Islam & Peace-Building in West Africa - By Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar mni,(Sultan of Sokoto)

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It is with great delight that I stand before you tonight, at the invitation of this great institution, to deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture.  I am greatly honored by this kind invitation.

I must extend my profound gratitude to President of Harvard University Prof. Drew Gilpen Faust, to the Dean of Harvard Divinity School, Prof. William A. Graham and the Director of Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs and Chairperson of this lecture, Prof. Beth Simmons.

I must also register my deep appreciation to Prof. Jacob Olupona for organizing a very interesting and inspiring seminar on the  Role of Traditional Nigerian leaders on Governance .  As the Chairman of the Northern and Nigerian Traditional Rulers Councils, I found the perspectives offered as very refreshing.  In the same vein, I would also wish to show my appreciation to Prof. Ann Braude for organizing another thought-provoking discussion on one of the leading West African women scholars and leaders of the nineteenth century, Nana Asma'u, the daughter of Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate.  The sum total of these events, along with the academic diligence and sense of purpose by which they were conducted, leave me in no doubt that the time-honored traditions of Harvard University are alive and well.  We cannot thank you enough for this great honor.

Distinguished Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I venture to state that the search for sustainable peace, at all critical levels of our collective existence, remains one of the major challenges we face in the twenty first century.  Today, more than ever before, we stand on the threshold of great opportunities.  Developments in various fields of human endeavor have made it easy to accumulate vast knowledge on peoples and cultures and to communicate this knowledge in ways never imagined before, with the real promise of bringing better understanding between us all.  Scientific breakthroughs have also made it possible to achieve human development at an unprecedented scale and to enhance the welfare and wellbeing of each and every one of us.

But these opportunities also come with great dangers - and these dangers have already begun to manifest themselves in ways that leave us with much to worry about.  Bigotry and hatred are being elevated to a new pedestal and spread with relish and impunity.  Protracted conflicts, threats of war and the rise of extremism and militancy, from all sides of the socio-religious divide, have become the reality of our daily lives in many parts of the world.  Regrettably, a significant portion of the world's population still wallow in abject poverty and neglect, thereby fuelling the vicious cycles of conflict, violence and instability that we are now all too familiar with.

As a military officer and diplomatic representative, I have seen the devastation of war, not only in West Africa, but in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world.  I have witnessed the desperate cries of widows and orphans and the exasperation of bewildered families desperately struggling to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives.  As the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the  Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs ; as well as the Co-Chair of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council [NIREC] , I have also seen the pain and suffering which ethnic polarization and religious misunderstanding could bring to a nation and its people; how ego and bigotry could conspire to deprive people of their rationality and good judgment and how religious leaders could set aside the teachings of their scriptures to lend a helping hand to these sectarian crises.

But during all these, I have also seen how people of goodwill could make a world of difference; how the right word at the appropriate time could heal an old wound; how a little help to those in distress could rekindle hope in our common humanity and how people of virtue, courage and determination could set aside their fears and misgivings to work together to re-establish and strengthen the bases of mutual co-existence within their diverse communities. Distinguished Chair, it is in the context of these challenges and opportunities that I wish to talk to you on the issues of peace and religious harmony tonight.  Since many people have talked and written about Religion and Conflict in our part of the world, it is only appropriate for me to address you on  Islam and Peace-Building in West Africa , and particularly in my home country, Nigeria, with the real hope that in our individual and collective efforts, we can contribute our little quota towards the realization of the Jodidi vision of promoting 'tolerance, understanding and goodwill among nations and the peace of the world.'

I wish to begin this discourse by taking us back to the history of Islam in West Africa.  I am doing so not to bore you with the historical details of what has been termed a Golden Era, but to explore the depth and mark out the broad contours of the content and character of Islam in the sub-region.  Doing so may also help us question the views of many who subscribe to the centre-periphery model, an analytical tool of choice in a number of academic circles.

From the available records, Islam is more than a millennium old in West Africa.  From isolated Muslim communities in the 9 th  century to the trading entrepots of the 10 th  century, Islam grew by leaps and bounds.  However, it was not until the mid-eleventh century that it began to emerge as a State Religion.  According to Al-Bakri, A historian of the rigion, it was the Kingdom of Takrur, which acquired this status, followed half a century later by the Kingdom of Kanem under the Sayfawa.  By the 12 th  century Ghana had become Islamized, Mali emerged in the 14 th  century, to be taken over by Songhai in the 16 th  century, which hosted the Sankore University in Timbuktu, the first University in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamization of the Hausa States of Northern Nigeria began in earnest from the second half of the fourteenth century.  Islam had become well-established by the turn of the seventeenth century. 

