Charting a Way Forward

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Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, recently organised a two-day international conference on peace and security in Ilorin, where prominent religious leaders and heads of security agencies charted a way forward. Hammed Shittu who covered the event, reports

Peace and security remain siamese twins that cannot be ignored in the socio-economic development of any nation. They have become a pedestal upon which any government be it local, state and federal plan their developmental programmes. It is such that if they are absent, no meaningful results can be achieved in the delivery of dividends of democracy to their people. And any society where peace and security are lacking, such society would not be able to move forward and the desire of such society to add values to the socio-economic development of the people would not be there for the governed.

Based on this premise, the government of Kwara State under the‎ able leadership of Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed recently convened its first ever international conference in Ilorin, the state capital, where various stakeholders were in attendance including Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Secretary General of Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, the representatives of King of Saudi Arabia, some Christians leaders in the state among others where they jaw-jawed on the way forward to ensure peace in the state and the country in particular so as to bring much needed socio-economic growth to the doorsteps of the populace.

The theme of the conference tagged, ‘Security and Peaceful Co-Existence in Nigeria’ was also organised through the state board of Arabic Education and attended by security agencies in the state like police command, Army command, civil defence command, Prisons, Customs among others.

Declaring the conference open, Governor Ahmed noted that Nigeria is facing many security challenges.

According to him, “Given our established reputation for peace, harmony and relative security amidst a diversity of cultures and religions, it is perhaps apposite that a conference on security and peaceful co-existence will be held in Kwara State.

“It is common knowledge that without security and peace, there cannot be meaningful development in any society. Therefore, the present security challenges facing the country are a source of worry and concern to the government as well as the governed.

“These include religious, ethnic and political violence, kidnapping, cultism, and insurgency, among others. As a government sworn to promote the welfare and security of its citizens and residents, we stand determined to jealously guard and rigorously sustain the peace existing in our state and the harmony among adherents of our various religions and cultures.

“These commitments, coupled with the need to complement the efforts of the federal government, led to our determination to explore all avenues to ensure the attainment of security and peaceful co–existence in our multi-religious and pluralistic society.”

The governor stressed that, “Beyond these, our country is currently troubled by various threats to its security and peace.

“Across the land, clashes between herdsmen and farmers, which were previously localised, have spread to other parts of the country leaving sorrow, blood and deaths in their wake and threatening our economy in the process.”

He noted that, “In the South-south region, the country’s security and economy is challenged by the resurgence of violent militant agitators who purport to represent the aggrieved people of the Niger Delta region.

“In the North-east, the Boko Haram insurgency, although virtually defeated, continues to hold the region hostage to the violence that has hobbled the area for years and threatens the country’s security through sporadic attacks.

“Add these to the spate of kidnapping that is gradually spreading across the country and you get a picture of the insecurity we face and the urgent need to tackle it.”
He pointed out that, “it is against this background that today’s conference would be better appreciated.

“This conference ‘Security and Peaceful Co-Existence in Nigeria’ is quite timely. It was designed specifically to identify obstacles to the achievement of the much desired safety and peace with a view to charting the way forward.

“It, therefore, gives me great joy that our distinguished guests from all over the world, traditional rulers, religious leaders, academics, and top government functionaries have converged here for this important conference.”

The governor also stated further, “For me, your presence here underlines the importance that you attach to security and peaceful co-existence in our country. Distinguished guests, I have no intention to preempt the resource persons for this conference, the erudite scholars, respected clergymen and professionals, who possess what it takes to do justice to the theme of this conference. It is my expectation that they will avail us in–depth discussions on the topic of the conference.

“I cannot end this speech without making some preliminary comments on the conference theme. To start with, I have no intention to offer excuses for the violent insurgencies, conflicts and other threats to our security that I have mentioned above.

“Yet, the religious or ethnic motivation for some of the conflicts that we are experiencing across the country is real and tangible. Having issued these caveats, let me proceed to make my position clear. In the first place, the youths of this country, being the largest component of our population, are disenchanted and pessimistic.

“Long before our country was forced into a recession by a global downturn in the economy, unemployment had become a major social and economic problem.

“Today, with inflation at 18 per cent and unemployment at an all-time high of 13.9 per cent, the socio-economic challenges posed by youth unemployment are gradually evolving into a security threat, a simmering keg of gun-powder whose explosion, if not prevented, will have serious implications for our country and its security.

“Indeed, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and weak family ties have been identified in several studies as making youths susceptible to radicalisation and recruitment into insurgency groups.

“Certainly, the raging poverty and inequality plaguing the country suggest a causal link between despondency, insecurity and other threats to peaceful co-existence.”

He advised the participants to identify and examine the nexus between poverty and unemployment on one hand and insecurity and disharmony on the other, whether attributed to religion or not. “In other words, reduce poverty, exclusion and associated indices and we will be on the way to greater security and peaceful co-existence.”

