By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Nigerian Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has advised the Federal Government (FG) to kick-start a national healing process through a comprehensive pacification exercise. Among other steps, the group suggested that FG should rehabilitate the houses of Sunday Igboho and that of the Seriki Fulani that were attacked, compensate farmers both in the North and South, pacify cow owners and assist cow owners to buy land for ranches. MURIC also advised state governments to register cow owners within their states.
MURIC’s advice was given in a press statement issued on Thursday, 11th March, 2021 by the group’s director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
MURIC said, “The state of the nation demands that Nigeria must begin a national healing process. Psyches have been badly bruised and egos battered. Nigerians have been turned into enemies of one another courtesy of hate speeches and fake news.
“The situation requires the immediate intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari as a statesman, not as a politician. Politicians think only of the next election but statesmen think of the nation in general. This is not the time for flexing muscles but the time to bury hatchets. FG can stoop to conquer.
“It is also time for Muslims and Christians to speak as Nigerians, not just for their religion, but for their country. Let the good people in both faiths speak up for peace. Both Northerners and Southerners must address the Nigerian question, not just their narrow and parochial ethnic concerns. Ethnicities need to halt mutual hostilities, not because they have not been victims but because we may end up with greater calamities if we go ahead with the ongoing confrontation and ethnic profiling. Let our resolve be to expose all killers and kidnappers without demonising Northerners or Southerners.
“To start with, we call on President Buhari to acknowledge the fact that people have genuine cases. This will further confirm his statesmanship and patriotism. Farmers across the country are badly hit. From Aba to Igangan and from Sokoto to Kaura-Namoda, it is a sad story of tilling the soil, planting the seed and weeding the farm only for cows to come and destroy everything. Therefore farmers have genuine reasons to be angry.
“FG can kick-start the process of national healing by rolling out a comprehensive plan of compensation for all those who lost properties and bread winners to clashes between herders and farmers. For example, the houses of Sunday Igboho and those of the Seriki Fulani of Igangan as well as the victims of the Shasha ethnic clash may be rehabilitated in the interest of peace.
“We also reiterate our suggestions contained in earlier press statements. Compensate farmers whose crops were destroyed by herders’ cows. Cow owners with genuine evidence of loss of cattle during ethnic hostilities may also be pacified. FG should also assist cow owners to buy land for ranches by granting them bailout funds. State governments are urged to register cow owners.
“These steps cost a lot of money but peace building is expected to be expensive. Yet it costs less than war. The ravages of war are better imagined than experienced. Posterity will judge all of us. We must be prepared to forgive one another. Revenge is a wild dish that tastes sour when it is cold but forgiveness raises one above the herd of blood-thirsty people. It brings out the humanity in us and sets us apart from wild animals. If we find it difficult to do this for ourselves, we must do it for the sake of our children and coming generations.
“On our own part, we know how we were maligned, blackmailed and threatened with assassination. We were insulted and called names. We were called slaves of the Fulani oligarchy but we know it was a ploy to turn us against Northern Muslims. We cannot allow that to happen.
“Afterall, Nigerian Christians keep drawing closer to themselves from the South to the Middle Belt and it is those who want to separate Muslims of the South West from their Northern brothers that are making efforts at reaching out to their Christian brothers in the Middle Belt, the North and the South East. We refuse to be fooled. Our solidarity with our Northern brothers remains as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. There is no criminal element involved in that. It is a religious bond, a fraternal bond of love.
“Wicked lies were told against us. Our traducers once lied that MURIC collected $200,000 from ISWAP and Boko Haram. The aim was to silence us. But it only added tonic to our zeal and determination to pursue the truth, defend the oppressed and promote Allah-given fundamental human rights of Nigerian Muslims.
“We have forgiven our own traducers because they are fellow Nigerians and if there must be peace people must be ready to forgive. Let it be on record that forgiveness started from MURIC. Let it also be on record that we have never incited anyone to violence or delivered any hate speech. Neither has any fake news originated from our end. Nigeria will be a better place if all of us can make the same claim, better still, if those who did it before can turn a new leaf.
“We appeal to Muslims who nurse certain grievances to forgive their neighbours. The Glorious Qur’an says, ‘Goodness and evil cannot be compared. Pay back evil with kindness so that those who were bitter enemies before can become close associates’ (Qur’an 41:34). In like manner, aggrieved Christians should sheath their swords because Jesus (peace be upon him) ‘Forgive, that you may be forgiven, for if you will not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven.’ (Mathew 6:14)”