Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, has advised Christians and Nigerians of other faith to tackle the spate of killing by Islamist sect Boko Haram and other insurgents in Nigeria through prayers without ceasing which he said could provoke a “divine visitation” and put an end to the crisis.
Gowon who spoke as the principal guest of honour and speaker at the Second Session of Second Synod of the Diocese of Sapele, Anglican Communion, on Saturday in Sapele, also warned Nigerian religious and political leaders, and indeed all Nigerians to ensure they don’t become tools in the hands of religious fanatics and extremists.
Gowon spoke in reminiscence of the nation’s pre-Independence era, noting that Nigerians co-existed in peace as followers of Christians, Muslims and traditional religions.
He cited as example, the Emir of Zaria (Zazzau), who enjoyed the support of Christians in the predominant Islamic area and encouraged the building of a Christian church not far from his palace.
He also noted that the Church in Nigeria was able to influence peaceful co-existence and promote educational and human capital development because the church leaders were generally men of integrity who told political and community leaders the truth at all times.
“Need we then ask why some people got the impression that Islam and Christianity as well as traditional religions cannot co-exist in Nigeria and anywhere else in the world? Only a conceited leader will discountenance the place and power of God as well as the wisdom and understanding that could only come from Him. We know too well the end of such leaders,” he said.
Gowon said even the vilest of religious fanaticism could be tackled through prayer offered by the faithful of God.
“I believe strongly that all good religions preach peace but certain extreme individuals or fundamental groups, for example the Boko Haram, Ansaru and other insurgent groups do not. These latter groups need divine visitation, the kind that Saul had on the way to Damascus for us to achieve the kind of peace Nigeria wants and deserves.
“I am aware that there are challenges to be overcome. I am aware of the menace of Boko Haram activities have caused the premature death of hundreds of Christians, Muslims and believers in other faiths. I am aware that Christians all over the world have suffered greatly since Biblical times. Who can forget the persecution of Christians by the man formerly known as Saul? Who also can forget that he had an uncommon experience on the way to Damascus, after which he, as Apostle Paul, became one of the greatest preachers of the Gospel, even to Gentles?” he said.
Gowon noted that prayers have worked for the country in the past. He said persistent prayer during the Civil War went a long way in ending the conflict as well as facilitating a successful reconciliation unprecedented world-wide.
“God answered our prayers and the result was that we were able to achieve fast and deep reconciliation, the kind of which had not been achieved in the history of civil wars in the world. To be a veritable instrument of national unity and development, the Church must speak truth to power and it must admonish, not condemn, so as to ensure consistent improvement in the quality of leadership,” Gowon said.
He, therefore, charged leaders of Christians and other religious adherents in Nigeria to steer the nation back to the paths of moral values and national integrity through instruction and prayer, stressing that: “Power belongs to God, who needs to be beseeched to guide leaders aright for the good of the people and the development of Society. Moral re-armament remains the best guarantee of the return of social values that moved our people and nation to the paths of greatness,” he counselled, while stressing that committed and persistent prayer by all faithful should always complement the country’s political leadership.