The United Christian Forum of Nigeria (UCFN) has accused opposition leaders and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of helping insurgents achieve the aim of creating unrest in the country.
The forum made the claim following the recent insurgence attacks and killing of Nigerians in north-east and reactions from the leadership of CAN and the opposition parties.
Addressing reporters on Monday in Lagos, the forum said it was worried over the direction, wording and choice of language used by CAN and opposition leaders in the country.
Oyekanmi Rafael, secretary-general of UCFN, who spoke on behalf of the forum, warned both bodies to stop making statements that would rather serve as a boost to the insurgents.
The group further warned leadership of CAN to stop “playing the religious card” to sow the seed of discord, disunity and inflame passions of hate and violence in Nigeria.
Full text of his speech below:
I wish to welcome all of you on behalf of the United Christian Forum of Nigeria (UCFN) to this press conference. I extend same felicitations to the church in Nigeria, Christian leaders, brothers and sisters in the Lord and indeed, to every Nigerian in the New Year. May the good Lord we worship unbundle His abundant blessings and protection on us.
May I also seize this special privilege to appreciate our political and community leaders in Nigeria, particularly, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. Similarly, I pray Almighty God to continue to imbue them with Solomonic wisdom, strength and good health to sustain the progressive leadership of Nigeria.
The UCFN has decided to interface with Nigerians on what we have branded the “State of the Nation” engagement. Our standpoint is gingered by the rejuvenation of insecurity threats in some parts of the country.
We can attest to the revived and troubling incidents of Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) terrorism; kidnappings, abductions, armed robberies, armed banditry, herdsmen/ farmers clashes and other communal skirmishes assailing our land.
We proclaim that these ugly, sad, condemnable and unacceptable flashes of armed criminalities in our nation are assuming dimensions of polarizing us along ethnic and religious lines, based on reckless sentiments applied to their interpretations.
UCFN is most astounded with the recent reaction of the national secretariat of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of all Christians in Nigeria in a public statement over the unfortunate abduction and murder of the CAN chairman of Michika LGA in Adamawa State, Pastor Lawan Andimi by Boko Haram/ISWAP; the cold-blooded killing of a Lutheran clergy, Pastor Denis Bagauri by unknown assassins and the December 2019 abduction and beheading of 11 Christians captured in Northern Nigeria by terrorists.
These tragic incidents are regrettable and places our once peaceful country on the precipice of implosion. We commiserate with Mr. President, the families of all Christian martyrs, Muslims and Nigerians over the irreparable losses. May Almighty God grant them peaceful rest in his bosom and eternal damnation to the devil-incensed killers.
But as much as these incidents are painful and near inconsolable especially to the families, there is cause for us as leaders at whatever level or as individuals to observe restraint in the sentimental interpretations we colour the killings or the resurrected acts of insecurity. This is the time our leaders and the nation need our supportive prayers and perpetually, as against vilification.
This is the time we need to handover the tribulations in our land to the omnipotent God. The evil forces which have besieged us and feasting on our blood cannot overpower the invincible God, whose armors are greater than any other weapon manufactured by man.
It is completely inexcusable for us to abandon the divine path in this circumstance, and rather resort to hurling tantrums at ourselves and leaders. It is only capable of escalating the tensions and railroading us into a deeper mess by our utterances.
We all can confess that issues of religion are quite delicate and explosive matters in Nigeria, where the population of the dominant religions, Christianity and Islam peg neck to neck. Sponsors and funders of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists tormenting us are not targeting Christians or Muslims alone. Everybody prone to their presence when they come on such satanic missions becomes a victim.
To this end, UCFN finds the latest statement by CAN, which its Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel Vondip signed on behalf of CAN National President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle and indeed, previous such public statements on the menace of insecurity in Nigeria, very nauseating, inciting and illogical in the strictest terms of it.
In the reported CAN statement, the leadership gave an undisguised and sentimentally religious interpretation to the terrorists actions, imputing President Buhari’s consent to the religious persecution of Christians in Nigeria by insurgents and herdsmen mercenaries. This is unquestionably a faulty assumption that deserves an apology to the FGN from the apex Christian’ body.
