by Jude Ndukwe
At a two-day conference organized by the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), an inter-governmental organization that promotes dialogue to build peace in conflict areas, the Sultan of Sokoto, in a veiled reference to the recent calls on Christians by Christian leaders to defend themselves against the unabated and murderous attacks of genocidal magnitude by Islamist Boko Haram terrorists and Fulani herdsmen terrorists, called for the arrest of such leaders.
One of the most outspoken Christian leaders on the issue of Southern Kaduna killings is Apostle Johnson Suleiman of the Omega Fire Ministry whose video of him calling on his members to fight back against any threat of terror noticed around him or the church went viral and made the DSS to embark on the ill-advised attempt to have him arrested in Ekiti. Thanks to the resistance by Governor Ayodele Fayose, the attempt was foiled.
Bishop Oyedepo of the Living Faith Ministries (Winners’ Chapel) had also made similar calls against the murderous Boko Haram sect in a video that went viral recently as well.
Also, Pa Adeboye had, in a message that seemed to threaten the Fulani establishment and the stranglehold of Islamic fanatics on Nigeria, called on his members to ensure they register with parties of their choice and participate actively in such parties even at the ward levels. Those who could read the handwriting on the wall understood this as a veiled threat for members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to use their voting power to rout the government of the day which is seen largely as promoting only the Fulani and religious extremism of Sunni Muslims to the detriment of other ethno-religious interests in the country.
In calling for the arrest of such leaders whose words shake the very foundation of terrorism and extremism, the Sultan betrays the trust reposed on him as a religious leader. He has to know that when Fulani herdsmen, a people of his ethnic and religious group, relentlessly murder fellow citizens in Agatu, Enugu, Plateau, Abia, Ekiti, Ondo, Southern Kaduna, and other places which are all Christian communities, without being resisted by security forces or arrested even after they confess to such crimes, Christian leaders whose patience have been stretched over the years by such senseless killings would be left with no other choice but to change their message from that of restraint to self-defence.
Anyone who has a problem with the message of self-defence being preached by Christian leaders after years of suffering irreparable losses without justice from the authorities will need to have his head examined.
It is therefore most unfortunate that the Sulatn would call for the arrest of those who preach self-defence while perpetrators of genocide in Southern Kaduna are walking free.
It is even more regrettable that perpetrators of these mindless massacres are rewarded by Mallam Nasir El Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, rather than being arrested and prosecuted.
It was this same El Rufai who in his tweet of July 15, 2012, at 7:51PM said “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills a Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes”. Need we look any further to know why the herdsmen seem to be enjoying government cover?
With such statement made under the reign of this same Sultan, does one then need to wonder too long why the Southern Kaduna crisis has been left to fester for so long while the Fulani herdsmen killers get compensated? Why is it that the Sultan did not call for the arrest of people like El Rufai then? Or is it because El Rufai is Fulani and Muslim like himself? Is there any message that could cause more friction and crisis between Christians and Muslims than this?
Also, on May 14, 2012, during the visit of some members of the Niger State chapter of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to him in Kaduna, Muhammadu Buhari, current president of Nigeria, had made that infamous speech of “dogs and baboons will be soaked in blood” still under the reign of Sa’ad Abubakar 111, yet, the Sultan never called for his arrest.
What about the open confessions of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) that they were responsible for the attacks on Southern Kaduna and Agatu, yet, no arrests are made?
Who should the Sultan be calling for their arrests and prosecution? Is it those who attack communities, killing men, raping women, maiming children, destroying sources of livelihood, and burning down houses with reckless abandon, or those who call on the victims to get themselves ready and girded for self-defence against such attacks?
Most of the religious crises that have happened in this country started after hate speeches by imams from the mosques encouraging worshippers to embark on killing sprees. Who among them was arrested? Or who among them did the Sultan ask to be arrested? It is time we started being brutally truthful to ourselves.
It is a further insult to our sensibilities not just as Christians or Muslims but as citizens to hear from the Sultan, the governor and other top government officials that perpetrators of such attacks are not Nigerians but Fulani from neighbouring countries, as if being a foreigner is a licence to come into the country and kill while the government looks away!
It was this same Sultan while on a visit to Enugu recently that said there cannot be peace without justice. Having known this fact, why does he think there would be peace when those responsible for these massacres are not being arrested and he is not calling for their arrests or questioning why they are not being arrested? Why is he so fixated on Christian leaders who call their people out to defend themselves? Or does the Sultan think Christians would forever fold their arms and watch while their fathers are killed in cold blood, their mothers are raped right before them, their children maimed for life and their ancestral homes burnt?
It is not only hypocritical but also false of the Sultan to insinuate that men like Apostle Suleiman by their preaching are responsible for the friction between Christians and Muslims. The fact is that the crises engulfing Southern Kaduna and such other places predate the reactions of Suleiman and his fellow pastors. What is responsible for the continued attacks on communities by terrorist Fulani herdsmen is that they get compensated rather than being arrested and prosecuted. That is not justice!
And until the likes of the Sultan come out clean and be honest about the situation, the self-defence of victims when such happens is very near at hand.
When people lose confidence in government ability or sincerity to provide security for them, they would be left with no other option but to embark on self-help. The Christians have since turned the other cheek several times and the cheeks have been ripped off to the extent that they have no cheek to turn any more. When they get to that stage, self-defence becomes the only option.
Rather than calm the situation, the purported attempt to arrest Apostle Suleiman and other Christian leaders would only aggravate it. Christians in this country have already been pushed to the edge. Any attempt to push them any further would be counter-productive.
Leave Apostle Suleiman alone! We will not sit by and watch our leaders being ridiculed or humiliated!