*Tells CAN northern govs will protect Christians
By WOLE MOSADOMI
Minna – RELIGION has become a matter of war leading to the death of innocent people with property worth millions of naira lost. It has set ethnic groups against one another, family againstÂ same family and, of late, it is setting followers of the same religion against one another.
The first crisis was in December, 1980 when a group called Maitatsine led by a Camerounian struck in Kano and this led to the death of thousands of people with property worth millions of naira lost.
Though the leader of the sect was killed during the riot, his followers â€œresurrectedâ€ and struck two years later i.e. in 1982 in Bulumkutu, on the outskirt of Maiduguri, Borno State and also in Kaduna the same year, leaving over four hundred lives lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
Statistics of religious crises across the country show that at least 95 per cent of them occurred in the northern part of the country and that is a matter of concern to the Northern States Governors Forum headed by Niger State governor, Dr. Muâ€™azu Babangida Aliyu.
Aliyu, who is chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum has never hidden his position on religion since he became governor of Niger State in 2007. He had been preachingÂ peace and he has been spreading the gospel to people of his state andÂ northerners. Since the establishment of the Northern Governors Forum some years ago, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, had never been given a chance to be heard by the Forum for better understanding. The northern branch of the association, led by its vice chairman, Rev. Umar Garba Dutse, during a courtesy call to Aliyu, said they were in Government House to thank him for the audience given CANÂ for the first time by the Forum.
The governor told his guests thatÂ he was being guided by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians. â€œWhatever I do, I see it as part of my responsibility because, as a Muslim, I held the Qurâ€™an to swear to protect and defend the Constitution of Nigeria and the constitution defines Nigerians not as a Muslim or Christians but as human beings; so I look at people in that direction and they have to be treated the same irrespective of their religionâ€, the governor remarked.
He said he was baffled like his other colleagues too that since the history of the Northern Governors Forum, the CAN or the Christians as a group has never been given a chance to be heard. According to him, â€œI was shocked as the chairman of the Forum because I know that you cannot administer people properly when you donâ€™t even understand where they are coming from, when you donâ€™t understand their ways of thinking and assumption.â€
Aliyu said the audience he had with the body was an eye opener and hadÂ further shown the need to have regular dialogue with them in order to forge ahead as one body. He noted that lack of effective communication with religious leaders has been identified as one of the causes ofÂ religious crisis in parts of the country. â€œHow can you imagine that somebody in this century will wake up and begin to segment knowledge or education and define some certain education as sinful. If this has not happened, many of us will say Nigeria has passed that stage and that it canâ€™t happen but it has happened and we have to find a lasting solution to itâ€, the governor declared.
He frowned at some sectsÂ who, he said,Â have turned the holy Qurâ€™an upside down and misleading the people into believing that what they are preaching is right. â€œAs Muslims, we know the number of prayers per day; we know the number of Rakah per prayer but we understand that there are some sects that have turned everything upside down because they are not communicating the right thing with the people. On our own part, we thought we have been talking to the right people not knowing that we have also been talking to the wrong people and we now have to change our tactics to safe the situationâ€, Aliyu stated.
He also listedÂ ignorance and poverty as causes ofÂ religious crises in the north, pointing out that ignorance is more enhanced and aided by poverty. â€œIf people are poor really, they find it difficult to understand what is good or badâ€, the governor added. Aliyu pointed out that in order to arrest the situation and give everybody fair hearing, the Jamma Forum (people parliament) was introduced in Niger State where everybody resident in that area is given the opportunity to air hisÂ views. We have been able to blend in Niger State because my government go from village to village to consult with the people, to hear them and wherever we go. I insist that I must hear from the Christians of that place and I am happy to tell you that, that singular step has led to the peaceful co-existence between the people of the state irrespective of their religion or ethnicity,â€ heÂ explained.
The governor, however, noted that even when there are differences as human beings, it has not degenerated into a break down of law and order that could take lives and lead to the destruction of lives and property. Aliyu said he had always wondered of what could have been leading to the frequent religious crisis in oneÂ part of the countryÂ when other parts are enjoying relative peace.
â€œI surely know that we have Muslims in other parts of the country; I know we have Muslims and Christians in the same family in other parts of the country but you will never hear them quarrel. Is it not the same Qurâ€™an or Bible that we are all reading and if I want to live well with you, what is wrong in reading the Bible or Qurâ€™an to understand where you are coming from and what you believe in order to live as one?â€