Sultan: Boko Haram Attacks Beyond Religion

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Ayo Oluokun/ Abuja

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President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday met with a major Nigerian Muslim leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar over the coordinated suicide bomb attacks against churches in the Northern part of the country on Christmas day by fundamentalist Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram. The meeting was held against the background of information that the number of lives lost to the attack on St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, a suburb of Abuja, where the bombers were most successful had risen to 35.
Though no statement was issued by the Presidency after the meeting which lasted over an hour, the Sultan who is also the President General of National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA however spoke to journalists.
The traditional cum religious leader did not indicate if he put any new concrete plan forward or was presented with any plan by the Presidency on how to stop future attacks by the deadly sect at the meeting.
The nearest hint the highly revered traditional ruler gave was the disclosure that President Jonathan has agreed to consider the reports of the different committees that have been set up to look at ways of curbing the activities of the militant sect in the past. He also said the President agreed with him that there is a need to organise a bigger forum which will involve religious and traditional rulers across the country to find ways of dealing with violence.
The Sultan, in what is obviously a reaction to rising tempers in the Nigerian Christian community following the attacks, however assured that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians and between Islam and Christianity in the country. “It’s a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message,” the Sultan said as his message to the Christian community.
It will be recalled that the Northern Zone of Christian Association of Nigeria had in a press release yesterday indicated its resolve to henceforth defend itself against attacks from Islamic fundamentalist groups. “We shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country,” Saidu Dogo, secretary general CAN while calling on Muslim leaders to call members of their flocks who have been attacking churches in the Northern part of the country to order. Andrew Owoeye Azazi, the National Security Adviser who was also at the meeting with the Sultan also said retaliation is not appropriate response to the spate of bomb attacks: “We are Nigerians. I don’t see any major conflict between the Christian community and Muslim community. Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation.”
However, it will be interesting to know if the Sultan told the President that Boko Haram should not be held responsible for violence in the North, just like he said about two months ago. “Most of the crises in the northeast are not caused by Boko Haram sect, so we have to ask ourselves, ‘Why is there violence in the northeast? Who are those behind them?’,” the sultan told a meeting of religious leaders at a pre Ramadan lecture in Kaduna. “The government must fish them out and tell us those responsible for the crises. This thing did not start today. Stop blaming every violence on Boko Haram,” he added.
The militant sect itself has once rejected the Sultan choice as its representative on the recommended talks between it and government as recommended by one of the Committee set up by Federal Government to find ways of how to stop the violence being unleashed on the country by the group.
Today’s meeting with the Sultan by Jonathan may therefore not amount to no more than holding at straws by a President who has come under ferociuos attacks over what is generally perceived as his lack of appropriate response to series of bomb blasts by the Boko Haram sect.