*Says peaceful co-existence, driving force for development
By Adeyemi Robinson-Adefioye, Lagos
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode said the State has enjoyed an appreciable level of religious tolerance and harmony in the last 30 months since he assumed office, attributing it to the atmosphere of peaceful co-existence prevailing among Lagosians of different faiths and ethnic leanings.
Governor Ambode, who spoke at an Inter-Faith Parley of Religious Leaders and Organisations, held at the Banquet Hall, Lagos House in Ikeja, said such atmosphere of peace, has also engendered the massive infrastructural and all round development that has taken place across the State since 29th May, 2015.
Commending the religious leaders in attendance at the parley, predominantly from the Christian and Muslim faith, Governor Ambode said their prayers and support for his administration was pivotal to the steady progress that has become synonymous with Lagos, adding that the event was the State Government’s way of bringing them together to appreciate their commitment and contributions to the success story of Lagos.
“I just want to say a big thank you to all our spiritual fathers for all your prayers. You really don’t understand the depth of what you are doing and the truth is this, there is no how anyone can manage Lagos if we don’t have this kind of harmony, that’s the truth. No matter how brilliant you are, how intelligent or how virtuous you are, or you want to do something, one thing is to say that you want to do something; another thing is for it to work.
“Because you are having millions of people who are having different DNAs and they all converge at the same time to say this is the way to go and it goes that way, it has to be somebody else that is doing it. You cannot make a pronouncement on a microphone and everyone would sleep on the same side and agree, there is something behind it and that thing is that spirituality.
“This gathering is therefore not in futility, it’s to show the essence of that convergence of the spirituality that exists in a cosmopolitan State like Lagos that really makes it work. So, if someone was to ask me what is the secret of my success, it’s not the brain, it’s already endowed, it’s the combination of that spiritual teamwork,” the Governor said.
Governor Ambode also commended the religious leaders for their support and identification with State policies and programmes, especially using the pulpit in the churches and the minbar in the mosques to mobilise and sensitise Lagosians to become law abiding and discharge their civic responsibilities to the State and other citizens.
“I wanted a platform where I can bring all religious leaders together and celebrate them and I tried it last year it worked, so I decided that you know what, maybe this is another day of doing thanksgiving, let me do it again. So, it’s more or less like a celebration. So I told the Commissioner and I asked him, let’s do this every December, we would bring all our spiritual leaders together and say thank you to them. They really don’t understand, because it’s not all about bridges and flyover, peace is intrinsic, the value is more precious, it’s only in an atmosphere of peace that you can do a road. That which is immeasurable, must be celebrated before the one that is physical,” he said.
The Governor also recalled the inaugural parley held last year, saying that most of the issues raised by the leaders had been implemented and that the growing economy of the State has contributed in the peace being enjoyed.
He said one of the strategies taken by his administration was to strengthen the agencies responsible for spiritual development in keeping with its all-inclusive adding that the clear evidence was the award given to Lagos State by the National Hajj Commission as the most outstanding state in Hajj operations, while the Christian Conscience Group also awarded the State as the best in Christian pilgrimages.
Governor Ambode said that the State Government also made efforts to decentralise the celebration of Eid el Fitri parties which was held for the first time in all the local governments across the State, just as he disclosed that this year’s Christmas party will also take the same pattern.
Besides, the Governor said that the State recorded another first as it became the State to have decentralised the operations of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) with the inauguration of 798 Christian and Muslim leaders to join hands with the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas in fostering religious harmony and peaceful coexistence through participatory democracy in the State.
“In the same vein, I wish to urge you all to continue to pray for the prosperity of our State and our people. We shall continue to collaborate with you in ensuring effective communication of our policies and programmes for you are our greatest partners in the development of our State.
“Let us persist in our good efforts in sustaining conditions that will increase our progress and bring greater prosperity; let us pray more for Lagos and do more to preserve and grow our gains. As we continue to win together and break new frontier together, Let us continue to live in peace and harmony for more of God’s mercies, favours and blessings,” Governor Ambode said.