Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, was not in the country when his fellow Catholic bishops released a statement, asking President Muhammadu Buhari to step aside if he is unable to put an end to the upsurge in killings across the country.
Kaigama was in North America at the time. He has however granted an interview with the Catholic Church’s humanitarian agency, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) where he expressed his views on the worrying situation.
On why there seems to be an upsurge in the killings:
Kaigama, who until recently was the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria said, “One of the reasons could be that because the president of the country, Muhammadu Buhari, is himself a Fulani, the herdsmen think that they have an ally, and therefore, that they can do what they want and get away with it. Otherwise, people cannot explain why there has been such a sudden increase in destruction.”
He conceded that the clashes between farmers and herders is not new but said that the herdsmen have recently developed “a kind of new audacity to invade and destroy farmers’ crops. They do so with such impetuosity that farmers are forced to react. In the past, there were problems between the two groups, but they were not that frequent.”
On what should be done now:
Kaigama believes that “not enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings. That could either be because of a so-called ‘hidden agenda’ or simply the absence of courage, determination, patriotism and political will. Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed. Our president should come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution.”
Is peace still possible between Muslims and Christians, especially in a place like Jos:
“Even in the midst of violence caused either by Boko Haram, militant herdsmen or yet to be identified ‘foreign invaders’, I believe peace is very possible as we are determined to sustain the culture of civilised conduct and peace. I can share the story of multidimensional peace efforts in Nigeria, using our Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre in Jos as an example. DREP is an initiative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos meant to offer a neutral place where reconciliation of aggrieved parties can take place. There is also the Interfaith Vocational Training Centre in Bokkos, where Muslim youths and Christian youths are trained for two years in vocational skills and helped to appreciate the civilized culture of dialogue as an alternative to the hostile confrontation at the slightest feeling of provocation.”