Former President Goodluck Jonathan has finally spoken out on the incessant religious violence and extremism in the country, as well as his outstanding achievement during his tenure in Aso Rock.
While addressing the United States House Sub-Committeeon on Africa, former President, Goodluck Jonathan, disclosed that his administration was able to contain the menace of religious killing
by working with relevant religious stakeholders.
Jonathan revealed that his administration’s political will to halt impunity in Nigeria led to the localisation of religious extremism in the Northeast with occasional killings in other zones of the North.
He pointed out that in a bid to contain the spread of religious killings from the North to the Christian domination south, he personally reached out to the then President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, whom he asked to appeal to the Christian community against reprisal attacks.
Jonathan explained further that he also reached out to the “Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III,” whom he was able to convince to “publicly condemn Islamic extremism in Nigeria.”
According to Jonathan, he worked through a body known as the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, NIREC, to bring Christian and Muslim leaders together “so they could talk to each other not at each other.”
Jonathan also highlighted some of his achievements in office to include, establishment of 12 universities, arrest and prosecution of Boko Haram bomb blast masterminds among others.
His speech reads in part: “Even before I set up the National Conference in 2014, my government took certain initiatives to end impunity and reorient the minds of Nigerians. First was education. I established twelve conventional Federal Universities and two specialized universities. Nine of the twelve Federal Universities were located in those states in Northern Nigeria that previously did not have any Federal University.
“The Specialized Police University was located in Kano state, also in the North, bringing the total number of universities I established in the North of Nigeria to ten. The Specialized Maritime University was located in the Niger Delta.
“In addition to these, I also established 165 Almajiri elementary and high schools in each of the nineteen states of Northern Nigeria to combine Islamic education with Western education.
“In the area of law enforcement, it was quite challenging, but we were determined. When the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists bombed St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, in Niger state of Nigeria on Christmas Day of 2011, I physically visited the scene of the bombing at which 44 people died on Saturday the 31st of December 2011 and I promised Nigerians that those responsible for that heinous act would be brought to book.
“That promise was fulfilled on the 20th of December 2013 when Kabiru Umar, aka Kabiru Sokoto, was sentenced to life imprisonment after my administration investigated that crime, identified him as the mastermind, arrested him and diligently prosecuted him and some of his associates.
“Might I add that this was the first and only successful prosecution of a crime of deadly terrorism against a religious place of worship inspired by religious extremism since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.
“Before then, my administration had also diligently carried out the first successful prosecution of terrorists of the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, for another terror attack, but this time not in a place of worship but on the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission also in Madalla, Niger state, an act which led to the deaths of sixteen persons on April 8th, 2011.
“We were in the process of prosecuting Aminu Ogwuche, the mastermind of the April 14, 2014 Nyanya bombing in Nasarawa state which killed 75 people but unfortunately that prosecution was ongoing as at the time I left office in 2015.
“But the point I want to emphasize by citing these incidences is that my administration had the political will to halt impunity in Nigeria and that is why killings due to religious extremism was localized to the Northeast with occasional killings in other zones of the North.
“And even in the Northeast, we had rolled back the Islamic terrorist sect, Boko Haram, by the end of the first quarter of 2015 after we were able to get weapons to arm our military.
“The killings did not spread to the mainly Christian south and I believe that the fight back against impunity by my administration was the main reason for this.
“Of course, there were other reasons for this. For instance, through my personal reach out to the then President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, I was able to persuade the Body of Christ in Nigeria not to engage in any retaliation or reprisal killings. My job was made easier in this regards when the Christian Association of Nigeria saw a genuine desire on my part to bring religious extremists to book.
“Using the same approach with the head of the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, I was able to get the mainstream of the Islamic faith to publicly condemn Islamic extremism in Nigeria. This was important to show that a clampdown on Islamic extremism was and is not a clampdown on Islam.
“Going a step further, I worked through a body known as the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to bring Christian and Muslim leaders together so they could talk to each other not at each other.”
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