â€¢ Donâ€™t toy with agitations for restructuring, says Atiku
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
A Catholic priest and university teacher, Reverend Father Gabriel Teruwose Ngbea, has asked the federal government to immediately ban the activities of umbrella religious bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Jamatul Nasrul Islam (JNI) to stem the tide of religious instigated crises in the country.
He also said instead, government should set up an independent body to be known as â€˜Religious Equity Commissionâ€™ whose mandate should be to ensure that there is no discrimination among Nigerians on the basis of their faith.
Both proposals are contained in the new book authored by the Benue State-born priest who launched his latest work yesterday in Abuja.
Father Gabriel said on page 302 of his book that â€œCAN and JNI should be proscribed because apart from their failed mandate of advancingÂ religious interests, the two bodies have constituted themselves into a political tool often deployed to pursue political interests.
Justifying his stance, the clergyman said in order to keep faith with section 20 of the Nigerian constitution and to ensure that Nigerians practice their faith in a manner that is devoid of discrimination he is proposingÂ â€œthe establishment of an independent Religious Equity Commission whose mandate should be to ensure that there is no discrimination among Nigerians on basis of faith.
CAN and JNI should be completely banned in the country.â€
The priest said in order to ensure that the country keeps faith with section 10 of the constitution, the government should set up the Religious Equity Commission.
Meanwhile, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, insisted that government has a responsibility to listen to the citizens demand for restructuring.
Atiku, who was represented by former Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, George Daika, at the formal presentation of the book titled: â€˜Constitutional Misconception of Secularism: Implications for Politics and Religionâ€™, said the government should all be mindful of and sensitive to the feelings and preferences of Nigerians.
â€œLet me, however, use this opportunity to remind us all that at this delicate moment in our countryâ€™s history â€“ with separatist agitations, militancy of the religious and secular varieties, calls for restructuring, and jostling for future elections, we should all be mindful of and sensitive to the feelings and preferences of those who may not think the way we think, the way we speak or worship, the way we worship or belong to the same political party as us. Our diversity ought to be our strength and, together, we can still build the Nigeria of our dreams,â€ he said.
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, said politics and religion have been at the heart of problems confronting the country.
â€œToday in our country, two things are very important, politics and religion, and if we can get it right, we will be able to make Nigeria great,â€ he said.
He said both Christianity and Islam seek to bring love and peace to mankind, adding that it his hope that these two religions will work toward bringing peace and love to the country.
On the brewing labour crisis in his state, Ortom blamed the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)Â for employing blackmail tactics over workersâ€™ salary arrears.
Rev. Father Bologo who represented the Archbishop of Abuja archdiocese, Cardinal John Onaiyekan,Â said religion and politics have been taken too far in our country and that this has caused a lot of problems for the country.
â€œNigeria should not have been where it is now but because we are using religion to divide the country and to cause disaffection. Nigeria is 90 per cent on the wrong path as far as religion and politics is concerned,â€ he said.
The priest also used the opportunity to observe one important positive outcome of the event which he said has helped to dispel the rumour that the Benue State governor, Ortom and his predecessor, Gabriel Suswan have been at daggers-drawn.
Both politicians who were all special guests for the yesterdayâ€™s book launch warmly exchanged greetings to the admiration of the audience at the Shehu Musa Yarâ€™AdauÂ event hall in Abuja.
Booked reviewer, Prof. Da., described the book as extremely important for the challenges the country is currently battling with.
He identified some government actions that tendedÂ to undermine the secularity of the country to include the sponsorship of religious pilgrimages, building of mosquesÂ and churches with public fund.
Da also made reference to a report in a national newspaper that quoted a top official of Zamfara State Government who said the state was spending over N2 billion on Ramadan gifts alone in 2012.
The reviewer quoted the author as stating in his postulations that secularity is not an option but the only solution to the problems of the country.
He made a vote against state sponsorship of pilgrimages.â€