By Chijioke Okoronkwo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
On various fora, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has deployed tact and moral suasion in dousing tension and promoting national cohesion.
In different shades of crisis—farmer/herder clashes, banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, secessionist agitations–he has appealed for calm, condemned violence, killings and destruction of property.
He has consistently harped on the need for peaceful co-existence amongst the ethnic nationalities and religions.
For the benefit of hindsight, as Acting President in 2017, Osinbajo condemned ethnic violence in several communities in Taraba and ordered security operatives to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
In May, 2018, at Sesugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, Benue, Osinbajo decried the killing of two Catholic priests, Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha and 17 worshippers killed on April 24, 2018 by herdsmen.
He said that the Federal Government would stop the senseless killing of innocent people.
“The killing of the two priests and worshippers took place in what should be the safest place, but those who killed them only ended up taking their flesh but not the spirit.
“What manner of man will wake up determined to kill innocent men, women and children?
“ They deserve to be condemned and cursed but need our pity the more.”
The vice president has, in a couple of times, cited the courage of Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who saved the lives of the over 200 Christians in his mosque during the June 2018 clashes in Plateau.
“Imam Abubakar has demonstrated one of the most courageous acts any man can possibly do, by offering his own life, for those who are not people of his own tribe.
“I have heard a lot of stories in our country, but this is one of the most compelling stories.
“The love an individual can show for others not from their own tribe or religion, especially in a society like ours where tribe and religion often come to play.
“It is far easier for people to create religious tensions between Christians or Muslims through their acts or words.
“And in a community where people have lived together in harmony and peace for so long, it shows how much a little of such tension created, in a matter of hours, can destroy harmony and peace built over the years.”
More so, in December 2020, Osinbajo condemned killing of rice farmers in Borno describing it an enormous and horrible tragedy.
“It is made worse by the sheer randomness of it; the fact that as the president said, a group of people can act so insanely in such a dastardly manner and kill innocent people especially people who are going to their farms to work.
“I think it is important to understand that the conventional means of dealing with these issues; the conventional means of dealing with some of these security issues, especially, the randomness….
“We will probably keep reviewing that, which is why the president has said that he is taking a serious look on how to deal with issue especially around the randomness.
“Some insane persons goes into a place and shoot people down; that’s not the type of thing that you are prepared for conventionally; so, we have to do a lot more local intelligence.’’
He said the situation had necessitated stepping up efforts towards community policing, so that information will be supplied faster especially at the local level and response will be faster.
“It is a national tragedy; it is very unfortunate and our hearts are with the families of those who are killed in such a terrible manner.’’
Sometime in February, crisis erupted among traders at Shasha Market, Ibadan that led to loss of lives.
In a quick reaction, Osinbajo said that the mayhem in Shasha Market, was unfortunate as the market represented unity.
“I have heard about the unfortunate mayhem and the tragic loss of lives at the Shasha Market in the past few days.
“Shasha Market has been a melting pot for traders bringing foodstuff from the North to the South-West for decades.
“For decades traders from the North have done business with their brothers from the South-West and they have lived in peace and even inter-married; Shasha represents unity.
“So when a disagreement arises between individuals or a criminal act is committed by one against the other, we must ensure that we see it for what it is, a criminal act, which must be punished according to law; not an ethnic conflict.’’
According to the vice president, every Nigerian has a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in safety and peace under the law.
He said it was the duty of government through the police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute any person who committed a crime against a citizen of the nation.
Osinbajo added that it was the role of the citizen to assist the police to identify the criminals.
“We must never take the law into our own hands, if we do, we will be promoting chaos, and a breakdown of law and order, and all of us especially the most vulnerable amongst us, will be at risk.
“ I urge all community leaders to work together to preserve the brotherly co-existence that our people from different parts of the country have enjoyed in Shasha Market for several decades.
“I commend the governor for his swift and decisive action and all the law enforcement agencies for their prompt intervention,’’ he said
Deserving no less attention, Osinbajo said Nigerian leaders must be ready to risk their popularity like Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, to promote peace in the country.
Receiving a delegation of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Osinbajo said leaders must understand the value of respectful non-violent communication in ensuring that conflicts did not degenerate into violence.
“Those sacrifices are sacrifices, even in what you say, how you say it, and then sacrifices also in the acknowledgment of whatever people are saying and the willingness to accept.
“It is very important that we don’t diminish the importance of language and respectful non-violent communication so that we are able to keep our discussions at a level that ensures that we don’t degenerate too quickly to violence.
“We can all talk nicely and say the right things, but unless people are prepared to make some concessions which may cost them popularity within their own group, we cannot move forward,’’ he said.
More recently, on Sept. 12, Osinbajo led some clerics to pray, so that God will grant Nigeria victory over sponsors and perpetrators of violence in the country.
The prayers were offered during the dedication of two churches in Abuja.
The churches were the All Saints Anglican Church Wuse Zone 5, and the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) City of David Parish, Utako, Abuja.
Osinbajo used the occasion to pray for an end to the spate of violent attacks in parts of the country.
According to Osinbajo, as the Federal Government continues to work hard at finding solutions to the challenges confronting the nation, clergymen and congregants should also pray fervently for the nation to overcome these challenges.
Osinbajo urged members of the church to see the occasion as a call to the greater work of transforming the entire society.
“The dedication of the physical building called the church must only remind us that the real work of building the church is that of bringing up men and women in the knowledge and nurture of the Lord.
“The forces of evil and of hate are more vehement than ever. The battle between light and darkness is more intense than ever, but we will prevail,” he added.
He urged members of the parish to also focus on bringing up great leaders that will carry on the legacies of the church.
The cleric offered prayers to God for the unity of the country, peace and protection of leaders.
President Muhammadu Buhari, has over and again, demonstrated the confidence reposed in his urbane and multifaceted deputy, by entrusting in his sway, the coordination of critical national schemes.
The vice president has creditably performed all these assignments.
Perceptive observers say evidence abound that the vice president not only speaks up against killings, but has canvassed pragmatic approaches towards protection of lives and property.