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By: Femi Adelegan.
Researching the activities of His Eminence Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111, the Sultan of Sokoto is captivating. It gives one the picture of humility in spite of the monumental influence the royal father is imbued with by Almighty Allah to whom power belongs, an infectious piety, gentle disposition, and his love for all, north or south of Nigeria. To gain readers’ conviction, I should like to start by quoting the highly revered ‘’no nonsense’’ activist religious leader who bares his mind in a no-holds-barred manner.

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah is reported by the media as ‘’commending Sultan Abubakar for his continued role in promoting religious harmony in Nigeria. Alhaji Abubakar 111 who is also the President General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) is a promoter of Nigeria’s unity anchored on justice.’’ You cannot get Kukah’s endorsement cheaply. And the common attribute is that no one could get the endorsement of Matthew Hassan Kukah undeservedly. Sincerity must be subject to proof. Rewind to a few years back when the peace of Nigeria was to be disturbed on account of tribal leanings. The Sultan came out openly to state that: “If anybody or group of persons plans negative attack on Igbo, he or they should attack me first, because I am against the so-called ultimatum issued by the Arewa youths that Igbo should leave the north’’

Next is his acceptance of an invitation to serve on the National Peace Committee headed by one of his spiritual ‘’subjects or children’’ rtd Gen. Abdulasalami A. Abubakar, GCFR. Not everyone with the type of exalted position in whom God has located the Sultan would agree to serve in that capacity as an ordinary member. The National Peace Committee envisages a Nigeria that is built on Peace, Justice and Equality, where every citizen has the right to democratic participation and can live freely in any part of the country, contributing to its growth, development and stability. The type of the personality of the royal father is reflected in the Core Values of the National Peace Committee. These are: neutrality, integrity, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness through: fairness; confidentiality; meritocracy; justice and patriotism.

Personality is the combined product of nature and nurture. Therefore, a brief understanding of the background of the Sultan is apposite here. Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III (born August 24, 1956 in Sokoto) is the 20th Sultan of Sokoto, the titular ruler of Sokoto in northern Nigeria, head of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (Society for the Support of Islam – JNI), and president-general of the Nigerian National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). As Sultan of Sokoto, he is considered the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s seventy-million Muslims, roughly fifty percent of the nation’s population. As a retired Officer of the Nigerian Army, the Sultan would naturally be expected to be bold. And the royal father is bold; an attribute that he combines with fellow-feelings and concern for his numerous subjects.

LEADING THE WAY FOR BOLD STEPS TO CONTRONT INSURGENCY A few days ago, Sultan Abubakar headed for the war front in Maiduguri to have a first-hand assessment of the situation, discuss with state governors of the North east zone and also commiserate with the unfortunate ones! I feel sure that it has never happened that way; and that is an indication of the fact that the situation is getting hotter. Though he is a retired military officer, I think it was a great risk showing up at the theatre of war to encourage his former professional juniors battling Boko Haram. . But it would look amusing and a desecration of culture for Sultan Abubakar to pick the guns and fight again. The risk could only be gauged by the incident involving late Emir Ado Bayero who was almost bombed to death in a mosque by practitioners of the same religious faith with the royal father.

INTERVENTIONS: We commenced preaching peace and development before we started publishing. We usually did it without playing to the gallery by sending very strong messages to spiritual and royal fathers to kindly intervene. What was recorded in Maiduguri with the visit of the Sultan is unusual and is a novelty. Our first piece was first as a private letter distributed electronically to a few prominent religious and royal fathers in 2014 when ominous signals emerged on the political arena at the approach of the Year 2015 general elections. It was later released to the media for publication in January 2015. Success stories of great Nigerians like Sultan Abubakar show that there must be attitudinal changes. These issues are beyond what only government could handle. Where are the parents? Where are the leaders of our socio-cultural organizations? Where are our royal fathers? Where are our community leaders? If only we could chart the course of the restoration of values that would make us excel.

