’. With the precipitating effects of the crisis and the drawbacks, there was the need to retrace the path of the founding fathers of MSSN. This gave rise to a retreat for the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Society to further understand the objectives of the Society. The Society is also witnessing a lot of consolidation in terms of documentations, erection of physical structures, tour around the Zones, Area Units, Councils and Branches, regularised meetings with the Board of Trustees, bringing brothers and sisters of Secondary schools in the nation together to foster unity and contributions to national development.
In conclusion, it is worrisome that this Society that has brought nothing but good to the Muslims and humanity in general still suffers misrepresentation by the public. It is at times misconstrued by enemies of common good as either a violent or even terrorist organisation. Those that even knew and understood what it represents and protects find it difficult to support it and its activities.
Let me make a clarion call to all and sundry that the MSSN came with nothing but goodness, meant nothing but good, is doing nothing but good and will continue to remain on the part of goodness.