2019: “One Nation Bound In Freedom, Peace And Unity”
“Wicked propagandists continue to spread vicious lies about me for political gain, including claiming that I once asked Muslims not to vote for Christians. This must be the height of absurdity. How could I ever say that, when whoever voted for me would be voting for the Christian running with me on the same ticket? And how could I ever say that of Christians when my own holy book, the Qur’an, tells me that in the entire world those that are nearest in love to me are those who believe in Jesus Christ [AS]? I ask, who, intending to win any election, ever does that? How can I choose southern Christian running mates (Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory, Pastor Tunde Bakare and Pastor YemiOsinbajo) and with them by my side make such silly utterances?”,President Muhammadu Buhari during his campaign in 2015.
“Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country are more important than anything else....’’ a historic proclamation by former President Jonathan in his concession speech in March 2015.
Nigerians are lovely and loving people. A people of over three hundred ethnic groups and multiple religions have lived together since 1914 with a 30 month-civil war that erupted nearly 53 years after the amalgamation. It ended early 1971. This year 2018 is 47 years after the war. This means that Nigerians with diverse ethnic, socio-cultural and religious affiliations have lived together for 104 years. It is really something to rejoice about and be more knitted together than lamentation. Those who have ever witnessed war of any kind can tell the gory story. Those who witnessed the war codenamed Nigeria-Biafra war and are alive today should continue to speak up and educate Nigerians how it was. The aftermath of that war can only be imaged by the new generation of Nigerians. It devoured Nigerians in the name of seeking segregation. John Pepper Clark described how the forests were eaten up by the war, not through fire or deforestation but by the dead buried with coffins made of wood. Life in the IDP or refugee camps is neither attractive nor palatable.
That is why I so much love these lines from Clark when he poetized in “The Casualties”: “The casualties are not only those who are dead; They are well out of it; The casualties are not only those who are dead; Though they await burial by installment; The casualties are not only those who are lost; Persons or property, hard as it is; To grope for a touch that some; May not know is not there; The casualties are not only those led away by night; The cell is a cruel place, sometimes a haven; Nowhere as absolute as the grave; The casualties are not only those who started; A fire and now cannot put out. Thousands are burning that have no say in the matter; The casualties are not only those who are escaping; The shattered shall become prisoners in a fortress of falling walls. The casualties are many, and a good member as well; Outside the scenes of ravage and wreck; They are the emissaries of rift, So smug in smoke-rooms they haunt abroad; They do not see the funeral piles at home eating up the forests…All casualties of the war.”
I remain resolute that war cannot be a solution to any human affairs. There is no justification whatsoever for Nigerians to kill or be killed in another war orchestrated by their enemies. I do not think that Nigerians deserve another war because the security challenges faced by the country should be the concern of every Nigerians. Agreed, many Nigerians have been killed by terrorists in different parts of Nigeria. These terrorists cannot be killing for any religion because neither Islam nor Christianity, not even the traditional faith allows killing of human beings without justification. No part of the country is receiving less heat from the wanton massacre. Members of the Islamic, Christian and traditional faiths have been killed by the terrorists operating under whatever guise. So, any call for war in Nigeria is definitely misplaced because every faith has claims of losses.
But the intermittent call by the Christian leaders for war in Nigeria is an eye opener. In my local language, there is a proverb that a bird dancing in the middle of the road has a musical band somewhere playing for it. One sometimes does not want to totally believe that the call for war is based on the fact that a Muslim is a President of Nigeria today. Some other times, it is extremely very difficult to disbelieve that these unnecessary drumming for war in Nigeria is unconnected with the nation’s political scheming and leadership. Whichever option is apt in this situation, one thing is clear. The return of Nigeria to democracy since 1999 has exposed Nigerians to diverse levels of understanding themselves and forging ahead to peaceful coexistence which definitely will take some time.
Yes, the people calling for war may not have been pushed by personal concern and patriotism. If not, they would have been concerned about the killing of Nigerians, not Christians alone. These senseless killings predate the Buhari regime. In short, it started in former President Obasanjo’s era. Precisely, it was too bad during former President Jonathan administration when Nigeria also lost a great number of her security personnel in the northeast. Obasanjo and Jonathan are Christians, no doubt. They allowed a free government where accountability, integrity, patriotism and the true spirit of Nigerianism were shallow. Muslims were badly marginalized. Christians of the Northern minority were extravagantly empowered. During their regimes, no Muslim leader or Islamic organization in Nigeria called for war. Yes, there were complaints; there were warnings; there may have also been protects. But there was not call for war. There was no call for violent destabilization of the constitutionally positioned federal authority or call for animosity and acrimony amongst Nigerians. Why is it now?
