…How Christians plan to protest nationwide today
By Sam Eyoboka
The President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, yesterday, elaborated on how Christians will carry out the protest against killings by suspected herdsmen across the country today.
The protest, according to the apex body for Christians across Nigeria, will hold in churches nationwide.
“It (protest) is going to be restricted to the vicinity of the local churches. The protest is needful now so that the world will know the challenges Nigerians Christians are currently experiencing in the hands of insurgents/herdsmen. We are angry with the continuous security challenges which our security operatives have not been able to adequately handle. Everyone now fears for his life”, Olasupo told Sunday Vanguard while speaking on CAN’s mobilisation efforts for the protest.
“We are mobilising through the media … mainstream and social media, the state chapters and the five federating blocs”, he said.
On the part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), one of the biggest churches in the country, a spokesperson said the church will not call anybody out in protest but will tackle the insecurity challenge in the country with prayer and supplication.
The Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kalu Uche, said the protest will go on in all its branches across the country.
The National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Rev. Felix Omobude, also speaking on the protest, said the cycle of violence was leading Nigeria nowhere.
Meanwhile, a former CAN leader in Kano State, Bishop Ransome Bello, said he was not sure the protest will hold in the state because the branch had not been informed by the national leadership of Christian body of the development.
The killings allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen had climaxed on Tuesday when assailants stormed a Catholic Church in Benue State, killing two priests and 17 worshippers.
In the backlash, CAN called for today’s protest in all its member-churches nationwide.
Speaking in a telephone conversation at the weekend, the CAN President, Olasupo, said member-organisations, who could afford it, should involve all communication channels, including television and newspapers, to air their grievances to the international community.
“Those saddled with the responsibility of protecting us appear to be incapable or uninterested. For example, in the case Rev. Father Gor, one of those that was killed in the Benue Catholic Church, on January 3, tweeted, ’We are living in fear. The Fulani are still around here in Mbalom (where they were killed). They have refused to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves.’ He said that their lives were not safe and called security agencies to come to their rescue but all such pleas fell on deaf ears until they were killed”, he said.
“As Nigerians, can we describe such security agents as people we can trust? No! We will be limiting our demonstrations to the vicinity of our churches because we don’t know what the nation’s security agencies, in their over zealousness, can do to our members in the guise of maintaining law and order. They may take advantage of peaceful demonstration to be violent with innocent Christian worshippers. But at the same time we cannot keep quiet because nobody is safe now.
“It appears those in government are only urging people not to take the law into their hands while they are looking the other way as Christians come under intense attack. Is that how government should protect its citizens? No arrest until now. They have desecrated more communities after the attack on the church a few days ago within a week. I don’t know whether another one has happened. Do they want herdsmen to finish all the communities in Nigeria so that only government officials would remain while herdsmen are given liberty to operate in all the corners of the nation?”
Asked about the level of mobilization for the nationwide demonstration, the CAN President said the association was mobilizing through its state chapters as well as the five federating blocs that make up CAN. “We are mobilizing through the media….mainstream and the social media. We are mobilizing through the leaders who we have sent letters to, for proper grassroots mobilization,” he said, affirming that many of the state chapters and all the stakeholders have through text messages and other means have acknowledged receipt of the letters.
“Somebody was asking me if we have received necessary permit for the protests, and I answered if we need such a permit for protest within our church vicinity? Number two, is it not our fundamental human right to do peaceful protest? Is it a crime for people to hold peaceful protest in their own premises to express displeasure with the way they are being ruled? And the people we have put in position will still cow us that we should not say that what they are doing is not the best. Are they more Nigerian than the rest of us?”
Asked if the churches were responding positively to the protest directive, he quipped: “We will know by what the individual churches will do on Sunday. Because the danger ahead is not the danger that has to do with the CAN President alone. It has to do with all of us. I would have directed all Nigerians to protest, but they are not under my constituency.
It’s the Church that is under my constituency. We have sent letters to all the people affiliated to CAN. Anybody that is claiming ignorance now is that he/she doesn’t want to hear. And I don’t see the wisdom in someone seeing somebody pointing a gun at one’s back and the one will believe that the attacker would not pull the trigger.”
‘RCCG will rather pray’
The Redeemed Christian Church of God, speaking on the CAN call for nationwide protest, told Sunday Vanguard it will not oppose CAN, but “you know that RCCG will never call anybody out in protest.”
Head of Media and Public Relations of the RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said: “As far as the Redeemed Christian Church of God is concerned, every issue is to be tackled in the place of prayer and supplication. Where necessary, the church would give counsel and suggestion to government.
“We feel for the people that are affected. We are concerned about the security situation in the country. We are doing our best in the place of prayer and you will recall that, recently, the General Overseer called out a day of prayers for the security situation in the country. While we are not against the Christian Association of Nigeria or any other body, we maintain that we will intensify prayer and supplication.
“We know that prayer works and we know that there can also be levels of contact and counsel to government. We are not saying that protest is completely wrong. As a mission, we will just choose to use the instrument of prayer and other necessary tools for now. Because security is the Lord’s. if you have all the weapons in the world, it doesn’t stop insecurity. So, we believe in more soul winning, so that God will touch the hearts of those involved. That’s a more fundamental way of stopping killings”.
We will obey CAN – Methodist Prelate
Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Uche, said, “I can’t disobey the CAN President. Whatever he directs, we will do because we are united as Christians. What we have to do is be at peace and pray to God concerning the situation in the country and then demonstrate not violently around our local churches. We will do that to demonstrate to the entire world that we are not comfortable with the current situation in Nigeria.
“I will subscribe to two things: a gentle and peaceful demonstration of our dissatisfaction about the current killings in parts of the country. We are not going to kill in retaliation neither are we going destroy anything. It’s just going to be a gentle movement around our churches to say `we don’t know what is happening’. It’s not only Benue situation, it’s happening in Adamawa, Plateau, Taraba, Nassarrawa, Borno and all other places. We don’t like it and we want to register our protest to that effect”.
Continuing, the Methodist leader said the primary responsibility of any government is to provide security for the generality of the citizens, but “I have read in Facebook a couple of minutes ago that some soldiers went to ransack the residents of a Benue priest in search of weapons. What are they up to? Why are they going to an innocent priest? Why are they not going in search of Fulani herdsmen who go about with AK47?”
Violence leading Nigeria nowhere – PFN leader
The PFN leader, Omobude, told Sunday Vanguard violence was leading Nigeria nowhere! “It’s simply terrible! It is devilish and every right thinking Nigerian should cry against it. The government of the day must do its work because security is the total responsibility of government. It is the principal responsibility of government to secure lives and property. And I do hope that the present government will not let this thing degenerate because, as it is, its spreading by the hour.
Immediate past Chairman of CAN in Kano State, Bishop Ransome Bello, told our correspondent that he had not been officially informed about the CAN directive to protest. The permanent member of the National Advisory Council of PFN, who also lamented the orgy of killings in the country, said he would not be able to say whether the CAN directive will hold in Kano because”you know I stepped down about three months ago for another executive. And my successor has not called me to tell anything. I only read in the papers about the directive.”