By Ralph Madugu
The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) has called on governments at all levels to desist from using state powers to favour a particular religion over others.
The church gave this charge during a press conference on the deteriorating security situation in the country and sundry national issues.
The ECWA President, Rev. (Dr.) Stephen Panya Baba, pointed out that a cursory observation of events in the country showed that insecurity and developmental indices, especially the economy, had plummeted and continued to worsen.
He cited the worrisome case of the “the imposition of a Muslim candidate as Chief, against the popular choice of a Christian candidate, over a community that is more than 90% Christian in Tangale chiefdom of Gombe State” as an example of the way government machinery had been misused to favour one religion over the other.
“It is clearly a forceful imposition on the psyche of Nigerians that there is dominance of one religion over the other or that the adherents of other religious beliefs are second-class citizens.
“This oppressive can only succeed in sowing hatred and bitterness and creating a false sense of superiority of one human being over another.
“Similarly, of serious concern is the attempt by the Kwara State Government to impose the use of Hijab in Christian schools in the state. It must be clear that the careful use of the term, ‘grant-aided’ schools, being publicized by the state government and some media outfits would not insult the common sense of Nigerians to make them see Christian schools other than what they have always been.
“Ten schools are being intimidated into returning to work under the new law which infringes on the Christian ethics of running mission schools.”
The ECWA leader added, “With the seeming inability of the Federal Government to deal decisively with the heightened insecurity across the country, and the massive corruption of ungoverned spaces by criminals, non-state actors have taken the centre stage in a bid to protect their people from murderous criminals while also exploiting the situation to pursue their quest for self-determination.”
While acknowledging that the debilitating impacts of insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic were further compounding the already depressed economy, the cleric stated that farmers could no longer go to their farms due to insecurity while the rate of unemployment, especially among the youth, was on the rise.
“Considering that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in terms of employment and strategic contribution to the general well-being of citizens and the fact that unemployment fuels greater insecurity as many of the jobless youth resort to criminality, Nigeria will continue to experience a vicious circle of insecurity and remain in a cauldron, if these challenges are not addressed,” he noted.
He lamented that despite government’s efforts over the years to tackle insecurity, the situation had continued to deteriorate and led to the emergence of other ‘troubling dimensions’ to the crises and appealed to Nigerians to be sincere in dealing with the activities of Boko Haram and ISWAP, which have destroyed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands, while the violent activities of Fulani herdsmen and bandits must be addressed.
“It is unfortunate that many Christians and Christian communities have been deliberately targeted and destroyed. It is clear that these terrorist groups are gradually but tactically expanding their activities and making incursions into other parts of the north and even beyond.
“The apparent lack of unity in the fight against these terrorist groups and the inability of government to deal decisively with them within the shortest possible time has emboldened them to do more havoc.”
The ECWA helmsman explained that Fulani herdsmen and farmers had always had conflicts which were easily resolved but observed that the magnitude and dimension these conflicts had taken in recent years showed that there was more to it than conflict over water and grass.
“What we are seeing today is simply terrorism under the guise of herders/farmers conflict. Unless these Fulani killer herdsmen are treated s terrorists, the situation will continue to persist. Also, the seeming silence of government on their activities gives the impression of a tacit support akin to what happened between the regime of Omar-Albashir and the Janjaweed terrorists in Sudan.
“It is well-known fact that this unholy alliance was what eventually led to the emergence of South Sudan. We must not allow this situation to repeat itself in Nigeria.”
He said that Miyyetti Allah, which has been “the official and most vocal and force behind the activities of the killer herdsmen,” not only gives justifications for their terror activities but worked hard to convince the local and international communities that the Fulani were the victims of the bloodshed in Nigeria.
“But the caliber of weapons they use and the sophistry of their operations leave more questions than answers. It also leaves one baffling how, for the first time in history, the ‘supposed victim’ is highly armed with military grade weapons while the ‘supposed hostile communities’ are littered with mass graves, refugee camps and high economic impoverishment as a result of paying millions of naira in ransom for their kidnapped relatives, if at all they are lucky to receive them alive.
“This is the case in Southern Kaduna, Plateau State, Benue State and generally in the Christian dominated Middle Belt region and other states of Nigeria.”
He also stated that it had become increasingly difficult to differentiate between Fulani herdsmen, bandits and even Boko Haram members because their antics were the same.
“While money is more of a driving force for bandits, land grabbing and territorial expansion is more dominant for Boko Haram. However, the utterances of self-acclaimed negotiators and so-called mediators like Shiek Gumi, are clearly effort to stir the bandits towards religious war. Nothing less can be deduced from his statement to the Fulani militia that he was reliably told it was Christian soldiers that treated them harshly and killed them. This is totally condemnable and it would have been expected that government would totally condemn his clandestine mission while relevant security agencies would have done the needful.”
ECWA warned against ignoring the deliberations and resolutions of the 2014 National Conference and called on the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to put in place necessary mechanism for the implementation of its recommendations.
On ways to douse tension in the land and restore peace, stability and progress in the country, ECWA called on the Kwara State Government to return all mission schools to their owners and withdraw its grants to allow them to be administered according to the tenets of their faith so that anyone who voluntarily chooses to enroll their wards there must be ready to abide by the established rules and regulations of the school.
While encouraging the people of Tangale to continue with their legitimate and peaceful means of seeking redress, ECWA admonished them to trust in God to use the courts to ensure that justice was done to allow for the popular choice of the people to be honoured and advised Christians to remain firm, believing that God was working everything together for the good of His people.
“As a nation, we are no doubt in the most difficult times of our nationhood. Nevertheless, in line with Biblical injunction in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, we have been enjoined as Christians to rejoice always; pray continually; giving thanks in all circumstances; believing it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. We do this in faith knowing and believing God’s promise in Romans 8:28 that in all things God is working everything together for our good, because we love Him and we are called according to His purpose.”