THE THORNY ROADS FOR CHRISTIANITY IN NIGERIA
These days, it is becoming increasingly difficult, risky and dangerous to openly admit of being a Christian, in a society where religion plays pivotal roles in determining the course of events. Similarly, it requires a lot of courage, bravery, sacrifices, forbearance and self denial to be able to withstand the consequences of being a Christian, particularly for those who live in the northern part of Nigeria where practitioners of Christian religion are in the minority, and who face all sorts of huddles.
Though, by virtue of the Constitution that binds the people together, Nigeria is a secular state. But that notwithstanding, the country is progressively tilted in favour of those who practice the Islamic religion. They enjoy a pride of place in the scheme of things, in contradistinction to those who profess Christianity, who are treated as second class citizens, and who are subjected to all sorts of persecutions and discriminations. Christians equally suffer indignities, harassment and marginalization in the hands of those who control the apparatus of state.
Year in year out, and day in day out, we are inundated with nasty and sordid stories of acts of violence and intimidation variously unleashed on Christians by some fanatical Muslims, while those in authority look the other way or hardly do anything to stop them.
From the 1980 Matsine Religious Riots in Kano till date, it has been tales of woes for Nigerian Christians as they navigate through the rough and dangerous path laid for them by those who control the machinery of government. There is practically no major town or city in Northern Nigeria which did not witness religious riots at one time or the other, with the Christians always bearing the burden.
From various spontaneous riots at the least provocation in these towns and cities which had resulted to many deaths and destruction of valuable properties, Nigerian Christians are usually at the receiving end, in a country which they also thought themselves to be co-owners.
Some individual Christians who wanted to make a show of their own faith against Islam, did not live to tell the story. They were visited with wrath by the Islamic fundamentalists. We have in mind, Gideon Akaluka, a young Igbo trader, who was beheaded in Kano in 1995, for what they termed desecration of the Qur’an. There was also the case of Christian Oluwaseni, a secondary school teacher, who was lynched to death in Gombe in 2007, equally for alleged desecration of the Qur’an, and Grace Ushang, an NYSC member who was raped and murdered in Maiduguri in 2009 for simply putting on NYSC trousers. The list is endless.
The establishment of Sharia law in most states of Northern Nigeria which later gave birth to Boko Haram, the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA), and the killer Fulani Herdsmen, are part of the grand plan to make practitioners of Christian religion uncomfortable and enthrone Islam as the state religion in Nigeria.
Everywhere in Nigeria, particularly in the Christian dominated states of the South, and in minority Christian areas of the North, Nigerian Christians are made to live in fear as Fulani herdsmen invade their towns and villages, destroy their houses and farmlands, abduct and rape their women, and slaughter their men like animals. All these combined, have made life in Nigeria for Christians so unbearable in a country which is steadily descending to the Hobbesian state of nature, where life was short, nasty and brutish.
The most disturbing or intriguing aspect of the whole issue is that the government appears not to be concerned about these killings or are incapable of doing anything to help the situation. They always would treat the insurgents with kid gloves or pay lip service to fighting terrorism, without standing up to the challenge.
When Boko Haram started in 2009, apart from the security agencies who they claimed extra judiciously killed their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, they had made Christians and places of Christian worship their main targets. Bombs were detonated in Churches and in other places of worship at the full assemblage of the congregation to ensure maximum effect.
It happened during the Christmas bombing of a Church in Madalla in 2011, where 41 worshippers were killed. It also happened in the bombing of Churches in Jos, in Kaduna, in Mubi, and in so many other places, and in the process, many Christians were despatched to their untimely graves.
Now, the jihadists have opened a new chapter. They have begun to hunt and abduct individual Christians in the comfort of their residences. In 2017 they went to a girls secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State, collected some girls there. Later, they released all but one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, a Christian, because she had refused to renounce her faith. Since then the government has been dilly dallying, and unable to do anything to rescue the girl. But when it got to the case of one Muslim lady who was on a death row in Saudi Arabia for allegedly carrying drugs, they quickly moved in and rescued her. Nobody can even vouchsafe that the remaining Chibok girls yet to be released are not Christians.
Last Christmas, December 25, 2019, eleven Christians who were held captive by the insurgents somewhere in the North were brutally executed for reasons of what happened outside the shores of Nigeria, and our government did not do anything.
Look at how they have just executed the Christan Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman in Michika local government area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi, for which CAN leadership in Nigeria, squarely laid blames on the federal government.
Lamenting the murder of Rev. Andimi the CAN leadership, unequivocally stated: “We recall sadly that Late Rev. Lawan Andimi while in captivity made a passionate appeal to the leadership of his Church and the Federal Government to come to his rescue. The Church did everything within her reach to secure the safe release of this pastor gentleman but it was not possible because they didn’t have the military power to do so.
“Just last Sunday, a clergyman, Rev Denis Bagauri was murdered by unknown gunmen in his residence at Mayo Belwa of Adamawa State. The Church views the unabated kidnappings, extortion and killings of Christians and innocent Nigerians as shameful to the government that each time boasts that it has conquered insurgency.
“In the light of the current developments and the circumstantial facts surrounding the prevailing upsurge of attacks against the Church, it will be difficult for us to believe that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari is not colluding with the insurgents to exterminate Christians in Nigeria bearing in mind the very questionable leadership of the security sector that has been skewed towards a religion and region!
“A government that cannot protect the governed is a failed government. Can the government tell us what they did since Rev. Andimì cried out to them for help? If the security agencies claim the terrorists are operating outside the country, why is it possible for these hoodlums to invade the country, kill, maim, burn and kidnap without any convincing checks on the part of the security agencies?”
We cannot agree less with this submission made by the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria. There is no doubt that to be a Christian in Nigeria is becoming a burden, both in accessing government patronages, and in securing one’s life and the protection of his property. Those in the leadership of the country should therefore come out to openly assure us, both in word and action, that Nigeria really belongs to us all, and not to only one section of the country, or to those who profess one particular religious faith