It is often said that one will never know the true value of anything until he loses it. When a billionaire falls sick, he cherishes the poorest person on earth, so much that when the ailment takes a turn for the worse, he doesn’t mind trading places with the poor that is hale and hearty. The blind could pay any amount to regain his eyesight, but those of us whose eyes are very much functional tend to often take that blessing for granted.
This, In a way, sums up the story of Nigerians, many of who have forgotten that until the Buhari Administration came into being, millions of Nigerians had stopped going to our churches and mosques for fear of being attacked by terrorists, whose single bomb could cause maximum damage or snuff the life out of us.
Until I heard President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna Governor Nasiru El-Rufa’i eulogizing the Nigerian Army and reeling out its unprecedented achievements in the past four years, I have forgotten that that institution has been so critical to our survival and national well-being. The event was the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference presently taking place in Kaduna.
It was the Kaduna Governor who reminded us that it took the gallant intervention of the Army to recently stop cattle rustling in his state, and several others, and thereby reducing banditry and saving thousands of life and property in those shores.
Until the President reminded us, we have forgotten that Boko Haram was at the verge of taking over the north-east, with them in total control of large swathes of that part of the country, just four years ago. In fact, the terrorists have succeeded in killing the first class Emir of Gwoza and converted that strategic town to its headquarters, with their evil system of governance fully in place.
Even Abuja was not left out. In 2011, I missed the Madallah bomb blast by a whisker, as I just passed the area while driving back from Kano to Abuja when the first bomb exploded and killed hundreds of innocents Nigerians. But my good friend and brother, Suleiman Bisallah, Managing Editor of New Telegraph Newspaper, was not that lucky. On September 25, 2014, I was speaking with him on phone when he told me he was rushing to pick his phone that he took for repairs at EMAB Plaza, in the heart of Abuja. He didn’t know that he was rushing to his death, as a bomb detonated by Boko Haram terrorists exploded right at his face as he was stepping out of that plaza, after collecting his phone. He was shattered to pieces, and I could not recognize his mangled body when I entered the mortuary of Maitama Hospital, Abuja, where the remains of the victims were taken to.
Now, because we can go to our worship centers and shopping malls and engage in social gatherings without the least fear of terrorists, we have forgotten that the people who brought that about are the soldiers who staked it all to ensure we stay in peace and security. When they get killed by these same terrorists that they are protecting us against, we gleefully share the news and somewhat even celebrate it.
That spirit of humanism we were renowned for has since been shattered by merchants of hate.
For over one hundred years, the Nigerian Army has been in existence, long before we earned our independence as a sovereign nation. But today, owing to poor understanding of politics, some of us will rather engage in transfer of aggression because of hatred for the political administration in place today. There are reports of some religious leaders working hard to ridiculously divide our military along religious and tribal lines, forgetting that if they succeed (God willing they will never do so), there will hardly be a cohesive armed forces, and when that happens, what took place in Rwanda will be a child’s play here. Even if per chance the mischief maker stays alive, there won’t be food or the electricity with which to charge the stomach or the cellphone and spread hate and mischief.
While we are ensconced in our air conditioned bedrooms, with our loved ones, the soldiers that we irresponsibly attack are staking it all, including their precious lives, in bushes and in trenches. Years of deep corruption of the past have ensured that inspite of the best current efforts, some of the equipment used by these soldiers in our defence are rather obsolete. Of course the last four years has witnessed a massive turnaround in terms of procurement of weapons, but the money to do it all is simply not there. It has been stolen by the politicians that are egging us to spread hate and falsehood. Yet, if the soldiers are killed, we argue about the casualty figure, callously even jerking it up in some cases, or splashing it on the front pages of our newspapers, all to create the warped impression that the Buhari Administration has failed.
This column will continue to celebrate the Nigerian troops, even if that’s the only thing it will do, going forward. These are our brothers and sisters that deeply need our collective prayers and support. They were there before the advent of the Buhari Administration, and they will remain here till the end of time. They support reigning administrations only because the political authorities represent our sovereignty as a nation. They did that to Obasanjo, Yar’adua, Jonathan and now Buhari. But they have remained professionally responsible and capable, in line with the vision of General TY Buratai, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff.
Of course it is still work in progress. Even the most sophisticated countries of the world, with the largest, most equipped military, still contend with security challenges.
As the military top brass converge in the city of Kaduna on this year’s COAS conference, may the Lord grant them the ability to continue to fashion out cogent ways to safeguard Nigeria and totally rid it of all banditry and terrorism.
National Security and Integration: An interesting meeting between police affairs minister and Qur’anic reciters
It was a meeting designed by providence. From the Bridge Builders Association of Nigeria, down to countless other bodies, I have been involved with efforts to deepen our national unity and cohesion right from my secondary school days.
