President Goodluck Jonathan
Muhammad Bello and Paul Obi in Abuja
The federal government has said it is committed to upholding the unity and peaceful co-existence of the country as one indivisible entity despite the numerous challenges it is coping with at present.
Muslims in the country today join their brethren across the globe to celebrate the Eid-El-Fitr (end of Ramadan fast).
President Goodluck Jonathan in his Sallah message to Muslims, said his administration was poised to ensure that Nigerians live together in harmony
A statement by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati said: “Against the background of persisting challenges to unity, harmony and peaceful co-existence in the country, President Jonathan seizes the opportunity of the Eid-El-Fitri celebrations to reaffirm his administration’s absolute and immutable commitment to the unity and indivisibility of the Nigerian nation.”
“The President assures all Nigerians once again that the imperatives of national unity, peace, harmony, collective development and progress will continue to inspire and motivate all policies and actions of his administration,” the statement added.
While congratulating Muslims for the successful completion of the 30 days fasting period, the president prayed that “Almighty Allah will grant them all the rewards promised to the faithful for the pious observance of its injunctions of piety, abstinence, self-discipline, constant prayer and charity.”
President Jonathan, who also observed the Ramadan fast in solidarity with Muslims in the country, commended the leadership qualities of the Christian and Muslim leaders in the country “who showed real commitment to peace and greater security for all by openly sharing the rigours and joys of the Ramadan with each other.”
He praised them for the onerous efforts which he noted has gone a long way in promoting national unity and peaceful co-existence between followers of the two dominant faiths in the country.
He, therefore urged the followers to follow in the footsteps of their leaders “by showing more of a similar commitment and willingness to live peacefully with each other in spite of differences of tribe or religion.”
Meanwhile, amid raging speculations that it has reopened talks with the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram, the Federal Government also said it was ready to listen to the grievances of the sect. Government insisted that dialogue remained the best option to engender peace.
Boko Haram has been responsible for the spate of bombings and killings, which had ravaged the North in the last two years. Borno and Yobe states in the North-east as well as Kano, Kaduna and lately Sokoto states in the North-West have been worst hit by the bomb attacks.
Following a statement credited to the sect through Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service that it was ready to dialogue with government, the Federal Government said it welcomed the move by the group to engage in discussion with it.
The statement issued on behalf of the government by Information Minister Labaran Maku read: “The attention of the Federal Government has been drawn to the statement issued through VOA Hausa Service on Tuesday, 14th August 2012 by Ahlul Sunna Lil Daawa Wal Jihad.
“The Federal Government welcomes any initiative that will usher in peace, security and tranquillity in the country, especially in the light of the security challenges that we have faced in the last two years.
In this context, we welcome the statement by Ahlul Sunna Lil Daawa Wal Jihad acknowledging that they have been in contact with the Federal Government through its representatives and have started negotiations with the objective of reaching a final solution to this crisis.
“In this regard, the Federal government wishes to reiterate its willingness to listen to the grievances of the sect. It is our hope that this process will lead to restoration of peace, security and tranquillity to Northern Nigeria.
“The Federal Government also takes special notice of the disclosure by the sect in its statement that there are individuals and groups in the society who have been using the name of the group to attack and kill innocent Nigerians for their own selfish.”
In the report by VOA, one Habu Mohammed, who claimed to be a deputy to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, had said the group decided to initiate the peace moves in response to public appeals for peace in the country.
The discussion was said to have begun about two weeks ago. There was not much details. The VOA said the statement was given to it in Mecca, saudi Arabia.
President Jonathan has always asked the sect to come forward and present its grievances on the table for the government to dialogue with it.
The talk with Boko Haram is said to have been opened by the National Security Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The government had earlier attempted dialogue with the sect, which was brokered by the National President of the Supreme Council for Sharia’ah in Nigeria, Dr. Datti Ahmad.
But the initiative broke down as Datti claimed that the discussions, which were meant to be secret were leaked to the media by the government.