Two days before Nigeria’s independence anniversary, 1 October 1, many Christian from the south, especially the Igbo tribe, fled to their home towns fearing attack by Muslim youths.
“One of my church members called be yesterday, from her town in Umuahia, (South east) 2nd October, to find out if it is safe for me to come back to Jos,” said the Rev Promise Umenne, Vicar St Timothy Anglican Church.
Christians in Nigeria feared attack by Muslim youths in reaction to the call by Arewa youths asking the tribe to quit the northern region by 1 October. Assurances by governors, security officials; the army and police did not failed to quell anxiety among Christians. Reports say some people from the South east had sold their homes and property in the north, in anticipation of an imminent attack by Muslim youths.
Canon Nenman Gowon, Senior Special Assistant to the Plateau State Government and the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) Jos North, said, “Despite the call by government and assurances by security operatives, we (CAN) have always advised Christians to protect themselves and be very security conscious.”
Politicians, especially some governors, have said Christians are free to live where ever they choose, and Nigerians and some Muslim youths, in Kano, dressed in the Igbo traditional costumes had gone into the streets in solidarity with the Igbo tribe.
“It is like sleeping in a room where you know there is a poisonous snake, even if you have not seen it,” said Ikechukwu Nwosu. “We have experienced what Muslim youths in Kano can do. I was there when they beheaded a Christian and till today nothing happened No one was charged. And you think words of politicians can assure us?”
Henry Ugo a trader in Jos expressed his gratitude to “God that no incident happened on Sunday but we will not be foolish to think all is well.”
He added: “It is a sad testimony of the Nigerian state that people cannot trust the government to protect them. There are some people possibly did not go to church in the northern Nigeria last Sunday, for fear of attacks.”
Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi, who himself has been in the middle of similar religious crisis and who has been attacked a number of times said, “All of these have arisen because of a colossal failure of the leaders in Nigeria in 57 years. And because of leadership failure, other misfortunes of Nigeria have aggregated themselves to the stage where they have become the news from Nigeria.”
The Archbishop added that, “anybody who is 57 now is dissatisfied with Nigeria and rightly so… Do you want to look at Boko Haram or you want to look at Fulani herdsmen or the Biafran people or the Odudua Yoruba or the Arewa, all of them.”
“All these negatives are indices of a systemic failure over the years. Those who led Nigeria in the 57 years, did not take into cognizance the future of Nigeria in 57 years. They lacked the vision, they didn’t create a vision for Nigeria for generations yet unborn. They created a Nigeria to solve their immediate problems. They were not looking at the future. Opportunities have been squandered badly. Opportunity for reconciliation, after the civil war, is now back again.
“Systematic corruption still bedevils the country” he argued. “Nigeria seems to glorify thievery. If you belong to a particular group if you stole, you got away with it. If you don’t belong then you are the thieves. So, each group is trying to outdo each other. Another government comes in tomorrow, if it is APC, will say it is PDP who stole money and if it is PDP, they will say it is APC who stole money.”
The Archbishop continued, “In the face of all of that, when you look at the threats of Biafra or Fulani herdsmen, or Boko Haram or Arewa youths, it is natural. So, there is nowhere anybody will run to that he will be safe if it is in Nigeria.”
The hope for the country, the archbishop noted rests squarely on the church. “The church must speak for justice because the injustice in the land is glaring. Everybody sees it. You don’t have to talk about injustice because it is obvious. It doesn’t matter whether it is in the courts or in governance, or anywhere.
“So if there is any call I am making to Christians is to say it is the time to rise up to fight injustice, to rise up to speak to evil and fight it, to rise up to speak to governance and to get involved in governance and politics.” Kwashi said. “We have a 57-year-old problem, we are problem solvers,” he added.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos
Image Credits:CC Google image Biafra/IDP Camp/Hassan John