By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja – A presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, says the responsibility of maintaining peace and peaceful coexistence is not only the duty of the government, but also of religious organisations whose words carry weight.
Shehu stated this in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday while responding to the allegations by the Supreme Council for Sharia, accusing the President of letting down Muslims for his inability to attend the emergency summit of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The extraordinary summit of the OIC in Istanbul, which was attended by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was convened by Turkey to discuss the U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel.
However, the presidential aide described the allegation as “totally misleading and baseless’’, saying that the president was represented at the OIC summit by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.
He said that President Buhari had to go to France to attend the Climate Change Summit because he had earlier given a firm commitment to President Emmanuel Macron.
“The Paris summit on climate change wasn’t a junket. It was also about the problems of the Lake Chad region which affects Nigeria as well as the neighboring countries.
“About 30 million lives are involved. Without the drying up of the lake, we would probably not have had the acute poverty that nurtured the environment for Boko Haram terrorism,” he said.
Shehu recalled that countries such Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which sponsored the UN General Assembly Resolution to condemn Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the official Capital of Israel, didn’t also attend the Turkey meeting for various compelling reasons.
“As a respectable religious organisation, an organisation that we hold in high esteem, the Supreme Council for Shari’ah could have helped themselves and the nation by checking the facts before the outburst, which sadly, was repeatedly aired by the international radio.
”By the time the Erdogan summit was called, the Presidential advance team was already in Paris, ready to receive him. At that point, the best President Buhari could do was to send a representation.
”He called President Erdogan and explained the circumstances and the Turkish leader expressed his understanding and appreciation. We are signatory to the final resolutions,” the Presidential Spokesman stated.
He explained that at every available opportunity, including his addresses at the UN General Assembly sessions in the past, 2015, 2016 and 2017, President Buhari had always spoken passionately and forcefully about the Palestinian issue and the necessity and urgency of finding a just solution to their case.
Shehu said: ”It is very uncharitable for any religious organisation to accuse the President of abandoning Muslims as alleged.
“As can be seen from the UN vote on Jerusalem, the issue of Palestine is for all men of conscience, Muslims, Christians, Jews and even nonbelievers.
“Besides, the President has shown consistency in his support for the Palestinian cause.”
Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President, also quoted the President’s address at the General Assembly in 2015, where he said ‘as we engage in these annual debates, we need remind ourselves of the principles that led to the founding of the United Nations. Among those are peaceful coexistence and self determination of peoples.
“In this context, Mr. President, the unresolved question of self-determination for the Palestinian people and those of Western Sahara, both nations having been adjusted by the United Nations as qualifying for this inalienable right must now be assured and fulfilled without any further delay or obstacle.’
“The international community has come to pin its hopes on resolving the Palestinian issue through the two – states solution which recognises the legitimate right of each state to exist in peace and security.
“`The world has no more excuses or reasons to delay the implementation of the long list of Security Council resolutions on this question. Neither do we have the moral right to deny any people their freedom or condemn them indefinitely to occupation and blockade.”
In his address at the UN in 2016, Shehu also quoted Buhari as saying that, ‘Mr. President…the Palestinian issue, despite years and years of international efforts is no nearer to being resolved. Nigeria in company with member States of the African Union, firmly support the Two-State solution with Palestinian rights to statehood in conformity, with numerous Security Council Resolutions beginning with Resolution 242 of 1967.
“‘Let me seize this opportunity to once again thank all UN and other aid agencies and development partners currently deployed in North East Nigeria. I reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to collective action towards an effective global response to address the root causes of refugee flows worldwide.’“
Shehu further stated in September this year, Buhari took the issue of Palestine to the UN General and spoke the minds of Nigerians and many in the world that “ ‘new conflicts should not make us lose focus on ongoing unresolved old conflicts.
“`For example, several UN Security Council Resolutions from 1967 on the Middle East crisis remain unimplemented. Meanwhile, the suffering of the Palestinian people and the blockade of Gaza continue.’”
The presidential spokesman advised religious organisations to avoid jumping to conclusions and making unfounded allegations without adequate knowledge and facts of the reality surrounding certain decisions and actions of the government.
Shehu expressed the appreciation of the Presidency for the support and prayers for the President from all religious organizations and assured that President Buhari was committed to the promotion of peace and harmony in the country.
The Presidential Media Aide urged all religious leaders to recognize the sensitivity of some of their utterances on the unity and peaceful coexistence of the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that U.S. president Trump’s announcement of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was met with widespread condemnation and sparked protests across the world.
NAN recalls that 128 members of the United Nations General Assembly had on Thursday voted to reject U.S. PpTrump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in spite initial threat and warning to sanction those that might vote against American interest.