By; Juliana Katung & Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna.
In the face of persistent ethno-religious crisis that has ravaged various communities in Nigeria, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1 Division Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major General Adeniyi Oyebade has called on Nigerians irrespective of religious differences to work towards the growth of the country in terms of infrastructural development and cordial relationship as being practised in other parts of the world.
Speaking during the conference /Award ceremony organized by the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ) Kaduna State chapter, Major-General Oyebade recalled ol memories when religious differences never caused disharmony among Nigerians, but saw themselves as one united people working for the progress of the country.
The GOC who was honoured with Public Service Award called on the media practitioners to ensure that the people are sensitized on religion and ethnic issues so that there can sustain ethno-religious harmony across the country.
Also, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN ), 19 Northern States and Abuja, Reverend Joseph Hayab, said there is the need for interface and relationship between Christian and Muslim leaders to help in erasing the impression that Christians and Muslims in the country are sworn enemies.
The Secretary General, Jamaátu Nasril Islam (JNI), Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu equally spoke in the same vein, saying that religious bodies need not to exist if they cannot satisfy foundation for faith because they are supposed to build morality in line with the teachings of the holy books.
According to Major General Oyebade, “The music of hunger is the same, whether you are a Christian, Muslim or even Pagan, if you are hungry, you are hungry, it does not know religion.
“In those days, as Christians we were always looking forward to celebrate Sallah with our Muslim brothers in order to eat ram meat and rice with them.
“It was the same thing with our Muslim brothers who would be looking forward to join Christians to celebrate Christmas in order to eat rice, make enough friends.
“Whether you are a Christian, whether you are a Muslim, it is nobody’s business. And I think the media has to work hard to sensitize the people for harmonious coexistence irrespective of our religious difference. And I think everybody here has a role to play.
“Today we have Mr. President that the generality of Nigerians keyed into him, and when they voted for him, it was not because he was a Muslim, they believed that the man could make a difference in thier lives, and what are those differences?
“First, it is security, housing, good road infrastructures. I want to travel from here to Sokoto, to Benue, to Maiduguri, to Lagos on a super highway.
“Some of us had traveled abroad, it is not magic. The people who have good roads are not better than you and I, but we refused to put our house in order. And that is the challenge we face.
“We face alot of criminalities in our society today, the military and security agencies are doing so much, but the truth of the matter is that the populace can do much more because these criminals did not drop from the moon or from the Mars, they live among us. We need to expose them. I believe strongly that the best of Nigeria is just by the corner”.
Reverend Hayab said, “Insincerity of religious leaders is a contributory factor to ethno-religious crisis in the country. They must be courageous to tell their followers the truth whenever they go wrong.
“We have a responsibility to support government by saying the truth and practically demonstrating it, religious leaders must desist from preaching gospels/messages of hate and exaggeration of facts to provoke followers for crisis.
“However, the quest for national security which is a pre-requisite for any meaningful development of society cannot be over emphasized. As the objective of security which safeguards development is at the heart of every purposeful society, it should be mentioned from the outset that government alone cannot shoulder the burden of peace building in the society”.
Sheikh Khalid said, “Islam is a pact between mankind, his creator and neighbourhood, anything out of this is not Islam.
“Most unfortunately ethnicity has been deliberately viewed by many as religious. It is often used against Islam and the Muslims. If you find an Hausa or a Kanuri man act culturally or even does anything, it is termed as religious or Islam. Whereas if it were to be a Christian or a traditionist or any other, that is not Islam that does anything negative, he or she is not seen or termed as religious adherent of that religion that he believes, rather he is seen as a person, an individual that did what he did.
“Causes of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria is that most Nigerians classify others as us verses them, combined hatred for one another, dehumanising of other religions and cultures, and here we should understand the differences between a culture and religion, hate speeches and utterances of other faith, most crises had been organised by special thugs, whom are often trained, armed and paid some stipends for political gains, accidental scholars or preachers syndrome, harbouring lukewarm attitude towards taking punitive measures against instigators of ethno-religious crisis, among other factors.
“Even the Muslim and Christian sects in Nigeria, we need two eyes, the eyes of wisdom of the serpent, to know that there are enemies of peace, tolerance and religious freedom. The other eyes that we need in understanding inter religious harmony are simplicity and the simplicity of a dove. How? Recognising the dove, and going after the dove, and doing away with anything that will affect the living of the dove.
“Religious bodies need not to exist if they cannot satisfy foundation for faith, they are supposed to build morality in line with the teachings of the glorious books, spiritual development, the essence of religious bodies or organisations is to develop us spiritually so that we know God better, in serving Him better, and live within ourselves better.
“The essence of religious bodies is equity, judtice and fairness. Simply put, if your rights are denied, go to your scholar, teacher or religious clerics because some of them are closer to the government, they can even talk to the government about what to do or not to do, depending on realities on ground.
“The roles of political leaders are basically three; one is transparency, accountability, and participation. It is not enough for a political leader to give an instruction, and he will not participate. In Islam, it is wrong”.
Army Chief, CAN, JNI, proffers strategy for ending ethno-religious crisis
By; Juliana Katung & Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna.