AHMED MARI, Maiduguri
•Scores killed as Boko Haram captures another town in Borno
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday urged Northern Elders to match their words with action if Nigeria must end current security challenges in parts of the country.
CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor stated this while speaking at a two-day roundtable meeting with Special Advisers on Religious Affairs from the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The meeting has the theme: Towards Synergising and Interfacing in the Religious Sectors for National Development. It was organised by the Offices of the Senior Special Assistants to the President on Islamic and Christian Matters.
Oritsejafor who was reacting to a statement by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who said he had written a letter to Islamic State, IS described Boko Haram as worst than Islamic State, IS of Iraq and Syria and appealed to the Sultan to also write Boko Haram.
The CAN president said “I have to truly congratulate you for that because that was a very good move. I didn’t know about it until today and I am so glad it happened. But I want to appeal that you also write to Boko Haram because Boko Haram is worst than ISIS. They have killed more people than ISIS, they have caused more atrocities than ISIS, they need to be written to as well, it is very important, it will help.
“Let me say that our actions must match our words, is not enough to say sweet and good things and wonderful things. Those wonderful things are good but our practical actions must match everything we are saying”
“When you meet, meet with the heart that this is our Nigeria, we don’t have another one. And as you meet, because you know you are not crossing to Cameroon, you are not crossing to Chad, you are in Nigeria and you are a Nigerian, put all the cards on the table. You may annoy each other, you may offend each other but if genuinely truly we believe that we are all Nigerians, then we will find ways to work out those disagreements. But to sweep issues under the carpet will not take us anywhere”
He appealed to religious leaders to come together, adding that they must come and discuss.
“ If these people are not presenting the right thing and are misrepresenting Islam, which I agree it is so to a very large extent, we agree that our brothers should reach them so that the real Islam can be presented to them. They won’t listen to me, in fact they will kill me faster than anything else, oh yes. That is the truth and I am aware of that”.
“In fact as I speak I know what is going on around me all the time, so I know. But that is not to say they don’t kill muslims, please don’t misunderstand me, but the reality is that the muslims they kill, they kill for two reasons. One, they are muslims who disagree with their ideology, that is a fact and I thank God for that. Two, there are also muslims who refused to work with them or give information about them, so they are not happy with them. It is a fact so I am not going to deny that”.
“But you go to a city like Mubi, no church is standing as I speak. Every church in that city has been leveled. It is very painful, it is disheartening. Can you imagine a governor saying to somebody ‘I cannot use the money of my state to send people of a certain religion on pilgrimage. We must change such attitude, we must correct this thing. We cannot do that and have a great nation”
President Goodluck Jonathan on his part called on all Nigerians irrespective of their creed or status to desist from making inciting and inflammatory statements capable of causing disharmony and breach of the peace in the country. He also appealed to them to assist government with prayers and positive counseling.
Jonathan, who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo said that, “by the teaching of our faiths, we shall all account for our deeds in the hereafter. I therefore admonish you to live by example always and to do good for the development of our country and humanity.”
“Let me reiterate that we remain resolute in our quest to provide positive development to Nigerians anchored on peace and harmony. We equally remain unwavering in our commitment to bringing an end to the security challenges confronting our dear nation,”
He said that it was in recognition of the importance of religion in national development, his administration had accorded it its rightful place at the highest level of government, by creating the two offices of the Senior Special Assistants on Islamic and Christian Affairs.
“Religion is a guide to mankind. We must therefore apply it as a guiding light against the backdrop of all the problems surrounding us. Religion must bring out the best in us. We must use it toward conflict resolution, sustainable peace and the establishment of a just and egalitarian society.”
Commending his two assistants for spearheading the conference, he called on the participants to “strive toward promoting inter-religious harmony and dialogue at all times for peace and development to thrive as there is no gainsaying the fact that no meaningful development can be achieved without peace and security.”
He also urged them to make deliberate efforts in supporting the Federal Government’s programmes and its commitment to ensuring the unity, peace and progress of the country.
Earlier, Abubakar described the occasion as an important step in finding lasting peace in the country.
He said “we know the problem that has been facing us, there is no problem between Islam and Christianity. If there is a problem between Christians and Muslims it should be dealt at that level”
He stressed the need for both religions to educate themselves on their religion.
“One of the problems facing us today is that we don’t tell ourselves the truth. Let’s know what to tell our leaders. We must fellow due process to execute projects.
“As leaders of Islam we have tried so much all over the globe, there is no where I have not been to talk about the fact that there is no problem between Christians and Muslims. The Common World – published in 2010. We wrote to Islamic State (ISIS) to tell them that they continue to do what they are doing in the name of Islam. If we read those documents we must trust what we have said”
“The best platform we have used is the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council. We have not met in one and half years because the funds was not released to us by the SGF and this needed to be cleared to clear the doubts that we do not want to meet”
He stated that what happened in the Niger Delta cannot be compared with what is happening in North East. “How many heads, emirs have been displaced, how many have been killed, how many have been kidnapped. How many of our people are now internally displaced persons”
“When you return to your state, implement what has been discussed here. If the governor refuse to implement then resign then people will ask why. Whatever you can do to eliminate pains please do so. Don’t tell our leaders what they want to hear, tell them the truth. We had written a strong worded letters that was two years ago. We have done our best at our level, we can only advise”
He called on politicians not to use religion as basis for campaign in the 2015 general elections
“The 2015 elections campaigns must be carried out without rancour, without religion. Let’s not look at religion and ethnicity but his capacity and how he can move this country forward and vote for it”
In separate speeches, the two SSAs to the President, Barrister Tahir Umar Tahir and Venerable Obioma Onwuzurumba, said that the meeting was aimed to further deepening the understanding between the two major religions of their common values and to help overcome the country’s challenges.
Meanwhile, scores of people were yesterday killed in Damasak the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State when suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked and captured the town.
A resident of the area Mallam Ibrahim Danmasak told our correspondent on phone that the gunmen came about 5:00am on Monday when they attacked and captured the town sending both the military and civilian residents parking.
He said “as I am speaking to you we are all in the bushes including women and children. Right now the Boko Haram members are still in control of the town”.
A military source also told our correspondent on phone that the insurgents came in large numbers to attack the town and sent residents fleeing including the military deployed to the town.
He said that the insurgents had earlier attacked the town on Friday evening and were repelled off by the military killing five of the insurgents, adding that the terrorists came for reprisal attack.
“I got a call from one of my colleagues from Damasak who fled to Gubio at about 2pm, and he told me that he is presently in Gubio heading towards Maiduguri after the insurgents attacked our camp at about 5am today (Monday)”, the military source said.
He said that Boko Haram insurgents who came in great numbers were able to overrun them and capture the town, adding that most of inhabitants of the town also fled on seeing the soldiers dispersed.
Also confirming the incident, a member of the youth vigilante of the town, Hassan Ibrahim, in a telephone chat with our correspondent in Maiduguri said that he was informed by the local vigilante group in the town that Damasak has fallen into the hands of the insurgents who sent the soldiers parking.