By Sam Eyoboka
THE North East zone of Christian Social Movement of Nigeria (CSMN) has lambasted the Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Prof. Ishaq Akintola for insisting that Christians were not being persecuted in Nigeria.
The Christian group said Prof Akintola is a Southern Muslim who may not have lived in the north to witness the persecution of Christians.
A statement issued by the group’s spokesman, Mr Raymond Manu Lamai accused Prof Akintola of using provocative language in his publication to denigrate and insult the entire Christian population in Nigeria.
According to the Christian group, “for those of us who have lived through it for almost four decades, we have facts and figures to place on the table when it matters. To tell the entire Christian people in Northern Nigeria that they are lying about a persecution that is so prevalent is to stand truth on its head and he has done so shamelessly. He lacks the right to comment on such issues, while living in his comfort zone in Southern Nigeria.
“Let true Muslims speak and attempt a denial, then we, who live side by side with them, will open our records and ask them what happened in these periods: Kano State (December 18-20, 1980) when the Maitatsine Islamic revivalist group attacked and killed about 4,000 Christians and burnt several Churches and properties worth millions of naira. What was the provocation?
“Kaduna State (October 25-30, 1982) when Maitatsine riot consumed over 50 Christian lives; Borno State (December 26-29, 1982) when Maitatsine killed over 100 Christians and Churches destroyed;
Gongola State (February 15-March 2, 1984) when Maitatsine killed over 500 Christians and Churches and properties destroyed; I was one of those who fled to take refuge in the Army Barracks for three weeks. Gombe State (September, 7-9, 2000) when Shari’a implementation riot led to the death of 25 Christians; Jigawa State (June, 2001) where 15 Churches and 14 Pastors’ residences were burnt down; Bauchi State (August 5, 2001) when Muslims attacked and killed about 100 Christians and rendered 3,000 of them refugees; Niger state (May-June, 2002) when at least 75 Christians were arrested for opposing the implementation of Shari’a; Plateau State (February, 2004) when 47 Christians were burnt in a Church. “For want of space and time, we have decided to give instances from only nine states out of the 19 Northern states.”
“Some of the affected nine states have had repeated cases of killings and Christian persecution since the 20th century right into the 21st century. We have a list of 116 and still counting of cases of aggression against Christians by Muslims in this country. We take it for granted that even the blind can see and the deaf can hear of the killings and maiming and burning of Churches going on in Southern Kaduna and in Adamawa, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa states by Fulani Jihadists.
“We also have it on record that there are some areas and communities in some Northern states like Kano, Kebbi, Zamfara and Jigawa where Christian witnessing is forbidden. Christian children are not given admission in schools because they bear Christian names. Where they are able to gain admission into higher institutions, they are denied high profile courses like Medicine, Architecture, Engineering, etc. What else is persecution on the basis of one’s faith?
“He (Prof. Akintola) claimed that Boko Haram was not an instrument invented to fight Christians and Christianity in Nigeria. This was simply because they are not killing Christians alone, but Muslims inclusive. We now ask who is the person deceiving the world here? When Boko Haram started out around 2008, it was a full blown Islamic movement with a clear fundamentalist ideology.
“Their Islamic zeal was so admired by the Muslim community that the then serving Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Ali Modu Sherif appointed some of their leaders into his cabinet. They were accepted within the length and breadth of Northern Nigeria. Key northern leaders and politicians defended them fiercely. Some of them told President Goodluck Jonathan that any fight against Boko Haram was a fight against the North. Was Prof. Akintola in this country that time? So, at what time did Boko Haram cease to be a non-Islamic group fighting Muslims?
“Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, in one of his video releases in 2012, gave the mission statement of the group and they have not deviated from it till date. He said inter alia “… This war is not political. It is religious. It is between Muslims and unbelievers (arna). It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight. I warn all Muslims at this juncture that any Muslim who assists an unbeliever in this war should consider himself an unbeliever and should consider himself dead.
