By Yinka Odumakin

Dear Bishop,

WHEN I met you in Calabar three years ago at Southern Senators Retreat, you were still as fresh as the very Father Kukah I met in Lagos in the dangerous days of Sani Abacha when fear reigned over the land. Those were the years the catholic church whose Secretariat you headed led us to pray for Nigeria in distress. Those lines were so powercuf and we joined in recitation anytime we visited and joined for mass at the Catholic Secretariat:

Prayer for Nigeria in distress

All powerful and merciful Father

You are a God of justice, love and peace,

You rule over all the nations of the earth,

Power and might are in your hands and no one can withstand you,

We present our country Nigeria before you,

We praise and thank You for You are the source of all we have and are,

We are sorry for all the sins we have committed and for the good deeds we have failed to do.

In your loving forgiveness keep us safe from the punishment we deserve.

Lord we are weighed down not only by uncertainties but also by moral, economic and political problems.

Listen to the cries of Your people who confidently turn to You.

God of infinite goodness, our strength in adversity, our health in weakness, our comfort in sorrow

Be merciful to us your people; spare this nation Nigeria from chaos, anarchy and doom.

Bless us with your kingdom of justice, love and peace.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

Ultimately, evil could not withstand our God and we survived that evil regime though we are still under its structure and the constitution. Prof. Yadudu drafted for its failed self-suxessiin. Those of us who understand these projections are not fully surprised that a man who bears the mark of Christ like you has been at the receiving end of the regime and its agents’ daggers as the terrible year 2020 came to end. You spoke  truth to power in the very order of true teachers of the word who make authorities uncomfortable when they utter words of liberation and not soothing balms to dictators.

The very plain truth Our Bishop said to our hearing are being twisted by liars to give our Bishop of righteousness a very bad name. We know that but for the mercies of God men like you for both region and religion should not have a voice in their own idea of a country.  I. S. Ladan-Baki, p.174-196, has done extensive work on Zango Kataf crisis, your area of birth, to give enough idea on why your word hurts. Kaduna State is one of the volatile states in northern Nigeria.

It has experienced complex conflicts, occasionally violent, and mostly with ethnic and religious character. Among such conflicts are: Kasuwar Magani, 1980; Zango Kataf, 1984; Kafanchan, 1987; Zangon Kataf and its spill-over to Kaduna and Zaria, 1992; Kafanchan 1999; Kaduna and Kachia, 2000, (Gwantu, 2001:99).

The conflicts are always between the Hausa-Fulani Muslims and the Christian Southern Kaduna ethnic minorities. Although there has been long time historical animosities between these two communities arising from pre-colonial political structure of Hausa land and the character of the colonial and post-colonial Nigerian state, recent resurgence of these crises show clear cases of manipulation and state culpability. These crises have been reinforced by the economic imbalance between the two communities right from the colonial time.

The Southern Kaduna people argued that the underdevelopment of their communities is the result of deliberate and persistent neglect by the emirate officials who until 1976 local government reform also dominated the system of native administration (Suberu, 1996:50). However, official explanations attribute the underdevelopment to the sparse population of the areas, and their lack of viable internal sources of revenue. Others have argued that the underdevelopment of the areas is almost the same as that of Zaria, that Zaria compared to other pre-colonial Hausa cities, like Kano, Sokoto, etc., is less developed.

These socio cultural and economic differences have often escalated into violence since the colonial period. Whitaker (1970:54), argued that at different times during the 1946-66 period, riots were staged by the Kataf and other related peoples in Southern Zaria province over certain oppressive features of the emirate system, particularly the hardship of Fulani ruling families over predominantly non Fulani districts. In 1942, Kaje ethnic group of Zango Kataf district protested over perceived domination and discrimination by Native Authority administration.

Similar protest also took place in 1948, this time by the Kataf ethnic group. These protests according to Yahaya, were the beginning of what was to become a continuous demand for political recognition and participation by the Southern Zaria ethnic minorities (Suberu, 1996:51). Since the 1980s, conflicts in Kaduna State have assumed the additional dimension of a Muslim versus Christian dichotomy (Toure, 1999:133).

