By Yusufu Shehu Usman
I think the US has achieved what it wants by it’s statement putting Nigeria on it’s self sponsored watch list of countries violating the freedom of worship
It has succeeded in pitching Muslims against christians both at the personal and organisational levels
It sparked a response from his eminence the Sultan of Sokoto and the Leader of main stream Muslims in the country, who was reported to have said in a statement, that there is no official persecution of any body or group, based on religious belief or chosen faith of worship.
The CAN in response was reported to have responded to the Sultan in a manner that could best be described as belligerent
The CAN was further reported to have chided the Sultan by cynically advising that he should have kept quiet “as he did when the killing was going on’
The next obvious development would be expected to be a further response from those who would feel obliged to defend the Sultan and by extension the Muslims.
If that happens, the frontiers of the diatribe will be extended and the unpleasant or even provocative exchanges will cascade to embrace individual members of the respective Faith’s
The US is definitely aware of the sensitivity with which Nigerians respond to religious issues.
One of the most sensitive issues that can almost instantly divide Nigerians across the divide, is religion
Once a religious crisis is sparked, it’s spread is viral and reactions to it, instant and devastating
With the exchange between the Sultan and CAN on the issue of Nigeria being put on the American watch list, there is need for all of us to be cautious and exercise great restraint in the manner we further respond to this development
We should understand and appreciate the fact that the US did not place Islam or Christianity in Nigeria (as religions) on it’s watch list, but the accusation was made against the government of the federal Republic of Nigeria
It is fact very well known to all of us that the government of Nigeria is composed of both Christians and Muslims.
In my view, it’s a matter between the governments of two sovereign nations and we should allow the two governments to tackle themselves at governmental and state levels
We should have confidence in the government which we elected to manage our affairs and peculiarities on our behalf
We should not play our selves into the hands of a foreign government which has not been able to tackle the same problem which is loud and visible in it’s own domain
The government of Nigeria in consultation and collaboration with the various religious organisations is in the best and most appropriate position to respond to the United States on the issue
If the various religious organisations in the country start trading blames and throwing tantrums, vendetta, diatribe and hot and divisive exchanges among themselves, the nation wil only be divided and polarized along the primordial fault line of religious acrimony
This is not in our national interest. It will rock the bottom of our hard earned though fragile unity, which our founding fathers have fought so hard and toiled with their sweat and blood to bequeath to us.
I don’t know what benefit the United States will achieve if they ignite religious conflagration in Nigeria
We will only be killing ourselves and not a single American Life will be consumed by the inferno
The victims of such a pogrom will be Nigerian Muslims and Nigerian Christians, not American Christians or Muslims and the greatest loser will be the Nigerian nation
I therefore urge both Christian and Muslim organizations in the country to sheath their swords and be not agitated by the unilateral declaration of the United States on the issue of religious freedom and freedom of worship
As stated earlier, it is an diplomatic issue between two independent and sovereign nations with both governments having Dominion over it’s domestic affair
The United States can not rule Nigeria or dictate to the Nigerian nation on any issue because under the rules of international law, they lack both the locus and the legitimacy to do so.
Just like the United States percieved that it has the liberty to place any nation on it’s domestic watch list, Nigeria could also do the same to the United States or indeed any other nation, if we have a watch list on any issue of interest to us as a nation
In conclusion, it is my advice to both Muslims and Christians at organisational or individual levels, not to allow the policies of a foreign nation to divide us or set us up in arms against each other
We have been managing our religious diversity and peculiarities in our own ways even before we got independence from the yoke of British colonialism and despite it’s sensitivity the successive governments in the country have never stopped efforts in laying down policies aimed at protecting the right of the citizens to hold and impart any religious beliefs and the freedom to worship in accordance with any faith that they so desire. This is in consonance with our constitution which guarantee, upholds and protects religious freedom
Nobody in Nigeria has cast a single vote for America to run our affairs for us