The establishment of Islam in West Africa had always been predicated on a multi-ethnic and multi-racial basis. Merchants and traders came from different parts of the world, including Morocco, Tripoli, Yemen, Iraq and Egypt. Scholars also came from these countries, bringing various Islamic intellectual traditions which interacted and enriched local ones.  These traditions flourished and helped to sustain veritable centers of learning, including the famous universities of Timbuktu and Birni Gazargamo as well as similar institutions in Kano, Katsina, Zaria and other Hausa states.

The emergence of the Sokoto Caliphate in the early years of the nineteenth century, led by the erudite scholar, Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio, brought a drastic transformation of the Islamic scene in West Africa.  The Sokoto Caliphate was a political as well as an intellectual revolution.  Politically, it initiated an extensive process of state formation which spanned across several states in Western and Central Africa.  The political legacies of the Caliphate could be found in present-day Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and the Republic of Cameroon.  Intellectually, the Caliphate also succeeded in putting scholars at the helm of public affairs. As true intellectuals, they had to argue their way through almost every major decision they took and had the time and foresight to record their thoughts, ideas and the justification of their actions for posterity. The Sokoto Triumvirate, namely Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio, Shaykh Abdullahi Ibn Fodio and Shaykh Muhammad Bello, authored over 300 books and pamphlets.  Other Caliphate leaders were also prolific writers.  Nana Asma'u alone wrote over 70 poems and tracts.

But despite these impressive achievements, probably one of the Caliphate's most enduring legacies had been in the area of values.  I have drawn attention to this issue in both my lectures at Columbia University, New York, on 7 th  November, 2007 and at Oxford University, Oxford, England on 25 March, 2008.  It is my firm belief that these values, when properly understood and applied, would greatly aid our West African polities in evolving a dynamic and responsive governance framework and in providing a veritable yardstick by which political behavior and action could be assessed.

The  first category of values  raised by the Sokoto Caliphate leaders was that associated with knowledge as the basis for effective leadership.  Ignorance has no business with leadership and ignorant people shall have no business in governance.  In the emphatic words of Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio,     

'A man without learning is like a country without inhabitants.  The finest [qualities] in a leader in particular and in people in general, are the love of learning, the desire to listen to it and holding the bearer of knowledge in great respect….. If a leader is devoid of learning, he follows his whims and leads his subjects astray, like a riding beast with no halter, wandering off the path and perhaps spoiling what it passes over.  For a leader has set himself up to deal with people's natures, to settle their disputes and undertake their government.  All that requires outstanding learning, keen insight and extensive study.  How would he get on if he had not made the necessary preparations and made himself ready for these matters…..'  [Bayan Wujub al-Hijra]

Sultan Muhammad Bello, on his part, considered knowledge as an essential quality even for those who work with the Amir .  For this is essential to suppress mediocrity and ensure effective management of public affairs.

'If God wishes people good he gives leadership to the best of them.  He also grants them those who would help them.  Such leaders would lead the community in the right path and put matters in correct places.  They would seek the advice of people who have the requisite ideas in solving problems.  They would also find powerful, knowledgeable and experienced people to help in their different spheres.  Such leaders would advance people who deserve promotion and hold back those who do not merit advancement.' [ Ifadat al-Ikhwan ]

The  second category of values  which I wish to bring to your attention is the primacy of Justice as the basis of good governance.  Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio, the leader of the Sokoto Caliphate, had always believed that 'seeing to the welfare of the people is more effective than the use of force.'  According to Shaykh Uthman, 'the crown of the leader is his integrity, his strong-hold is his impartiality and his wealth is [the prosperity] of his people.'  Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio was equally emphatic on how injustice compromises the integrity of governance and ultimately destroys the state .

'One of the swiftest ways of destroying a state is to give preference to one particular group over another or to show favor to one group of people rather than another and draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near….  Other practices destructive to sovereignty are arrogance and conceit which take away virtues.  There are six qualities which cannot be tolerated in a leader:  lying, envy, breach of promise, sharpness of temper, miserliness and cowardice.  Another is the seclusion of the leader from his people, because when the oppressor is sure that the oppressed person will not have access to the ruler, he becomes more oppressive…  A state can endure with unbelief but it cannot endure with injustice.' [Bayan Wujub al-Hijra]

The  third category of values  is that dealing with the fight against corruption especially in the management of public affairs.  Shaykh Abdullahi Ibn Fodio puts the Caliphate's position in clear and unambiguous terms:

'A ruler is forbidden to touch property acquired unjustly, such as through bribes obtained for appointing a judge or any other officer.  The use of such property is unanimously regarded as illegal.  It corrupts the Religion and opens the door wide to abuses and oppression of the poor.  For the officials may feel that since money was obtained from them as a reward for appointing them to office, they in turn must recover it from the common people.

