“I am ready to mobilize Ogbunigwe from the Southeast to face them, so Boko Haram should be warned because we still have people in the East who can manufacture this Ogbunigwe. And they should be careful because by the time we mobilize MASSOB, mobilize the Odua Peoples' Congress (OPC), mobilize the militants, Boko Haram will have no place to go to,” CAN Chairman and Bishop of Enugu Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, threatening fire over bombing of churches in the north.
One is not only worried about the insecurity situation in the country, but more worried of the dimensions the situation is being handled by different ethno-religious groups. On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, the Sun Newspaper carried a serious warning story from the South East Zonal wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). In that story, Christians in the Southeast have threatened to attack mosques and palaces of Islamic leaders in the South East in retaliation of incessant bombings on Christians and churches in the north by Boko Haram.
It is clear that the Christians have resolved to show solidarity to their brethren in the north who are under attacks by Boko Haram, by nursing the idea of reprisal attacks on Igbo Muslims and their worship places. A word is enough for the wise. And the nation's security agencies should please take note and act to save the country from any further destruction or ethno-religious war.
Bishop Chukwuma in the report asserted that Christian leaders might begin retaliation on the mosques and also emir palaces of northern Muslims in the South East, even while lamenting that attacks on Christians in the north every Sunday has become a weekly ritual.
Part of his words: “We cannot fold our arms and allow our churches and worshippers to be maimed for no just cause. This act of bombing by this Boko Haram is capable of causing another civil war because the Biafran war was not as severe as this and there was war against Biafra. We are, therefore, warning that this is capable of causing another civil war and we are ready for it. For me as the Southeast CAN chairman, I'm ready to lead people with Ogbunigwe (the Biafran bomb used during the civil war); this Ogbunigwe will be more severe than the Boko Haram bombs. And we want to warn them that they know that they are building mosques in the south and have Moslem communities in the south which we have been sparing, but if they don't stop, we shall begin retaliation and that will be the beginning of another civil war in Nigeria.”
Continuing, “We in the southern part of Nigeria, particularly Southeast, have seen civil war and I have said this so many times, we are not afraid of war anymore; and we are ready, therefore, to go to war to defend our Christian brethrens in the north and we are saying enough is enough because it is obvious now that Boko Haram is out to deal with Christians and Christians will not keep quiet anymore.”
But the Sun editorial of same day chronicled how MASSOB members have been killed by security operatives in Onitsha and other parts of the South East, affirming that the problem with MASSOB has to do with the name Biafra; that it is a non-violent organization and a more tolerable group than organizations like Movement for Niger Delta Emancipation (MEND) and the Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF), among others. While these groups are militant in nature, MASSOB is largely peaceful in its operations. Unfortunately, the spectre of what Biafra represents continues to haunt the group.
I have maintained, like many patriots, that Nigeria is a secular state with Islam and Christianity merely dominating the religious sphere of the country. Other minority religious groups including free thinkers are in existence in Nigeria. So, it is definitely a wishful thinking that threats, killings and bombings by any tiny group can break up Nigeria. Religious freedom, freedom of association and democratic liberties are enshrined in the nation's constitution. The task on all our shoulders as Nigerians is to continue to assist the Federal and State governments to change our collective fortunes to the better in a peaceful and development-driven environment.
But to be frank, since the Boko Haram insurgency began, many Nigerians and international observers have expressed different views over it. Some have viewed it as a western design to destroy Nigeria. Some say the group emerged as a result of poverty and prolonged years of underdevelopment in the north. A group believes that Boko Haram is a product of the northern political establishment set it up to fight President Goodluck Jonathan who is a Christian from the south. A fourth group says that Boko Haram started as a tool for the political establishment in the Northeast that was later abandoned as the militants of the Niger Delta.
Another group even interweaves Boko Haram into a perceived religious string of bigotry, extremism and intolerance in the north and link the group to al-Qaeda. There are those who claim that Boko Haram's anger was sparked by the extra-judicial killing of its members and especially its leader in 2009. A group also believes that Boko Haram started as a non-violent Islamic group whose aims were for an Islamic state and proper implementation of Sharia, which they peacefully preached and propagated only in their mosques and schools.
However, it is pertinent to appeal to our Christian patriots and organizations to restrain from inflammatory and incisive comments and warnings over this menace that has brought no good to any religion or ethnic group in Nigeria. Last time, it was CAN president issuing a last warning to the federal government. Now it is from South East CAN chairman who has explicitly identified his targets.
They should continue to assist the federal government in finding unbiased lasting solutions to the Boko Haram menace. They can work hand in hand with their counterpart Islamic groups like Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Jama'atu Nasril-Islam (JNI), among others which have proffered solutions to the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
In his reaction to Boko Haram, the Secretary General of NSCIA, Dr. Abdullateef Adegbite gave a twelve-point agenda prominent of which were the urgent needs to seek divine intervention and for government to aggressively address the pandemic poverty in Nigeria, meaningfully engage the youths to arrest restiveness and to introduce social security system. Adegbite believes that corruption fuels rebellion, so government should be more combative in its war against corruption without sparing any political office holder or corrupt citizen.
Reacting to the attacks on churches, the Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu frowned at the act which he described as sordid and dastard, and called on the Plateau State Government to live above board and to foretell any reprisal attacks on innocent citizens.
Recently, The Muslim Congress (TMC) in a paper to Odua Muslim-Christian Youth Dialogue Group (OMC-YDG), through its Amir Luqman Abdurraheem, called on Nigerians and especially the Muslims to distance themselves from proponents of war and to refrain from violence. He enlisted the Muslim Ummah, Christian communities, civil societies and ethnic militia to embrace peace decorum in their comments and utterances at this critical period of the nation's life.
He warned that Nigerians should not act the conspiracy scripts of the imperialists who are poised at breaking up Nigeria by 2015, as they did in Sudan and crated permanent instability in nations like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. He corroborated the common view that the bombings in Nigeria today is fuelled by poverty, unemployment, bad governance, moral and economic corruption, frustration and political manoeuvring of selfish elites, not Islam or Christianity.
One suggestion that could end this is the screening of worshippers as done for Muslims at their national worship places by even non-Muslim security personnel. Also, the government should muster the political will to expose, rebuke and prosecute any Nigerian identified to have a hand in these inhuman activities under whatever name.
Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]