In an open admission of the impending danger facing the nation ahead of the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari has called on politicians to avoid exploiting the tools of ethnicity and religion to their personal and selfish advantage.
Specifically, the President warns the politicians to refrain from linking ethnicity and religion with politics if the country and its people are to live in peace and harmony.
“In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics,” he said. “Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law.”
And, indeed, we all have that responsibility. Our ethnic and religious differences which ideally should serve as our sources of strength unfortunately now constitute the foundation for our recurrent crises.
It’s regrettable that ethnic and religious crises in Nigeria are not only deeply rooted and spread, but also threatening the survival of the nation, negatively impacting on the socio-economic development.
But even more regrettable is the fact that some issues that should have been resolved and settled in favour of ordinary Nigerians, such as welfare, unity and security, have been given ethnic and religious undertones by some Muslim, Christian and political elite.
In many instances, grievances which normally provoke ethnic and religious conflicts are, most often than not, demonstrated through sectarian crises, tribal unrests and bitter political complaints usually stoked by political elite.
Nigeria as a state is very volatile when it comes to issues of religion and ethnicity. It is gravely baffling when politicians, who aspire to govern and are supposed to be the unifying force, begin to instigate religious disaffection amongst the citizens, evidence in the desperate attempts to mix politics with religion by some agents of the major political parties in the country in order to score some political points.
Lest we forget, politics is meant to regulate social behaviour so that men can co-exist peacefully and gainfully, religion regulates individual behaviour and beliefs in our Creator. Thus, politics and religion, if well and patriotically handled, both play important roles in the way people live and societies operate.
Of course, democracy gives people the liberty to think and believe and do anything they want, but that freedom does not imply anarchy and, precisely, that’s why governments exist to set some limits to human behaviour.
It’s gratifying that the President knows and acts in a manner that suggests the fact that government is responsible for people’s security and, thus, must stipulate some level of morality when there is a threat to life, liberty or property of citizens.
On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that as we approach 2019 general elections, it becomes clear that religious and political elites in the country have refused to learn from history, necessitating the President’s warning to them.
Instructively, the continued instigation of religious disaffection by politicians in their campaigns poses a threat of grave magnitude to the peaceful co-existence amongst the diverse interest groups that make up the country.
More worrying is that the ethnic and religious elite have allowed themselves to be dragged into the antics of politicians who are ready to explore any means to score political goals. The politicians have succeeded in manipulating various religious bodies and leaders into instigating religious sentiments just to grab power and push the country into deeper crisis.
It is so unfortunate that those who are supposed to engender peaceful co-existence in the country are the ones causing great disaffection amongst the diverse groups.
In most places in the world, political campaigns are issues-based. Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, it is all about character assassination of political opponents and incitement of ethno-religious sentiment.
This situation must not endure, it must be brought to a quick end, and this is why the admonishment by the President must be welcomed by all patriotic Nigerians.
On senseless killings in Rivers, Benue and Kaduna states…
On Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings of innocent persons in Omoku, Rivers state, some communities in Benue state and of the traditional ruler, the Etum Numana, Dr Gambo Makama, and his wife in Sango local government area of Kaduna state.
The President, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, described the incidents as “reprehensible and unacceptable,” and directed law enforcement agencies in both states to intensify their current efforts in order to speedily bring the perpetrators to face the wrath of the law.
“I have always maintained that nothing justifies the taking of the life of an innocent person,” he said, adding that “people in our communities must learn to live peacefully.”
The President appealed to the communities affected not to embark on reprisal attacks, but allow the security agencies to carry out comprehensive investigations to properly punish the culprits.
Yet, the motive and identities of the attackers are yet to be uncovered. But, it is widely believed to be the handiwork of criminals who have carried out similar attacks in different parts of the country.
As expected, governments, groups and individuals across the country have all condemned the attacks. The killings, it should be noted, were not the first times that guns were used to shatter the peace in some parts of the country.
Unfortunately, the security agents stationed in places have failed, as they often do in similar situations, to protect the lives of the people. But, even more worrisome is the fact that the unidentified gunmen have ignored reason and pity and carried out their heinous crime shamelessly.
Of course, it is needless to say that the security situation, particularly in the North, is appalling. From being a region of peace, the North has now turned into a safe haven for criminals who have continued to torture and kill people.
No doubt, the shedding of blood of innocent people and other forms of illegal activities being perpetrated by criminals are hampering development in the North and sowing the seed of discord and hatred among Nigerians.
This situation must be arrested because the people of the North must no longer allow themselves to be bogged down or be diverted from their main task of developing their region by unnecessary conflicts and bloodshed.
Thus, all those who have contributed in any way to the appalling security situation in the North and Nigeria at large should turn a new leaf. Let us all resolve to make the country a safe, peaceful and conducive place once again.
This cannot happen, however, unless genuine and concerted efforts are made by the leaders to address the problems of poverty and illiteracy which, in the view of many, largely account for the crises bedeviling the country.
Of course, it’s regrettable that the youth, who are mainly the victims of poverty and illiteracy, do easily get manipulated by some disgruntled elements to wreak havoc in the society.
On their parts, the security agencies must be proactive in their fight against crime and put the necessary measures in place for the quick apprehension and prosecution of suspected criminals.
They should always work hard to nip crisis in the bud and vow, never again, to allow the senseless incidents which happened in Kaduna, Rivers and Benue states to be repeated anywhere.