TRIBUTES – AS A BRIDGE BUILDER: In 2015, Abubakar, the 20th sultan of Sokoto was named among the world’s 50 most influential Muslims. He is reported to have smoothened relations between Nigeria’s near-100 million Muslims, to whom he is the spiritual head, and the largely southern Christians and has built a reputation as a consensus builder. “You have led by strong values and you have worked hard to break parochial barriers,” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, also a Christian pastor, said as he praised Abubakar’s efforts to build bridges between faiths. “You have developed deep friendships with Christian leaders and leaders of all faiths locally and internationally.” As the sultan said in a speech at a symposium held in his honour, he inherited a wide array of challenges — Muslim-Christian relations were at a particular low with clashes between herdsmen, who are mostly Muslim, and farmers in central Nigeria. In a bid to resolve these tensions, which were often exploited by political factions, Abubakar travelled all over the country and abroad giving speeches on brotherhood and religious tolerance while disavowing extremism.

Sultan Abubakar is actually a peacemaker, a peace builder and this is a traditional ruler and a religious leader par excellence he understands relationships, humanity and… is willing to use his office to mend and fix the broken, damaged and dented relationships that Muslims and Christians were having in the past,” said Joseph Hayab. On our part, we testify that Sultan Abubakar was the only royal father who commended our peace initiatives in 2014, when Nigeria was dangling towards precipice and we quietly intervened by electronic communication to prominent royal fathers and religious leaders. We also acknowledge Cardinal John Onaiyekan who also commended and encouraged us. And we make bold to assert that TERRIFIC HEADLINES would rank among the first ten publications in Nigeria that have done a huge work in promoting peaceful coexistence in Nigeria. Our policy is ”God first, Nigeria next” We know the importance of progress and have NEVER worked against the interests of our dear nation that we believe we must assist to develop.

We, Nigerians have on our hands a serious issue, particularly with regard to the strife in the North-eastern part of Nigeria where something akin to a full-blown war is taking place. In other places, kidnapping for ransom, rape, rituals and other heinous crimes as they occur are very frightening. In the second instance, there is the question of values that is gradually being eroded. The type of situation in which we have found ourselves in the past ten years commands and demands the attention and collaboration of all Nigerians; not government alone so we may not be consumed by insurgency. The Boko Haram menace is part of the general melancholy that has seized Nigeria by the jugular. It is the result of our inability to plan ahead and implement policies and programmes associated with good governance. A pertinent question is: ‘’Where did the insurgents originate? In our society of course, under the noses of parents, organizations with parental responsibilities, the civil society itself and governments that must create an enabling environment. Therefore, we adults are also culpable.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DIALOGUE: It is to be noted that our brothers and sisters involved in criminal activities would most probably have been tamed before being radicalized. As the political arena assumes higher levels of activity, we have been unable, in many instances, to avoid and resist the temptation of promoting those issues that divide us, above those that unite us. In doing this, we have not put aside sentiments that have torn Nigerians apart, and resolve to build a progressive polity, which is possible if we re-examine our ways and resolve to play the game according to the rules, and avoid dangerous pitfalls and landmines. And of course, one of these steps must be our ability to rise above situations in our growing democracy. We must of course recognize the fact that the people themselves perhaps form the strongest point that would make democracy endure, by their conducts and their ability to organize themselves.

Sultan Abubakar’s interest in peace could be gauged by his running a Foundation to promote peace. The Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development (SFPD) is a private, non-profit and non-governmental organization concerned with peace and development. The Organization was established in Nigeria in November 2014, with the aim of promoting development, peaceful co-existence, tolerance, better understanding of Islam and provision of humanitarian aid to the needy and the vulnerable in Nigeria. The headquarters of the Organization is situated in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria. It has established relationships and cooperation with a number of institutions and organizations in Nigeria and outside it. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees is made up of eminent citizens and is chaired by His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar CFR mni. Sultan Abubakar’s Foundation has hosted activities on: KEEPING GIRS IN SCHOOL, and Northern Traditional Leaders Review Meeting on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in Nigeria.