Another thing agreed upon as illegal is the collection of bribes on behalf of the leader or other officials like the judges and other employees….  It is also illegal to accept gifts from the common people.  For such action is the door leading to all types of calamities.   When a gift finds its way to a man in authority, justice and goodness will find their way out of him …..' [Diya'al-Hukkam]

It is also the view of the Sokoto Caliphate leaders that those charged with authority must strive to shun corrupt practices and lead by example.  In the words of Sultan Muhammad Bello,

'Leaders are like a spring of water and officials are like water-wheels.  If the spring is pure, the filth of the water-wheels cannot harm it.  If, on the other hand, the spring is polluted, the purity of the water-wheel will have little effect [on the purity of the water].'   [Usul al-Siyasa]

The  fourth category of values  relates to the dignity of labor and indeed the responsibility of government to provide the enabling environment that would allow people to make a decent living.  In the words of Sultan Muhammad Bello,

'……Guard yourself against poverty by lawful earning, because every poor man is afflicted by three defects: religious weakness, feeble mindedness and loss of honor.  Worse than this is the contempt in which he is held by people….There are two assets which, as long as you safeguard them, you will remain alright:  Your earnings for your livelihood and your religion for your hereafter…..The recommendable earning is better than supererogatory worship, the benefit of which is confined to the worshipper alone, whereas the benefit of the recommended earnings extend to others.' [Ahkam al-Makasib]

On the role of government in providing a conducive environment, Sultan Muhammad Bello also had this to say:

'The sixth principle [of Governance] is that the Governor should provide public amenities for the people of his state for their temporal and religious benefit.  For this purpose, he shall foster the artisans and be concerned with tradesmen who are indispensable to the people…… and all sorts of trades which contribute to stabilize the proper order of the world.  The ruler must allocate these tradesmen to every locality.  He should urge his people to seek foodstuff and keep it for future use.  He must keep every locality in prosperity, construct fortresses and bridges, maintain markets and roads and realize for them all what are of public interest so that the proper order of their world may be maintained…' [Usul al-Siyasa]

The  fifth and final category  of values, which I wish to bring to your attention, is the uplifting of the status of women, especially through Education.  The Sokoto Caliphate leaders, as erudite scholars, lived by the percepts they preached and ensured that their wives and daughters and all others associated with them were educated to the highest standards the society could offer.  Many of these women, including Nana Asma'u, became leaders in their own right and played an active role in the political arena.  Equally importantly, Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio's pronouncements, made in the very early part of the nineteenth century, could not be more categorical:

'One of the great calamities which have afflicted Hausaland is the practice of many of its scholars in abandoning their wives, daughters and servants in a state of ignorance.  They are left like animals without any effort to teach them…..  This is a grave mistake and a prohibited innovation.  They treat them like utensils which they put to use, but when broken, get thrown into the dustbin.  What a strange behavior!  How could they leave their wives, daughters and servants in the darkness of ignorance and astray, while educating their students morning and evening.  This is just for their selfish interest and for show and ostentation.

O Muslim women, do not heed the calls of those misguided folk who deceive you into obeying your husbands without ordaining you to obey Allah and His Messenger.  They kept on saying that the salvation of the woman lies in obeying her husband, merely to attain their aims with you and to satisfy their lust…….  And they over-burden you with what Allah and His Messenger never ordained you to do at all, such as cooking, washing clothes and similar chores, principally for their personal comfort, without asking you what Allah and His Messenger ordained you to do….'[ Nurul Albab ]

Nigeria's Islamic scene is both a product of its pre-colonial and colonial past as well and of current realities of Nigeria's contemporary life.  Muslims number over 80 million, contributing extensively to the intellectual, political and socio-economic life of the nation.

Islamic practice in Nigeria is based essentially on the  Maliki  School of Law, with the influences of Shafi'I and Hanbali schools coming essentially from younger scholars who studied in the Middle East.  Besides the intellectual influences of the Sokoto Caliphate, mention must be made of the Bornuan Intellectual traditions, centered around the study of the Holy Qur'an.  Sufis, essentially from the Qadiriyya and Tijjaniyya orders; and Salafis, constitute the major Islamic groups.  In the past few decades we have also seen the emergence of the  Shi'a  as well as modernist Islamic groups, which tend to focus on Islamic institutional development.

