Between terrorism and religious war

QUOTE: In fact, today’s war isn’t between Islamic extremists and the Christians. It’s between good and evil, between humanity and barbarism, between progress and primitivism. This realisation should help us understand that negative views and stereotyping are counterproductive

 For a leader, Nigeria is a very difficult country to govern. It’s a country where leaders of find it convenient and, sometimes, even rewarding to mislead their members.Religious leaders are, in fact, the guiltiest in this regard because many adherents of the two major religions of Islam and Christianity are passionate about their belief, poor and vulnerable to manipulations by their leaders.The manipulation of religion should be discouraged in the society and, if need be, fight manipulators. Thankfully, quick to raise a finger against this negative development was President Muhammadu Buhari, who warned Nigerians, especially religious leaders, to desist from seeing and making their adherents see likewise, the acts of terrorism as religious war.Responding to allegations made by the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) that Christians have been victims of persecution and killings in some parts of the country, the president said Nigerians must be united in their resolve to fight terrorism and ensure that peace reigns in the country.The president spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu. Unsurprisingly, he called on Nigerians not to subscribe to terrorists’ message of division, and why should they do that.“The government has condemned some of the appalling acts of terror, especially following the festive period…to continue to see these happenings solely in religious terms – removed from social, economic and environmental factors – simplifies complexities that must be heeded,” he said.No doubt, like the president observed, the refusal by some people to see issues clearly, especially those bordering on terrorism, as they should be seen and analysed, is exactly what Boko Haram and other terrorist groups wish.Boko Haram members want Nigerians to see their beliefs as good reason to turn against one another. Particularly and, happily, they want to see the so-called religious leaders tearing at one another, like they ate now often seen doing.However, we need to see terrorism as a challenge to every individual and community – religious and otherwise. In fact, terrorism is a huge threat to global peace and stability. So for the sake of humanity, all the world has to unite against it.The war on terrorism is in no way linked with religion or ethnicity. It is a struggle to safeguard humanity and civilisation. Terrorists that hide behind the cloak of Islam, if there are, couldn’t be further from their faith. The West, U.S.A. and, especially CAN, need to understand this, lest the war on terror continues to be counterproductive.The CAN must realise that all Nigerians, irrespective of religion, have been suffering from terrorism for many years. CAN needs to remember that countless families in Nigeria have lost their loved ones to extremist Boko Haram ideology. In the name of jihad, hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslims have left their homes forever. The Boko Haram members have been misled by an illusion – ideas that are contradictory to human values.In fact, today’s war isn’t between Islamic extremists and the Christians. It’s between good and evil, between humanity and barbarism, between progress and primitivism. This realisation should help us understand that negative views and stereotyping are counterproductive.

Agreed, the Muslims in Nigeria need to stop looking at anything that isn’t Islam with contempt. But, at the same time, the Christians ought to stop believing they are targets of the Boko Haram.What we all need to do is join hands to fight terrorism. It is true that many of the terrorists the world faces today call themselves Muslims, but it is also possible that in just a few years, there will be other extremists who will profess other faiths. So let us not stigmatise a religion or community.

Terrorists are cowards. They will run away if confronted in a united fashion. The more disunited Nigeria is in the war on terror, the stronger the terrorists will become. In this light, the media must show caution and prudence in reporting terrorism and anti-terrorism messages and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.Yes, mistakes of the past because media reports were based on sentiments, hear-says and ill-motives all with the intent to cause confusion, division and destroy trust among Nigerians and keep Nigeria perpetually in crisis and underdevelopment.Nigerians must be united in ensuring that they do not subscribe to messages of division, especially where it is obvious that some religious leaders and politicians seek to make financial political capital from the country’s religious differences.  Essentially, like the president said,what this country needs to do urgently is to address cases of rampant unemployment, poverty and illiteracy, provide infrastructure and wrestle corruption to the ground. Nigerians don’t need to engage themselves in religious accusations and counter-accusations now or ever. 

Buhari’s call for free, fair polls
 This week, President Muhammadu Buhari urged officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to be firm and fair in the electoral process and ensure Nigerians elect their choice.Tellingly, the president called on the important institutions, as far as elections are concerned, to make it possible for Nigeria, like other countries, have a free, fair and transparent electoral process that will give birth to credible and respected leaders.The president spoke when he met with the Chairman of INEC Professor Mahmood Yakubu, top officials of the electoral body, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, at the State House in Abuja.“Those that you declare as winners must be the candidates that the people have chosen,” he said. “Democracy is about free will, and the will of the people must be allowed to prevail. Get your acts right, and leave no room for underhand tricks or manipulation.”The president called on officials of INEC to make sure that elections are conducted according to international standards and rules, and without fear or favour because elections are a central feature of democracy. For elections to express the will of the electorate, they must be free and fair.Free means that all those entitled to vote have the right to be registered and to vote and must be free to make their choice. An election is considered free when people can decide whether or not to vote and vote freely for the candidate or party of their choice without fear or intimidation. A free election is also one where you are confident that who you vote for remains your secret and voters vote based on their conscience.On the other hand, fair means that all registered political parties have an equal right to contest the elections, campaign for voter support and hold meetings and rallies. This gives them a fair chance to convince voters to vote for them. A fair election is also one in which all voters have an equal opportunity to register, where all votes are counted, and where the announced results reflect the actual vote totals.It is, therefore, gratifying to hear the president stating his desire to have free and fair elections in Nigeria. “Our elections must be done in violence-free atmosphere,” he said. “The process must be free, fair and decent, devoid of intimidation or malpractices. It is the duty of the police to accomplish that, and it is what I expect in the elections immediately ahead, and going forward.”It is gratifying too that the president said he intends to give Nigeria an electoral system that meets with best practices anywhere in the world, and charged the electoral umpire to stick to the rules of fair play and justice.Needless to add here that the police is very crucial in the electoral process and, at least for now, it appears that whoever controls police already wins about 50% of the contest before the whistle is blown.Thus, it will be heartwarming if, like it is done in India, the president can make police officers who are responsible for elections not to be responsible to their regular command during the process of elections but the electoral umpire, INEC.