By Sam Eyoboka
A PUBLIC peace advocate for the release of Dapchi school girl, Leah Sharibu and Christian leader, Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam, in this interview, speaks on the brick-bat between the Presidency and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, over the politicization of the insecurity situation in the country.
He also speaks on Leah Sharibu and the recently abducted CAN Chairman of Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawal Andimi. Excerpts:
Reaction to statement by CAN
To be honest, this is an unfortunate problem we have in this nation and as far as I’m concerned, the Presidency didn’t think too deeply before making that statement. This government, in particular, seems to portray this false picture. Those in governments are not superhuman; it is human beings like you and me who run the government and it is human beings who are in the Buhari government.
This government would like to rather talk down on people than listen to their citizens. It should be the other way around, the government should first listen to the people and talk based on the information they have balancing both. This way they help put things in perspective.
Unfortunately, I will not credit the statement made by Garba Shehu as a statement made in good faith and has helped put things in perspective. Why? This is one of the most difficult periods for Christians in Nigeria.
So what did you expect from the government?
What one expected from the government is a strong message to empathize with Christians, who are a significant segment of this nation. The government could have responded to CAN by saying, “look, we are doing the best we can to return all those who have been taken hostages back to their parents, back to their communities and we hope to work for peace to be restored in the North-East.”
That would have made more sense. But to pick on CAN frankly makes no sense at all.
It is not a lie that this government is favoring Islam and the government should be able to look into this issue in the spirit of fairness and provide balance. We are talking of inclusiveness; we are not talking of an exclusive government that dish out tokenism to Christians.
Bishop Matthew Kukah’s comments comparing the present administration to Boko Haram
I have a relationship with Bishop Mathew Kukah, if he made that statement, I salute his courage. It takes courage to make that kind of statement.
What I’m saying here is that Bishop Matthew Kukah has said what he has said because, whether you like it or not, if this government is truly committed to ending some of these impunities, the crises and the attacks on Christians would have stopped, a lot more could have been done to achieve this. Just check the statistics of people who have been killed. Some of us condemn when Muslims are killed and condemn when Christians are killed. But the non-controversial point being made is that Christians are being targeted and killed. All right-thinking Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike; along with the international community should condemn such and seek an end to this impunity. What Kukah has said, as far as I’m concerned, is something the government needs to listen to and should go back to the drawing board and end this unacceptable impunity in Nigeria.
On Leah Sharibu
This is a dear issue to my heart. So, there has to be hope and we are hopeful. That is what I use to keep encouraging Leah’s parents; this is also what I use to encourage myself and those who care about Leah all around the world. Let’s not give up, there is hope that Leah is still alive and will be out one day. I receive calls from different parts of the country concerning Leah.
There is a lot of concern over the issue of Leah. Now the good news we have from all available sources and data is that Leah Sharibu is still alive. There are additional things I have picked up from some sources but I’m not going to talk about them here. What is most critical is that Leah is still alive by God’s grace and we pray that God will continue to keep her alive wherever she is right now.
What needs to be clear is that Leah is being kept because of her Christian faith. So, Leah today has become the one lost sheep of the Dapchi school girls because of her religion and to me that is another form of religious and social discrimination at its highest level in this government. This government should have worked hard to get her out by now.
Kidnap of Rev. Andimi
Again, just to say quickly that the kidnapping of Rev. Lawal Andimin is an unfortunate development and we are also glad that within a short time, we got to see the video appeal. We got to hear from him directly, in a sense this is comforting. Let me also say that I like the message from that video, the calmness and courage displayed reminds me of Leah Sharibu.
From what I gathered, it is clear that he was targeted, they went for him. We have also confirmed that he is not being kept by ISWAP; but with the Shekau faction of Boko Haram. So, let us wait and see if the efforts being made by the Adamawa State government bring glad tidings. I understand that the state government and several people are working hard and ongoing efforts not only to make contact but to see what can be done to secure his release.
Rev. Andimi was captured; I’m not sure any public statement has been issued by any of the Muslim organisations. I also cannot recall reading any condemnation by Muslim leaders of the Christmas beheading of Christians.