Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar III has cautioned President Goodluck Jonathan against using heavy military action on Boko Haram as it has its own negative effect of aggravating the already volatile situation in the North Eastern part of the country.
He asked the President to re-consider his position on the use of maximum force to curb insurgency in the country, calling on him to embrace the dialogue option with leaders of the Boko Haram sect through the implementation of the reports of the Committee on negotiations with Boko Haram.
The Sultan who spoke today in Abuja at the 7th Annual National Conference of the Muslims Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria, with the theme, ” Rule of Law & Social Justice: A Panacea for Unity & National Development”remarked: “when people say you don’t dialogue with criminals, who said you don’t dialogue with criminals? You cannot fight criminals because you don’t even know where they are.
“About two weeks ago, the American government exchanged one prisoner who was even a deserter for very senior five al-Qaeda leaders who have been in Guantanamo prison for years.
“They kept dialoguing with them for five years. For them to exchange him they must have been talking. There is need for dialogue. You cannot win any insurgency by way of force. Nowhere in the world that work.”
Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar ruled out the possibility of any group or individuals making Nigeria an Islamic nation and therefore urged non Muslims not to be afraid of the inclusion of Sharia in the country’s constitution.
The monarch maintained that the Muslims in Nigeria are not the problem with the country and that they were not out to force everybody under the Islamic legal code, the sharia, adding: “I have said it one million and one times, as far as in America, when I delivered a lecture at Harvard University. The problems of Nigeria are not caused by Muslims.
“I want to assure you that we have been doing our best to educate people on what Islam and Muslims stand for and want to do in Nigeria.
“I have said it one million times, Muslims in Nigeria are not out to Islamise Nigeria because it is not possible.
“We all know what is said in the Holy Quran. So why should anybody be afraid of the strength of Muslims in this country?
“When we come together and we are doing positive things or rightly it is got the development of that community and when a community is developed Muslims, non-Muslims and whoever within that community will be a beneficiary of that development.
“Why are the non Muslims opposed to the inclusion of the Islamic laws in the constitution? There is no country in the World where the interests of the citizens especially their religious views are not protected in the constitution
“At the same time, muslims should not be against the inclusion of certain aspects that will serve the interests of the non muslims in the constitution. Having Shariah in the constitution is purely for the muslims. Non muslims should not entertain any fear about that at all.
“What the muslims in Nigeria are demanding through the inclusion if Shariah is justice. They want justice in accordance with their religious beliefs and faith in the Almighty Allah.
The sultan urged Muslim lawyers to make their presence felt through positive activities, especially by being united for the purpose of getting out innocent Muslims, arrested for being members of Boko Haram and kept in various prisons across the country.
“You have to come out, visit prisons, visit mosques where there are less privileged Muslims, offer free services to them as an organization and I believe a lot of people will start knowing who Muslim lawyers are.
“In Islam you all know why it means to be a leader. So I am challenging you to wake up and do what you are supposed to do. Go found the prisons, there are so many Muslims locked up in prisons as suspects of insurgency.
“People don’t even know what is insurgency in their lives. Thousands of them! Why don’t you take up such issues to the courts?
“If saying the truth now a negative thing in a country that hurts? We must say the truth. When you challenge people and say something is wrong it does not mean you are fighting somebody.
“You are saying it so that the authorities will look at it and mend their ways for the betterment of the society. Not that somebody will be labeled an extremist or a supporter of this and that or somebody who has a small compassion for a criminal.
“Of course, we have compassion for criminals because we believe when you are thrown into prison you come out a better person. Sometimes when we speak as Muslim leaders, somebody will say ‘look, His Eminence should not speak because he is not a politician.
“We are the fathers of the politicians, we are the leaders, so we must tell them what is right and what is wrong. If they accept our advice, alhamdudilahi! If they don’t accept, alhamdudilahi.”
He asked the federal government to carry out relevant checks and investigation on the people suspected to be Boko Haram members locked up in prisons because some of them could
“When somebody tells you that he is not a Boko Haram, please take it that he is not because if he is Boko Haram he will never denounce it.
“So if you have 100 and one of them says I am not Boko Haram please release him. They other 99 will say ‘yes we are, what can you do to us? It is important for us as leaders, especially as Muslims to look at these issues in a broader perspective. Let us not just be opinionated because we must reach out to everybody.”
Sultan urged the federal government and Nigerians to take the issue of insurgence with utmost care and caution to avoid another civil war in the country, saying: “it is interesting to hear an eaglet lawyer saying that when the Civil War took place he was not born. I am happy to hear that and also to make a statement that it behooves on all of us – those who were not there during the Civil War, and those who were there and actually took part directly or indirectly.
“Muslim lawyers should do whatever it takes to ensure no Civil War ever takes place in Nigeria again because we know the adverse effects of civil war in any country.”
“As leaders at all levels, as Muslim leaders, we must keep on telling the government what they are doing rightly or wrongly because we need a society that will meet the challenges of the present day insecurity in our country.
“Somebody who doesn’t want to say I am speaking to Boko Haram, therefore somebody will say I am a sympathiser of Boko Haram. No. If you don’t speak for people that are deranged, wayward, who will do so? How will they ever change?
“Also Muslim lawyers in the Judiciary particularly the judges should refrain from polititics in the discharge of their duties. You are working for the people and not to serve the interest of a politician or a political party.
“As Muslim lawyers, dont be biased. Be very proactive and rise up to defend the truth and the truth shall set you free.” [myad]