A former Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd), says the rising spate of insecurity and the clamour for self-determination in parts of Nigeria could destabilise the country if urgent actions are not taken to address the situation.
Ihejirika said this in Abuja Saturday night at the interfaith roundtable and stakeholders’ dinner on “Building a Culture of Peace and Unity in Nigeria”, organized by the Methodist Church of Nigeria.
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The ex-COAS noted that peace and stability could only be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are well-managed.
Earlier, the Methodist Archbishop of Abuja, the Most Rev. Joseph Job, accused the elite of exploiting the religious and ethnic fault lines in the country for selfish gains at the detriment of the nation and the citizens.
The Emir of Bichi, Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, said Christians and Muslims in the country had developed mutually beneficial businesses as well as economic and political relationships without crisis, disagreement or violence in company boardrooms, legislative chambers and political meetings.
He added: “We ought to export the same comradeship and mutual interaction to the larger society so that we can help our people build trust, tolerance, harmony and friendship across religious fault lines.”
The Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, represented by Permanent Secretary, General Service Office, OSGF, Maurice Mbaeri, said Nigeria’s unity could not be negotiated.
Also, the Co-Chair, Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), Dr. Sunday Onuoha, recommend that the country and its leaders must commit to expunging the ‘State of Origin’ and ‘Religion’ concept when citizens’ information/biodata is required for filling forms, applying for jobs or on international passports.
“It negates the concept and orientation of ‘Nationhood’ and the unity we profess and pledge allegiance to. Where one is born, where their parents were born, or where their ancestors come from, should not determine or limit the equitable opportunities available to them; but rather where they reside or have been raised.
“We must de-emphasize our faith leanings and rather, emphasize our common humanity and not bring religious sentiments to governance. Nigerians must face the issues of national development and rise above religious sentiments if we are to be listed among the developed nations.
“Also, politicians must remember that they have a role to play in punishing those who offend the laws of the land. There should be no sacred cows and there should be no selective justice in dealing with offenders,” Onuoha who is also the President Vision Africa and Executive Director, Nigerian Interfaith Action Association (NIFAA) said.
He said that without peace in Nigeria, there cannot be any meaningful development as no investor would like to establish a business in an environment of rancour and warfare.
“No meaningful development can take place in an environment where there is mutual suspicion. People hardly would trust each other because the faiths which are meant to bind people together end up dividing them.
“So religious leaders should ensure that they emphasize this quality of God, because where love exists, there must, of necessity, be the absence of suspicion, religious discrimination, rivalry and competition, strife and tension.
“Both Christianity and Islam encourage hospitality. When we open up ourselves to one another and support each other as practitioners of faith then we follow the scriptural admonition or divine enablement to share with others our home, our lives, our personal space and resources without communicating a need for performance or an expectation of return.
Love for neighbour is a golden rule in all religions; we must all draw goodness from our various faiths and treat each other from the theology of hospitality acknowledging all as fully human and with dignity, so that Nigeria would be safer and secure for all,” he said.