In spite of all the religious and cultural differences in the country and the killings by Boko Haram Islamist sect particularly in the Northeast, Nigerians should unite and build a stronger country rather than split, the United States Consul General in Lagos, Jeffrey Hawkins, said on Thursday.
Hawkins, who spoke at his residence in Ikoyi area of Lagos, western Nigeria, during the Iftar buffet dinner with Muslim and Christians scholars, said what brings Nigerians together is stronger than what may seek to divide them.
Asked if Nigeria should split because of religious and cultural differences between the North and the South, Hawkins said there are a lot of commonalities that bring Nigerians together.
“When you watch the World Cup, when you’re sitting with Nigerians watching Nigeria play France, I don’t think there’s a lot of Christians and Muslims, I don’t think there’s a lot of north-south, I think there are only Nigerians,” he said.
“I think rather than deconstruct something that can be really great, (the solution is) to move Nigerians to build something that can be really great. I don’t think disruption is the answer. I think building up is the answer.”
Hawkins said claims by Boko Haram leaders that they are fighting for religion is false. He said by killing innocent Muslims and Christians in the name of religion, the terrorist sect is representing a twisted version of Islam.
“If as they claim, they’re struggling in the name of Islam, in the name of religion, it’s a very twisted version of Islam, a very twisted version of religion. And killing fellow Muslims and killing fellow Christians, that isn’t religious at all,” Hawkins said.
He said Ramadan to him represents empathy and an opportunity for Muslims to experience depravation and suffering and also to understand suffering in the world.
Dr. Ahmad Sa’eid, a surgeon at the Lagos State University Hospital, LASUTH, and a Muslim, who delivered a brief sermon before the break of fast, said the terrorists are not Muslims and are not representing Islam.
He said Ramadan is a great experience as it teaches religious tolerance, generosity and abstinence. He called on Muslims and Christians to accommodate one another.
Chukwunonso Ume-Ezeoke, a lawyer, who delivered a speech at the event, called on Nigerian politicians to take religion away from politics. She said Nigeria is a secular state and advised Nigerians to choose leaders based on their track records and performance, rather than religion or ethnicity.