By Gbade Ogunwale, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja and Tony Akowe, Kaduna
The Federal Government was yesterday holding out an olive branch to the Boko Haram insurgents, saying it is ready for talks.
“Government is ready to discuss. History has proven that even wars that are fought for decades, at the end, are only concluded by dialogue,” Vice President Namadi Sambo said.
He spoke in Abuja at the national symposium organised by the Nasirul-Lahi-Faith Society of Nigeria (NASFAT) on “Islam and peaceful co-existence in a contemporary multi religious society”.
To negotiate with the sect, the government may enlist the assistance of traditional rulers, according to Defence Minister Haliru Bello, who spoke while receiving the Italian Ambassador to Nigeria; Mr. Roberto Colamine, in his office.
He said: “The concern of the government is peace and what the government is doing is for the benefit of all Nigerians.”
Sambo lamented the activities of some negative forces whose actions have portrayed Islam in a negative and evil light, saying: “Islam is a religion of peace; it is a way of life. It cannot promote senseless killings and wanton destruction of property. I am not aware of any religion in the world that encourages unprovoked and relentless attack on other people.”
He reiterated the determination of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to provide adequate security for the lives and property of all Nigerians and visitors.
Sambo highlighted the strides the administration had recorded in achieving the objectives of the Transformation Agenda which, he said, cut across improved electricity supply; education; agriculture, transportation system; and poverty alleviation.
The Vice President said to deliver on the government’s promise on the revitalisation of the Railway system, the government had signed an MoU with General Electric for the delivery of 200 locomotive heads and also for the location of a locomotive manufacturing plant in Nigeria, which would serve the West African sub-region.
He hoped that the activities of militant groups would not jeopardise the government’s desire to propel Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs).
Describing the security challenges posed by the sect as temporary, the Minister stressed that the challenges were restricted to a few local governments in the North-eastern zone.
Bello assured the envoy of President Goodluck Jonathan’s desire to make the difference in governance, in line with the administration’s transformation agenda.
He said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Nigerian and the Italian governments was awaiting the Federal Executive Council’s ratification.
According to him, the MOU would enhance Nigeria’s peace keeping efforts.
The Ambassador had called for dialogue in the resolution of Nigeria’s security challenges. He agreed with the Minister that the ratification of the MOU would strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged the Muslim Ummah to champion peaceful co-existence and education.
He also called on religious leaders to be mindful of their utterances so as not to overheat the polity, adding that aggrieved groups should embrace dialogue.
The Sultan dispelled rumour that there are plans to islamize Nigeria.
He said: “If there is such plan, I should know because I was once in the military. We should trust ourselves. I wish to assure Christians that we are one big family created by Allah.
Lamenting that impunity has become the order of the day, the Sultan who co-chairs the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC) with Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President, Ayo Oritsejafor, urged Muslims to promote peace and mutual co-existence in line with the Holy Quran.
Oritsejafor was represented by his Special Adviser on Conflict Resolution and Terrorism, Pastor Ladi Thompson
The Sultan said: “We must promote moderation and toleration in our society. We must equally open effective channels of dialogue with all segments of the society, including those who hold contrary opinions to that of our own.
“Islamic civilization both here and elsewhere is predicated on the promotion of learning not only in the religions sciences but also in Science and Technology. The conflcit between faith and science did not originate in the Muslim world. Muslim civilization bequeathed to the world the study of Science and Technology. The time has come for Muslims to strive harder to reclaim this golden legacy.
“….peace cannot be fully established without an unflinching commitment to equity and justice. We must strive to promote these pivotal values in our society. Injustice and inequity invariably lead to corruption which in turn breed poverty and dissension. No society can thrive and prosper when afflicted with these deadly vices.
“I must also point out that for the purposes of peace-building in our society, leaders on all sides of the religious divide, must act responsibly and exercise utmost caution in both their actions and their utterances. We must endeavour to resist the urge for exhibitionism and brinkmanship. We must as a nation develop a collective consciousness where the pain of any member of our society, regardless of creed and ethnic origin shall be the collective pain of all of us. And we must all work together to ensure that we remove the cause of this point. Those who take to the pulpit to issue threats and ultimatums should be held entirely responsible for the dastardly consequences of their actions.
