Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne.
RETIRED Geneneral Muhammadu Buhari was at it again recently with his nebulous arithmetic of 97 per cent and five per cent! He said recently that 90 per cent of those killed by Boko Haram are Muslims and, immediately, he stirred the hornet’s nest. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) jumped in his throat and told him point blank that he lied. The days of diplomatic words are over! The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), however, came to Buhari’s rescue, but not without also telling the retired two-star Army General bluntly to stop the killings. I support! Like the clear and unambiguous message sent to the authorities by Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye during the recent Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)-ordered prayer walk with the placard he carried, every life is important to God. So, Buhari, stop the killings!
Will it be too much to ask if the retired General ever heard of John Donne quoted above? Donne aptly defines humanity. Not bland condolence messages they dust up now and again. Not speeches rehashed and crocodile tears shed. Not dancing on the grave of the dead like the Presidency did with its appalling statement of the people’s disenchantment and displeasure expressed during Buhari’s visit to Maiduguri. This is apart from the fact that as president, Buhari has the obligation and duty to protect each Nigerian life and property. A single life is very important. It is repugnant when we treat life as mere statistics. Buhari has only one life and has fought tooth-and-nail to preserve it, frolicking here and there, now and again travelling abroad at public expense on medical tourism.
Just as Buhari’s own life is important to him and he does not want to lose it, so also is the life of other people valuable to them and they, too, would not want to lose it. The other day, Buhari’s son had a bike accident and they flew him abroad, why: Because Buhari and Aisha considered their son’s life valuable. So also must they consider the life of even a beggar valuable – that is, if they truly and sincerely have the milk of human kindness flowing in their veins and are not only playing to the gallery when they appear to be public – spirited in their public statements!
Assuming but not conceding that more Muslims get killed by Boko Haram; that does not, ipso facto, translate into the Muslims suffering more than the Christians when you look at the Muslim/Christian population ratio in the North. If it is true that there are more Muslims in the North, then, it stands to reason that even if the quantum number of Muslims killed is higher than that of Christians, by the time you look at the percentage vis-a-vis the Muslim/Christian population, the Christians might still be at the receiving end.
When you also consider that Muslims marry many wives and produce more children on the average than the Christians who generally marry one wife and produce fewer children, it stands to reason that the capacity to recoup and recover lost ground can never be the same for both. Witness the House of Representatives’ Majority Leader, Doguwa’s recent disclosure on the floor of the House – four wives, 27 children and still counting! How many Christians in the North or Middle Belt equal that record?
Therefore, Buhari’s statistical attempt at justification, diversion or obfuscation of the issues fuelling insecurity in the land falls flat on its face. Muslims do not deserve to die more than Christians and vice-versa. That Buhari is Muslim does not mean that Muslims will agree to die in silence and do nothing because “their own man” is the one in power and they will not want to rock the boat. Maiduguri testified to that. That was a place where they used to treat Buhari as demigod. Buhari’s fall from grace to grass cannot be missed by anyone. Peaceful and law-abiding Muslims want to live their life; ditto Christians and adherents/non-adherents of other religions. Buhari has failed to provide security. His excuses and rationalizations are not washing.
Evidence of this is also in the inflamed statements made last week by CAN and NSCIA. Said CAN: “Nigerians know that they are being killed by Boko Haram, Fulani militiamen, ISWAP, bandits, kidnappers and their likes; Nigerians know also their religion and the angle they come from; we cannot deny the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”
I like the clear and very clever distinction the CAN made between Fulani herdsmen and “Fulani militiamen.” It is the Fulani militiamen, mostly foreigners reportedly invited, sponsored, armed, directed and protected by some Northern politicians, who have been fingered as being responsible for most of the ethnic/religious cleansing taking place in the North. Going by the statements of well-placed Fulani Muslims, these Fulani militiamen were brought into the country to execute religious and political assignments. This is a modern-day Frankenstein monster that the political and religious Fulani elite created but which they appear unable to tame any more.
Yes, Nigerians know those doing the killings – at least some, if not all of them. It is beyond debate that Boko Haram and Fulani militiamen lead the pack; followed by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, and such other sundry criminals. But I squirmed when the CAN said “We cannot deny the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.”
I agree with the first part of the statement that not all Muslims are terrorists. I come from a Muslim family and have Muslim brothers and sisters who I know and can vouch for are not terrorists. I have Muslim friends all the country, the North inclusive, who I know and can vouch for are not terrorists. So, the CAN is correct in that respect.
But to say that “… all terrorists are Muslims” shocked me, I must confess. This is one of the problems you unavoidably run into when passions are inflamed; which is why conscionable Nigerians are asking the Government to make hay while it shines. We must pull back from the brink before it is too late. A stitch in time, as they say, saves nine. Nigeria in its present tattered state surely will need more than one stitch!
No! All terrorists cannot be Muslims. That is over-generalization or hyperbole, which is one literary tool writers’ use. It is called poetic licence but who gave the CAN permission to borrow one of the tools of our trade? There must be at least one terrorist somewhere who is not a Muslim; once you find one such aberration, the CAN’s syllogism collapses like a pack of cards. Femi Adesina, lately turned Buhari’s attack dog (am I right?), must not know of this CAN gaffe; otherwise, he will happily and gluttonously have them for dinner! One can understand, however, that the CAN, long-suffering, has now been pushed to the wall and wouldn’t mind returning “fire for fire”, as it were. Again, that is one of the ways impunity and the arrogant and irresponsible display of State power could radicalize otherwise laid-back people.
