The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, in this interview with journalists at a Ramadan dinner in his palace, speaks on the rising wave of religious insurgency and insecurity in the country, the abducted schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, and other issues. Mohammed Aminu was there. Excerpts:
On what the federal government should do to secure the release of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok.
When the issue of these girls abducted in Chibok came up, we said government should dialogue with this people. Some people said government should not dialogue with these people. This is because those girls are not their own children. We say government should dialogue with them because when you are sick you will pay any amount of money to get cured. If you are sick and the doctor says you should give him all the money to get cured, you will be ready to give him because without health, how do you use the money you acquired or stole?
On the strike by medical doctors.
The big men go abroad for a simple headache, why? Because our doctors who the big men don’t see are on strike and innocent people are dying. Why are doctors on strike? This is because when doctors go on strike, the common man who has nobody in the world suffers, not the president, ministers and governors. So, why would doctors go on strike to punish and cause deaths of innocent people who cannot afford to go to private hospitals or travel abroad?
I have always been against strike, I have always believed in dialogue. I don’t believe in strike, let them talk and reach a middle ground, then with compromise there should be give and take. But when we embark on strike, fuel strike, schools on strike, ASUU is on strike, doctors on strike, and all sorts of groups are on strike, the common man suffers. In all this, the common man suffers untold pains and hardship. When there are riots, it is the children of the poor that are killed, not my children or the children of the commissioners, governors and big men who are in highly fortified houses.
On the role leaders should play to bring an end to the insurgency in the North-east.
What should concern us as leaders is the fate of the common man who the Almighty God placed their responsibility and leadership on our shoulders. If we do that, all this problem of strike and violence will not come up. We have to look at this issue critically, dispassionately and also with total patriotism. I can spend the whole day talking about the problem and issues affecting this country but I will not dwell on that. We are going to have a big conference by August 11 in Abuja because I and Cardinal Onayekan floated a non-governmental organisation known as Inter-Faith Initiative for Peace. We have the funding already and have sent invitations to the president, senate president, speaker, governors, former Heads of State, political leaders, among others. We want to hear their own views on the politics in Nigeria as we prepare for 2015.
On the role of religious leaders.
We believe as religious leaders we have a critical role to play. Let us stabilise the polity, let us not have politics of religion because it is the Almighty Allah that gives power to whoever He wishes. Politicians should go and campaign and seek for votes but they should remember that whatever you do, if God destined that you will not get power, you will not get it and there is nothing you can do. So, as religious leaders, we are apolitical. We are concerned about who takes the leadership of our people and that is why you see that we keep on advising our political leaders to always have the fear of God.
If you have the fear of God, you will do the right thing as your religion requires from you any where you find yourself in this country. There are so many churches and mosques in this country, but are we practising what the religious books ordered us to do? We have to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to make amends. That is why we keep on asking people of all faiths to go back to their religious books. And when we do that honestly and sincerely, I believe we will have mercy from God. I am calling on our religious leaders to preach in accordance with the scriptures. Let them preach what the holy books say.
On the allegation that Muslim leaders are not doing enough to curb the menace of insurgency among Islamic faithful.
We keep on condemning insurgency but our religious brothers on the other side say we are not doing enough. What do we do? I think if you checked, you will see how many times I condemned bomb blasts and insurgency, yet they say we are not doing enough. They say Muslims are trying to Islamise Nigeria. How do you Islamise Nigeria when on daily basis Muslims are killed? Our religion says no compulsion on religion. We are not supposed to say what we don’t do. You should not be saying what you will not do. We have to find a solution to our problem as one big family and if we don’t do so, the problem will keep on getting bigger.
On the arrest of Boko Haram suspects in Abia State.
Anywhere you see any northerner, people tag him as Boko Haram. Anywhere you see any northerner, whether Muslim or Christian, they just tag him a Boko Haram. What is happening now in the South-east is unfortunate. You now say you want to give identity cards to northerners, who doesn’t want freedom? Who wants to be put in prison for just one hour? You see, by the time we start this in Sokoto by trying to know how many Ibos, Yorubas are in Sokoto, we will end up wasting our time because these people are there contributing to the development of our state. In Sokoto, we don’t discriminate against Ibo, Delta, Yoruba, others, but consider them as part of us. We have no problem with them and we will not do this to them here. So, it is important for people to check themselves and not to be carried away by these things.
On the role played by politicians in fueling violence in the country.
Politicians are the main problem of this country. The whole issue of insecurity problems in this country are geared towards 2015 election and nothing more. If there is no election in 2015 and they said till 2030, everything will cool down. Everybody is trying to take his own position and put himself at a vantage point to gain an extra mile ahead of 2015. The whole thing is all about politics. That is why you see killings, but what is paining us is that innocent people are being killed everyday. People that don’t even know what politics is all about. We are shedding too much blood of innocent Nigerians and God will not be pleased with us when we keep on shedding innocent blood because their cries mean a lot. The millitary are trying very hard and the condition they operate is very difficult. We keep on praying for the end of this insurgency but beside prayers, we must get up and act. We cannot just sit down and pray without doing anything. All of us, whether Christians, Muslims and animists, are stakeholders in the Nigerian project and we must work together to ensure the success of the Nigerian project. We must put our hands together to fight insecurity because this insurgency is affecting everybody, not only a particular religion or tribe. So, we must come together for the benefit of mankind.
On what leaders should do to restore peace in the country.
The best thing is, let us identify these problems. We need to just come together, let us leave religion and ethnicity. Let us be sincere and trust ourselves by coming together to solve our problems. There are groups of people killing our people, how do we stop them? let us find a way to stop them. When we come together, I believe we will tackle this problem.These people doing this are not spirits but human beings. Let us work and worship, this is the mantra of the late Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello. It is important for us to look at issues critically.
On Usman Danfodio’s Jihad.
We believe that people should live together in a free society. What people don’t know is that Usman Danfodio’s Jihad never forced people to accept Islam. It only came in to transform. It is the transformation of Islam to teach Muslims to practise Islam the way it is supposed to be done and he started teaching and preaching about this, which is about 215 years ago. His teachings dwelt on corruption, leadership, religion, who should be our leader, among others. So, we must live our lives according to the dictates of the religion. Danfodio believed that both Muslims and Christians must work together to develop and that no nation can endure with injustice. So, a ruler’s primary concern is to do justice to the people he leads and without justice, you cannot prosper. And this is the problem of this country.
Advice to journalists.
I appreciate our journalists for their sacrifice and what they do. But they should always crosscheck their facts. Don’t publish what you don’t know and if you have any doubts about an issue, do not hesitate to approach us. We will give you full details of what you want because once you publish a story, it will be difficult to retract it.
Courtesy - Thisdaylive