Islam has contributed immensely in building a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society in Nigeria.  The Nigeria's  Muslim Ummah  is the classic melting pot, bringing ethnicities and races from different parts of the West African sub-region and beyond, pursuing their legitimate business and contributing to the development of their communities and the larger society.  Apparently, regional integration had come to West Africa long before the establishment of the  Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] .

As a traditional and religious leader, I am also delighted to say that traditional authorities also played a tremendous role in this integration.  Traditional leaders ensured the safety and security of new members of the community.  They provided them land to build their houses and to engage in Agriculture.  They brought their community leaders into the Emirate structures and in many cases, granted them titles, which conferred on them recognition and emirate-wide responsibilities.  Emirs and Chiefs also promptly settled any disputes when they arise, using their vast grass-root network to sustain peace and ensure safety and harmony within their communities.  There was hardly any serious dispute between Muslims and non-Muslims until the 1970s and 80s when traditional leaders lost the statutory powers to regulate the social affairs of their communities.

But just as conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups was very rare, conflict between Islamic groups and Government was equally uncommon.  If and when conflict occurred, it was more likely to be between Islamic groups, with Government and traditional authorities serving in a mediatory role.  Conflict between Sufi groups and between Sufis and Salafis was not uncommon.  It was the anti-modern group called the Maitatsine sect, perhaps the first distinct anti-Boko opposition group, which organized a major revolt in Kano, leading to great loss of life and property.  The Maitatsine riots kept on recurring in different Northern cities for over a decade.  The Shi'a group also had running battles with the security forces for over two decades.  It was only in the last few years that the conflict subsided.

Another significant aspect of Nigeria's Islamic scene has been the palpable chasm between the modern, western sector and traditional Islamic sector, especially in the northern states.   Historically, many northern Muslim communities had viewed the European colonial adventure and its institutions, including the educational system, as inimical to Islam and Muslims and had refused to partake in them.  Although a lot of progress has been registered in the last few decades in appreciating the strategic importance of modern education, including Science and Technology, many Muslim parents still mistrust the modern education sector and consign their wards to the traditional madrasahs, locally known as the Almajiri  schools.  It has been estimated that over seven million pupils are attending these schools in the Northern States.  In several of these states, there are more pupils in these traditional institutions than there are in the conventional schools.  The membership of the  Maitatsine  sect is based almost entirely on this group.  The  Boko Haram  also may have drawn substantially from the group although it has many members from the conventional school system.

The other major aspect of Nigeria's Islamic scene, which I wish to raise, is the issue of poverty and economic impoverishment.  When the former Governor of Nigeria's Central Bank mentioned over half a decade ago that hard-core poverty in Nigeria was essentially a 'Northern Phenomenon', he was bringing up an issue, which few wanted to talk about.  In other words, poverty is also essentially a Muslim Phenomenon.  Since Professor Soludo made this statement, the situation has not registered any substantial improvement.  In many of the Northern States, the incidence of general poverty still remains well over 70%.  With poor enrolment rates into basic educational institutions and dilapidated infrastructure, many Northerners and Muslims will remain isolated and impoverished, unable to seize any of the opportunities that may be presented by Nigeria's modern economy and society.  

Distinguished Chair, ladies and gentlemen, I now come to the challenges of peace-building.  Many people, I believe, consider Nigeria as a theatre of absurd conflicts and interminable crises.  They may be justified in holding this view; with the Jos crisis festering for years, with post-election violence and suicide - bombings, it is difficult to think otherwise. But when we consider Nigeria's population of 150 million, half the population of West Africa, its over 250 ethnic and language groups, its regional and geo-political configurations, its landmass and its diversity in religion and culture, we may be constrained to reach a different conclusion.  Nigeria may, after all, be a paragon of stability which, as God Almighty has willed, shall undergo all the trials allotted it early enough in its national history.

But in all fairness, systemic ethno-political and religious crises, like the ones we have witnessed in recent years, do not have a long history in Nigeria.  They all began in the late 1980s, following the intense competition for power and influence especially among the western educated elite; the Kafanchan crisis in 1987, in Southern Kaduna, was quickly followed by the Zangon Kataf and other crises; all in the same vicinity.  The democratic dispensation, which began in 1999 also came with its set of problems, the most visible being the  Shari'a  Crisis and the First Jos Crisis which led to the declaration of state of emergency in Plateau State.

