BY BEN. AGANDE
Since the abduction of the over 200 girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria has been at the centre of the world attention as the international media descend on Nigeria to give coverage to the story of the abduction.
The incident, which caused further world revulsion with the admission by the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, that he indeed abducted the girls and would sell them to slavery, has, sadly, put Nigeria on the map of ignominy as a country where seeking knowledge through education is a crime.
Nigeria is receiving assistance, mostly from the world’s developed military powers of United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Israel and China, to rescue the kidnapped girls.
Apart from the offer of military assistance, most world organisations, from the United Nations, to the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, have risen in unison to condemn the action of Boko Haram, which President Goodluck Jonathan described as a strong message to the sect that their activities have no place in sane society.
Last week, Jonathan received a different kind of solidarity visitors: Christian and Muslim leaders.
First to visit were the leader and members of the Islamic sect, Tijaniya, led by its spiritual leader, the Senegalese cleric, Khalifa Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Inyass. The group met with the President and some of his cabinet members at the conference hall of the First Lady’s Office.
Spokesman for the group, Ahmed Tijani Sanni Alwalu, the grand son of the cleric, who spoke with State House reporters at the end of the prayers, said Khalifa Inyass’ presence in Nigeria was for Maulud celebration of Ibrahim Inyass Gombe but he was invited to Abuja by Jonathan for spiritual support.
Khalifa Inyass, by visiting Jonathan, was only continuing in the footsteps of his father who also visited then Presidents, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Aguyi Ironsi.
The second religious leader to visit the President, last week, was the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Sheikh Eyad Ameen Madani. As the leader of the 57-member mostly Muslim country organisation, the voice of Sheikh Madani cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
So when the leader of the OIC told State House correspondents, after meeting with Jonathan, that,Boko Haram, which has terrorised Nigeria for several years does not represent Islam, the implication of such weighty repudiation is bound to resonate.
Madani said on his visit and his views about Boko Haram: “We are here to express our solidarity with Nigeria in facing up to this terrorist organisation and to condemn all terrorist acts they have been committing, and to express our condolences to the Nigerian people, and the families of those affected.
“The OIC has issued statements that are very clear, that these people are outlaws, what they do is criminal act, it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam, Islamic teachings, the religion of Islam, the history, the culture, the civilisation of Islam, therefore we should identify them for what they are: a terrorist group.”
The last religious authority to visit Jonathan in solidarity with the government and people of Nigeria was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, who is the leader of the over 70 million Anglicans world wide.
The Archbishop, accompanied by the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh; the Chaplain to the President, Ven. Obioma Onwuzurumba; and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Board, Mr. John Kennedy-Okpara, condemned the spate of bombings and killings perpetrated by Boko Haram and assured that, as Christians, there is hope that the killings would end soon in fulfilment of the word of God.
The significance of these visits is not so much that they were made by religious leaders. The significance lies in the fact that with the convergence of agreement by both Christian and Muslim leaders that those who kill and maim in the name of a particular religion are anything but what they pretend to be.
This may be the beginning of a synergy that may bring to book those who use religion as a cover for their heinous and dastardly act of killing innocent people.