The Network for Democracy and Development (NDD) has stressed the need for Nigeria to leverage religion to promote peaceful co-existence in the country. The group, in a communiqué after a virtual press conference, said the high degree of mutual mistrust among Nigerians and the attendant tension that this generates should be a matter of concern for all, as cries of marginalization – real and imagined – are rife across the country.
The communiqué, signed by its National Coordinator, Tajudeen Alabede, said: “It is sad that Nigerians carry on as if the two main religions – Islam and Christianity – as well as the ethnic groups, especially the major ones, are political parties, which are in contest for power. “To a large extent, these issues, rather than good governance and sustainable development, still define our politics. Many Nigerians still care more about having their own people in positions of authority than having the right people who can deliver on the mandate of such offices.
“In 2020, three issues generated avoidable religious controversy on the national stage, namely the new Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, the death of Alhaja Asiyat Oyedepo and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah’s Christmas homily. While we have seen a rise in ethnic agitation across the country, the protests by youths against police brutality last October brought to the fore the nation’s fragile fabrics.”
The group, therefore called on the Federal Government, especially the National Assembly, to review the inter-ethnic and inter-religious situation in the country and come up with laws that would guarantee Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and rights of citizens towards the attainment of greater national peace and stability.
“While there should be equal opportunity for all citizens, the policy on federal character should be reviewed to recognise the comparative advantage of states and regions,” it stated.
In order to build a more united and peaceful nation, NDD said that a country as diverse as Nigeria could not rely solely on partisan politics for sustainable governance.
“Thus, in our memorandum to the Ad-hoc Committee of the Senate on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, we recommended the conversion of the upper chamber of the National Assembly to a part-time, advisory body that would comprise cultural, religious, professional and civil society leaders.
“In the alternative, government may establish a permanent structure that will bring the nation’s cultural, religious, professional and civil society leaders into the governance system. Before now, government usually remembers these critical stakeholders at moments of crises. This has to change,” NDD stated.
It therefore recommended the recognition of the six geopolitical zones as the basis for political balancing in the Constitution, equal number of members of the House of Representatives from each of the states, equal number of ministers from each of the geopolitical Zones, and rotation of the office of the president among the six geopolitical zones.