But these crises, varied as they were, reveal the multi-dimensional nature of Nigeria's conflicts.  Firstly, we witness the primacy of politics in almost all of them.  In the struggle for power and political supremacy, politicians exercise no restraint in aggravating the socio-religious and ethnic cleavages, which characterize the geo-politics of the Nigerian state.  It should not be forgotten that the Second Jos Crisis of November 2008 was also ignited by botched Chairmanship elections in Jos North Local Government.

The second dimension of these crises, especially in Kaduna and Plateau States, is the indigene/settler dichotomy, which is yet to be addressed properly by the Nigerian State.  Many ethnic groups in these conflict areas see the other ethnic groups as foreigners who should not enjoy the full rights of bona fide residents.  Most of these disenfranchised Nigerians also happen to be Muslims.  However, those who oppose this dichotomy argue that these so-called settlers had spent more than two hundred years in the areas they reside.  Moreover, as Nigerian Citizens, they have the full right to reside wherever they wish and pursue their legitimate business without let or hindrance.  After all, they cannot be settlers in their own country.

The third dimension of Nigeria's ethno-religious crises is their potential to become a systematic national crisis.  When a person is killed in any of the areas of conflict, his co-religionists, especially in the cities react violently and begin killing anyone they think is responsible for his brethren.  This will trigger further reprisals from other parts of the country whose members are affected.  It took a lot of effort by the  Nigeria Inter-Religious Council [NIREC]  which I co-chair, and other state authorities, to treat each crisis independently and reduce the risk of systemic reprisals.

The fourth dimension of Nigeria's crises, which I wish to raise, is the poor leadership and governance usually associated with their management.  Many of those charged with authority in the states where these conflicts occur are also parties to the crisis.  They make feeble efforts to control the violence and do so when much of the damage has been done. They show little interest in initiating any genuine and meaningful process of dialogue and reconciliation.  Much worse, they show no concern for the welfare and wellbeing of those individuals outside their immediate ethnic group.

The issue of poor leadership and governance also explain how the Boko Haram movement has been able to transform itself from a small Hijra group in Yobe State, escaping from the uncertainties and contradictions of the Nigerian State, to a militant movement able to wreak havoc and destruction once provoked.  Those in authority were prepared to court their leaders when it suited them and to trample on them like flies when they were no longer useful.  The recent bombing of the United Nations Office in Abuja has introduced an international dimension to terrorist's activities, a development, which is hitherto entirely new to Nigeria.

Distinguished Chair, having examined the challenges of peace-building in Nigeria, it is equally appropriate to bring into our discourse the promise of dialogue in the matrix of Nigeria's ethno-religious crises. This is also an important part of my personal journey. When I became the Sultan of Sokoto in November 2006, some of the major problems I found on the ground were the after-effects of the Riots, especially in Kaduna, Jos and parts of North East and a disturbing atmosphere of mistrust, fear and hostility, especially among the leadership of Nigeria's two major religions, Islam and Christianity. We could have taken the easy path by embracing the traditional routines: interminable meetings and fruitless declarations. Instead, we chose to take the difficult path, the path of positive engagement, which would engender meaningful discourse, improve communication and understanding and change the dynamics of our operating environment to that of trust and confidence.

The  Nigeria Inter-Religious Council  [NIREC] provided the right platform for this engagement. The Council, itself a product of Nigeria's ethno-religious crises, was composed of 25 members each from the two religions and co-chaired by myself, in my capacity as the President-General of the  Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs , and the President of the  Christian Association of Nigeria  [CAN]. The approach of NIREC was simple and practical. Firstly, we affirmed the sanctity of human life, Muslim and Christian, and insisted that anybody who takes the law into his hands, regardless of the circumstances, must bear the full legal consequences of his action. You cannot believe it, but despite the frequency of these disturbances, few people have ever been punished for perpetrating any act of violence. The masterminds go scot-free. Secondly, while appreciating the fact that we are required to look after the interest of our co-religionists, we must pay attention to the other dimensions of our conflicts. As many were preparing to declare a religious war in Jos, for example, we labored hard to draw attention to the other dimensions of the crisis. It was a conflict between Muslims and Christians quite alright, but it was not a conflict between Islam and Christianity. When Nigeria's President called for a parley among stakeholders, we made bold to declare the Jos crisis a political crisis. Thirdly, we adopted a tactical approach to conflict resolution. Whenever, there is a break-out of violence, we work together to restore law and order and ask the quarrelsome questions later. We take this approach to minimize loss of life and to ensure that the crisis is contained in the primary area it occurred. Fourthly, we devised a quarterly meeting schedule that took us to all parts of the country. It was heartening to many to see us working together and preaching peaceful co-existence and religious harmony even in areas, which never registered an ethno-religious conflict.

