The National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) joins all Christians worldwide to mourn the unwarranted and callous murder of eleven innocent Nigerian Christians on Christmas Day, 2019. These Christians were abducted by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a faction of Boko Haram. According to reports, thirteen men were shown in a video pleading for deliverance while eleven were eventually killed. Two of the captives were released because they are Muslims while the remaining eleven were presumably killed due to their Christian faith. Ten of the Christians were beheaded while the eleventh was shot dead.
Timing the gruesome murder of these innocents Christians to Christmas Day was a certain signal of the Islamic insurgents deliberately desecrating the day in which Christians worldwide marked the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and the central figure of the Christian faith. It was not only a heinous crime, but it was also provocative and insulting.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari responded in a statement that he was “profoundly saddened and shocked by the death of innocent hostages in the hands of remorseless, godless, callous gangs of mass murderers that have given Islam a bad name through their atrocities”. He further went on to appeal that “We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don’t represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world”.
While the President appropriately described the Islamic terrorists, one would require a lot of hope before attaching any sincerity to his statement given the excessive pro-Islamic direction of his government since 2015. More than any individual, President Buhari should be held responsible for the audacity, expansion, and unbridled atrocities of ISWAP, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. He not only deliberately created the atmosphere for Islamic insurgency to thrive in Nigeria he has adopted “repentant” terrorists into the Nigeria Army.
If President Buhari is sincere that Islamic terrorists are “godless, callous gangs of mass murderers”, he should immediately reorganize the National Security Units that are solely in the control of Muslims from the North of Nigeria in compliance with the Federal Character Principle in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution. In addition, all the terrorists that have been assimilated into the Nigeria Army should be dismissed. At the most they could be constituted into Civilian Task Force if they are willing to help combat terror in the land. No sensible Government, anywhere in the world, adopts terrorists into its Army.
Our suspicion is that the statement of President Buhari is for the benefit of United States of America which recently placed Nigeria on its Special Watch List (SWL). However, President Buhari has the opportunity to prove us wrong by ensuring that the murderous Fulani herdsmen from his ethnic group are arrested and prosecuted.
MR. PRESIDENT, STAND BY YOUR WORD
NCEF would however take President Buhari by his word that “We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims …” Presently Nigeria is divided under its conflict of ideologies which produced ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS. The current distress in the country is caused by the conflict between DEMOCRACY and SHARIA ideologies. It is the Sharia ideology that emboldens Islamic terrorists in the country and until it is dismantled as competing National Ideology, the country will not know peace.
President Buhari has done more than any leader in this country to inflame this conflict of ideologies. In its paper of 11th December, 2019 titled: “SOWORE COURT SAGA: WELCOME TO SHARIA”, the NCEF provided information proving that Nigeria is running under Sharia ideology rather than Democracy which President Buhari was sworn into office to uphold.
NCEF insists that the solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism in Nigeria is for Democracy to remain the only National Ideology as designed by the founding fathers of this country. If Mr. President is sincerely committed to the unity of Nigeria, he should promote Democracy.
NCEF is also not unaware of the statement credited to the Sultan of Sokoto in PUNCH newspaper of 28thDecember, 2019 that “Christians in Nigeria not persecuted”. NCEF would want to conclude that his Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto was misquoted as this statement coming from a traditional ruler of his stature would not accord with statesmanship. Denying the obvious under the circumstances could hardly be described as a suitable solution to problems threatening the corporate existence of the country.
The National Christian Elders Forum would not want to link this statement with another statement of the Sultan in 2011 in Havard, USA, in which his Eminence said, “I do not recognize any Nigerian Constitution and the only Constitution I recognize is the Koran”. This pregnant statement which out rightly rejected Democracy and accepted Sharia could easily be interpreted to have escalated the current Sharia induced religious insurgency and intolerance in Nigeria.
NCEF implores both President Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto, as Fulani Muslims, and leaders of the Islamic Ummah to open up dialogue with the rest of the country to resolve these problems caused by religious intolerance in Nigeria. Already, other Muslim countries in the world are relaxing their erstwhile hard Islamic stance in order to operate meaningfully in modern multi cultural, multi religious and multi ethnic societies. For example:
▪Saudi Arabia officially bans child marriage under 18 years.
▪Sudan has apologized to Christians in the country. The Minister of Religious Affairs, Nasredin Mofreh, apologized to Sudanese Christians “for the oppression and harm inflicted on your bodies, the destruction of your temples, the theft of your property, and the unjust arrest and prosecution of your servants and confiscation of church buildings”. The Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok of Sudan on Christmas Eve tweeted a photo with prominent activist Natalina Yacoub and said that he seeks to build a Sudan “That respects diversity and enables all Sudanese citizens to practice their faith in a safe and dignified environment.” Sudan celebrated Christmas for the first time in ten years.
▪Locally, Shiite Muslims visited three Churches in Kaduna to felicitate the Christmas season with them.
All these are pointers to leaders of the Sunni Muslim Ummah in Nigeria that rigid Islamic intolerance is going out of fashion. It is time for Sunni Muslims in Nigeria, particularly in northern Nigeria, to adjust to modern civilization and join to restructure the country for the peace, safety, and prosperity of all the citizens.
NCEF is calling on President Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto, as principal decision makers on all issues involving Islam in Nigeria to participate in building ONE COUNTRY, ONE SYSTEM which is Democracy. The conflict of ideologies of Sharia and Democracy must be dismantled. As we enter a new decade in a few days time, NCEF appeals to leaders of Sunni Islam in Nigeria to join all well meaning citizens to build a country that “though tribe and tongue differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
God bless Nigeria.
Elder Solomon Asemota, SAN
National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF)
28th December, 2019