And so, when I learnt that the leadership of the Centre for Qur’anic Reciters of Nigeria, led by its National President, Gwani Sheikh Aliyu Salihu Turaki (Chief Imam, Alhassan Dantata Mosque, Kano) was going to have a meeting with the Honourable Minister of Police Affairs, I decided to find a way to attend.
As a Nigerian from the North, I have been deeply disturbed by the menace of street begging, or almajiri system that is, happily, gradually receiving national attention in recent years. I felt it was an opportunity to discuss with the visiting clerics this very serious, nagging matter and hear from them what they are doing to find a potent solution. The date was Monday, November 18, 2019, and the venue was the Federal Ministry of Police Affairs Headquarters Abuja.
Though Minister Dingyadi has for years earned a personal reputation as a man of unimpeachable integrity, I have never met him in person until that day. He came across as an embodiment of integrity and humility at their highest. And it is surely to the credit of the Buhari Administration that practical personalities like Dingyadi are at the helm of national affairs as a minister.
God so kind, the speech delivered by Sheikh Aliyu Salihu, President of the Qur’anic Reciters, was so apt that both the Minister and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry (a Devoted Christian) could not help publicly commending the Centre for its practical approach to solving some of the nation’s deepest problems. I reproduce here the speech, and strongly recommend similar decent and patriotic approach to all religious groups desirous of national security and integration. Excerpts:
Permit me to start by informing the Honourable Minister that the Centre for Qur’anic Reciters of Nigeria has been in existence for the past 16 years. It has since been duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, and we have been operating in full concert with the laws of the Nigerian Federation. Our corporate headquarters is cited in the city of Kano, directly opposite the Umar Bin Khattab
Mosque on Zaria Road. We have an annex secretariat in Mariri, as well as branches in 20 states of the Federation.
It is with pleasure that we recall that our foremost founding father was the globally respected Islamic cleric, Khalifa Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u, of blessed memory. Until his death, he was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Centre. Membership of the Centre is limited to only those who have been blessed by Allah, with the ability to memorize the Holy Qur’an uphead. Right now in our register, we have close to a million members, spread across all states of the Federation, though most of them are located in the northern parts of the country.
That is briefly about the Centre.
Now, as to our activities, it will please the Honorable Minister to know that one of our cardinal objectives is fostering peace and harmony among Nigerians of all faiths, in line with the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam. We encourage and deepen friendships between Muslins and Christians, and we have never been known to have issued any statement castigating Christianity or adherents of any faith.
In Kano and other places, we partner with the security services, especially the police, in fostering peaceful co-existence. We played a key role in partnering with the authorities to ensure Kano, for example, a state that was years ago known as volatile religiously, has become a haven of peace that welcomes all and sundry. No longer does Kano erupt in violence as a result of reprisal killings or for any other reason to do with religion.
We have strong partnerships with some Christian individuals and groups, and our hope is to replicate our achievements in Kano and other places to all the states of the Nigerian Federation, so that compatriots of all faiths could feel a compete sense of belonging wherever they may find themselves.
Sir, one of the major issues that have serious potential for security breakdown is that of almajiranci. In truth, the real almajiri will never constitute a threat to anyone. They are learned. They are cultured. They are taught to contribute positively to the development of any society they find themselves in. But we are disturbed that all ideal or jobless young men especially in the North are now classified as almajirai, including those that some unscrupulous politicians deploy as thugs during elections. Sir, most of these are in reality drug addicts and school drop outs who are beyond the control of their parents.
As for the real almajirai, we are seeking the partnership of government at all levels to address any inadequacy associated with the age-old system. We believe there are rooms for improvement. And it is for this reason that His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, has led us to organize a national conference on the menace of almajiranci in Arewa House, Kaduna, exactly two years ago.
Whenever we identify an issue seeking a collective solution, we tax ourselves to convene a national conference to seek such solution. Last year, we had yet another national conference in the ancient city of Sokoto, where His Eminence the Sultan led us in probing further on the current challenges posed by almajiranci and other social issues affecting the society. It was personally presided by His Eminence the Sultan, and the event was well attended by leading Islamic clerics from all over the Federation.
We plan to stage another national conference next month, In Sha Allah, in the city of Dutse, capital of Jigawa State.
Early this year also, just before the general elections, we organized a National Prayer for Peace here in the city of Abuja, at the National Mosque. Thousands of clerics from all walks of life attended.
The Honorable Minister could see that we exist not only to provide a credible platform for all Qur’anic reciters, but also to contribute our quota in facing especially security challenges bedeviling the country. Through our platform, the incidences of extremism are being tackled, as clerics are being made to see that the Holy Prophet of Islam lived a noble life that was the best example in tolerance and peaceful coexistence.