President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President David Mark, House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, and governors yesterday rallied Nigerians to the task of nation building by living up to the tenets of their religious beliefs.
The president and others, in separate messages to mark the celebration of Eid-el-Kabir today, urged them to pray for the nation and to be tolerant of others.
According to Jonathan, Nigeria will develop faster if its people resolved to “live up to the highest ideals of our religious beliefs including the fear of God, willingness to make personal sacrifices for the collective good, selfless service, respect for laws and constituted authority, honesty, justice, equity, fairness, dutifulness, peace and harmonious co-existence with others”.
He also used the occasion to congratulate Nigerian hajj pilgrims for the successful completion of the exercise despite the initial crisis arising from the deportation of some female pilgrims for not being accompanied by male chaperons on the pilgrimage.
He said although the problem had been resolved, he had ordered a thorough post mortem of the incident to prevent a recurrence.
He said: “Nigerians remain a people of great faith with the vast majority of our people professing belief in God either as Muslims or Christians.
“I believe therefore that we should all seize the opportunity of the Sallah season and the public holidays to reflect on how we can bring the ideals and virtues of our religious beliefs to bear on the positive resolution of the many challenges facing us as a nation.”
Jonathan, in addition, called on Nigerians to donate generously to the national relief fund established to cushion the effects of the flood that had ravaged many states and led to the destruction of property and displacement of about one million people.
“I have already announced a relief package of close to N18 billion and constituted a national committee to raise more funds to help victims of the floods.
“In the true spirit of our major religions which enjoin us to be generous to the needy, I urge all Nigerians who can do so, to donate munificently to the national relief fund for affected persons and communities,” he said.
The president pledged that his administration would monitor how the funds are utilised to ensure that they are judiciously and expeditiously expended for the benefit of the flood victims.
Mark and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in their messages, urged Muslims to remember the nation in prayers during the Sallah period, adding that all religious leaders should teach their followers the right thing to do, so that they do not depart from the truth.
Mark said Nigeria was presently passing through security challenges, a development he said requires that all men and women of goodwill rise up to tackle the menace through prayers.
He explained that the security challenge should not be perceived or seen from the prism of religion, but a crime against humanity, because no religion preaches violence or killing.
“We all have a stake in the project Nigeria; we must shun divisive tendencies and come together against all forces of darkness that seem to be dragging us back. We have come a long way; we cannot at this stage toil with the future of our nation. We desire peace. We need to make progress,” he added.
In his own statement, Ekweremadu stated that only peaceful co-existence, selflessness and obedience to Allah and the laws of the land such as exhibited by Prophet Ibrahim, would take Nigeria to the Promised Land.
He said whereas corruption, greed and wilful disobedience to Allah and the teachings of the prophets were largely responsible for many of the challenges facing the nation, such virtues of selflessness, justice, and total submission to the will of Allah epitomised by Prophet Ibrahim would restore the nation to the path of speedy growth and transformation.
“We must therefore not only seize the opportunity of the Eid-el-Kabir to pray for the peace, unity, security and prosperity of the nation, we must also resolve to show a high sense of patriotism, submission to the rule of law, and emulation of the great values of selflessness and love for one another to ensure that Nigeria reclaims her pride of place among the comity of nations,” he said.
The leadership of the House of Representatives also urged Nigerians to uphold the virtues of patriotism, good neighbourliness and religious tolerance.
Tambuwal said Nigerians must show uncommon commitment and be ready to make sacrifices towards the development of the nation.
The speaker, in his goodwill message to mark Eid-el-Kabir, said for the country to make the progress it desires, its people must be their brother’s keepers and be more sensitive to the well-being of one another.
“Let me use this opportunity to urge Nigerians, especially adherents of the Islamic faith, to use the occasion to reflect on our spiritual life as individuals and how we can contribute more meaningfully towards making Nigeria the great nation envisioned by its founding fathers,” he said.
His deputy, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, spoke in the same vein as he called on Nigerians to embrace religious harmony and peaceful coexistence as a way of promoting the unity of the country.
Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, called for continued prayers for peace, security and development of the country and its people.
Amaechi, in a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Dave Iyiofor, congratulated Muslims for the successful conclusion of this year’s hajj, which heralds the celebration of Eid-el-Kabir, and urged them to continue to pray for the peace and progress of the nation and unity among its people.
“As Nigerians, we should not relent in praying for our country, particularly for our leaders to lead right and for our people to grow in love and oneness to ultimately make our country a better place for us all.
“Let the love and generosity exhibited during the feast of sacrifice become part of our national life, as we strive to eschew violence and all forms of inhumanity,” he said.
His Anambra State counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, said the celebration of Eid-el-Kabir offered a special opportunity for Muslims to reflect on their spiritual lives, pray for themselves, others and the nation.
“As the celebration goes on, it reminds us to always reflect on the ideals of good living, which all religions preach; this abhors violence, but rather promotes peace and fraternity among men.
“Most importantly, may this period remind us all to be faithful to the Almighty and live according to His dictates, especially in our world that has been gravely wounded by vices of all types,” he added.
National leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Bola Tinubu, harped on peace and religious tolerance and responsible leadership.
He said in his goodwill message that although Eid-el-Kabir is a Muslim festival, Nigerians, irrespective of their religious persuasion, should regard themselves as partakers, in the best tradition of religious tolerance and harmony.
He urged Nigerians, particularly Muslims and Christians, to emphasise the similarities, rather than differences, of the two faiths.
“This festival celebrates the complete faith in Almighty God by Ibrahim (Abraham in Christianity), when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Ishaq (Isaac in Christianity). The reward of this unquestionable faith in God is what we celebrate today in Eid-el-Kabir.
“We should celebrate that the two great religions come from the same source; and use that commonness to unite and build our country,” he added.
However, today’s celebration, especially in Northern Nigeria where Boko Haram has unleashed a reign of terror on the people, will be held amid tight security.
Intelligence reports ahead of the festival had forced security agencies to issue security alerts.
In Abuja, the nation's capital, security has been beefed up to deter terror attacks.
Churches, mosques and other worship centres as well as gardens and recreation places were placed on 24-hour surveillance just like government establishments.
Security sources informed THISDAY that top security chiefs spent the better part of Wednesday reviewing their strategies to ensure an attack-free celebration.
The Joint Task Force (JTF), which has been in pursuit of members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, had heightened tensions when it warned that it had intercepted a signal that the sect was planning to bomb some cities in the North.
The police followed up with their own statement directing all Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police to personally ensure that cities that have been identified as black spots are adequately secured.
Force spokesperson, Mr. Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), told THISDAY yesterday that the police had monitored preparations for the Sallah celebration across the country and no incident of crime was recorded.
He urged Nigerians to go about their legitimate duties without fear of molestation from any quarter, warning that anyone caught committing a crime would be made to face the wrath of the law.