The concepts of peace and social cohesion are fundamental and perhaps inseparable in the dictionary of any society which hopes to advance the course of humanity in general.
Over the years, but more recently, Nigeria is arguably undergoing one of its worst security, economic and political challenges in history. It would be adequate to say these challenges are threatening the corporate existence of the nation with secessionists agitating and advocating for self-determination.
On the religious front, suspicion and distrust between the two major religions of Christianity and Islam now appear to be the order of day largely due to manipulation by some self-serving elites for reasons best known to them. Despite so many efforts to address these challenges, these issues, coupled with ineffective leadership, continue to rare their ugly heads in the Nigeria State with no end in sight.
However, the 3rd national summit on peaceful co-existence and social cohesion, organised by the Da’awa Coordination Council of Nigeria (DCCN) in Gombe State recently may perhaps be one of such frantic fora the nation needs to truly redeem itself from the consistent chaos leading to bloodletting and other heinous crimes and criminality mostly linked to religion and ethnicity.
The 2-day summit had in attendance the Sultan of Sokoto and President-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar lll, the governor of Gombe State, His Excellency, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya and some eminent personalities across the country.
The former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, was also in attendance and delivered a keynote address. Other Christian leaders in Gombe State were also invited to the sole Muslim summit to give their perspectives on peace and social cohesion, particularly between the two major religions in the country.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Governor Yahaya and other speakers at the summit emphasised the need for mutual understanding among the adherents of the two major religions.
For instance, the Sultan of Sokoto, while addressing participants at the Summit, said, “It is a very important conference because all the Muslim groups will sit down, discuss on what is the way forward for the Muslim ummah in the country, strategize on how to achieve stability and development in this great country that Allah put us together as Muslims, Christians and Atheists, people who don’t even believe there is God. We must all live together peacefully, that is one of the reasons why this conference goes round”.
He said Nigerians can work together and forge a common front when they understand each other, stressing the need for understanding and mutual respect among the adherents of the two major religions in the country. He equally challenged leaders at all levels to be fair and just to all Nigerians irrespective of their ethno-religious affiliation.
For Governor Yahaya of Gombe State, it was a moment to remember with nostalgia the peace, tranquility and harmony that had existed between Christianity and Islam.
He however regretted that those good old days appeared to have long gone, especially with the current continuous manipulation of religions by some elites to cause chaos which is now threatening the fabric of the nation. In Governor Yahaya’s words, “His Eminence has spoken and I agree with him that things are not normal in this country and it is our own making; God has provided all the basics that we need in order to have peaceful and harmonious relationships but may be for the greed of some elites who are only good at destroying and not producing”.
According to Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, the selfish interest of a few who manipulate the gullible Nigerians into religious and ethnic violence led Nigeria to its present predicament. He gave assurances that his administration would continue to ensure the sustenance of peace, but advised everyone to be cautious of the lawlessness in the country so that at the end of the day it does not consume the nation.
“This fight is everybody’s fight. We must come together, we must join hands and we must struggle to make sure we succeed because nobody else will come and do it for us. The only thing for all these crises, Your Eminence, is tied to the elites and leadership, both traditional and political,” Governor Yahaya said.
Same sentiments were re-echoed by the representative of Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Reverend Father Joseph Shinga, in a Keynote address, and so did other speakers from both the Christian and Islamic faiths. Indeed there is no gain saying the fact that the social, economic, political and security standing of Nigeria is at its lowest ebb. Any effort therefore to sincerely turn around the fortunes of the country no matter how little such effort may be will no doubt go a long way to make the difference at least if not now but in the next generation to come. That is why it is pertinent at this juncture to commend Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya for demonstrating avowed commitment to promoting harmony and peaceful coexistence by naming two newly constructed roads in honour of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar and John Cardinal Onaiyikan.
The 2-day Da’awa Coordination Council of Nigeria, DCCN’s 3rd National Summit for peaceful coexistence and social cohesion may have come and gone but the initiative once again stressed the importance of peace and unity, particularly in a country where ethno-religious conflicts appear to be the order of the day at the slightest provocation.
Yakubu Bayambe writes from Tumfure Quarters, Gombe
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