•President Goodluck Jonathan (left) in a handshake with Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III,
•Sultan: No rift between adherents of both religions
From Ahamefula Ogbu in Abuja and Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
Forty-eight hours after the Christmas Day attack on a church in Jos, Plateau State by Boko Haram that led to the loss of a life and several property, leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Jama'atu Nasiru Islam (JNI) in the state yesterday met and sealed a peace deal at the Jos Central Mosque.
The groups, after their review of the recurring crises in the state and the wanton loss of lives and property, agreed to, henceforth, co-exist peacefully, especially as they lamented that the vicious acts in the area had not benefited anyone.
The deal came as the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa'ad Abubakar III, declared after a closed door meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that there was no altercation between Christians and Muslims in the country.
The religious leaders’ peace deal was reached when members of CAN visited the JNI officials at the Central Mosque, Jos, as part of Christmas celebration.
The Chief Imam of the mosque, Sheikh Balarabe Dawoud, at the event said that Muslims were not involved in the recent bombing of the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries Church in which a police officer was killed.
According to the Sheikh, who was represented by Alhaji Sani Mohammed, there was every need for the Muslims and Christians to continue to meet and tell each other the truth, as only such could make their adherents understand one another and cultivate the spirit of peaceful coexistence.
The state CAN chairman was accompanied on the visit by leaders of the association from all the local government areas in Plateau North senatorial district.
JNI expressed appreciation for the visit and regretted the bomb that exploded on the Christmas Day and prayed for the repose of the souls of the victims.
The JNI Vice-Chairman, Sheik Mohamed Suleiman, while welcoming officials of CAN said the time had come for all the followers of the two religions to agree not to spill any more blood, but to embrace one another and be their brothers’ keeper.
He said rather than apportioning blames, both religions should hold the government responsible for what was going on regarding the deplorable security situation, because only the government has the capacity to unmask all evil doers in the country.
He said it was not true that the crises were religious, but emphasised that some politicians have used religion as a launching pad to unleash terror for selfish gains.
He therefore called on Nigerians to reject such people whenever they come to solicit for their votes.
Earlier in his remarks, the representative of the state CAN chairman and the Jos North CAN Chairman, Rev. David Bamidele, said they had come with open hearts to join hands with the JNI to find a way forward to the protracted crises in the state.
He stressed that it was on record that each time both leaders meet, there would always be assurances that peace would be sustained and once they depart, crises broke out, saying: “I’m wondering if it was with genuine acknowledgement by the leaders that they are working for peace in the state.
“We must misunderstand to understand and disagree to agree as such, let us use this platform to agree after disagreeing so that we can foster unity which is going to be for our benefits.”
At the end of the visit, the two groups exchanged pleasantries, while the CAN leadership brought with them bags of rice, fruit drinks and other essential items, while the JNI on its part, sent two cows to CAN in the spirit of Christmas.
Meanwhile, the Sultan spoke against the backdrop of the spate of attacks on churches in some Northern states during Christmas celebrations, pointing out that he was in the Villa to commiserate with President Jonathan over the multiple deaths from the bomb blasts and to openly condemn it as evil.
He said his discussion with the president centred on how to move the nation forward and ensure safety, peace and development, adding that he was willing to do everything to ensure that the problems facing the nation were resolved so that leaders could concentrate on how to give their best in service.
He said it was agreed that the government should revisit the reports of the various panels of inquiry that were pending and implement the white papers on them, especially the White Paper on the North-east Crisis and Jos, Plateau State after which a larger meeting of stakeholders would be called to discuss and address the current insecurity in the country.
"The government will look at all the past reports including the one set up by the president on the North-east crisis and also the Solomon Lar report on the Plateau and at the resumption of work, Mr. President and his team will look through all those reports and then call for a meeting of a larger body for consultation with all of us, both religious and traditional leaders.
"I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Christians and Muslims, between Islam and Christianity. It is a conflict between evil people and good people and the good people are more than the evil doers. The good people must come together to defeat the evil ones and that is the message.
"We want to assure all our Christian brothers and leaders that we stand on the part of truth according to our religion that we will continue to work, Insha Allahu, for the greatness of this country,” he added.
Also speaking, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Owoye Azazi, pleaded with Christians not to contemplate retaliating the Christmas Day bombing as the government was doing everything to bring the perpetrators to book, adding that “vengeance belongs to God”.
Azazi said it would be a wrong approach to think that since they had been bombed, they too should take to bombing as such would not solve the problem, more so as there was no conflict between Christians and Muslims.
"Have we thought of what their ultimate intentions are? Why will somebody go on to bomb Christians on a Christmas Day? Look at the ultimate intentions. Do they want to really raise tempers elsewhere? I think the Christian leaders, CAN, are meeting tomorrow (today) to emphasise to the Christians that we must live together as a nation. Retaliation is not the answer because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation, that is the key thing,” he said.
On the inability of security agencies to check the recurring attacks around Zuba area, he replied: "It is absolutely difficult to man every point of the country when there are security problems.