Within Nigeria, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has continued to show keen interest in the peace process. In a February 2020 event n Jos, Plateau State, the Sultan pointed accusing fingers at the elites whom he accused of not living up to expectations. Sultan Abubakar said: “I attach so much importance to this type of programme. ”The inundation of insecurity in the country was the consequences of elitist breakdown.” “Our elites have failed us, they didn’t lead us very well,” he said. “We are very worried about the level of insecurity in Nigeria, but we are more worried about our homes. ”He exhorted people to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness, adding that ”if as people that always offended God, then kneel down to beg Him for forgiveness, which He forgives, then who are we not to forgive. “Preach forgiveness and acts of forgiveness, because it is difficult for someone to say he has forgiven and it is another thing for him to act.’’.

In an Interview with His Eminence Sultan Muhammad Saad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, captioned by the Woodrow Wilson Centre, titled: ‘’A Conversation with the Sultan of Sokoto: Peace and Development Initiatives, Challenges, and Potential Prospects in Nigeria’ reveals that the Sultan reflected on key issues affecting Nigeria including Nigeria’s place in the Muslim world, religious tolerance and Christian-Muslim relations in Nigeria, his work and advocacy for the empowerment girls and women in Muslim-majority Northern Nigeria, the fight against Boko Haram, and his views on the prospects for Nigeria’s future. He disclosed that: ‘’As a retired military officer he understands the scenario perfectly. The Sultan traced the origin as: ‘’Simple skirmishes exacerbated by religious affiliation have created a worrying situation on the ground in Nigeria, he noted. Cross-religious engagement and dialogue, however, offer the solution to intolerance, providing options for religious leaders and everyday citizens to combat this issue. His Eminence encouraged Nigerians who practice the Islamic faith to read and understand their scripture, stressing that Islam abhors the killing of individuals.’’

PROMOTING DIALOGUE: He added that: Creating peace and stability within a nation and living peacefully beside one another requires understanding, founded in trust, collaboration, and discussion. Multi-sectoral movements and organizations, such as the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), which His Eminence and the CAN National President Dr Supo Ayokunle co-chair, and the Nigeria Inter-Faith Action Association (NIFAA); bring together both Christian and Muslim religious communities on issues such as combatting disease and poverty and offer a platform for establishing trust. For example, he said, the NIFAA is working in partnership with the United States’ Center for Interfaith Action (CIFA) to eradicate malaria across the country. Mosquitos have no religion, he quipped, and so are a common enemy.’’

Reflecting on Boko Haram in the interview cited above, the Sultan ‘’stressed the misperceptions and misinformation that frequently surround the terrorist group. ‘’He argued Boko Haram is not part of a plan to eradicate Nigerian Christians, noting that more Muslims than Christians have died at the hands of Boko Haram fighters. People are angry about corruption and government failure, and when their voices were stifled, many turned to radicalization and violence. In recent months, however, Boko Haram has seen defeats at the hands of the increased force of the Nigerian. ‘’The actions of a few do not represent those of the majority, he reiterated, and it is these misperceptions that often lead to violence. In order to defeat an enemy, His Eminence noted, you must know them. And in order to love your neighbor, you must understand your neighbour.’’

Last month, Sultan Abubakar, co-Chair of Nigeria Inter-Religious Council called for an urgent national dialogue to deliberate on some of the critical issues bothering the nation. He is quoted as stating that: ”We need to sit down in a very serious national dialogue to discuss these issues.We have not run out of patriotic, distinguished Nigerians who can proffer solutions to the problem. ”What we lack is implementation. We do not like doing the right thing, we always cut corners. ‘’That is our problem. ‘’The Sultan renewed his appeal appealed to Nigerians to stop destroying the country’s property and think that someone will fix it for them’’


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