He also urged all the discussants on the theme to extensively discuss and come up with suggestions that could help in the achievement of the much desired security and peace in our society.
Also speaking at the two-day conference in Ilorin, the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar, said that the main foundation of the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is injustice. The Sultan of Sokoto who is also President General of Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) said that, “Injustice breeds bad governance and bad governance allows people to do whatever they want and go scot-free.”

According to him, “There must be justice in whatever we do. Whoever offends anybody should be brought to book.

“We have been having this problem because of impunity in Nigeria. People do things and go scot-free in Nigeria. People commit murders and they are pardoned. Even when courts pronounce them to be sentenced to death they are later released and they are walking amongst us. It means crimes pay. People steal government money and nothing is done to them.”

“God did not make a mistake when he created us as Nigerians and put us together. We must understand that and all of us who profess to be Christians or Muslims have a guide which is either the Quaran or Bible.

“Among these two major religions there is nowhere killing of innocent people is allowed. Therefore, when people wake up and dress themselves up with explosives going into markets and other public places and shouting Allau Akabar and killing innocent people under the guise of jihad thinking you are going straight to heaven.

“I have said it time without number that they could profess to be Muslims but what they are doing is anti-Islam. It is against the Holy Quran, dictates of Almighty Allah and they are going to hell for committing murder unjustly.”

The monarch further said that, “The two major friction points in Nigeria are herdsmen clashes and the issue of Southern Kaduna. People write the way they want because there is freedom of speech in Nigeria.

“But you incite people; you bring in hatred of one religion and community under the guise of being religious or traditional leader. This cannot be allowed to go on. Government has responsibility to call people to order in such a straightforward way that people will understand that there is authority. Our religions know the importance of authority on the leadership.

“We cannot just allow things go awry without pulling the strings back of those fomenting trouble wanting to cause disharmony between Christians and Muslims whom we all know are brothers and sisters.”

While lauding the efforts of the state government to organise the programme at this time of the nation’s situation, Abubakar said, “We accepted to attend this programme for obvious reasons. We know the very serious insecurity issues affecting our country.

“There is no state in this country that is not facing one crisis or the other. Therefore for Kwara State government to organise this programme to chart a way forward, I will challenge the state government to come up with a model that other states could emulate and have a peaceful atmosphere.

“When a problem is up and hurting everybody we can only sit together as one big family and deliberate on it and find a way out. We cannot get any solution if we sit down far from one another and keep on pointing accusing fingers like what is happening now.”

He also called on the participants to have a model and send to religious leaders on how to implement them saying that, “Let us stop inciting remarks at various places. Please let us work towards finding solution to the problems of insecurity in Nigeria.”

Among the religion scholars that presented papers on various topics at the conference included Professor Muhammed Babangida, Bayero University, Kano, that spoke on ‘Security and Peaceful Co-Existence: Islamic Approach’, Professor Murtala Bidmas, University of Lagos spoke on ‘Islam, Security and Peaceful Co-Existence’, Reverend Father Faith Anthony Ayo Atoyebi spoke on ‘The importance of Security and Peaceful Co-Existence in Multi Religious Society’, Rev. James Olawuyi, spoke on ‘Peaceful Co-Existence in a Multi Religious Society- The Christian Perceptive’ and Rev. Cornelious Olaosebikan Fawenu spoke on ‘Peaceful Co-Existence in a Multi Religious Society- Kwara state Experience’.

However, at the end of the conference, a communiqué was issued and signed by the chairman Local Organising Committee, Alhaji Isiaka Gold, Secretary, Alhaji Rauf Ayinla, Vice chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Rev. Father Anthony Atoyebi and former Grand Khadi of Niger State, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, said that religious leaders must avoid violent theology and focus on religious preachings that emphasise love and peaceful co-existence.

The conference also implored religious leaders to prevent possible hijack of religious organisations for sinister political agenda that may disrupt peaceful co-existence.

The conference enjoined government to pursue aggressive youth employment and empowerment schemes as well as civil education programme to reduce joblessness, illiteracy and reduce idle hands which are always available for recruitment to perpetrate violence and disrupt peaceful co-existence.

It also admonished security agencies to avoid rivalry but embrace mutual respect, promote esprit de corps, to promote and preserve peaceful co-existence.

The communiqué also encouraged the Kwara State government to continue to pursue and sustain its peace agenda through relentless efforts of Kwara State committee on religious matters.

The conference also resolved that religious adherents should respect the fundamental tenets of their faiths and accept to abide by them.

The conference also commended President Muhammadu Buahri and King Salman of Saudi Arabia on their strenuous efforts in countering terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria, Saudi Aarabia and the world at large and also urged other leaders in the world to emulate these two leaders in order to promote world peace.

They also lauded the Kwara State Governor, Ahmed, for organising the purposeful conference and urged him not to relent in his efforts in promoting peace and security of the state.

By and large with the successful hosting of the peace and security international conference by the state government and with its massive participation by all and sundry including Muslim and Christian clerics from both the Muslim and Christian faiths all over the world, the desire to ensure the continued peace and security of the state would now be guaranteed and this would go a long way in bringing social change to the state and thereby ensuring socio economic and political development of the State of Harmony.