The first was the Kafanchan crisis in 1987. The crisis started as a result of theological disagreement between Christian and Muslim students of the Kafanchan Teachers College, Kafanchan in Southern Kaduna (Suberu, 1996). At first, on March 5, 1987, there was a quarrel between the Fellowship of Christian Students, FCS, and the Muslim Students Society, MSS, over evangelical campaign organised by the former tagged ‘Mission 87’.

The MSS group protested over the banner hoisted on the college gates with an inscription ‘Mission 87 in Jesus Campus’. It took the intervention of the school authority for that to be settled (Jibrin, 1987:4). On the second day, a Christian convert, and a leading member of the activists, Born again Abubakar Bako, was accused by the MSS of deliberately misinterpreting the Holy Qur’an. Abubakar was first accosted by a Muslim woman Aisha Garba. The next day, the MSS organised a protest march around Kafanchan town. This protest later transformed into religious violence.

The situation ignited existing tension between the Hausa-Fulani ‘settlers’ community and the indigenes predominantly Christian ethnic minority groups. The crisis later spread to Zaria, Funtua, Kankia, Daura, etc. in which Muslim communities made reprisal attack on Christian settlers. At the end of the day 19 people were killed and 61 injured.

There is also a clash of civilisation which is due to the realisation that these aspects of other people’s lives do not in any way fall under his jurisdiction. This belief nourished with education will make it impossible for a Christian to attempt to take over power of the state to sanction deviant behaviour, or would a Christian attempt to abate certain conduct that offends Christian doctrine.

This is clearly within the regulatory purview of temporal authority. This virtue of compliance to temporal authority makes it possible for Christianity to endorse and comply with economic, political and social order as sanctioned by temporal authority as far as these do not interfere with its worship. Islam, on the other hand is different.

It is not just a religion but also a way of life that encompasses the whole gamut of economic, judicial, political and cultural lives of its Umma (faithful or adherent), and as such it is viewed as total submission to the will of Allah (God) as revealed through the prophetic message of Muhammed (Danjibo, 1991:33).

The totality of Islamic regulation of the lives of Muslims is graphically captured by Olayiwola (1988:227), when he writes: “Islam does not admit a narrow view of religions by restricting it within the limits of worship, specific rituals and spiritual beliefs. In its precise meaning, Islam is not only a religion; it is also a way of life that regulates all the aspects of life on the scale of the individual and the nation. Islam is a social order, philosophy of life, a system of economic rules and government.

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Islam clearly establishes man’s duties and rights in all relationships – a clear system of worship, civil rights, laws of marriage and divorce, inheritance, code of behaviour, laws of economy, laws of governance, laws of war and peace, of buying and selling and laws of relations and co-existence with one another, parents, children, relatives neighbours, guests, Muslims, non-Muslims and brethren.

This explanation tilts Islam towards intolerance, fundamentalism and extremism. It paints a picture of rigidity of Islam as a comprehensive tool for the regulation of the entire lifestyle of its faithful, where there exists no room for any separation between spiritual and temporal affairs. This background by Baki may be boring but those who don’t understand them would not know why Garba Shehu would be giving reasons for killing in southern Kaduna or why Bishop Kukah would be accused of calling for a coup for saying what those in that business would have done if it is not one of them putting the country through this.

I have reproduced your entire speech so the senior almajirai can show the whole world where you called for a coup or shut it up.

Search of vindication

Let me paraphrase the holy prophet Isaiah who said: “For Jerusalem (Nigeria’s) sake, I will not be silent until her vindication shines forth like the dawn…..No more shall people call you forsaken, or your land desolate, but you shall be called my delight and your land espoused.” (Is. 62:1,4). Against the backdrop of our endless woes, ours has become a nation wrapped in desolation.

