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Humanity first! -By Sesugh Akume

Opinion Nigeria Staff



sesugh akume 2

Muhammadu Buhari will be remembered not only as one under whom Nigeria became a pool of blood, all across the length and breadth of the country, and never took responsibility for nor showed empathy, but also for the targeting of peoples, constricting the civic space, and also persecuting people on account of their religious beliefs and preventing them from freely exercising those freedoms.

When Ropvil Daciya Dalep, the University of Maiduguri undergraduate, abducted by Boko Haram along with others on the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway, was being murdered by Boko Haram 4 weeks ago, the terrorists sent a clear, unmistakable message. They noted that he was from Plateau and a Christian; that murdering him was only the beginning of an orchestrated plan. What was the Buhari regime’s response to it? Nothing. And it is deliberate.

The singular and only reason Leah Sharibu is still in captivity is on account of her faith. Of the 111 Dapchi girls abducted in their school, 5 lost their lives, the 105 that returned were all Muslims. I find no precedent where a country rescued hostages and left one behind, for any reason. The message this sends is clear.

Boko Haram also publicly beheaded Reverend Lawan Andimi, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman in Michika Loca Government Area, Adamawa (who happens to be from Chibok like the Chibok girls) 3 weeks ago. There is no doubt that there is targetting and murdering of Christians on account of their faith by Boko Haram. But what has the regime’s response been?

At least, 1,400 Boko Haram terrorists are said to have been ‘rehabilitated’ and then unleashed back on the society. They are not only integrated into our military (which is fighting Boko Haram) but we are told one of them can someday be the president of Nigeria. That is the plan. I have seen not seen any precedent where terrorists are pampered and unleashed back on society, with the possibility of one of them being president someday soon, without facing trial and the full force of the law for their activities.

What has the response of the regime to the killings been? Buhari has refused to publish the Kingibe Committee report submitted since December 2017, nor to implement its recommendations which included redesigning, reorganising, and generally revamping the country’s archaic, ineffective, security and intelligence architecture. He has vehemently refused to replace the exhausted, ineffectual service chiefs who ought to have retired anyway, having served their time in the military. Besides not sacking them for their insufferable incompetence and failure, Buhari extended their time in the military when they should be at home, thus distorting the promotion of other officers behind them, thereby disrupting the military process of rising in system, which will affect the military in the long term.

Buhari, it must not be forgotten, and noted for the record, had said before coming into office that an attack on Boko Haram terrorists was an attack on the North. They had also at one time nominated him to represent them in negotiations with the federal government.

Not only Boko Haram is targeting and killing Christians, on 9 July 2016, Eunice Elisha Olawale, of Divine Touch Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), a wife, and mother of 7, was murdered in broad daylight; cut in the neck, and stabbed repeatedly on the belly, by Islamist extremists whilst sharing her faith in Kubwa, 15 kilometers from the seat of power in Abuja. They were not Boko Haram, simply Islamist extremists who were sure they were above the law. And they seem to have been right in their hubris. Nothing happened to them. They were at first arrested but subsequently released, with no charges pressed against them. These killers are free up to this moment. This, and many other examples sent a clear message that under Buhari, when murdered for one’s Christian faith, the killers would be protected by the state. It therefore puts fear in the hearts of adherents to freely exercise their religious choices. There are numerous other examples. When there are complaints about the targeted attacks on Christians what response is gotten? The Buhari regime unleashes its thugs in the presidency who speak on his behalf to attack and insult people who have issues with the shedding of innocent blood on account of people’s faith, and generally. This only goes to show that the outcome is designed, otherwise, any responsible government would show contrition and empathy as it goes after the killers. Not insult the victims, and the grieving.

Buhari also downplays the killings and says 90% of those killed are Muslims, not Christians. Where and how he got his data remains a mystery, as is when the targeting and murder of a people became something to compete about, such that people are to accept, embrace, and normalise the killings because he says others are killed too.

The evidence for targeting is overwhelming. Anyone underplaying it is not dealing in facts nor being honest. Not all victims of Boko Haram or other killings have been specifically targeted, this does not in any way minimise the facts.

To be sure, this targeting has been ongoing especially in the northern part of the country for decades, close to a century. In like manner, Boko Haram also has targeted others before presently homing in on Christians at this scale under Buhari. Others too have been targeted as well before, and more so now, under this regime. A decade ago, when Boko Haram went beserk, they first targeted the police and the military. Next was Islamic scholars who were against their perverted brand of Islam. One of the first victims on the record was Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam, a leading scholar and prominent member of Nigeria’sJama’at al Izalat al Bid’a wa Iqamatus Sunnah (society) who was murdered in Kano in 2007. Another imminent scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Auwal Adam Albaniy, considered by many contemporary scholars as the greatest Salafi scholar in Nigeria was murdered in Zaria. Were we all more bound by our shared humanity above religion, this was when all voices should have been raised against the shedding of innocent blood by terrorists, and holding government to account for all our lives. Before attacking churches, Boko Haram killed Muslims and burnt mosques too. Where was the collective outrage?

Up to this moment, others would rather not hear about the abducted Chibok girls, they prefer to characterise it as a ‘scam’ and create doubt in their hearts where none should exist. Sadly, up to this day, 112 of them remain missing. They choose to ignore and downplay the pain. But these same persons agree that the Dapchi girls were abducted with Leah Sharibu still in captivity. The difference is religion. But we all are first humans before religion, as it should be.

Under Buhari, Shia Muslims who are a religious minority have been murdered and buried in secret graves, and further killed and are being annihilated on account of their faith. Keeping quiet when your neighbour is being exterminated connotes endorsement. If it happens to them, it will happen to you. Our shared humanity is, and should be more important than religion. One must first be human and alive to subscribe to a religion.

Besides holding Nigeria’s incompetent Nigeria police for escalating the false alarm on the fathom bomb scare in Kaduna a week ago, and holding an innocent man for nothing, if the truth be told, the first responders at the church where Nathaniel Samuel was apprehended, as well as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) sensationalised an otherwise straightforward matter. They claimed the party materials they found on him were bombs. They also claimed that he had said his name was Muhammad and only changed to Nathaniel after he met with the police. However, they never provided any evidence where he was on record to have said his name was Muhammad. Assuming that he was an attempted bomber, why did it matter more what his name and religious identity were, instead of the fact that a potential bomber was caught, and the murder of innocent worshippers averted, and that the offender should face the weight of the law? Bishop Hassan Matthew Kukah has said it all in his most recent homily at the funeral mass of the martyred teenage priest-in-training, Micheal Nandi. He re-echoed what St. Francis of Assisi prayed, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

‘The vile bitterness and divisiveness have to end. It should be about our shared and collective humanity first. And as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr said, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’

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