The NCSIA on its part fired back this way: “It is, therefore, the height of insincerity, wickedness, falsehood and hypocrisy to suggest that Boko Haram is a ploy to eliminate Christians, a dummy being promoted by some dealers camouflaging as religious leaders to their followers and the outside world.”
What or who, then, is Boko Haram? If it is not a ploy to eliminate Christians as alleged by the CAN, is it a ploy to eliminate Muslims as Buhari appeared to me to have insinuated?
Following in the tradition of the French philosopher, Peter Abelard, I asked and attempted to answer the following questions. 1. What do the Boko Haram members call themselves – Muslims or Christians? Answer: Muslims. 2. What religion do they profess – Islam or Christianity? Answer: Islam. 3. How do they address themselves – Brother/Sister or Mujahideen? Answer: Mujahideen. 4. How do they dress – like Christians or like Muslims? Answer: Like Muslims. 5. Which language do they speak – language of the Bible or language of the Quran? Answer: Language of the Quran. 6. Which of the holy books do they reference – Quran or Bible? Answer: Quran. 7. Which war are they waging – Jihad or Crusade? Answer: Jihad. 8. What goal did they set for themselves – creation of an Islamic state or Christian state? Answer: Islamic state. 9. What code of law do they adopt – Sharia or Christian law? Answer: Sharia.
It goes without saying, therefore, that Boko Haram members are Muslims or, if you prefer, they claim and or appear to be Muslims and they profess Islam. They have as goal the establishment of an Islamic state and the imposition of Sharia. They are pursuing their goals and objectives by violent means, waging wars, killing and maiming and seizing territories which they hope to constitute into a Caliphate or Islamic State. They brook no opposition.
The NSCIA cannot claim not to know these facts unless it is simply playing the ostrich or is talking just for talking sake. We must say something; we must defend ourselves. And that is where the real problems lies – trying to be clever by half, obfuscating issues; playing the ostrich; failing to face bare facts and making the needed effort to right our wrongs. Muslim leaders cannot have their cake and eat it. They cannot secretly support Boko Haram’s forceful “evangelisation”; in fact, conscription and seizure of other people’s land for the purpose of creating a Caliphate all over Nigeria and yet pretend that they are opposed to Boko Haram’s violent tactics. The time is now for Nigeria’s Muslim leaders to confess their sins, repent, forsake them, and ask God and man to forgive them.
Most times when Nigeria’s Muslim leaders speak, they forget that we know that both Christianity and Islam originated from the same source. Both have the same father – Abraham. They seem also often to gloss over the fact that both had similar doctrines – but while the Muslims have stuck to the olden-day doctrines, culture, traditions, and laws, Christians have modernised or moved away from some of them that are considered archaic, anachronistic and barbaric. I will give a few examples.
Evangelisation by force of arms was done by Christians in the olden days. Crusades were fought and pagan peoples and countries were forcibly converted and or conquered and destroyed. Today, Christian evangelisation is by peaceful means. Islam is still being “preached” by force of arms. For peace to reign in the world, Muslims, or radical Islam to be more specific, must move away from violent evangelisation and adopt peaceful means like their Christian counterparts.
Blasphemy or heresy used to be a crime punishable by death in the hands of the Church leaders in the olden days. An uncountable number of philosophers, scholars, clergy, etc were burnt at the stakes for heresy. Today, Christians have moved away from that but radical Islam still does it. We have witnessed many such killings in Nigeria and abroad even in peace time.
Honour killing was practiced in the Old Testament; while Muslims still practice honour killings, Christians have moved away from it.
Bestial, barbaric and horrific killings were the norms in the early days of Christianity. The Church had since moved away from that but it remains the trade mark of Islamic jihadists.
Christianity has made a bold and forthright attempt to separate religion from politics. No longer is Samuel the prophet the same as Samuel the king-maker and king-deposer. Radical Islam, however, insists that both the Caliphate and the State must be one, under the aegis of the Caliph or whatever they choose to call him.
These are some of the sore points in Christian/Muslim relations. Pretending that they do not exist; attempting to always sweep them under the carpet; blowing hot and cold at same time; and holding on to advantages procured through deceit, falsehood and opportunistic power-mongering will not do justice – and it will not give lasting peace. If it gives a semblance of peace at the moment, it is peace of the graveyard.
Learn from history! France’s Bourbons King Louis XIV boasted that the decadent and hated “ancien” regime would survive during his time; yes, it did, but ask his successor, King Louis XVI, and his wife, Queen Antoinette, what happened thereafter!
Religion at best must be treated as a man’s personal relationship with his God – that is, if he thinks and believes there is one and he needs to have a relationship with Him – otherwise, he should be left alone. Religion as an opium of the people as posited by Karl Marx – to enslave, dehumanise, oppress, exploit and use the people as willing tools most times for destructive ends – is, without doubt, the greatest evil of our day.