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 level of tolerance should be a shining example to others in leadership position.
According to Osinbajo, “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 noted that religious threats is real said: “Permit me to put the topic in context so that we do not miss the essence of the topic. 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 and I believe my brother, Isa Pantami (Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy who delivered the keynote address) did an excellent job.
“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.
“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. When the assailants were adamant, he told them that they would have to kill him first if they were going to kill the Christians, he had given refuge. They eventually left without killing any of the Christians in the mosque or in his home. Imam Abdullahi’s selflessness and sacrifice saved the lives of hundreds of people of a faith different from his own.
“Imam Abdullahi not only refused to give up the Christians he had given refuge; he even offered his life in exchange for theirs. His moral courage is rooted in a profound recognition of our common humanity. His compassion, empathy and selflessness are an example to us as people of faith.
“Jesus Christ told a story somewhat similar to this. Someone had asked Him the question, “how could he attain eternal life?” And Jesus replied by asking him what the law said on the matter. The man responded that the law says “Love God with all your heart and mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus then said, “Good, you go and obey that law and you will live.” However, the man asked him, “But who is my neighbour?” Jesus then told him a parable which later came to be known as the story of the Good Samaritan.”
First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Aisha Buhari on her part charged political leaders to do more with a view to improving the lives of citizens through the provision of basic amenities as a catalyst for development.
The First Lady said the rising insecurity which was as a result of injustice, had made it impossible for some Nigerians to travel to their states and villages and live peacefully.
“I have listened to the speech of his Eminence Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, where he talked about justice, and the Minister of Communication talked about justice and injustice, and I think he did not mention the consequences of injustice.
“The conference is timely, and this is the right time to address the problems in Nigeria, the problems have been escalating from one thing to the other. Thinking that General Muhammadu Buhari will solve it alone, he cannot do it alone, we have to work together to make sure that we do the needful, we as Muslims we operate within the guidelines of Islamic injunctions.
“We must do justice to ourselves, most of us here, as a result of long-time of injustice done to others, today, most of us cannot go to our villages and sleep with our two eyes closed, we all know that and it is moving forward and forward.
“My husband has three years to go, we should fasten our seat belt, get up and do the needful or we will all regret it very soon, because, at the rate which things are going, things are completely out of hand, the Vice President is here, Ministers are here, they are supposed to do justice to whatever, people cannot afford portable drinking water in this country, we have ministers, we have governors.
“Since this is the highest decision-making body of Islamic affairs, for those that are Muslims, we should fear God and we know that one day we will return to God and account for our deeds here. I hope that the decisions, debates and engagements here today will be fruitful with the view of reaching realistic decisions for shaping our lives as a nation,” Mrs. Buhari said.
The First Lady also threw her weight behind the call for the social media space to be regulated, saying if China could control a population of over a billion, Nigeria shouldn’t struggle to control a population of 180 million people.
She said: “If China can control over one billion people, I see no reason why Nigeria cannot attempt controlling only 180 million people.”
Earlier, the President-General of NSCIA and Sultan of Sokoto, his eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, in his message said leaders must be accountable to the led and must demonstrate good example of humility and service. He advised leaders to do more on education, particularly to address the Almajiri System and girl-child education.
He commended the First Lady for the effort she is making to improve the lot of the common Nigerians through the various humanitarian activities of Future Assured Programme. He said her passion has led to opening up of discussion with the Council on the issue of divorce, which is becoming rampant and which has an impact on the welfare and well-being of children.
Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, delivered a paper titled “The nexus between Islam and National Development”, where he emphasized that Islam is all about development.