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Rev. Musa Asake is the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of Christian faithful in Nigeria. In this interview with Fred Ezeh, Dr. Asake spoke on numerous challenges being faced by Christians in today’s Nigeria.
Christians have come under physical and verbal attacks recently. What is CAN doing in this regard?
There is little or nothing CAN could do about it. We are restricted to educating and enlightening the people on how to go about their individual and collective security. We have consistently reminded government of their constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of the people. However, the government owes Nigerians, particularly the Christians, explanation in this regard. They are under an oath to protect the lives of the citizens, but otherwise seems to be the case. We have also discovered that the killings were not targeted at Christians alone. So, government should provide solutions to the continued loss of innocent lives of Nigerians. For us, we won’t hesitate to alert the government of any planned attack on innocent Nigerians resident in different parts of Nigeria, particularly in volatile areas such as Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa, Benue and several other states. All these are evidences that government needs to change its approach in confronting this war.
Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State boiled recently due to herdsmen/farmers misunderstanding. Have you reached out to your members there?
Yes! We are very much in touch with them on a regular basis through the Taraba State Chapter of CAN. We have registered our discontent with the steps taken so far by the Federal Government as regard what happened in Mambilla Plateau. It is a clear indication that the Federal Government has taken side in the handling of herdsmen/farmers clashes in Nigeria. Take a look at what has been happening in Southern Kaduna which is barely two hours drive from Abuja. Thousands of lives were lost, property worth billions of Naira destroyed, and government has been silent on the perpetrators. But in a swift response to attacks in Taraba, top military high command, including the Minister of Interior were quickly mobilised to Taraba in response to the attacks. The question is, what is so special about that particular area? Different Muslim groups have started challenging the governor, Darius Ishaku. But I want to assure him that we are solidly behind him because he seems to be alone in this fight. However, he should know that we are behind him. He was elected to protect the people and that he has been doing. We encourage him not to panic or succumb to their tricks, because we are solidly behind his efforts to secure the lives of his people.
How do we end these killings in different parts of Nigeria?
There is nothing I will say now that have not been said in the past. These killings are going on with reckless abandon. Just ask yourself how many people have been arrested and prosecuted for killing innocent people? The answer is none. If you take a visit to Southern Kaduna today, there are villages that have been ransacked, their sources of livelihood destroyed, people driven from their ancestral homes and government could neither arrest nor prosecute people that have inflicted this pain on humanity. Just few months ago, a group of Muslim youths addressed a press conference in Kaduna asking a certain group of people to leave the North by October 1st. The government promised to arrest them, but that was not done. Rather, they began dialogue and several appeals for them to withdraw their threat. Today, a journalist is being persecuted by the state government for doing his job. He is kept in prison custody. I don’t need to say anything more because government would not listen. One thing I know is that we believe and trust in God, and it’s just a matter of time He would speak and rise against our enemies.
What advice do you have for Christians especially those in volatile areas?
They should arm themselves with God’s Word which says that vengeance is mine. We know that God is going to take vengeance very soon but at the same time, I advise them to be alert to their own security and never go to sleep. Protect yourself and your entire household. If somebody tries to kill your family, protect them with whatever you have. If you die in the process, so be it. But don’t just rely on prayers alone. Even Bible encouraged us to watch and pray, and not the other way round. There was a story in the Bible, where Peter, perhaps out of anger took out his sword and cut someone’s ear, but Christ quickly cautioned him and asked that he put back his sword. And miraculously, He fixed back the ear. Now I take it to mean that the time for vengeance has not come. Christians should not fight with anybody especially in the volatile areas, but should defend themselves until you are defeated.
What else could CAN do to cement the unity of Nigeria?
We are committed to that cause, but government and other political leaders should take the lead. They must promote social justice, equity and fairness. We currently have life threatening issue in Taraba, but regrettably, the Federal Government has already taken side on the issues. The question is, is this government really for all of us? because I could not understand why government is favouring the Fulani people. They are killing with impunity, they ransack villages and the Federal Government is shielding them. If the agenda is to use them to take over Taraba people’s lands and homes, then it is a failed agenda because our God would not fold His hands and watch His people being slaughtered. CAN has welcomed the position of the Taraba State governor and we have encouraged the governor to live up to his responsibility. The people elected him. So he should work for them. He should not be intimidated by powers outside the state, because we are behind him.
State- owned tertiary institutions in Southern Kaduna have been under lock and key for months. What is your reaction to that?
I was informed that the decision was based on security reports. I totally disagree with them. It is just wickedness by the state government. How do you justify the claims that three state -owned tertiary institutions, Kaduna State University, College of Education and School of Nursing, located in Southern Kaduna were shut down, while normal academic and social activities in primary and secondary schools are ongoing? That is a paradox. It is possible that the government might know what we do not know depending on wherever they are getting their intelligence report from. As far as I am concerned, it is wickedness, but we would continue to pray and trust in God that something positive would happen in no distant time.