President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday vowed to ensure that despite its challenges, Nigeria does not disintegrate.
Speaking at an inter-faith conference in Abuja with the theme, “The imperative of interfaith understanding and cooperation for responsible politics,” the president said he believed Nigeria and Nigerians would prove wrong those who had predicted the country’s disintegration.
“Despite the fact that we have survived the civil war and continue to evolve as one nation with one destiny, we have among ourselves those (who) continue to define us and put it that we as Nigerians cannot live together”.
“But I can say categorically that Nigeria will not disintegrate, we will not fail. We will surely get over our challenges and become even a stronger nation,” he said.
The president said he was aware of the predictions that the 2015 general elections would be the basis for Nigeria’s disintegration; adding that in the opinion of the so called experts, Nigeria’s ethnic and religious differences are bound to boil over.
“They portray us doomed to fail,” he said.
Mr. Jonathan urged Nigerians not to panic because such predictions will fail as the nation will witness a free, fair, and peaceful general election, come 2015.
He said elections so far conducted under his administration have been free, fair and peaceful.
“If I was interested in manipulating elections, my party will not be losing all these governorship elections. All what we want is credible elections,” he said.
“All governorship elections that have been conducted so far, you will agree with me that it has been free and fair. I am from the PDP, the ruling party but I don’t use that strength to make sure that PDP must win always.
“PDP has lost election in Edo State, we lost election in Anambra State, we lost election in Ondo State and of course only two days back we lost another election in Osun State.
“I always tell politicians that none of our own ambition is worth the blood of any one Nigerian. If anybody wants to be a president, governor, a senator or anything, know that your ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. How many of us can line up our children and kill them just because we want to be president, can we use our children for sacrifice because we want to be governors? Why do we want other people’s children to die?
Do we politicians think that we are created differently by the Almighty God? I think we are just privileged to hold the offices we are holding and we must know that. We must make sure that these incessant killings must stop,” he added.
He described Nigerian as a nation in evolution, adding that although the circumstances of Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914 have been interpreted in different ways to suggest that the country would have been better without it, Nigeria is being regarded as the hope of the black race because of her diversity.
“They can go on debating for as long as they want but to me I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt, as they say in court, that our nation being celebrated as a great nation by other African leaders and Nigeria being the hope of the black race is because of our diversity.
“If we were just minor enclaves of people either from the south, west, east or north, none of us would have been relevant to the world today. We are relevant because of the amalgamation, because of our diversity.
“We are not relevant because we produce oil, we produce very little oil and the oil that is here is too insignificant. People must know that we are relevant and appreciated all over the world because of our diversity, because of the amalgamation”.
The President while stating that he was fully aware of the nation’s challenges, also noted that the challenges were surmountable.
“Having said this I do not run away from the fact that we have challenges just like any other country. I do not deny the fact that there is a reason for people to express fears about our future,” he said.
He chided politicians who are in the habit of “making reckless and irresponsible statements that are capable of inciting people to take laws into their hands and destabilise the country”.
“But we have to understand that these statements are not born out of the genuine reason of mood and temperament of Nigerians. Rather these enemies of peace are only trying to spoil the mood and create tempestuous temperature, but they will fail.”
The President commended the Nigeria Interfaith Initiative and commended the courage of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, and the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyeken, for organizing the event.
“It is heart-warming that there are diverse religion of people in this conference today. This is for our good. (It) is a clear demonstration of deep religious tolerance and understanding that have permeated minds of Nigerians out to embrace one another, having realised the need for mutual tolerance and understanding”.
“The interfaith initiative as I understand it is conceived to be a unifier. It’s an avenue for all and sundry to engage with one another constructively, to understand one another, to respect another and to care for one another”.
In his welcome address, the Sultan noted that the conference was put together to check the misuse of religion for political purposes.
“We found out that politicians are misusing religion to foster enmity, violence and insecurity, therefore, we put heads together to bring this gathering together to discuss how best to go or not to go about the politics of 2015 as far as Islam and Christianity are concerned.
“It is our duties as religious leaders to debunk such ways and means those politicians go about carrying out their own agenda to get vantage position to seek political offices,” he said.
The Sultan, who commended President Jonathan for finding time within his very busy schedule to attend the meeting, noted that the action was a reflection of his commitments to creating the best atmosphere for successful elections in 2015.
Mr. Abubakar called on other politicians to emulate the president’s examples.
The Sultan said God created Nigeria and could not have been wrong in placing Nigerians where they are.
“Since we found ourselves here, we must find ways and means of living together peaceful, in brotherliness and love as enshrined in the two major holy books of Islam and Christianity”, he said.
We cannot pretend to be very religious when we do not follow the teachings of the two holy books, he added.
Also speaking at the event, Mr. Onaiyekan noted that politics has become associated with various vices and therefore called for a turn around by Nigerian politicians.
The clergyman noted that politics should be synonymous with accountability and responsibility, adding that anything else would be irresponsible politics.
Some of the attendees at the event include the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Uwais; the Shehu of Borno, Mustapha El Kanemi; the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba; and the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.