Magnus Eze, Abuja
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar III, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately deploy all the security apparatus at his disposal and arrest the current carnage in the Middle-Belt Region of the country, manifesting as herders-farmers’ clashes.
Speaking at the second edition of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) in Abuja, yesterday, Abubakar, enjoined all Nigerians especially religious leaders to toe the path of peace.
He said the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), was not a terrorist group, arguing that calling for its proscription, was equivalent to calling for the abolition of other ethnic organisations like the Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
The Sultan described Miyetti Allah as an organisation of Fulani people concerned with their business interest, noting that he as the patron of the 32-year-old association he would not subscribe to violence or killing of anybody, irrespective of the religion or tribe.
“This is not time to apportion blames because the women and children killed will never come back even if we shout in the media till thy kingdom come; the killings must stop now. What we owe these people that have been killed is for the killings to stop.
“Miyetti Allah doesn’t control any Fulani man. Somebody said the other day that the association should be proscribed. But calling for proscription of Miyetti Allah is equivalent to calling for the proscription of other ethnic organisations like Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
“It was formed 32 years ago and these crises were not there. I am the patron and we have never asked Fulani herdsmen to kill anybody.
“Any Fulani man caught killing is a criminal and should be treated as such. What are the security agencies doing? If they have failed, they should accept that they have failed,” the monarch stated.
He said the issue at hand was neither ethnic nor religious, but actually an economic problem, noting that the solution was for the various leaders to sit down and dialogue.
The Sultan continued: “As religious leaders, we have to be very careful with what we say; because it carries weight, our followers listen to us very seriously.
“We must believe in one another, trust and love ourselves because that is what our two major religions preach. We must continue to speak with one voice.
“We should not be labelling everybody a criminal because his brother is a criminal. People are saying; label Miyetti Allah a terrorist group. No, we are not terrorists and can’t join terrorism.
“This thing didn’t start today, in the past eight years, I have been to Benue many times to discuss this issue. We had met for hours and agreements reached, yet nothing has been implemented. Why?
“The former governors of Benue and Nasarawa are still alive, they know all these. Even the present governor of Benue had written to me to come again with my peace mission, but we had not had the opportunity before this round of crisis.
“We must come to the bottom of this issue, how come these Fulani men are carrying guns without the security men knowing?”
President of CAN, Dr. Samson Olasupo, said Christians at all levels believe in peace; while pointing out that there was a lot of deceit among religious leaders. Represented by Bishop Stephen Manza, the CAN president called for sincerity on all fronts: “ This is time for us to speak with one voice; but my concern is whether we are sincere in what we are doing.
“We religious leaders, we deceive people a lot. We say one thing when we have another thing in mind. Our tribal and religious affiliations have overshadowed our Nigerianness. “The problem is that we keep mute once a person is killed and a member of our faith is not the victim.
“Another thing is that we identify with people of our faith even when the person is doing the wrong thing.
“We all know that President Buhari is not handling the security situation in the country well, but certain persons are not talking may be because he is a Muslim. And when Jonathan was there, some Christian leaders kept quiet because he is a Christian.”
Onaiyekan maintained that the happenings in the country were not beyond Nigerians to handle and just like the CAN leader, he harped on sincerity. “We shouldn’t be praying for peace, when in the real sense, we are the ones causing crises everywhere. Talking for peace will give peace if there is truth.
“We must learn to build trust, trusting one another. We must join hands to do what is right,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), will meet next month in Abuja, over happenings in the country, particularly the tensions caused by bloody killings in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa and Kaduna states.
President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Co-Chairman of the inter-faith body, the Sultan, who disclosed this said there was urgent need for religious leaders to tour the various states to douse the palpable tensions in the land.
He said the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) agreed with the date he proposed with the CAN President and released some fund for the programme
“I want to give you good news, that by the next couple of weeks, we are reconvening NIREC. I am talking with the CAN President, we will meet in Abuja and discuss.
“I invite all of you to be part of the plenary. I think the arrival date is February 19, while the plenary is the next day. The CAN President and I have agreed on the date; and the SGF has also agreed with the date and they released some funding for us.
“I keep on repeating it, things are not okay, but they are not as bad as they are made to look especially in the social media. Let us go round and speak to one another, not just staying in our comfort zones.”
NIREC came into being at the dawn of democracy in 1999 as a platform for high level dialogue between Christian and Muslim leaders in the country with the intent to promote public good and harmonious co-existence as well as deal with the recurring crises often attributed to religion.