It came straight without apologies. And it was a marked departure from the path trodden by the leaders of the region. It was the verdict that the Northern part of the country is responsible for its problems. And the verdict came from one who should know - the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III. Abubakar also stressed that no one could Islamise Nigeria while urging the citizens to ensure they promote national unity.
The Sultan’s position came as the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the former Vice Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Convener, Save Nigeria group, Pastor Tunde Bakare and the Primate of all Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh urged the government to tackle the nation’s security challenges and improve the lot of the people.
Abubakar who condemned the activities of Boko Haram in some parts of the North explained that no good Muslim or Christian would be part of the insurgency meant to disintegrate the nation, just as he added that "nobody, either Christian or Muslim, can impose his religion on the country."
The Sultan said that the insecurity and other associated challenges bedeviling the Northern region were self-inflicted by northerners.
Abubakar nevertheless, insisted that only dialogue with any aggrieved party would remain the solution to the security problem rather than violence or force, saying, the problem of the North would remain the problem of the entire country; and the North could not be left with its problems.
According to him, traditional and religious leaders played their part in the past, and that they would not give up until the challenges are permanently solved.
The Sultan lamented the inability of the relevant government authorities to implement their series of well-articulated recommendations that could have helped in addressing the challenges.
Abubakar who spoke in Kaduna Monday at the meeting of the Northern Governors Peace and Reconciliation Committee with himself and the leaders of the CAN remarked: "Let us sit and talk freely and articulate positions that will bring us out of the quagmire we put ourselves."It is important that, the religious and traditional rulers from our various states sit together; so that, each and every one of us will talk freely, articulate a position as the way out of this problem we find ourselves. In this quagmire we put ourselves, because whatever that is happening in the North is our own doing, because we did not do what we are supposed to do. And since we know that, we have to solve our problems ourselves. So, I think, it is not a bad idea that the committee was set up.
"We wrote a memo of about nine pages or thereabout covering various issues affecting the country and the North in particular to the then Acting President and now President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the Nigeria Inter Religious Council (NIREC), where we suggested solutions to the problems."
In his own remarks, John Cardinal Onaiyekan attributed the security challenges facing the North and the country in general to a high level of poverty, adding that the North had been more on the receiving side.
He lamented the level at which people used religion to cause violence in Nigeria, saying that the bad image of the country had spread like wide fire outside its shores and there was the need for the stakeholders to address the issue with a view to putting a permanent end to the problem.
He said that Christianity and Islam in Nigeria should not be seen as an accident of history, rather it was "God’s design that cannot be changed by anyone." He lamented further that the main problem of the country was bad governance "and once that is addressed head-on, all other problems are tackled too."
Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, and other traditional rulers from the North were present on the occasion.
Oritsejafor asked the international community to wade into the continuous killings of Christians in the Northern part of the country by Boko Haram.
The cleric who described the Boko Haram’s actions as deliberate attempts to reduce the Christian population and to propagate Islamic doctrine, called on Amnesty International, civil societies and human rights groups to find lasting solutions to these crimes committed against Christians in Nigeria.
Oritsejafor made the call, following the indiscriminate shooting of some Christians worshiping in their church in Jakano, a village located a few kilometres from Maiduguri, Borno State, killing five of the worshipers, including their pastor, on Sunday morning, and the killing of two members of EYN church in Kubruvu, Damboa Local area of Borno State.
He said that he was uncomfortable with the silence and inaction of the governors of the affected states, and called on them to, not only condemn the killings of Christians in their states, but to also take proactive actions that would protect them.
Speaking through his Media Adviser, Mr. Kehinde Ashaka, the cleric condemned the barbaric acts and called on all the security agencies in the country to enhance their method of getting quality intelligence in their fight against the Boko Haram members.
While commending Christians in the Northern part of the country for their resilience, he urged them not to flee their ancestral homes on account of their travails, but to trust in God, believing that there is always the triumph of good over evil.
According to Bakare, Nigerians continue to be poor because the leaders do not make laws that will directly impact the lives of the masses.
He noted that most of the laws being made by the government were "useless and uncalled for" because they defied developmental logic.
He called on the citizens of the country to reject oppressive leadership by insisting on the need to change the 1999 Constitution, which he described as a "faulty document."
Bakare made the call in Lagos yesterday at a roundtable talk titled "Nigeria’s Fiscal and Monetary Crises: The Way Out," organised by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to mark the first anniversary of "Occupy Nigeria."
Bakare said that the poverty of the masses was not linked to their level of income but the poor infrastructural development in the country.
According to him, over 70% of Nigerians do not enjoy the normal welfare packages they are supposed to be experiencing.
He stressed the importance of doing away with the existing constitution. According to him, if the constitution is not changed it will eventually bring an end to the country. He berated President Goodluck Jonathan for keeping silent over the non-compliance to the rule of law in Enugu, Taraba and Cross River states where the governors have embarked on medical trips.
Bakare lamented that the same culture of impunity which the SNG fought on the streets of Abuja and Lagos in January 2010 when some cabal who claimed to be acting for the ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua refused to allow the rule of law to take place, was what was now playing out in the three affected states.
On his part, Okoh urged the administration to be steadfast with its programme for the nation and do away with every distraction so as to develop the nation.
He made the call at the weekend at the presentation of five new archbishops at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, Asaba, Delta State.
The archbishops include the Most Revd. Adebayo Akinde for the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos, the Most Revd. Segun Okubadejo for the Ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan, the Most Revd. Caleb Maduoma for the Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri, the Most Revd. Edmund Akanya for the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaduna and the Most Revd. Benjamin Kwashi for the Ecclesiastical Province of Jos.
Okoh said: "It is quite apparent that no government can attend to every problem at the same time but those things they have started should be completed and that requires them to distance themselves from anything that can cause any sort of distraction so that they will be able to make impact on the lives of the people they serve within the period of their service with their names written in gold. This is what matters. And this can only be achieved when they realize they owe their service to the nation with the attitude of servant leadership."
In his charge to the new archbishops, Okoh told them to identify with the poor and the suffering masses in the country.
"Help the masses to relate with the government and help the government to relate with them," he said.