By Prof. Charles Adisa, National President; and Mr. Onyenachi Nwaegeruo, General Secretary, Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship
The Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship read with mixed feelings, President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement on the Christmas Day horrendous execution of 11 Christians by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in Borno State, in which he condemned the execution of innocent Christian hostages by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Our mixed feelings stem from the fact that on the one hand, the President as the father of the nation is appalled by the murderous act. On the other hand, however, we are not excited about Mr. President’s sermon on why religious intolerance as being exhibited by Boko Haram should not be allowed to divide us as a nation. The President has not before now, either in word or in deed, demonstrated that religion should not be a factor in national unity.
Indeed, we make bold to say that the President has not only benefited from disunity orchestrated by religion, he has himself over the years been an advocate of religious intolerance. It is for this reason that the Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship is of the opinion that although Boko Haram and its murderous activities are a threat, this does not constitute as much a threat to our national unity as the hypocrisy of the political class, especially those who use religion to achieve their political goals, among whom Mr. President is a major actor.
It is on record that Mr. President has effectively used the instrument of religion and ethnicity to gain unfair advantage in his quest for political power. President Buhari in his five years in the saddle has exhibited the worst ethnic and religious bigotry in running the affairs of the State. Utterances showing his support for Shari’a in preference to the Nigerian Constitution while in opposition (we are not aware of any condemnation by the President about the reckless statement by the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the need for more accommodation of Shari’a in the Constitution), his position that no Muslim should vote for a non-Muslim, and the statement that ‘anybody fighting Boko Haram is fighting the North’ are, in our judgment, as dangerous as the execution of those Christians by Boko Haram.
President Buhari’s sectarian disposition in his appointments, his antagonism of some sections of the country, the replacement of Southerners with Northerners of Islamic disposition each time there is vacancy in government position, speak more divisiveness than Boko Haram activities.
The Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship is neither justifying the activities of Boko Haram nor trivializing the issue of the execution of our Christian brethren; but we are worried more by the hypocrisy of the President whose actions and inactions have emboldened the insurgents all the more. How so much better it would be if Mr. President would live and lead by example rather than pontificate on national unity.
We also disagree with President Buhari’s assertion that “these agents of darkness are enemies of our common humanity and don’t spare any victim, whether Muslim or Christian”. How would Mr. President explain the release of Muslim students of Dapchi by Boko Haram while Christian Leah Sharibu is still being held? Or how would he explain the release of two hostages who are Muslims while the 11 Christian hostages were executed? If Boko Haram members do not discriminate, could President Buhari release to the world number of Muslim victims in the last 10 years of the insurgency, as against that of Christian victims, so as to show the balance in terms of the numbers? We know that available statistics show that Christian communities and worship places have suffered far greater destruction at the hands of the insurgents than Muslim lives and property. The truth is that Muslim interests are affected only accidentally, or when the murderous group considers a Muslim a traitor to its own interest.
We also wish to ask President Buhari whether the words in the penultimate paragraph of his statement that his administration “will not lower its guard in the war against terrorism” is an admission that Boko Haram has in fact not been defeated? What this means is that the Buhari administration has been deceiving the nation in maintaining that Boko Haram has been downgraded and no longer constitutes a threat.
Now, addressing Mr. President directly, may we remind you that your antecedents do not agree with your message? Rather, at its best, it is nothing but executive hypocrisy. You have only shed crocodile tears.
If you were to be taken seriously, you could as well swap Leah Sharibu with one of the insurgents or pay the ransom to free her as you have done several time for others, including negotiating the release of a Muslim girl who was said to have been a drug carrier and arrested in Saudi Arabia. If your government could negotiate her release, why not Leah’s?
Mr President Sir, if you truly mean what you said, then we have the following recommendations for you which would go a long way in calming frayed nerves and douse the ethno-religious tension which your policies and actions have generated and are still generating.
These are the recommendations:
1. Release all those detained by DSS whom the courts have consistently asked you to release; this includes El Zakzaky and journalists who have spoken against your administration.
2. Reshuffle the headship of all the security outfits as well as major government parastatals, departments and agencies to reflect balance, inclusiveness and diversity.
3. Engage in urgent negotiation for the release of Leah Sharibu and several other abducted Nigerian women from their captors.
4. Recommend to the NJC that the current CJN be sanctioned by removal from office for recommending constitutional change in order to accommodate Shari’a.
5. Immediately disarm Fulani herdsmen-terrorists and proscribe their umbrella body for hate speech, inciting violence and admitting that they are involved in killings.
6. Ensure the arrest of people known to have engaged in acts of terrorism and bring them to book.
The Church and the entire nation are watching and waiting to see you walk the talk.