Nigeria: Umar takes on Shekarau on religion

This Day
Former Military Governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), has accused Kano State Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, of attempting to inflame religious sensibilities & called on Nigerians to remain focused on the task of building a united Nigeria.
In a statement yesterday, Umar referred to an advertorial published in a national daily by the Kano State Government wherein a Ramadan message allegedly quoted a portion of the Holy Quran “in which God was said to have admonished believers not to take Jews and Christians for friends, etc.”
The former governor said it is unbecoming for the governor “thought of as a pious leader,” to attempt to incite religious disharmony in the state, noting that he ought not to have done so “for the simple reason that he is under oath to promote inter-religious harmony and peace.”

Umar said the governor needs to reappraise many of his administration’s policies as some of “the recent policy decisions taken by the Shekarau government have had the curious effect of escalating religious intolerance, widening inequality between men and women and aggravating poverty among the segment of the population that are in most need of help.”

He said the said Ramadan message by the governor was in bad faith, especially in the light of the recent religious disturbances in Jigawa State. “In the prevailing circumstances, people of goodwill expect the Kano State government to take measures that will help avert similar misunderstanding and strife among its hetherto-religious population,” he said. According to him, “we have come a long way in our struggle to establish a single and united Nigerian community which admits of no religious or ethnic bigotry. Despite what the doomsday prophets might say, this progress is not transient nor is it a flash in the pan. “We wish therefore to appeal to all Nigerians to ignore such divisive calls and to remain focused on the single most important duty before us all—building one united, strife—free society. We mustnot lift our eyes from that goal.”

The statement read in part: “The decision of the Kano State to oppose inoculation of children against polio on the pretext that the vaccines could prevent Muslim women from bearing children, for example, was as misguided as it was tragic. In the same way, the state government’s actions unleashed untold hardship when it forbade women the use of the popular system of public transportation offered by motorbikes. “

From Oke Epia in Abuja, 10.10.2006