Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged Nigerians to emulate President Muhammadu Buhari’s religious and ethnic tolerance. The Vice President who said the Villa Chapel in Aso Rock, is located close to the first family’s kitchen stressed that their level of tolerance should be a shining example to others in leadership position.
His words: “Every Sunday, my family and over 100 Christians attend service in the Chapel at the Villa. The Chapel is located in the premises of the President and his family. It is located a few seconds away from the First Lady’s kitchen. Sometimes when I see the President on a Sunday morning, he asks me whether the service is over already or I am escaping from the service! That is the sort of tolerance that we need in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society and it is the duty of leaders to show that sort of example.”
Vice President made the call at the formal opening of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) General Assembly/NEC Meeting, at the National Mosque on Friday, with the theme, “Islam and National Development.”
Osinbajo who lamented that religious threats are real in the country, said: “Permit me to put the topic in context so that we do not miss its essence. So, I recast the theme to read as follows, quote, “The Role of Islam in the Development of a Multi-religious and Multi-ethnic Nation.” This is the gravamen of the matter.
“Decades ago in this same country, it would not have been a major topic. Leaders in the First Republic did not consider religious intolerance as a major national issue, they were more concerned about the issues that touched everyone regardless of religion or ethnicity; they were concerned about providing food, shelter, education and decent livelihoods. But today, no true leader can ignore the threat that religious bigotry and intolerance poses for the development of our nation. That is just the way it is. But it is my respectful view that the burden of ensuring that faith promotes national development as opposed to impeding it is on leaders. This is the challenge I pose to you today.
Citing an instance with the widely celebrated story of the Muslim Imam from Plateau State who placed his life on the line to save the lives of some Christians last year, he said: “A few months ago, at an interfaith gathering, I told the story of an occurrence on the 20th of June 2018. Christians in their village Nshar Yelwa, Plateau State were attacked by a horde of persons who were said to be Muslims, who had attacked other villages and had killed several Berom farmers who were mainly Christians. As Imam Abdullahi was finishing mid-day prayers, he and his congregation heard gunshots and went outside to see members of the village’s Christian community running helter-skelter. “Instinctively, the Imam ushered 262 Christians into the mosque and some into his home next to the mosque. The Imam then went outside to confront the gunmen. He refused to allow them to enter, pleading with them to spare the Christians inside the mosque and his home.