Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, says he does not allow ethnicity and religion to influence his policies.
El-Rufai said this at the 2018 Kaduna Igbo Cultural Day held at the Prison Staff Training College.
The governor regretted the recent violence that rocked the state, saying “every responsible resident of this state can now see that the relentless obsession with ethnicity and religion is not helpful”.
He called on the people to deploy their various talents for the common purpose of building a peaceful and prosperous society.
“Building the good society is in our hands, whereas our ethnicity and religion are often determined for us by the circumstances of our birth,” he said.
“Let us keep religion in the private sphere, retain pride in our heritage but behave like citizens who respect the law and the rights of others.
“Thankfully, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria protects the rights of citizens to live anywhere, practise any faith of their choice and pursue their livelihoods in peace and security.
“I assure you that the Kaduna state government, which I currently lead, takes seriously its obligation to uphold these rights for every citizen, no matter their ethnic or religious affiliations.
“That is why in Kaduna state we know only citizens and residents, not indigenes or settlers. No one should be a second-class citizen because they arrived in a place later than others. For us, what matters is our common humanity.
“It is for this reason that we took strong steps last year when some misguided bigots issued a quit notice to members of the Igbo community. No one has a right to issue any quit notice to any Nigerian anywhere in Nigeria. We will not allow it.
“We have tried to empower our citizens. And we have resolutely rejected past practices of allowing ethnicity or religion to influence policies and appointments.
“We have anchored our governance agenda on putting people first, by making lives better and by reordering the priorities of government to privilege human capital development.”
The governor said too many lives had been lost in ethno-religious crises in the state and appealed to all citizens to live in peace.
He also commended the Igbo for their contribution to the development of the state, saying “the Igbo community is a valued and cherished part of Kaduna.”
“We celebrate you first and foremost as citizens of Kaduna state and we welcome your contributions to commerce, to education, to healthcare, the economy and society as a whole,” he said.
“My message to everyone who lives in Kaduna state is that we must all commit to peace. Too many lives have been lost or blighted over the course of 40 years of violent conflict.”