We found it extremely unreasonable and repulsive for CAN to have manifested its partisan toga by freely canvasing for the sack of Service and Security Chief. This odd crusading was laced in the pedestrian argument that its composition is steeped in ethnic and religious lopsidedness. It is shameful to argue issues of insecurity in this manner as postulated by the CAN leadership.
It sadly lands us to the unconcealed politicization and partisanship of CAN, which UCFN believes is not a healthy or progressive disposition. Why would CAN seek to vacate the prerogative of Mr. President in appointing or retaining Security Chiefs of his choice? Has CAN mutated into an opposition political party?
Such drab from the CAN’s statement is damp incitement of members of rival faiths through partisan weapons which should be avoided.
However, is CAN honest in making such generalized and inciting statements? It lacks plausibility and betrays the deadly motives of this assemblage of Christian leaders.
Perhaps, CAN is not aware that a Christian/Pastor, Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin is the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). By the demands of his office, the CDS supervises other Security Chiefs. There is also the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe-Ibas also a Christian. Could they have possibly conspired with Security Chiefs of rival religious sects to kill their brethren, without raising a voice?
And to our knowledge, most of the Commanders’ of the Operation Lafiya Dole headquartered in Maiduguri co-ordinating the prosecution of the counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast against Boko Haram/ISWAP elements have been Christians, including the incumbent Commander, Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi. Are Nigerians to believe they are part of the agenda to persecute Christians?
In the North Central, Operation Whirl Stroke (OWS) fighting the herdsmen/farmers clashes and the Jukun/ Tiv internecine is also headed by a Christian, Maj.Gen. Adeyemi Yekini. Has CAN any concrete evidence that troops deployed to the frontlines to battle insurgencies and insurrections comprise only Muslims, without Christians?
The CAN campaign is very destructive against the Presidency and Nigerians. And it is only serving the purpose of goading incitement and provocation of both Christians and Muslims to take up arms against themselves; entrenching tensions in the polity to cause an explosion in total breakdown of public law and order.
And nobody is prosecuting the agenda of persecution of Nigerian Christians’ as frequently stated or inferred by CAN. It’s a figment of a fluid imagination. And let us recount some experiences with terrorism to put CAN’s position on the test scale to ascertain the veracity of the claims.
UCFN wishes to precisely state that the tenor of these abductions and killings have no semblance of anyone specifically targeting Christians for persecution in Nigeria. There are documentary evidences that Muslims have also suffered the devilry and atrocities of Boko Haram terrorists’ who indiscriminately unleash mayhem on any community within their reach.
Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram festered more ferociously with attacks on churches than we are experiencing under the Buhari Presidency. So, was it convenient to claim, Dr. Jonathan, a Nigerian leader of Christian extraction at the time was sponsoring the mass extermination of Christians in a country he led and had absolute powers?
Of course, such religious sentiments were not promoted under the Jonathan Presidency. So, its misguided thoughts and sheer wickedness to flaunt and promote such narratives today. Let us draw your attention to a one or two incidents of Boko Haram onslaughts on churches under the Jonathan era.
On December 25, 2011 Boko Haram terrorists bombed St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madala, a satellite town near Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Boko Haram car-bomb explosion in the premises of the catholic church during Holy Mass murdered at least 44 people. In fact, barely hours apart, terrorists bomb blasts were reported at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in the central, ethnic and religiously mixed town of Jos on same day.
And on February 19, 2012, at least five people were wounded when terrorists attacked Christ Embassy Church also in Suleja. In all instances, lives were lost and properties destroyed. We could have been dishonest to say a Christian President was sponsoring terrorists’ attacks on the Nigerian church intent on persecution of Christians.
Nothing underscored the indiscriminate disposition of terrorists than the Islamic State’s released video on December 26, 2019 of the execution of the 11 Christian hostages Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists abducted in Northern Nigeria. ISWAP) explained the “beheading” of the hostages as its campaign to “avenge” the killing of IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US military raid in Syria in October 2019. This in every sense is a spontaneous incident of vengeance which has no Presidential conniving connotations as CAN has preached.
It may interest us to know in further enriching our knowledge that ISWAP is a 2016 breakaway faction of the Nigerian-based Boko Haram terrorist sect with roots in Iran. The splinter faction of Boko Haram was headed in Nigeria by Musab Al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf.
But today, ISWAP Commanders have assumed the leadership and added weight to its brutal campaigns in the West African sub- region. ISWAP terrorists now operates in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger Mali and even in East Africa in countries like Kenya.
