Sultan of Sokoto Saad Abubakar has said he has no apology for being a Fulani and patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association whose members many Nigerians, including the Christian Association of Nigeria, have branded terrorists that must be held responsible for the Benue killings.
He then warned religious and political leaders to avoid inflammatory utterances that could further worsen the situation.
Abubakar said this on Thursday in Abuja at the 1st General Assembly of Inter-faith Dialogue forum with the theme, ‘Living together, achieving together.’
According to him, Nigerians should be more concerned about the daily loss of lives instead of the religion or ethnicity of the victims, stressing that God is angry with the killers.
“The killings must be stopped, they have gone too far. This is not the time to apportion blames, but to seek solutions. What are the security agencies doing and when will these killings stop? We must challenge the leaders with one voice, the issues must not be looked at with the prisms of religion or ethnicity,” Abubakar cautioned.
The President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs said he is a patron of the 32-year-old Miyetti Allah, and that the group has no control over Fulani herdsmen tending their animals in the bush.
He said it is wrong for Nigerians to criminalise the Fulani over the crime of a few criminals among them.
Condemning the statement by CAN General Secretary Musa Asabe—that Miyetti Allah should be outlawed—Abubakara said Nigerians should pray not to get to the level of Afghanistan where everybody is bearing arms,
“We refuse to accept that all Fulani are bad. The crisis in Benue is not a religious or ethnic problem but an economic one. It is a fight between herdsmen and farmers and unless the government takes it seriously, it may get out of hand,” he said.
The Sultan also noted Islamisation of Nigeria is a baseless rumour religious leaders are using to heat up the polity.
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He explained that he visited Gov Ortom thrice in 2017 to discuss solutions to the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, but none of the recommendations was implemented by the government.
CAN President Samson Ayokunle, represented by the Bishop of Yola, Rev. Stephen Mamza, said the nation’’s leaders are insincere, and that the crisis would not have degenerated if they had implemented what they recommended.
“We have leaders who deceive people; they say one thing, but do another thing. We have placed tribal affiliation above the national interest. Every killing should be condemned irrespective of the religion of the victims,” he said.
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja John Cardinal Onaiyekan said there is a sense of anxiety and tension across the nation over the Benue crisis, and that the atmosphere had been poisoned with hate speeches shared in social media.
“We (Christians and Muslims) are in the same boat on a turbulent sea. We can decide to work together to reach our destination or fight and let the boat sink and God would take care of all of us,” the cleric concluded.
The inter-faith body was founded under former President Goodluck Jonathan to mitigate violent incidents of religious crisis in Nigeria whose population is half and half Christian and Islamic.