By IHIDERO Victor Osae, Kaduna
In line with the efforts to stamp out religious extremism in Nigeria and to make Nigerian campuses safe from violent extremist practices, the Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Professor Ibrahim Garba has said that extremism thrives in Nigeria and Nigeria’s tertiary institutions because counternarrative messages are underreported.
The varsity VC said this during a meeting with a student group, Speak Out Act Right-SOAR, on the occasion of the ongoing Peer-to-Peer: Facebook Global Digital Campaign titled “Challenging Extremism”.
The campaign which is being sponsored by Facebook and managed by the Edventure Partners (EVP) targets uncommitted youth population who are soft candidates for extremist recruiters and the silent majority whose voices are key in countering extremist nnarratives.
According to the varsity VC, “Extremist practice is capable of destroying the whole of humanity both within and outside the university community and as a result, there is an urgent need to emphasize counter-narrative messages in the media with messages of love, peace and respect for human dignity replacing sensationalization in the media.
“Counter-narrative messages are underreported. The media is saturated with hate speeches against one religion or the other, one ethnic versus the other meanwhile the eyes of our youths are being opened to see our differences instead of our strength as a nation.
“Extremism is perpetual by people of limited knowledge; gross misjudgement of religious ideals and blind attachment to symbolisms. Knowledge is power and our society must strive for it
“We live under several external influences that divide us as a society and as human beings. However, we must know that we are all first human beings before our religious inclinations. The messages of this campaign are profound and I call on the media to join our university to stamp out extremism in everywhere they exist in the world” he said.
In the same vein, the Director of Gender Policy Unit, Dr Binta Abdulkarim, who at the same time coordinates the activities of the student group said that the reason behind the campaign is to develop counternarrative against religious extremism.
“Religion has become a tool that extremists use to mobilize support for their inhuman activities. As a result, there is an urgent need to get credible voices and institutions to challenge extremist practices among students considering the fact that many students begin to develop their ideas about religion from the university. The responsibility falls on us as a university to begin to develop narrative to counter extremism; this is the nucleus for this campaign”.
While speaking on behalf of the SOAR group, Timothy Elisha, a postgraduate student of Local Government and Development Studies urged universities vice chancellors and other stakeholders to keep adding their voices in support of the fight against extremism.