And UCFN’s fact check through Encyclopedia Britannica unveils that most of these countries where ISWAP operates are predominantly Muslim countries, an indication that they are not necessarily targeting Christians, but are just cursed minds excited in bloodletting. It does not matter whether you are a Christian, Muslim, traditionalist or atheist.
For instance, ISWAP is also active in neigbouring Niger Republic. But the country’s population comprises 90% Muslims, (Sunni 85% and Shi’ite Muslims 5%). Christians constitute a mere 5% of the population and the rest are other religions. Could be it be the insignificant Christian population in Niger that ISWAP terrorists are targeting?
And in the Republic of Mali also under ISWAP terrorists blight, Muslims constitute Muslims 94.8% of the population; while Christians’ are a paltry just 2.4%. Is it plausible argument to claim the terrorists are targeting the insignificant Christian population in that country?
In Cameroun, Christians constitute over 65% of the population, with Muslims (Sunni) just 20% and the rest belongs to non-religious groups. President Paul Biya, a Christian has been President of Cameroun since 1982, yet the country is troubled by terrorists. By the wisdom of CAN, it implies that President Biya is also consenting to the persecution of Christians?
The same narrative is applicable to Kenya, which is predominantly a Christian nation, estimated at 84.8% of her total population. And Islam is just about 11.1 percent of Kenyans. But they are tormented by terrorists and President Jomo Kenyatta is a Christian. Could he have permitted the persecution of members of his faith as democratic leader of Kenya?
The desperation to colour or dress the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism operations in Nigeria with the garments of Christian persecution does not blend. The fixation of CAN to politicize every national issue or embalm it with the toga of religious sentiments is becoming intolerable and preposterous for the peace and progress of Nigeria.
Last year ending, CAN through a public statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Communications to CAN President, Rev. Adebayo Oladeji dabbled into the alleged feud between Mr. President and the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who is a Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). CAN queried while 35 special aides of the Vice President were dropped; the severance of the National Social Investment Programme from his office and the dissolution of Economic Advisory Council (EAC) Osinbajo chaired.
But the VP never complained to CAN the existence of a sour relationship with his boss. This is unnecessary political and partisan interference into the running of government which has no connection with CAN. But CAN publicly vomited religious insinuations.
But President Buhari is not relaxed on ending terrorism in Nigeria. While condoling the Christian community all over Nigeria over the callous murder of Pastor Andimi, he assured that “terrorists will continue to pay a heavy price for their actions and would comprehensively be defeated by our determined armed forces. But CAN disparaged his statement. UCFN cannot discern whether it was crafted to dampen the morale of the President or encourage him.
But the President also appealed to world powers to “end all support provided to Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorist groups whose only goal is to sow death, violence and destruction in the sub-region.”
Thereafter, President Buhari sent a high-powered delegation led by the SGF Mr. Boss Mustapha to condole the Government and Christian community in Adamawa state.
The National body of CAN should emulate the Adamawa state CAN chairman, Bishop Stephen Dami Mamza, who said, President Buhari has softened their hearts with the “high powered delegation to commiserate with the Christian community in the state,” promising that the Christian community would pair up with its Muslim counterpart to flush out armed characters causing bad blood between the two major faiths. It is an expression of an honest perspective on the problem, reflective of a burden for both Christians and Muslims.
It is our candid opinion that other leaderships of CAN playing the religious card to sow the seed of discord, disunity and inflame passions of hate and violence should seek deliverance from the spirit of Mammon. That’s if the ghost of 2019 elections is still chasing them, lest they are consumed.
There is no need for CAN to continue to posture as haunting Mr. President. Even those that lost the election have congratulated President Buhari and moved on with business. UCFN is shocked that CAN has refused to accept the reality and rather regaled in portraying itself like an association at war with the nation.
We suspect that a guilty conscience is tormenting those who benefited from the arms deal scandal and they think that by incessantly attacking the administration, the government would have been bullied enough into giving them choice lands all over the FCT as compensation. This is unthinkable and unrealistic. We cannot subscribe to the agenda of destroying our nation.
Let us handover this great nation to God Almighty, as we continue to pray for His intervention, healing and protection of the land from evil forces with His mighty powers.