Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday stressed the need for leaders in the country to promote peaceful coexistence and nation-building through sacrifices. Speaking while declaring open the General Assembly of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) in Abuja, Osinbajo lamented the threat religious bigotry and intolerance pose to the development of the country, saying the burden of ensuring that faith promotes national development, as opposed to impeding it, lies on leaders. He stated: “It is the courage of leaders to live up to the ideals of their faith and their sworn commitments that invariably build nations. Leaders must live up to the commitments to which they swear, especially political leaders.
“Nations are built by the sacrifices and hardwork of leaders who do not care even if they are condemned by persons of their own religion or ethnicity, so long as they are confident that they act in obedience to the oaths they swore and to the Almighty God.“We are at a historic juncture in the existence of our nation. Here and there are religious and tribal tensions. Many are beating the drums of ethnic and religious superiority. Some even seek to divide the nation into ethnic zones. “Yet, our constitution speaks in the clearest and highest terms of our national commitment to the equality of all Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or status.
“It speaks of the imperative of all individuals and governments to respect the rights and dignity of every Nigerian. Our constitution speaks of freedom of worship, the liberty to belong to faith of one’s choice and even change that faith without consequence. “But constitutional declarations mean nothing unless there are men and women ready to make the personal sacrifices to bridge the gap between rhetoric and constitutional ideals. Such men and women are not usually very many, but they do not have to be many to make a difference.
“There are states where governors refuse to grant Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) for the building of places of religious gathering in outright violation of the constitution they swore to uphold.”He tasked leaders in the country to emulate the virtues of Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, who saved over 200 Christians during an attack by suspected herdsmen in Plateau State.
While highlighting the contributions of the NSCIA to nation-building, Osinbajo said it was important to the country because it not only promotes solidarity among Nigeria’s Muslims, but also serves as an important intermediary between the government and the Muslim community and between Muslims and persons of other faiths.On her part, wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, charged the Council to convert its decisions into realistic template for practice by Muslims in the country.
She commended NSCIA’s contribution to peace, security, socio-economic and political development of Nigeria.Earlier, President General of NSCIA and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, in his message, said leaders must be accountable to the led and must demonstrate good example of humility and service. He advised leaders to do more on education, particularly to address the Almajiri system and girl-child education.