By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA – Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri has urged northern leaders and adherent of Islamic faith to make strong statement against Boko Haram as a way of finding lasting solution to insecurity situation in the country.
This is as the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo also admitted that there was obvious religious and ethnic discords among Nigerians.
Bagobiri spoke while delivering a sermon at the 55th independence anniversary interdenominational church service on the theme, ‘making Nigeria function as a family: panacea to healthy national integration’ held in Abuja on Sunday.
Reading from the books of II Chronicles 7:1-14 and I Corinthians 12:12-30, the bishop stated that the scriptures synonymously presented Nigeria as a family.
He warned that unless Nigerians shunned ethnic and religious sentiments, the country would continue to dangle on the line of disintegration.
He however stated that Th indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria was paramount.
The cleric also observed that the 55th independence celebration offered a time to sober reflection of how the country has faired, saying that it was also a time to appreciate God.
Bishop Bogabiri also reminded the merchants of insecurity and deaths that insecurity was an ill winds that blew no on any good, warning that the killing of innocents through bombing was not for the interest of the nation.
He said: “We need Nigeria first before the other contending things that citizens continue to fight for. Take Nigeria away and we will not do the fighting we are doing today”.
“Those who are perpetrating these evils belong to the house hold of Islam, and the house hold of Islam should rise up and cut the excesses of their own members.
“If there is a Christian militia group in Nigeria today, it is we who will be the first, the Church leaders to confront this militia and say it is not in consonance with the teaching of Jesus Christ, we shall not hide them.
“We have since our amalgamation in 1914, all through our independence as a sovereign state not been successful in harnessing our plurality, diversity into a rainbow of peace and sustainable development because, instead of allowing ourselves to be guided, to be propelled by national interest, we are bedevilled by the blind pursuit, self centred and parochial interest that often toe the lines of ethnic and religious and politically partisan considerations.”
“What we should struggle and make sacrosanct is the survival of our nation which is bigger than everything. We need Nigeria first before the other contending needs that we are fighting for, relating this to Prophet Jeremiah in the Bible. That this is the only way to promote national cohesion.”
Speaking further, Bogabiri urged the Federal Government not to jettisoned the report the 2014 National Conference, saying it was germane to the growth and development of the country.
Bishop Bagobiri also cautioned President Buhari to be fair minded and just to all in his anti-corruption war.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his remark at the event admitted that Nigeria has been long sharply divided along tribal and religious lines.
He called for collective effort to end insurgency in the country, noting that bomb explosion does not give preference to any regions.
“Our nation is sharply divided and has been divided for long. Our nation is divided along religious divide, is divided along tribal lines but the word of God says in Mathew 12: 35 that a kingdom divided against itself shall be left dissolute, it also says a city that is divided within itself can not stand. It does not matter whether that is a nation or a city.
“I have travelled the length and breadth of this nation, especially in the Northeastern parts in the last few months and I have seen children, women, men who were bomb victims. I have seen the dead, the wounded, the sick.
“The truth of the matter is that the bulk of all those that I have seen, there were Moslems, there were Christians, there were those who professed no particular faith, but were all Nigerians, and one thing that united them was that they were all poor, and in IDP camps.
“When a bomb goes off in Potiskum or in a market in Maiduguri or Gombe, it does not ask if you are a Christian or a Muslim, it does not. It never asks if you are Yoruba or Ibo, or Hausa. The moment we are divided among ourselves, we can not stand.
“We should not create further division, true freedom lies in recognizing the reason why Jesus came to save mankind.”
The Vice President also urged religious and political leaders to emphasize only what would unite the people of Nigeria rather than what divides them.
According to him leaders “must understand that the terrorism is not a contest between Christians and Muslims, it goes well beyond that. It is our duty not to pursue narratives that divide us. It is our duty to do everything that unites us. We must ensure that we don’t create further divisions, but that we bind together those divisions, that is our duty.”
One of Nigeria’s major problems, Osinbajo argued is that “we would play politics with everything, but the fate of over 110 million extremely poor Nigerians have not been the central concern of anyone.”
The event which featured special intercessory prayers for president Mohammadu Buhari, his vice and the leaders of legislative and executive arms attracted the presence of Deputy Senate President Ike Ikweremadu, Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, Former Head of Interim National Government Earnest Shonekan, Service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, the Corps Marshall of the Federal Roads Safety Corps and members of the diplomatic corps.
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Pastors Ayo Orisejafo was represented by Dr. Musa Asake General Secretary of CAN.