By Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that there is no plan whatsoever to Islamise Nigeria, contrary to the propaganda and narrative that has taken root in some quarters and churches across the country.

Speaking at the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in Sokoto Sunday, Buhari asserted that there was no credible fact to indicate that the present administration was out to Islamise Nigeria.

He noted with dismay that such negative propaganda and innuendos were being promoted by outsiders and finds narrative in the churches across the country.

According to him, such religious propaganda has created suspicion and distrust leading to division and disharmony among Nigerians.

Buhari emphasised that such negative propaganda being propagated by outsiders included the membership of Nigeria to the Organisation of Islamic Conference, introduction of Shariah in Northern states, the Boko Haram insurgency as well as farmers/herdsmen clashes.

Buhari, who spoke through the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) Boss Mustapha, blamed politicians for using religion as a tool to spread hate and division among the people.

He pointed out that these four issues had been in existence for decades and even preceded the present administration.

“It is pertinent to note that due to circumstances we found ourselves as a nation, suspicion on religious grounds has almost destroyed the fabrics of unity and love that binds us.

“There has been a lot of negative propaganda being instigated by outsiders and finds narrative in the church that there is a plan to Islamise Nigeria without any credible fact.

“The issue of membership of Nigeria to Organisation of Islamic Conference, Shariah and farmers/herdsmen clashes  had created a lot of suspicion in the minds of the people despite the fact that the problems had existed in the country for several decades,” he said.

Buhari noted that both Christian and Muslim religious leaders had been victims of killings in some parts of the country.

He said that the federal government was committed to securing the lives of the citizens.

“I assure all Nigerians that criminals would be fished out and dealt with. The federal government will continue to provide a safe society for everyone.

“The fight against the Boko Haram insurgency is achieving the desired goal while efforts are being made to tackle myriad of challenges in the polity,” he stressed.

The president expressed optimism that Nigeria would rise again, despite the
myriad of challenges bedevilling it.

He stressed the need for the church, especially Catholic bishops to rise up to the occasion and educate the people on the negative propaganda being spread by politicians in order to achieve their
selfish aims.

“As you round off this conference, I urge you to go back to your various communities and preach a message of hope, reconciliation and peace,” he added.

In a remark, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Augustine Akubueze said the bishops were in Sokoto to deliberate on issues affecting the church and the nation, as well as advise Nigerians to make informed decisions ahead of 2019 elections.

He called on Nigerians not to despair, despite the challenges bedevilling the country, stressing that only those who confronted their challenges achieve the desired goals.

Akabueze cautioned youths against engaging in fraudulent acts but
should uphold the virtues of honesty.

He also warned politicians to desist from using religion and ethnicity to divide Nigerians.

“We want to use this medium to warn politicians who are instigating hatred and division by using religion and ethnicity to desist forthwith.

“We say to these politicians enough of your deceit. They steal our money while they distract us with religion,” he lamented.

He called on the federal government to do more in order to bring an end to the conflict between herdsmen and farmers in the country.

The Apostolic Nuncio of Nigeria, Monsignor Antonio Filipazzi, harped
on peaceful coexistence and urged the federal government to put an end
to violence ravaging some parts of the country.

He said the people should rather give priority to peace and dialogue among various religious and ethnic groups.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged the bishops to redouble their efforts towards promoting peace and mutual understanding among various religious groups in the country.

The Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, stated that Islam and
Christianity preach peace, adding that Nigerians should go back to study
the scriptures.

“It is high time for us to go back to our holy books. I believe if we study the scriptures, we will be able to understand that there is no reason to pick sticks and swords to fight one another,” he said.

He maintained that churches and mosques must redouble their efforts in
character formation of the youths and should not abdicate their role.

The Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, described peace as a
prerequisite for development and commended the bishops for choosing
Sokoto to host the conference.

Also speaking, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, lauded various Christian and Muslim leaders for gracing the occasion.