Buhari: I’ll Not Allow Religion to Divide Nigeria


* Warns on dangers of neglecting IDPs

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed not to allow religion to divide the country.

The President also expressed the abiding determination of his administration to forge a strong, united nation from the diverse religious and ethnic communities in the country.

This is coming as the President yesterday said the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country was imperative and urgent to avert problems in the future.

He made the commitment not to allow Nigeria to be divided yesterday when he received the Tijjaniyya Muslim Religious Movement at the State House.

In a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari lauded the prevalence of mutual understanding among the followers of the two major religions in the country, Islam and Christianity.

“It is generally said that differences divide people. We in Nigeria understand that there is no way a misunderstanding can cause division among us. We are one people,” he said.

He assured the leaders of the delegation, mostly Senegalese, that the Tijjaniyya religious order was not new to him or to Nigerians, citing specific communities around him who practised its ways.

He also commended members of the order for being orderly, peaceful and constructive.

“The requirements of our people, whatever religion they follow, and to whatever ethnic group they belong in Nigeria is the same.

‘‘They need security, education and participation in an inclusive economy. On this, we are being very fair to all Nigerians,” Buhari said.

He accepted the prayers of the religious group for his wellbeing and for the peace and progress in Nigeria, while also urging them to convey his best wishes to President Macky Sall of Senegal.

Buhari said: “I assure you that I am very close to your President. He addresses me as ‘Baba’’.

The Tijjaniyya delegation was led by Sheikh Muhammad Lamin Inyas, who is the son of one of the greatest Muslim religious leaders in West Africa, Sheikh Ibrahim Inyas.

Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday said the rehabilitation of IDPs in the country was imperative and urgent to avert problems in the future.

He spoke when he received the President of the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, at the State House, Abuja.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying Nigeria is committed to the provision of education and health care to the young and the old, among other welfare policies.

“Most of the displaced children do not know their parents, or where they come from,” he stated, adding: “We have to look at the issue now; properly rehabilitate them, otherwise, we will have a problem on our hands in the future.’’

He commended the UNGA president for his “hard work and competence” so far and urged him to make Nigeria’s challenges glaring to the world.

Muhammad-Bande said he came to thank the president for his support and the continued cooperation from Nigeria.

He also appreciated Nigeria for rebuilding the UN building in Abuja, which was destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents.

The UNGA president said the UN would continue to focus on how to make life better for humanity by achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

He expressed gratitude to Nigeria for supporting his service to the global organisation.

He said: “Everything I have requested for, in terms of personnel and funds, has been delivered. I thank President Buhari very much. I also thank other member-states for the support I am getting.

“I have come here in recognition of the support the president and Nigeria have given to my office since my assumption of duty.

“Everything promised me in terms of personnel and funds was given and I, therefore, have every reason to make sure that at the end of the day, we achieve what we have promised to achieve.

“Of course, this will be better achieved with the cooperation we get from other member-states and the support so far has been very encouraging.”

The UNGA president also used the occasion to note the importance of the protection of the rights of citizens, especially the aged.

He said: “I also have the opportunity to participate in the opening of very important regional and high-level meeting on the human rights situation of other people.

“This is a very important matter, not only because it is a bit connected to the achievements of the SDG by 2030, it is also imperative that we not only affirm the dignity and wellbeing of other persons but that we act through policy interventions to guarantee that the dignity and rights of the people.

“This is crucial because gradually, the population is aging. In 10 to 30 years’ time or even less, probably about 15 per cent of Africans will be 60 and above.

“It will be a completely different picture, and we have to plan how to guarantee the rights to all citizens, regardless of their age and gender.