By NBF News

Photo: Sun News Publishing
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There are many things for which the people of this resources-blessed but man-degraded country have to thank God almighty - for those of them who believe in Him, that is.

The first is an admission that we have a space on the globe totally freed from most of the natural disasters that make life and living hellish for some other fellow travelers on this earthly plane of existence.

Or in this temporary abode, which some discerning minds have taught should be regarded as either a market – where people come, to transact their existential affairs, or as a school, where they physically report, for the acquisition and sharing of knowledge and experiences.

Of course, these are foundations for recruitment or rejection in the other lesser known planes of existence when 'life's hurly-burly is done', according to William Shakespeare, in Macbeth. . When you hear of Hurricane Katrina, Tsunami, the eruption and raging fury of the fire-belching volcanoes that have their seasons for spreading molten lava, death and destruction to human settlements, or of the earthquakes in which our own brilliant Dede Yebovi, was buried in Haiti's Port An-Prince capital while serving with an international agency, one hopes you share the appreciation and gratitude to the Supreme Being for our presence here, where it pleased the Lord God to make our own.

There's truly a lot to appreciate; a great deal to be grateful for, because those other fellow creatures who got or get carried away by floods; consumed by fires and terminated by those other natural disasters already mentioned and imaginable, were they not also of women born?

Those who composed and sing the Hymn 'What the Lord has done for me, I cannot tell it All……' could not have been joking….. too many of us forget the fact that all those pains and woes and weeping that are frequently or often visited on some other people, could also have been our crosses to bear, if otherwise ordained.

The absence of natural disasters, however, has not prevented some of us from seeing themselves as their brothers' and sisters' haters and even killers, rather than as their 'keepers'.

It appears some of us have even chosen consciously to be victims of the curse on Cain for the murder of his brother Abel, as revealed in the Holy Books, and not as earthly agents for the spread of peace, love, universal brotherhood and civilization. When one sees an exception to that ugly and frightful trend, one rejoices and gets into a singing mood.

The current source of one's joy is the news item that the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC),'has called on traditional and religious leaders in the country to intensify efforts at ensuring that aggrieved persons in the society are reconciled before disagreements degenerate into violence. 'The traditional rulers have also been advised to be courageous to speak the truth at all times and seek genuine solutions to the country's problems,' according to newspaper reports.

Those calls reportedly formed part of the NIREC's 24 - point communiqu̩ as its members rose from their 2011 general meeting at the historic Mapo Hall, Ibadan, capital of Oyo State. Notably, the document was co-signed by the council's Executive Secretary, Prof. Is-Haq Oloyede, and its two chairmen РAlhaji Sa'ad Abubakar 111, the Sultan of Sokoto and President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

The charges from these men of history directing the affairs of an organization which has a unique role to play in fostering peaceful co-existence among Nigeria's religious groups, especially the Christians and Moslems, deserve serious attention and amplification by all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians. First: The NIREC requested leaders of religious groups 'to preach peace to their followers, to enhance religious harmony';

Second: Traditional and religious leaders all over the country were asked 'not to relent in their efforts to constantly discourage suspicion amongst their people, which usually underlined crises in the country',

Third: Leaders (in the political, religious, traditional and other aspects of national life), were asked to step-up inter-faith dialogues and preach religious tolerance', Fourth: The Council members 'charged governments at all levels to detect, expose and prosecute those responsible for violence in the country, especially in Plateau and Borno States',

Fifth: The NIREC members counseled governments to provide employment opportunities for the teeming youth, as a way of combating youth restiveness, Sixth: They expressed a desire for an expansion of the Security Councils in every State, 'to include religious leaders for more effective performance', and, among others,

Seventh: Advised the Federal Government 'to implement the recommendations of various panels set up on the recurring Jos and other ethno-religious crises in the country….'

A careful examination of the items selected for comment in the communiqué reveals that the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council means well; has spoken well and is thinking and acting in the right direction towards bringing about not only inter-religious understanding but also the welfare of all Nigerians, especially the youths, who will inevitably become 'the leaders of tomorrow' and therefore not be neglected or left to waste away, today.

We have often said here that some of our leaders – political and religious -encourage violence and division in the country, with their often vitriolic, illogical and naïve statements and conduct and, in fact, ought to be in jail for treasonable and other offences.

The Federal and State Governments will help us all by heeding the NIREC's patriotic calls, urgently. Bravo, NIREC! May be some day, we will have a change of heart and attitude among those fanatics who think they will each be rewarded with seven virgins each in paradise for killing 'unbelievers' here on earth. They obviously need re-orientation and possibly a number of fatwas from the Sultan and other leaders, to straighten their heads. Actions should speak louder than words,henceforth!

ANTI-FGM Campaign Revival
Quite interestingly, one of the issues commented upon by the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) at their AGM held last week in Ibadan, Oyo State, was Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is indeed noteworthy that in addition to urging religious leaders to continue preaching peace to their adherents in the interest of religious harmony (and obviously of national integration, peaceful co-existence and avoiding diversion of productive energies into mutually destructive acts of violence), the members deemed it necessary to focus on that issue in their communiqué.

As reported in the newspapers, the NIREC 'also called for the eradication of female genital mutilation and all other harmful practices against women'. The importance of this resolution cannot be over-emphasized. It is most commendable that the 'movers and shakers' in the country's religious organizations (some of them prime personalities in the traditional societies like Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto), talked about genital mutilation and harmful (traditional) practices against women.

We are, thereby, making progress as a country, slowly, surely and steadily, and all hands therefore need to be on the deck now, to reap the maximum benefits from this religious blessing for those humanitarian causes.

Before the NIREC meeting and communiqué, it is remarkable that between June 24 and July 10, 2010, and as far away as New York, The Movement Theatre Company of the Harlem School of the Arts, presented the North American Premiere of the play 'Bintou', which featured the teen-age Nigerian girl, Adenike Thomas, and other artistes like Amen Igbinosun, Audrey Hailes, Cherrye Davis and Zainab Jah, among others.

What is important is that the play with tickets at $15 (Fifteen US dollars) written by Koji Kwahule, translated by Chantal Bilodeau and directed by David Mendizabal, had characters like Bintou (Adenike Thomas), who had never come to Nigeria or any part of Africa, passionately involved in a stage rebellion against 'genital mutilation which America finds barbaric and is a controversial issue here', as a spectator commented.

It is rather interesting that just six months after that play in New York, a major social, religious and hopefully political coalition is building up in Nigeria, led by the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC). Talk of special blessings from unexpected quarters!

About 15 years ago, and also on a sustained basis, the UNICEF Nigeria Mission, then headquartered in Lagos, commissioned investigative reports on Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) in Kano, during which yours truly learnt and then wrote about the horrors, pains and bestiality involved in Female Genital Mutilation (also widely practiced in Southern Nigeria), and VVF.

The NIREC deserves appreciation for demanding action on all the recommendations and proposals on them. The primitive ways in which widows are dehumanized in some parts of the country, for example, deserve to be roundly condemned. The political will to terminate those abominable practices is all that is now needed. And we must not fail there!!!