BY EMEKA MAMAH, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, OKEY NDIRIBE & DAPO AKINREFON
LAGOS— CENTRAL Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, yesterday, turned his attention to ethno-religious groups in the country and urged the Federal Government to ban them as a way of curbing insecurity in the country.
Sanusi made the suggestion at an inter-faith dinner organized by the Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) in Abuja, yesterday.
He also asserted that all ethnic and religious groups in the country were actually political associations donning false cloak.
He said: “I almost didn’t want to attend this occasion because I am opposed to regional, ethnic and religious groupings in this country. In fact, I would like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI) , Afenifere and all such other groups to be banned.”
The call elicited immediate condemnation from leaders of the affected groups, who described Sanusi’s comments as irresponsible. This came as former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh and one-time Permanent Secretary, Ahmed Joda offered suggestions on how to tackle poverty and insecurity in the North.
Elite fan embers of insecurity with religion
Sanusi, who attributed the state of insecurity in the country to a fall-out of the exclusiveness and marginalization which many Nigerians belonging to the younger generation had been subjected to, traced the current insecurity in northern parts of the country to power struggle among the elite who use religion to pursue their goals.
He lamented that despite the fact that the Northern region’s land mass constitutes about 60 per cent of the Nigerian landmass and agriculture contributes 42 per cent to the Nigerian economy, the region remained impoverished.
He blamed the northern insurgency on the selfishness of the nation’s elite which had failed to see the future.
Economic failure, cause of insecurity in the North – Ogbeh
In his remarks, Ogbeh recalled that past northern leaders laid the foundation for a peaceful region by accommodating people of all religious beliefs.
He said: “A former Sultan of Sokoto named Saddiq had a Christian Igbo cook and the late Ahmadu Bello had a Christian doctor.”
Going down memory lane, he revealed that Shehu Malami, a notable Northern Muslim offered him accommodation in Abuja after he escaped assassination in 1998.
He further posited that the on-going insurgency in the Northern region was a fall-out of economic failure in the region, adding he had predicted that the situation would degenerate to the present level over a decade ago.
Sound education remains solution to northern poverty – Joda
Also speaking at the event, Ahmed Joda queried why disease and poverty were ravaging the northern region while industries and economic development was expanding in other parts of the country.
He lamented that all the old industries in the region which were located in Kaduna, Kano and Jos had collapsed. He proposed that for this trend to be reversed, the region needed to give its children sound education.
In his remarks at the occasion, the Chairman of the group Hon. Mohammed Kumalia said NRF had organized programmes in Plateau State to promote peaceful coexistence among people of different faiths.
Sanusi’s call a huge joke – Afenifere
Leader of the Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, described Sanusi’s call as a huge joke, countering that banning the ethno-religious groups would not in anyway help combat the wind of insecurity in the country.
Fasoranti, who roared into a laughter when asked his views on the apex bank boss’ comment, said: That is a big joke. We (Afenifere) are not given to violence. We want unity and progress. He is shooting the wrong target. We want progress and improved welfare for our people. They know where the problem of insecurity is coming from. They should tackle Boko Haram. They should talk to their leaders to put their people in check. I n Afenifere, we generate ideas for the society to become vibrant. We don’t preach violence.”
Sanusi is living in the past – Ohanaeze
Outgoing Ohanaeze Ndigbo National Secretary, Chief Nduka Eya, wondered why ethno-religious organisations should be banned, saying Sanusi should not be dignified with a response because his comments were frivolous.
His words: “What is wrong with Nigeria is that everybody has a solution to Nigeria’s problems. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Sanusi does not deserve our response because his comment is frivolous. How can they ban CAN, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, etc? Nobody is going to respond to the nonsense he is talking about.”
Sanusi’s comments capable of breaching security – CAN
On its part, CAN, which said it could not be banned, said Sanusi’s barrage of controversial comments portended more danger to security than any non-religious group in the country.
Secretary-General of CAN, Rev Musa Asake, said: “CAN is not the cause of trouble or insecurity in this country. CAN was formed to protect the interests of Christians, especially in fighting persecution. CAN is not a government institution like NEMA, which any person can wake up and disband. The 1999 Constitution guarantees freedom of association and Sanusi cannot just wake up and call on anybody to proscribe it. Sanusi has been making several controversial statements and as a CBN governor, he should not make controversial pronouncements like this one. It is this type of statement that causes problems, not CAN as an institution. It is unfortunate that at a time like this, when Christians are being killed and churches burnt he is making this type of insensitive comment. CAN and JNI have come to stay. We have no quarrels and nobody can curtail CAN’s freedom of association as guaranteed by the constitution.” .
Ethno-religious groups re-enfore national unity – ACF
National Publicity Secretary, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Anthony Sani, picked holes in Sanusi’s call saying banning ethno-religious groups would do more harm than good to the country.
He said: “The existence of different regional and religious fora are not as divisive as posited by Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; precisely because they have overlapping interests whose countervailing forces reinforce the unity of the country. So, their place in the order of things is to advance the cause of national solidarity through relative pluralism and not to promote insular particularism that cannot fit into their place in the order of things. This is because it is easier to bring the people together through such groups and help them unleash their synergy by living up their collective challenges for public good, rather than to allow ‘toyour tent O Israel’ to prevail which is capable of inspiring ethnic nationalism that is not helpful.”
Sanusi is pursuing a hidden agenda – OPC
Founder of the South West militia group, Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Frederick Fasehun urged Nigerians to pray that somebody like Sanusi should not emerge as the president of the country.
“When democracy is failing, autocracy comes in and we all know that the Governor of the CBN is an autocrat. So, let us all go on our knees and pray to God that he does not come as the leader of this nation,” he said.
Also, OPC National Coordinator, Otunba Gani Adams said the CBN Governor had a hidden agenda for making such calls.
“He is becoming too controversial nowadays because I don’t know what concerns Sanusi with religious bodies and pressure groups. As the CBN governor, his role is to discuss the economy and the financial state of the country. To say CAN, JNI and other pressure groups should be banned shows he has a hidden agenda. Any reasonable person should be careful in delving into religious affairs because it can cause crisis that can consume any country,” he averred.