Why is it that when a Muslim becomes a president of Nigeria, Christians of Nigeria begin the cry of Islamization. The two years of former President Umar Yar’Adua did not witness this stern opposition from the Christian compatriots because he was not firm in dealing with the enemies of Nigeria who are basically the looters of the nation’s treasury. These looters are made of up Muslims and Christians. Muslims as well as Christians who stole Nigeria’s wealth are being prosecuted by the current government without discrimination. In short, a lot of Muslim politicians who are involved in corruption are being tried in different courts of Nigeria. Some have definitely been sent to jail. It is clear that terrorism as well as corruption has no religion in Nigeria. It is also clear that the call for war is because of the current President Buhari. All efforts are geared at tarnishing his image for trying to rebuild Nigeria and recover the nation’s monies from the powerful political clique. While it is quite clear the motive behind the opposition to the Buhari-led administration, it is not clear if these war mongers are making their pronouncements by themselves. That is to say if there are no external influences to the call for war. Whoever is responsible, the truth is that war is dangerous with limitless casualties and losses.
Nothing is less than the truth in the proclamation by the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, who has revealed that the politicians are sponsoring killings across Nigeria in order to have something to campaign against Buhari in 2019. But is it to call for war that will guarantee any politician’s victory in 2019? Why the call for war that does no one any good? The Igbo people are still suffering from the effects of Biafra agitation. The people of the Northeast are still suffering from Boko Haram war. The Niger Delta people are still suffering from the duo environmental torment and militancy. In all cases, those who suffer are the masses, not those who call for the war. The parents and relatives and the communities of kidnapped Chibok and Dapchi girls are still suffering. Many of, if not all, the unreleased Chibok girls are Muslims. Some of them died in captivity. Some were married off against their will. Muslims did not call for war or rebellion against the government. So why has the case of Leah Sharibu been seen with different eyes. Though we all pray for her rescue and final reunion with her family and loved ones, it is time for Nigerians to stop the division of everything in Nigeria on religious line.
It is too much for Nigerians. One continuous to wonder why any patriot should ever think of calling for another war. When all these wars and civil disturbances were raging, every Nigerian suffered. Every member of any society ravaged by war suffers in different way. There will be no rest of mind. There will be no freedom of movement. The funds which are supposed to be used to develop the society will be diverted to seek for aids in terms of food and medicare, or for weapons to ensure the defeat of the opposition. People will die. Those who will die will constitute largely those who do not know how and why the war started. Basically, the masses will die and those why ignited the fire will run away to safety outside the shores of the society they claimed to belong. Everybody is a casualty of war.
For this, the Nigerian government should as a matter of urgency summon those calling for war in Nigeria and interrogate them for the safety of Nigeria. It must not be swept under the carpet. One is very worried with the way weapons are being intercepted by the Nigerian customs and security agencies at the ports, boarders and highways. What are all these weapons meant for? Who are actually behind these senseless importations of ammunition? To kill Nigerians! To kill Muslims and Christians of Nigeria! Why has no one begun the whistle blowing on ammunition? Nigerians must rise up to the challenge of safeguarding their nation by exposing those who are in custody of ammunition for any reason, being it for 2019 or for succession. The love for Nigeria which many proclaim should be put in practice by assisting the government to secure the nation against internal and external transgressors. Nigerian government should also look beyond the shores of Nigeria and sniff for those playing the minuet.
Nigerians have been left in the dark in the case of a private jet from Nigeria to South Africa allegedly used for money laundering and weapon mongering. The speech of the US president, Donald Trump on killings in Nigeria was puckishly redesigned by some media organizations in Nigeria to portend US anger againt Nigerian president. Recently, Rep Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States of America, claimed that Nigerian government shows indifference to attacks on Christian farmers in Nigeria. Smith said that the Congress is watching the situation in Nigeria with growing concern. “The confluence of religious, ethnic, economic and political tensions is only likely to be exacerbated in the lead-up to elections next year unless President Muhammadu Buhari speaks out with a clear voice condemning the herdsmen attacks.”
Catholic Bishops in Nigeria issued a statement asking President Muhammadu Buhari to step aside to save the nation from total collapse. “We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable. Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves. But defend themselves with what?” They, however, acknowledged that those who ask the people to defend themselves are calling for anarchy. “But how can the Federal Government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wailings of helpless and harmless citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highway and now, even in sacred places of worship?” the Bishops partly said.
All these claims are made despite the fact that the second citizen of Nigeria, Vice President, Prof. (Pastor) Yemi Osinbajo has severally told Nigerians that the president has given him the full backing to tackle religious persecution in Nigeria in order to give room for religious freedom because no Nigerian of any religion has the right to infringe on the right of others to worship. Especially during the inauguration service of the Deeper Life Bible Church in Lagos, he urged the Christian community to continue in prayers and do not succumb to preaching hatred in Nigeria. “The President has mandated that I take up those cases in specific states and local authorities…I discuss these issues with the President and other ministers in the Security Council. It is evident to me and to many that the devil’s bigger agenda is to stoke up a religious conflict in Nigeria that will make it impossible for anyone to preach the gospel or even for Muslims to worship in their Mosques.”
