Below is a press release signed by Professor Ishaq Akinto la, director,Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), and made available Monday:
IGNORE ADEBOYE’S FORECAST ON 2019
The general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, last week warned that Nigeria as it is presently constituted may cease to exist if killings continued. He also added that 2019 elections may not hold.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) rejects this message of doom. Nations are not run on prophesies and divisive messages but on industry, love, fortitude, unity, honesty and determination.
We recall that killings and cattle rustling did not begin yesterday. These attacks have been there since the early 60s. It was not Nigerians who were attacking themselves but cattle thieves and criminals from neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad and Mali. These invasions from other countries have continued till today due to Nigeria’s porous borders. But Nigerians exploit religious rivalry and acrobatic religiosity instead of engaging in diligent investigations. We are blaming ourselves for nothing.
Still going along the lanes of history, a few years back Nigerian Christian leaders initially accused Muslims in the country of sponsoring Boko Haram to kill Christians. All denials fell on deaf ears. Foul language was used. Provocative statements were issued. Nigerian Muslim leaders exhibited patience throughout those terrible days. Today the picture has become clearer to the Christian leaders as Boko Haram has killed more Muslims than Christians (including an Emir) and destroyed more mosques than churches.
The truth is that both Christians and Muslims are victims of killings, though Christians may have the advantage of media support to use killings on its side as a propaganda tool. The Nigerian media hardly hypes reports of Muslim deaths, nor do they report them correctly with their religious affiliation. Meanwhile Muslims do not use their dead victims for propaganda because, as a rule, Muslims bury their dead speedily whereas Christians delay the burial of their dead and openly display them. But the fact is that the monkey is also sweating but the hair on its skin may not allow people to see it.
Nigeria has become a land where Shakespearean lines must be actualized: “When beggars die, there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
Thus when Muslims are killed, the Nigerian media uses captions like “85 killed in Maiduguri Explosion” or “76 Die as Hoodlums Invade Zamfara Village”. But when Christians are killed, the language and style change. The caption is “Fulani Herdsmen Murder 22 Christians”. It is for this reason that Pastor Adeboye needs to direct his warnings at the Nigerian press, not at the government. Government is not escalating the crisis, but the press is. Their asymmetrical reportage poses great danger to peaceful coexistence in a multi-religious Nigeria.
Pastor Adeboye should also note that things are not usually what they look like from a distance. Benue militias have been caught disguised as Fulani herdsmen. None of the hoodlums caught by the military in the ongoing operation in Benue could speak Fulani language, yet they dressed like Fulani herdsmen and carried AK47 rifles.
Fake military camps have also been exposed in the same Middle Belt. Militiamen arrested have confessed that the Christian state governors are their sponsors. So why does Adeboye refuse to acknowledge the killing of Muslims? Who are the Benue and Taraba militiamen killing?
We appeal to Pastor Adeboye to refrain from making inflammatory statements. The Redeemed Church overseer should also persuade his junior priests to water down their firebrand proselytization. There is a world of difference among prayers, threats and ill-will. Let us concentrate on prayers when we organize assemblies ostensibly for prayers. Let us not use such occasions to incite followers in any manner. That is criminal digression. Preachers should not just be playing to the gallery.
As religious leaders, our influence on our followers is immense and they take our admonitions as commandments; we must therefore lead responsibly. Let Christian and Muslim leaders preach love, tolerance, forgiveness and, most especially, unity. We all stand to lose if there is war or if Nigeria breaks.
Statements accusing government of lukewarm attitude to the ‘killing of Christians’ mislead the outside world. It paints the wrong picture and robs the Nigerian authorities of friends and allies who are willing to supply sophisticated weapons needed to stop the killings. In essence, we are cutting our noses to spite our faces. We are simply helping Boko Haram to sustain its propaganda.
Let us therefore stop making sectarian, parochial and myopic public speeches. Let us support government’s efforts at stopping the killings. Let us appeal to foreign governments to assist our own government at home in combating terrorists and insurgents.
On a last note, we contend that the current noise about the killing of Christians is diversionary, hypocritical and counterproductive. Both Muslims and Christians are being killed and the solution lies in uniting men and women of all faiths to face the reality on ground. We must all resolve to expose our killers. We must support our government and pray for our gallant security men who are battling the killers day and night. We must also appeal in unison to foreign powers to come to our government’s aid in the war against insurgency. The federal government should also strengthen the borders, particularly in the north-west and north-east, and recruit more soldiers and policemen.
Professor Ishaq Akintola
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)