The President of NASFAT, Alhaji Sheriff Yussuf, stated that the Symposium was to dispel the belief that the terror attacks were to impose Islam or as a mark of hatred against people of other faiths and to also engender peaceful co-existence among the populace.
At the occasion were traditional leaders, religious leaders and other dignitaries.
Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola canvassed the creation of the Ministry of Northern Affairs to address poverty and insurgence in the north.
Justifying the call for Ministry of Northern Affairs, Aregbesola stressed that the problems being encountered in Nigeria are created by the Federal Government and to that extent, it must be involved in their resolution.
According to him, the northern women must also be empowered and allowed to work to relief the burden on the men for the good of the society.
“The essence of the central government is that it is there to support the weakest unit. If indeed we want peace for ourselves, we must not leave the unit that will draw us back to itself. If what is going on in the North continues unchecked, honestly we are doomed.”
Emphasising that it is collective responsibility of all the religion to seek solution to the crises, Aregbesola said “true religion cannot be silent in the face of crisis. True religion must be part of the solution to a crisis. Regardless of how it arose, truly religious people must enlist themselves faithfully in the resolution process.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Gen. Owoye Azazi in Kaduna yesterday said economic woes created a fertile ground for the recruitment, indoctrination, brainwashing and training of terrorists and other insurgents.
Speaking on the theme “Northern Nigeria, the prosperity agenda and national security” at the Northern Impact Summit organised by the Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative Gen. Azazi also said lopsided economic development is capable of causing the collapse of a nation.
Represented by one of his Advisers, Prof. Soji Adelaja, the NSA noted that recent events in the Middle East and North Africa showed that long-term failure to address long-standing economic problems could erode national cohesion and the ability to advance as a nation.
He noted that even though bombings and terrorist attacks have been concentrated in the North, they have adversely affected the nation’s economy.
Gen. Azazi said the nation cannot afford to leave any of its states or region behind in the march towards a long overdue achievement of prosperity. He said comprehensive regional economic transformation is at the forefront of the nation’s policies.
He said: “From a practical perspective, evidence is mounting that some of the root causes of unrest and the feeling of dissatisfaction and disaffection among citizens are economic hardship and the lack of economic opportunity.
“This is the case, not only in the North, but all over Nigeria. The failure to address these root causes of unrest tend to create fertile ground for the recruitment, indoctrination, brainwashing and training of terrorists and other insurgents.”
The National Security Adviser added: “Some may think that the prosperity of northern Nigeria is not a national security issue. However, those that are more informed realise that the long-term stability and security of Nigeria is intrinsically linked to the socio-economic performance of every single region.
“One glue that holds our great nation together is the expectation that in the aggregate, we are better off together than in isolation from each other and that the achievement of prosperity is easier when we pursue it collectively. This means that our leaders must focus on the Nigerian ‘value added’, ensuring that the whole is better than the sum of the parts.
“Within this framework, we cannot as a nation afford to leave any region behind. If we solve some of the key hindrances to our economic development, Nigeria will be one of the leading economies in the world in the next 10 years.
“We owe it to ourselves and future generations to finally occupy our rightful place within the comity of nations. Nigeria can ill afford to leave any of its states or region behind in this march towards a long overdue achievement of prosperity.
“I can certainly assure you that the lopsided economic growth is not in the best interest of our national security. I applaud the Arewa Transformation and Empowerment Initiative (ATEI) for recognising that unique attention needs to be paid to the North; that a credible agenda is critical to the north’s success and that leadership is needed in advancing such an agenda.
“But the process we define to advance our economic ambitions must be based on best practices and what is well proven in economic development. No meaningful transformation can happen without clear recognition that there is a problem; without clear understanding of the nature of the problem, without a clear vision of the future, without motivated leaders and followers to implement the plan and without the ability to sell the vision and plan to all partners and stakeholders in the implementation process.”
Sambo stressed the need for Nigerians to live in peace with one another.
He was represented by Kaduna State Deputy Governor Mukthar Ramalan Yero.
Governor Patrick Yakowa said it was regrettable that the North, which boasts of more than 60 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass with abundant natural resources in the agricultural and solid mineral sectors, has been unable to turn such advantages into economic growth and development for various reasons.
Yakowa, who was represented by his Commissioner for Economic Planning, Timnothy Gandu, said that the incongruity in the situation is that the North seems to be rather leading in poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and, recently, insecurity.
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