Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has appealed to Nigerian leaders to help douse the prevailing ethnic and religious tensions in the country.
He said this can be achieved when such leaders willingly make sacrifices even at the risk of their popularity.
Osinbajo stated this yesterday when he received a delegation from the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) led by its executive chairman, Mr Disu Kamor, at the presidential villa, Abuja.
MPAC is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion of peace building and interfaith cohesion, among other objectives.
The vice president, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, said, “There is a need to understand first of all, that there is no way that we can deal with the tensions between the faiths and ethnicities in Nigeria today unless those in leadership are prepared to make some important sacrifices.
“Those sacrifices are even in what you say, how you say it, and then sacrifices also in the acknowledgment of whatever people are saying and the willingness to accept.
“It is very important that we don’t diminish the importance of language and respectful non-violent communication so that we are able to keep our discussions at a level that ensures that we don’t degenerate too quickly to violence,” he said.
Citing the examples of the sacrifices made by the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela and Imam Abubakar Abdullahi of Barkin Ladi in Plateau State, the VP said, “We can all talk nicely and say the right things but unless people are prepared to make some concessions which may cost them popularity within their own group, we cannot move forward.”
“Nelson Mandela, who had spent such a long time in jail under apartheid before he became president still pushed for a South Africa where even his tormentors got equal treatment like his fellow black South Africans. In Nigeria more recently, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi in 2018, put his life on the line to save the lives of over 200 Christians who took refuge in his mosque when some gunmen attacked the village of Nghar Yelwa in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State and sought to kill the Christians.
“These are stories of people who are not only political or religious leaders but just ordinary people, doing the right thing. Unless we are prepared to not just talk about it but to make an open display, first of all, of those who are doing the right things, but more importantly, challenging our leaders to say the right things and to be prepared to risk some popularity in order to do so, then we will just be wasting a lot of time,” Osinbajo submitted.
Earlier in his presentation, Kamor said MPAC had been involved in programmes and activities aimed at promoting cohesion among people of different faiths over the past decade.