Kaduna — Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna State has engaged traditional and religious leaders in the state in the last phase of the Peace Meeting Initiative (PMI) he instituted barely weeks into office.
The PMI was instituted as part of efforts to proffer solutions to the fear, suspicion and mutual distrust, arising from recurring ethno-religious crises, which had hunted Kaduna people for years.
The last meeting for the Central senatorial district, which held Tuesday in Kaduna, converged these eminent leaders of the state at the Kaduna International Trade Fair complex. It is also the last in the series, as similar such parleys had earlier taken place in the Southern and Northern senatorial districts of the state.
Weekly Trust learnt that at each of the senatorial districts, stakeholders were given the opportunity to freely comment on the causes and solutions to the crises in the state.
Speakers bared out their minds, as district heads, Fulani leaders, pastors and imams among others took turns to suggest solutions to the recurring crises that had torn the state apart.
The tone for the meeting, attended by the Emir of Zazzau, Dr. Shehu Idris, Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubair Jibrin Sa Gbagyi, Mr. Danjuma Barde and many others was set by the governor when he asked the leaders to drop primordial sentiments to chart a new course for peaceful co-existence in the state.
The Emir of Zazzau, Dr. Shehu Idris stressed the need for peaceful co-existence among all, saying for the state to develop in all spheres, there must be peace.
"We must all live in peace for us to achieve our desired goals. We should not allow anybody to use our religion or ethnicity to divide us. We are one and as such we must live together as one," he added.
Also speaking, Emir of Birnin Gwari, Malam Zubair Jibril identified lack of the fear of God, justice and respect for constituted authority as the factors responsible for the crises.
"If we all have the fear of God, our leaders are doing justice among all, our clerics are preaching the teachings of their religions and followers are respecting their leaders, there will be peace," he said.
Reverend David Jack of Igabi Local Government Area, said for the governor to succeed in reuniting the people of the state, he should constitute a committee to visit areas that were affected by the Sharia crises of 2000.
"The government delegation should meet families of people who were killed in Sabo, Television, Rigasa, Tudun Wada and other places. They should appeal to them to forgive the killers of their siblings. The government should also rebuild all mosques and churches destroyed in these areas," he said.
Secretary of JNI in Giwa Local Government Area, Sheikh Haliru Uwais said government should stop politicians from encouraging political thugs. "Tell politicians to stop sponsoring and encouraging political thugs. Let them stop buying Indian hemp and arms for our youths. The government should always be swift in reacting to rumours to timely nip crisis in the bud," he said.
Pastor Ezra Kabaiza from Chikun Local Government Area, identified lack of religious tolerance as the main cause of crises in the state.
"If a Muslim marries a Christian girl, he has done the right thing, but if a Christian marries a Muslim girl, trouble will start. Likewise, if a Christian converts to Islam, he or she has done the right thing, but if a Muslim converts to Christianity, the world will come to an end," he said.
District Head of Unguwar Shanu, Malam Ibrahim Abba Kura said the inability of security agencies to tackle drug abuse among youth makes them susceptible to crises.
"Drug abuse is the major problem in my domain and that is why whenever there is problem we find it difficult to tackle. We know the sellers and buyers of Indian hemp and other drugs, but there is nothing we can do. There is urgent need for government to establish an NDLEA office in the area. Looking at what happened in 2011 elections, I'm appealing to the governor that a divisional police station be established in my area before 2015," he said.
According to him, poverty and unemployment must be tackled for the government to succeed in sustaining peace in the state.
Yusuf Alhassan of Birnin Gwari urged the state governor to appeal to both Muslims and Christians to continue to pray for peaceful co-existence.
On how to end Fulani/farmers crises, the chairman Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmadu Suleiman urged the state government to constitute a committee to register all cows in the state.
"If our cows are registered by the government and we use ear rings to mark our animals, cattle rustling will reduce drastically. If grazing reserves are not established for herdsmen, there cannot be peace because they must look for where their animals will graze. Fadama farming has taken over almost all where we are rearing our animals," he said.
Another Fulani leader in Kaduna metropolis, Musa Usman raised alarm over the incessant killing of his kinsmen."They are killing our people just the way they are killing our animals, this is forcing our people into running to neighbouring countries," he said.
Responding, Governor Yero stressed the need for peaceful co-existence of people of the state and assured that his administration would be just and fair to all in the state.
"We just have to live together with one another peacefully. If you look at educational system now, there are schools that are just for Muslims and there are also schools that are just for Christian children. This is not good for the society; we need to return to the way we were living together."
"If the people of Zone 2, Kaduna central live in peace, there will be peace in other parts. We have listened to all the issues raised and I'm assuring that we are going to find means to address them in the interest of peace. There is need for us to understand each other's religions," he said.