Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, monday in Enugu asked Nigerian political leaders to desist from further use of ethnicity and religion to divide the country, insisting that the nation’s unity ought to be uppermost in the minds of the leaders and the followers.
The Muslim leader, who spoke at a grand reception in honour of Rangers Football Club for their victory in the 2015/16 Nigeria Professional Football League held at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu, said the nation’s unity remained sacrosanct, and therefore, asked those clamouring for secession to desist from embarking on a wild-goose chase.
Abubakar said he was in the South-east not only to strengthen the bond of unity but also the bond of love and “the bond with Igbo race, Enugu people and South-east,” having started his military career in Nsukka, Enugu State, 32 years ago.
He noted that God did not make any mistake by putting together this country called Nigeria, saying that he must have good reasons for doing that.
“Our leaders, especially the Politicians, should please stop using religion to divide our country. Stop using ethnicity to divide the country, the country is so wide to contain everybody. God cannot make a mistake by putting together this country called Nigeria, He has reasons for that and that is why I tell people who say we want to go our different ways, how do you go your different ways, don’t you read history? Please refer to history books. We have Igbo people everywhere in the country and they are industrious. In Sokoto, nobody pays school fees whether you are Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo and that is the kind of thing we want to see everywhere in the country,” he said.
On the herdsmen menace which has claimed several lives across the country, the Sultan said it would be out of place to attribute the problem to just the Fulanis, noting that nobody should be allowed to hide either under ethnicity or religion to commit crime of any sort. He said no sane religion would accommodate the destruction of lives and property as a way of life.
“If anybody commits any crime, lets us take that person head on, and unless we do that, we cannot overcome the security challenges of this country. I have been in different parts of this country, I know Fulani people who have not been in other parts of the world except in Igboland, is it possible that these same people can now take up arms and begin to kill people where they live?
“It is not possible; something must have gone wrong somewhere. If there are criminals among us, it is left for us to find out who these criminals are and arrest them, it is the responsibility of all us to look at these criminals in the face and arrest them and prosecute them according to the laws of the land but sitting down and giving it name as terrorism and lamenting will not solve the problem.
“We will never support any killer taking the life of anybody because for us as Muslims we know what the Almighty Allah said about killing one single soul unjustly and unjustly, here means without recourse to law; a killer is to be killed but not through jungle justice but through the law. For anybody to kill in the name of religion, that person is a criminal and should be treated as one, and if we do that, definitely we are taking care of the unknown problems.
“The second part of the solution is for us to come together to tackle these challenges. There are many good people around and there are bad ones. Let us not do something that will alter our relationship.
“The evil ones among us must be dealt with. Those killing people we should find out who they are and deal with them. There are criminals all over, the issues of Boko haram and I want to tell you that many more Muslims have died in this insurgency than non Muslims. It is not issue of religion,” he said.
He further dismissed insinuations in some quarters that there were plans by the federal government to islamise the country using the herdsmen menace as part of the process, stressing that “you don’t Islamize people by killing them but through the show of love and friendship.
“They tell us that herdsmen are invading Southeast and South-south to Islamise Igbo and I ask how do you Islamise somebody by killing him, you Islamize somebody by showing a good relationship with him, showing that you are a nice person and he will now ask you about your religion. In the holy Koran, there is no force religion. Our problem is extremism and we must come together to put it out of us.
“There are extremist Muslims, there are extremist Christian and Hindus, so let’s show love because you cannot be a good person if you don’t show love to your friends, if you are a good Christian you must love your neighbor as yourself and a good Muslim must love his neighbor as himself and if the two religions teach that, why are we now fighting? It is important for us at this time to love one another,” the Sultan noted.He also used the opportunity to come in defence of President Muhammadu Buhari especially in view of the biting economic hardship, saying that president indeed means well for the country.
“I want to tell you that I have talked to President Buhari several times and I want to tell you that what the people are thinking is not what he is thinking. I am not speaking for him but I know he means well. Justice is the bedrock of any good governance and We want to see respect for one another because if you don’t respect somebody, you may not know who he is. You did not create yourself, God created everybody and we should fear God in whatever we do,” he said.
In his speech, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, expressed appreciation to the Sultan for the historic visit to the state, the first since he mounted the throne of his fathers as the Sultan, expressing optimism that thd visit would ho a long way in addressing some critical issues in not just the state but the south-east at large.
Also, the fiery Enugu-based Catholic priest, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka said the remarks by the Sultan had gone a long way in clearing so many doubts in the minds of the people of the state and South-east zone.
“Before now, we were biased unnecessarily, fighting a war that never existed. Your visit has succeeded in quenching a looming war,” he said.