Continuing, Pastor Osinbajo said: “A few days ago in Bama, a Mosque was burnt and many people died. Many such examples abound. While the security agencies continue to work relentlessly to hunt down the perpetrators of this evil acts, to bring a permanent end to all of the killings that are going on in the name of insurgents, herdsmen or any other name, we as a body of Christ must not lose focus. I ask that you pray for every one of us who is in the position of authority in this land”.
Following suit, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in a statement signed by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the CAN President, Rev Samson Ayokunle, recently urged Christians to protest in every church’s premise to ask the Federal Government and the security agencies to stop the killings and bloodshed in the country. Apostle David Jelmark, in an interview called for self defense. “We have to defend ourselves…I will defend myself else I’m gone before the army will arrive and the blood sucking humans going into the woods”, said Jelmark. Anglican cleric, Ven. Funso Awe, condemned the call for war in Nigeria. “As far as I am concerned I think we have had enough bloodshed, the Nigerian civil war and the situation surrounding it, including coup, was caused by people like him (referring to TY. Danjuma). I do not support such an idea where you ask people to take up arms against one another. I am not advocate of arms taking. Look you do not solve a problem by creating a situation of war.”
In his reaction, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, cautioned religious groups and leaders against comments that would mislead their followers into war. He said terrorism has no connection to religion or ethnicity. “How can someone begin to attack Muslims because this innocent girl, Leah Sharibu happened to be a victim of murderous terrorists. It means the Boko Haram group are winning the war because that is exactly what they want.” The Sultan urged the media to save Nigeria from war, as some media reports were inimical to peace and unity of the country.
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), also faulted the threat of war made by CAN over Leah Sharibu. Quoting CAN’s statement “Leah Sharibu must not die. Her death, God forbids, can spell doom for Nigeria. It can give an open invitation to religious war because Leah is being detained purely because of her religion”, MURIC’s Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, described the threat as irking, irrational, infantile and ungodly. “The leaders of CAN want to give cheap victory to Boko Haram. We do not need an expert in international diplomacy to interpret the scenario on ground,” MURIC said.
In a letter to Nigerian Christian leaders signed on behalf of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman, Barr. Obianuju Joy Igboeli, head, Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Program, Barr Chinwe Umeche, head, Democracy and Good Governance Program and addressed to Rev Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Benin City, the group thumped up Nigerian Christian leaders for their threats and call for war.
Titled “Beyond the Communiqué of the Catholic Bishops and CAN’s Call for all Christians Protest over the Killing of Christians in Nigeria: Other Available Lawful Steps at Disposal of Nigerian Christian Leaders”, the group recalled the statements released by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria on 26th April 2018 and a press conference addressed by CAN’s late Secretary Gen, Musa Asake, on 27thApril 2018, the group urged all Christian leaders in Nigeria to shun worship of ill-gotten wealth and defend Christians in Nigeria. The group proffered the following: bi-monthly processions on Sundays under the coordination of CAN and CBCN to be effectively covered by local and international media; Christian members of the National Assembly to embark on periodic and bi-monthly boycott of the proceedings of the National Assembly with effective local and international media coverage; introduction ofbenevolent political Christianity to checkmate malevolent political Islam and its social, security and political schisms in Nigeria; establishment of research centres by CAN and CBCN with periodic generation of research findings across the country on number of Churches destroyed and Christians killed by Islamist Jihadists as well as identification of state and non-state actor perpetrators involved.
The group asked CAN and CBCN to include proper profiling of witnesses including relatives of slain and wounded victims and scenes of crime testimonials, as well as welfare committees to cater for slain victims’ relatives and wounded others. Furthermore, they want church services and sermons to be reviewed to accommodate enlightenment sessions for the congregants and the clergies from research findings generated from Christian research centres across Nigeria on the state of church or Christianity in Nigeria including its growth or under-growth, threats and challenges; Christian leaders should organize periodic national and international press conferences on the state of Christianity in Nigeria including periodic international joint press conferences and communiqués with the likes of the Papacy at Vatican’s St Peter’s Square in the case of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria; effective international networking and contacts, as well as diplomatic pressures especially by engaging the United Nations and its relevant bodies and world leading democratic nations including United States and other nonviolent and liberal religious friendly countries, bodies and institutions.
My humble appeal to Nigerians is that all these are not necessary. We must not allow foreign interests to divide us. All the insinuations of Islamization of Nigeria and its affiliates are not real because it is not possible in Nigeria. Those blowing the whistle of war should have a rethink and know that dialogue is the best tool for peaceful resolutions. Let us live in peace and support the government in place to continue its efforts in providing the basic needs of the citizenry, the lack of which is the root of all the disturbances, cries and threats. It shall be well with Nigeria!
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]
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