Temptations to despair

The prospects of a failed state stare us in the face: endless bloodletting, a collapsing economy, social anomie, domestic and community violence, kidnappings, armed robberies, etc. Ours has become a house of horror with fear stalking our homes, highways, cities, hamlets and entire communities. The middle grounds of optimism have continued to shift and many genuinely ask, what have we done to the gods? Does Nigeria have a future? Where can we find hope? Like the Psalmist, we ask: from where shall come our help? (Ps.121:1).

Whatever the temptations to despair, we cannot to give up. When the Psalmist asked where help shall come from, he answered that it will come from the Lord. Therefore, like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, we Priests must stand before the mercy seat of God and plead the cause of our great country (Lk. 1:8). Like Abraham, we must plead for the Lord to save our nation because we have more than ten righteous men (Gen.18: 16ff).

Like Moses, we believe that as long as our hands are held up in prayer, the Lord will be on our side ( Ex. 17:11). These are trying but life changing moments in the history of our nation. Politics and economics alone will not resolve our problems. There is enough hate and bitterness to go around. We need to pause, reflect, pray, be honest and courageous in facing tomorrow.

Yes, our dreams have been aborted. Yes, our commonwealth has been stolen. Yes, our cancer of corruption has metastasised. Yes, we have been guilty of patricide, fratricide and attempted even suicide. Yes, we are hungry, angry, thirsty and starving. Yet, we stand firmly with the unshaken belief that no matter the temptations, the world has known worst times. These may be the worst of times, but for men and women of faith, they could be the best of times. We must stand firm and resolute because, our redeemer liveth (Job 19:25).

Annus Mirabilis or Annus Horribilis?

The roads to the graveyards are busier than those to the farms. Amidst the wails and laments, I hear the congregants saying; the world is coming to an end, it has never been so bad. Yes, people are dying, but they are not dying more now than they did in recent years. It is the social media and its connectivity that has given us a sense of greater urgency and added to our seeming despair with the way things are.

The social media is value neutral. It depends on what we make of it. Its instantaneous impact is often times dizzyingly traumatic, but the other benefits more than compensate. In a way, the choices we make will help us decide whether this year is our annus mirabilis or annus horribilis.

When Isaac Newton, at the age of 23, made the spectacular discoveries in the areas of Calculus, Motion, Optics, and Gravitation, the year of those discoveries, 1666, was referred to as, annus mirabilis, the year of joy. On the other hand, in 1992, when the marriages of three of her children collapsed, Queen Elizabeth in her Christmas address referred to that year as her annus horribilis, the year of horror.

As such, notwithstanding all the earth shaking impact of the COVID-19,  our own individual, communal and national tragedies, it is not just a choice between annus mirabilis and annus horribilis. At various levels, there have been grey areas of hope, flickers of light, achievement and so on. It is to these flickers of hope that we must cling tenaciously.

For our son, Anthony Joshua, the loss of his title to Andy Ruis on June 1, 2019 after 25 fights without a loss, that year was his annus horribilis. When he pummeled Kubrat Pulev, this year became his annus mirabilis. Things change and, joy or sorrow, we must know that nothing lasts forever. What matters is how we handle failure.

Another Christmas in Cloud of Doom

Not unexpectedly, this Christmas is again coming against a backdrop of so much pain, sorrow and uncertainty in our land. We all seem to have become sedated and inured to pain. Tragedy has been standing as our gate keeper. For over ten years now, at almost each Christmas, a dark pall of horror, sorrow and death has consistently hung in our horizon threatening to eclipse the promises of the joy of Christmas. Recall the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla on Christmas day in 2011.

In the wake of the Christmas day bombing, I issued a statement titled, An Appeal to Nigerians. In the statement which enjoyed a wide circulation, I stated: All of this should cause us to pause and ponder about the nature of the force of evil that is in our midst and appreciate the fact that contrary to popular thinking, we are not faced with a crisis or conflict between Christians and Muslims.

Rather, like the friends of Job, we need to humbly appreciate the limits of our human understanding. Terror is a product of hate, but while hate tries to divide us, terror and death should pull us together.

Is government in suspended animation?

As our country drifts almost rudderless, we seem like people travelling without maps, without destination and with neither captain nor crew.

To be concluded…

Vanguard News Nigeria


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