I must point out that it was also our view that inter-faith action should transcend conflict resolution. For it to be effective, it must affect the life of the common man. NIREC floated the  Nigeria Inter-Faith Action Association [NIFAA]  to take up this challenge and NIFAA has been very active in the control of the dreaded tropical disease, Malaria. We also find that we must act together to address issues related to electoral reform, good governance and anti-corruption. I am also glad to state that the goodwill and understanding which these activities were able to generate, had given impetus to the development of inter-faith dialogue to a new level. I always remember, with happiness, the seminar organized by the  Christian Association of Nigeria  [CAN] in April 2010, on  Knowing Your Muslim Neighbor,  where I presented a paper on the topic. The Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs [NSCIA] gracefully reciprocated by inviting CAN members to its formal meeting in Kaduna, where the CAN representative gave a lecture on  Islam in the Eyes of a Christian  and both Muslim and Christian scholars, gave inspiring responses on the scriptural basis of mutual co-existence. Despite serious setbacks in recent months, many of us remain committed to this positive engagement and to the promise that dialogue offers in the resolution of Nigeria's ethno-religious crises.

Distinguished Chair, ladies and gentlemen, understanding the multifarious nature of Nigeria's ethno-religious crises should strengthen our resolve and determination to deploy all the energies and resources at our disposal to see to their resolution.  Our inability and reluctance to take meaningful action go to challenge not only our common humanity but also our self-worth.  It is, therefore, important for us to appreciate, first and foremost, the importance of consensus building within the polity, with a view to ameliorating the current state of political polarization in it.  The Nigerian political class must be able to speak to one another, to understand each other and to develop a minimum national agenda to chart the way forward.  The political class must also be able to open dialogue on a variety of national issues, including the perennial problem of power rotation and willingly enter into agreements that they can honor.

Secondly, governance, at all levels, must translate into tangible benefits for all Nigerians, regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliation.  Nigeria has the resources to make life more pleasant for its people.  It is equally imperative to address the poverty problem as well as the needs of the youth population both in the Northern states and the rest of the country.  In a situation where over 50% of our population is under 19 years of age, we are definitely sitting on a time bomb much deadlier than that of Boko Haram unless we take urgent action to defuse it.

Thirdly, there is the need for renewed determination to address both the Jos and Boko Haram sectarian crises.  The Federal Government must take seriously its security responsibilities and effectively contain these crises.  But beyond that, a genuine dialogue must be initiated, to begin healing festering wounds and to bring genuine understanding and reconciliation amongst the entire people of Plateau State and beyond.  The social dimension of the Boko Haram cannot also be resolved by the mere use of force.  This is the reason why I have consistently suggested dialogue and education to counteract its message, especially those aspects dealing with modern education.  Millions of Muslim pupils are already outside the school system.  Millions more will definitely follow if urgent intervention is not undertaken to enlighten the younger generations.  And the question I have always asked is What kind of society can we build in the 21 st  century when our youth turn their back on Science and Technology and are unable to produce the next generation of doctors, engineers and other specializations necessary for sustaining the socio-economic development of the society?

Fourthly, we must also continue to strengthen our tertiary Islamic organizations, the  Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs  [NSCIA], the  Jama'atu Nasril Islam [JNI]  (Society for the Success of Islam) as well as our emirate institutions to ensure that they serve the regulatory purposes for which they were established, give hope to the Muslim Ummah  and contribute effectively to its growth and development.

Fifthly, we should not neglect the impact of the International environment on Nigeria's ethno-religious crises. Happenings in the US, Iraq, Afghanistan, Norway, Netherlands, the UK and France are as current and relevant as events in Jos, Maiduguri and Abuja.  We must preach international tolerance and moderation.  The fight against extremist groups should never be perverted to become a fight against Islam and its doctrines.  We should all remember that in the final analysis, it is not what the perpetrators of violence do that really counts.  It is the actions we take, individually and collectively, that would shape the fate of humanity.

With these words, I thank you most sincerely for granting me the opportunity to share my thoughts and my hopes with you.  I leave you with the Muslim greeting,  Assalamu Alaikum  [May peace be on you all].

Being Text of a lecture Delivered At The Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Annual Lecture At Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA.