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Being a speech delivered to the Christian Information Network Forum by Femi Fani-Kayode in Jos
BLESSED be the name of the Most High God, the God whose I am and the God whom I serve, blessed be His holy name forever.
Mr. Chairman, our royal fathers, my Lords spiritual and temporal, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by thanking you for your invitation and for all your love. It is indeed a privilege and an honour for me to be here today and I am deeply humbled and touched.
I crave your indulgence to permit me to share a few things with you before I get to the main thrust of my speech in an attempt to explain precisely what my links with the northern minorities are and to show you why I can never leave you.
My home is in the North. I have lived here for the last 14 years of my life. I know the history of the North, and indeed the history of every part of Nigeria, very well. This is because I made a point of studying and researching that history over the last 35 years. That is why I know and understand the mindset of, for example, the Fulani so well. I know that they are not indigenous Nigerians like you and I but rather strangers and aliens that, approximately 211 years ago, came from a distant and desolate land called the Vulture Mountains in Futa Jalon, which is in modern-day Guniea.
It is because I know and say these things that some of them hate me so much and will do anything to stop, silence, discredit, destroy or even kill me. Yet I know that I cannot die before my time or before my work on earth is done and neither can I be destroyed because I am covered by the blood of Jesus. Despite their obvious malice and evil intentions for me, I do not hate them because we are compatriots. Hate is a corrosive and self-destructive quality: It wounds and ultimately destroys the hater far sooner and in a much more profound way than it does the object of his hate. I, therefore, choose to return their hatred with love.
It is not the Fulani that I hate but rather what they are doing to our people in Nigeria today and indeed what they have been doing to us over the last 211 years since they arrived in this country. In any case, we are all Nigerians, even though some of us came to these shores much sooner than others. We must endeavour to live in love and peace with one another, including the Fulani, and that has always been my position.
Permit me to make a confession to you today: I actually have Fulani blood running through my veins because my great grandmother was a pure Fulani woman from Sokoto. She married my maternal great grandfather, who was a Yoruba Muslim from Ilesha, and she moved to the southwest with him. How can I then hate myself? I may not have much Fulani blood in me but I am very proud of the little that I have and I would be the last to deny it. I am even prouder of my Yoruba bloodlines and heritage, which are Ile-Ife, Ijesha, Egba and Isale Eko.
The way the average Fulani man feels about his Muslim faith is the way I feel about my Christian one. I have no apology for that. Just as he fears ethnic and religious domination and he rejects subjugation, intimidation and marginalisation, sometimes with aggression and passion, is the same way that I do. That is why I can boldly say that I consider it a solemn duty to point out the consistent excesses of the Fulani in Nigeria and particularly their ill-treatment of the northern minority groups over the years.
My history and link with the northern minorities did not begin with me. It started a generation before me. I say this because my late father of blessed memory, the Balogun of Ife and the former Deputy Premier of the old Western Region of Nigeria, Chief Remilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode had a unique, deep and profound relationship with the northern minorities throughout his long and distinguished political and legal career. For example, he represented them and spoke for them under the banner of the Action Group at the famous Willicks Commission in 1957 when they were agitating for the creation of a Middle Belt region, which was to be carved out of the old Northern Region. It was my father, as lead counsel, that argued the case for the northern minorities at the public hearing. Sadly, the British authorities refused to grant it as a result of strong pressure from the Fulani ruling class and traditional rulers and their political allies in the old Northern Peoples Congress.
Yet ever since that time, my family ties and passion for the horrendous plight of the people of the Middle Belt has been very strong. This was why my father forged such a strong bond and deep relationship with the late Governor Aper Aku of Benue State in the Second Republic and indeed represented him in court on numerous occasions, pro bono, when his gubernatorial mandate was challenged.
My second link with the northern minorities is of a more personal nature and it is as follows. Madame Saratu ‘Baby’ Atta, who is the mother of my first child, Folake, is the daughter of the late Alhaji Adamu Atta, the former governor of the old Kwara State, who was a distinguished elder statesman and proud Ebira man. The Attas are indeed, the royal family of the Ebira people of the Middle Belt and it is, an honour for me to be associated with them in this way. My third link with the northern minorities is the fact that the principal of the Action Faith Bible Seminary in Accra, Ghana, where I studied for my degree in Theology 23 years ago, was a distinguished and well-respected northern Christian from Kaduna State by the name of Pastor Abubakar Bako. Bako, who was a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University in the 1980s, was compelled to flee from Nigeria to Ghana (where he lives till today) when the Muslim fundamentalists tried to kill him and his entire family for daring to share the word of God and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ on campus.
They accused him of blasphemy, attacked him and left him for dead. Thankfully, he survived the attack and he lived to continue to do God’s work. He is a deeply courageous man, who has suffered many tribulations and made great sacrifices over the years for the Body of Christ and the Christian faith and he is undoubtedly one of God’s “end-time generals.” He is also a great Prophet, an extraordinary teacher and a living legend in Pentecostal and Evangelical circles. He was my mentor when it came to the things of God and, like Paul did with Gamaliel, I learnt the scriptures at his feet. I lived in his house in Accra for two years while I studied at the Bible seminary, where he was Principal and he taught me much of what I know about the Living God.
My fourth link with the northern minorities is rooted in the ugly and sad events, surrounding the first coup d’etat that ever took place in our country during the First Republic. It was a northern minorities officer (from present-day Taraba State) by the name of Captain Takoda, under the command and instruction of another northern minorities officer (from present-day Plateau State) by the name of Lt. Col. Yakubu Jack Gowon, that saved my father’s life during the bloody mutiny and military coup of Jan. 15, 1966. It was also a northern minorities officer (from present-day Kogi State) by the name of Lt. Col. Dixon, who was the Airport Commandant at Lagos Airport in Ikeja in 1967, that smuggled my father on the plane and safely out of the country into self-imposed exile in the UK, after orders were issued to “shoot him on sight” by the Military Governor of the old Western Region, Lt. Col. Adeyinka Adebayo.
In view of all of the foregoing, it is clear that I owe the northern minorities so much and I love them as much as I love the South where I come from. I also identify strongly with their suffering and I appreciate the barbarity and injustice of the ruthless persecution that they have been subjected to from those that have kept them in bondage and subjugation for over 200 years. As a matter of fact, I regard myself as being as much of a northern Christian as anyone else in this forum and when one of our own is killed by the islamists and terrorists in our country, it hurts me to the very marrow. These are my people that are being slaughtered as much as they are yours.
If Nigeria were ever to break up, we would ensure that the northern minorities and the Middle Belt come with the South. We will never leave you in the hands of our collective enemies and we will never abandon you. When Nigeria is either redefined or restructured: That is when your true liberation begins. When it comes to suffering injustice, marginalisation, mass murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide you have suffered more than any other.
It is only the Igbo people of the South-East that have been subjected to the kind of wickedness that your people have been subjected to by the Nigerian state and those that have controlled it since independence. The only difference is that they literally took your identities away from you whilst they couldn’t do that to the Igbo who, till today, are still fighting hard for self-determination. It is our intention to right the wrongs of the past and to help to liberate you. It is our intention to encourage and support you in your quest for emancipation and freedom in this historic fight. My links with the northern minorities are deep, spiritual and unbreakable. As I said earlier, it did not begin with me but with my father.
My family owes you everything because your leaders and forefathers saved my father’s life on, at least, two occasions. My links with you cannot be broken by any force on earth and I will always stand for you and defend you as much as I will stand for and defend the rights of the oppressed and marginalised people of the South. We are together in our struggles and we must never forget that or allow our collective adversaries to divide us. It is self-evident that the Christians of the North need our help and support and more importantly they deserve it. They deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and decorum by all, including their northern Muslim brothers. They deserve to he able to live in peace anywhere in the North and to be able to buy land and build their churches and schools where they please.
They do not deserve to be treated with contempt and disdain and to be referred to as “arne” or “infidels and unbelievers” at every point in time. This is all the more so because they are the true believers and the sons and daughters of the Living God. They must no longer be subjected to persecution, discrimination, ethnic cleansing, genocide and mass murder by those that wish to wipe out their faith and subject them to bondage, servitude and slavery in perpetuity. The people of the South particularly have a duty to step up to the plate and reach out to them in love and with compassion.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that when we go out of our way as a people to care for the weakest, the most vulnerable, the most deprived, the most abused, the most traumatised, the most vilified, the most cheated, the most ridiculed, the most persecuted, the most misunderstood and the supposedly most “undeserving” in our society it says a lot about us. When we kill them like flies and treat them with contempt, hate and insensitivity or like animals it means that we are no better than beasts ourselves.
No matter how you may feel about an individual or an entire race of people and no matter what challenges they may be passing through, we must show them love and treat them with the compassion and kindness that they deserve. That is God’s law and that is what distinguishes us from animals and makes us human beings.
Permit me to share the profound and prophetic words of Mrs. Love Zidon, who is one of the members of this distinguished forum. She said: “We have decided to raise our heads up high in this country to walk as Christians. The law of retribution shall be activated on anyone that touches God’s own.”
What a lady! She is, indeed, a true Daughter of Zion and she is absolutely right. God shall punish and destroy those that seek to kill our people and torment our lives. Yet together, we shall prevail and God will shame our collective enemies, bring them to their knees and strip them bare.
Finally, please, bear the following in mind. If you remember nothing else that I have said here today, at least, remember this: That we, the oppressed, despised and marginalised people of Nigeria, whom our internal colonial masters regard as being nothing more than chattel and slaves, are with you and we feel and share your pain.
We are bound together by the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and, therefore, we feel and share your suffering. We feel and share your shame. We feel and share your consistent humiliation and persecution. Yet no matter how dark the night, joy comes in the morning. No matter how bad things get, always hold your heads up high, never bow before them, never show them fear, never let them break you and always remember that our God is mighty and that it shall be well.
No matter what violence they inflict upon you, no matter what indignities they subject you and yours to and no matter who or what they take away from you, never forget that on Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand: All other ground is sinking.
Never forget that He who created the universe and holds it together by the power of His word and that He that is known as the Alpha and the Omega, the Ancient of Days, the Lord God of Hosts, the Elohim, the Adonai and the King of Kings is with you. He has made us the head and not the tail. He has removed our rags, placed a crown on our heads and dressed us in purple and gold.
We are Kings and Queens and warriors of the faith. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation and, at the appointed time, we shall have the fat of the land; we shall rule over the Amalekites and the uncircumcised Philistines and we shall prevail.
God bless you all. God bless this forum and be rest assured that I shall never leave you.