“It is a stated objective of the group to overrun Nigeria with Shari‘a. This mindset has been publicly expressed by prominent Muslim politicians from the North. When they started violent operation in Borno State, Churches were their main targets. How else do we tell Prof. Akintola and his MURIC that Shekau said those Muslims who will not support their cause will also become targets of their offensive against the arna (infidels).
“Furthermore, the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) had asked the question long time ago and nobody, not even MURIC had attempted an answer. Those who are pulling the wool over our eyes as to whether or not Boko Haram is fighting a religious war in Nigeria, should clarify what Shekau’s statement above implies.
“NCEF said and I quote ‘In 1989, Islam in Africa Organization (IAO) held a Conference in Abuja and amongst many other decisions, released a Communiqué tagged Abuja Declarations 1989 in which it affirmed that its purpose was to eradicate in all its forms and ramifications all non-Muslim religions in member nations. Such religions shall include Christianity, Ahmadiyya and other tribal religions. (In the original Declaration, the word Christianity was underlined.)
“Since Nigeria is considered a member nation, could what is going on be an implementation of this decision? Or, can we be corrected that the Conference never held in Abuja in November 1989 or such Communiqué was never released? We are also unaware of any rebuttal of the same statement by Muslims leaders.”
“They asked yet another question that needs to be brought to the attention of the man asking for evidence of Islamic persecution against the Church. ‘In a 154 page Research Report conducted by Arne Mulder in 2015, the researcher affirmed that over 13,000 Christian places of worship (Churches) have been destroyed in Northern Nigeria as at December 2014. Under what condition do Muslim insurgents destroy Churches if not Jihad?’ Do we need to define Jihad for Prof. Akintola?
It is clear Prof. Akintola has a personal agenda which includes a mortal hatred for Christians and Christianity in Nigeria. He has a vendetta he has nursed against the Christian faith over the years and he is looking for means to vent it. This is what we discovered. In an earlier unprompted publication on December 22, 2019 which he titled “Christianity has destroyed Nigeria, we want only Islam”, Prof. Akintola related a 1903 British colonial authority’s military action against Islamic uprising and reached the conclusion that they were defending Christian interest.
He labored so hard, but without success to blame Christianity for our colonial experience. How far can a man’s hatred against another religion go?
“In the current situation, his abhorrence of Christianity is unequalled. Again, he went out of his way to blame Christianity for socio-cultural and global practices that have existed from time immemorial.
Here are some of his words “Who took the Muslims” only day of worship (Friday) away from them and gave Saturday and Sunday to Christians? Who stopped the Muslims from using their 800 years old Shariah and forced the Christian common law on Nigerian Muslims throughout the country? Who outlawed marriages ministered in mosques but legalized marriages conducted in Churches? Who demonized Islamic banking but idolized Christian Western banking?
“Who gave the Christians 1st January but deprives Muslims of 1st Muharram? Who organized the lopsided 2014 national conference where Muslims who constitute majority of the population were given a paltry 189 delegates while Christians who are the minority had 303? Who locked the Nigerian Muslim girl-child out of school over an ordinary head-scarf called hijab? Who is forcing Muslim students in Christian private universities to attend Church on Sundays? Who demolished mosques in Ekiti and Rivers States? Who is the real oppressor now? So, these are his grudges against Christianity, it is not about any attack on the Sultan. Prof. Akintola is fighting a personal war against Christianity in Nigeria. The issues he raised above are too petty for serious Muslims in Nigeria to multiply publications about for they know the truth of the matter.
“If Prof. Akintola’s use of foul language against the Church cannot also go unnoticed. He has among other things said Christian leaders are liars, deceptive, trouble makers, corrupt, deceitful, dubious, fake and quixotic. If half of what he said about Christians and Christianity have been said about the Muslims and Islam, Nigeria should be burning now.
“We repeat if Prof. Akintola has a grudge with any Church official(s), let him face them directly and leave the hard pressed and persecuted Christians alone who have to bear the burden of having their Churches and communities ravaged and destroyed regularly. The Nigerian Church does not owe its existence to any latter day grant begging NGO owned by an individual who cannot manage his religious emotions and sentimentality,” the CSMN stated.