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“Kerry gives prologue to community building”
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“Kerry gives prologue to community building”

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usman-muhammadLast month’s visit to Nigeria by the US Secretary of State was viewed by some as divisive, but Usman Muhammad, 29, a Correspondent from Nigeria now studying in the UK, says Kerry gave Nigerians a lesson in how to heal differences by embracing community.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, recent made his third visit to Africa in 20 months. With his high profile position, which is equivalent to foreign affairs minister in other countries his repeated visits has indicated how interested the US foreign policy is tilting towards Nigeria.

His third visit, which was on 22 and 23 August, was historical and not the same as his previous visits. This visit was the very first time for any US Secretary of State to visit the Sultan’s palace. This time, Mr Kerry was at the Palace of His Highness the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Saad Abubakar, where he addressed a gathering of Northern leaders, elites and government officials from the region on the importance of community building and countering the violent extremism that is affecting the region.

The visit came at a time when it is needed most, a time when the country is facing one of its toughest times as a nation, a time when religious intolerance has bedevilled the country and a time when religious violence that tends to cripple the whole region is on the rise.

Important issues were deliberated, especially selfless commitments and community building. The talks set examples with the like of late Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto, Premier of Northern Nigeria and founder of modern Northern Nigeria. On the whole, discussions were cohesive and coherent because they are constructive in relation to the tenant of sustainable societies and they are used as a benchmark to counter violent extremism. This is necessary to address and deal with a new epoch of religious violence  that has risen through bankrupt and dead-end ideologies in the region.

A country that embraces tolerance and justice will prosper, and that is what the Sultan of Sokoto has been preaching through a quest for tolerance among all Nigerians of different faiths, and by bringing religious leaders and interfaith groups together in order to push back extremism. This will help build sustainable communities that understand each other’s norms, values and culture.

This reminds me as well of the first meeting held between the then-Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Nigeria’s first President, Dr. Nnmandi Azikiwe, to discuss the future of Nigeria. President Azikiwe proclaimed, “Let us now forget our differences.” And Sir Ahmadu Bello countered: “No, let us understand our differences.” Therefore, unless we understand our differences, then we can only survive and make a meaningful development in our dear country Nigeria.

As Mr. Kerry put it during his visit, “Equality and tolerance; justice and mercy; compassion and humility – these are values that transcend religions, ethnicities, and all kinds of moral codes. They are certainly in keeping with the teachings of Islam that have enriched the world for centuries.”

Equality and justice make societies bond together, but dealing with groups that tear the lines of our common values and pit religious divisions against each other must be dealt with. The key steps to this are first, we understand our cultural differences as Sir Ahmadu Bello pointed out, then we can do away with our existing animosities that bedevilled us over the last six decades as a nation.

It is with dismay that these divisions keep on widening without tracing the appropriate channels to deal with them. This has further eroded the values that keep us together, to face the wrath of religious intolerance and divisions among us. We need, as a matter of fact, work toward addressing these challenges that we believe are heartrending to the core existence of a nation that has a prosperous future, a nation that is full of diversity and different interfaith groups.

Emulating the likes of Sir Ahmadu Bello should be prioritised, by embracing everyone irrespective of religious, cultural and ethnic background for a nation that is bound to proclaim its past glories unbound.

Reach me on Twitter @uuthmann

Photo credit: Secretary Meets With Religious Leaders in Sokoto, Nigeria via photopin (license)

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About me: I was born and raised in Mareri village in North West Nigeria. I am a climate mitigation activist, women empowerment advocate, children’s education champion and social entrepreneur.

I earned my BSc in Economics from prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and am currently pursuing MSc in Education for Sustainability at the London South Bank University under the African Commonwealth Scholars Program. Outside my studies, I am Executive Director at the Centre for Renewable Energy and Action on Climate Change (CREACC-Nigeria), an NGO based in Nigeria.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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