Unity and tolerance are crucial values needed to safeguard peace and stability in a multi-religious society like Nigeria, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Wednesday evening when he received a courtesy call at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, a delegation of Imams, Islamic scholars and Muslim leaders from all over the country.
The delegation of more than 25 Islamic clerics, intellectuals and leaders of different groups was drawn from higher institutions, National Council of Ulamas, Qadiriyya Movement, Fitiyanul Islam of Nigeria, Dariya Sect, National Council of Muslim Youths, Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, Jammat Tajdidul Islamy, Salafiyya Youth Movement, Imams from the National Mosque and Legislative Quarters in Apo, Abuja among others.
Addressing the delegation led by Prof. Siraj Abdulkarim from ABU Zaria, the National Chairman of the Community & Youth Development, (CYD is a public affairs group of Ulamas), the VP also noted that “until you engage with the people, you can’t tell what they and others want.”
Continuing he said, “engagement is so important, I believe very strongly in engagement.” He narrated his experience since becoming VP on how people welcome engagement by their leaders even in difficult circumstances.
At the meeting which turned out to be an exciting interactive session between the Islamic leaders and the Vice President, issues such as how to promote Nigeria’s unity were tabled and discussed.
The delegation members also engaged in good-natured banter on how the interaction was one among men of God and how the VP and his guests all belong to the same constituency of religious leaders in the country.
While welcoming his guests, Prof. Osinbajo noted his delight at the coming of the delegation saying “it is not often that one gets the honour of such a visit.”
Earlier, one of the leaders of the delegation, the Chief Imam of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Dr. Abdul Hakeem Abdul Lateef described the VP as a leader who loves all Nigerians, regardless of religious or ethnic differences. He added that members of the delegation “are eager to collaborate with Your Excellency.”
According to him, “we are here in recognition of your love for all Nigerians and your belief in the harmonious existence of our country. We understand the kind of love you have for all Nigerians.”
Abdul Lateef who was formerly Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs also observed that in the VP’S office no less than 18 Muslims were part of the senior cadre of staff including the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Rahman Ade Ipaye who is the head of the entire VP’s staff.
The leader of the delegation, Prof. Siraj Abdulkarim also noted that “we are here because we love this country.” He added that the unnecessary rivalry between Christians and Muslims has to be doused and called on the VP to initiate a programme to further promote understanding and unity. He also called for a more invigorating fight against corruption in the country.
Also in his remarks, the VP asked members of the delegation to suggest ways for the country to attain more unity and promised that the interaction with members of the delegation and such other groups in the country will not be a one-off.
Having heard from several of the members of the delegation who raised different issues bothering on the unity of the country, good governance, religious harmony among others, the VP stated after about an hour into the meeting “I am enriched from what I have heard today and I have noted all the issues. I wish we had a bit more time. I agree we should engage more. The issues you have raised show us clearly that the future of this country lies with the elites, especially religious and political elites.”
. Osinbajo urged religious and political elitProfes to show more responsibility in ensuring peace and positive changes in society. According to him, religious elites, just like the political elites, are responsible for ensuring positive change.
He suggested “the creation of a forum of religious leaders who see themselves more on a rescue mission with the purpose of forging more understanding,” among the citizenry.
The VP also observed that Nigeria is a country with both Muslim and Christian population noting that even in the Southwest, both religions are practised in many families. He then said that “as Christians and Muslims we must preach love and tolerance.”
In his own remarks, the Chief Imam of Abuja National Mosque, Prof. Ibrahim Maqari, said that they (as religious leaders) also have “a duty to pray for Nigeria” which they have been doing.
In the same vein, the President of Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, Ustaz Shehu Usman, commended the Vice President for his “invaluable contribution to nation-building,” while another member of the delegation, Sheikh Dr. Haroun Ajah, the Southeast Coordinator of the Council of Ulama praised the Vice President for being “sound, exceptional and intelligent.”