Excerpts from Remarks by Acting President Osinbajo when he received a delegation of Religious, Traditional and Political Leaders in Sallah Homage at his Residence — June 25, 2017
The first time that I attended Iftar, Mr President invited me. And I recall asking him, when he invited me, that are Christians allowed to attend Iftar? And he said, so long as you’re hungry, you can attend. If you’re hungry, let’s go and attend this Iftar. Since then he’s invited me to every one. The way the President receives the Muslim Ummah for the Homage — I have attended every single one since 2015 — so I’m very experienced, having been well schooled by Mr. President.
What the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari has always emphasized is the unity of the faiths. There is every reason for us to work together as brothers and sisters despite our different faiths. And the President himself has demonstrated that in so many ways, by ensuring balance in everything. And you know that at Christmas, I’m not even around to attend the homage that is paid to him by Christians, I always tell him that that he’s going to do by himself, because I usually take off at Christmas and try and get myself a holiday if I can. So he receives the Christians by himself, and usually I just hear about what happened afterwards.
I want to say that unity of the faiths is so important; it’s very very important. And the reason why it’s important is because the best attributes of citizenship can be found in the faiths. What are those attributes? Love for one another, Integrity in our relationships, with ourselves, with government resources and funds, the desire to do good for the majority of our people; to do right by the majority of our people.
When you look at the hundreds of thousands of our people everywhere in this country — and I’ve been around this country — poverty is the same. It doesn’t wear a different face whether you’re poor in Lagos, or you’re poor in Sokoto or you’re poor in Aba, poverty is the same; hunger is the same, wherever you are. If you’re hungry you’re hungry, your religion doesn’t matter. Your ethnicity doesn’t matter.
And that is why for us, it is so important that we work together to make sure that our country is able to take care of millions of its people. And this is what God expects of us — God expects us to take care of the poor, to take care of the suffering, to ensure that we use Government resources, only in such a way as to enhance the good of the majority of our people. That is what is expected of us. And that is recognized in the Islamic faith, and it is also recognized in the Christian faith; that we must act in such a way that the majority of our people benefit and are happy.
Just yesterday I’m sure that you heard the President’s message which he sent on the occasion of the celebration of Eid El-Fitr, where he said that this country must remain united. And the reason that he gave is that there are so many countries of the world who envy what we have, our endowments as a nation, and that we must remain united because it is only in our unity that we can enjoy those endowments to the fullest.
And I want to urge every one of us that our unity as a nation is not negotiable; we should make sure that we remain united. There are people who say, oh, we’re better apart than together. That’s not true. There are so many small countries all over Africa. One of the reasons why we’re respected and in some cases revered and feared is because we’re a big nation. One out of every four black people in the world is a Nigerian. We are a geopolitical power because of our strength in numbers and our diversity. That’s why we’re a geopolitical power. Our relevance comes from our size, the size of our market, and our diversity, and the fact that anywhere you go, Nigerians are probably the smartest people you’ll ever meet anywhere.
We have a great country. I’m so happy that we’re able to sit together, Muslims and Christians to celebrate Eid El-Fitr together, and to enjoy it together. And just as I close, one thing that I would miss about this period of fasting is the Iftar.