The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, discloses that Christians’ agitation against killings in Nigeria will be sustained.
Since you became the CAN president, what are the major issues you have resolved within the organisation and in the larger Christian community?
One of the controversial issues we met on the ground was the issue of secondary school curriculum where religious studies were put under civic and moral education. They limited the number of hours that could be spent teaching Christian Religious Studies. We saw it as inappropriate in a country that needs its youths to be taught the fear of God. In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, we need to teach people how to see the next person as their neighbour and accept other people.
Reducing moral instruction in school will not make us accomplish that. We saw it as evil, ungodly and not beneficial to the nation. There was initial denial by the Ministry of Education but God intervened and it was changed. Christian and Islamic religious studies are now separate subjects in our schools.
We have also been approaching the government on the issue of herdsmen and Boko Haram killings. We have offered our suggestions to the government and made our position known to caution people in power. We will still continue to do that. Part of the actions we have taken is the peaceful procession we held against these killings. We call on those in power to do more than what they are doing now because we cannot allow Nigeria to degenerate into a land of bloodbath.
The Lord has also enabled us to assist internally displaced persons in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Enugu, Adamawa and so on with relief materials.
A governor called on his people to defend themselves against the Fulani herdsmen if government fails to do so. Do you subscribe to this call?
CAN was the first organisation that asked people to defend themselves during the time of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor because it then appeared that there was complicity on the side of government and security agencies.
Our concern now is that it appears as if the insurgents, herdsmen and so on appear to be better trained than our own security agencies. Why should the killers continue to beat the intelligence of our security agencies? How are they succeeding in attacking soft targets all over Nigeria and the security agencies cannot outsmart them? Why has it been impossible for them to arrest them?
They claim they are unknown gunmen. Who is supposed to know them? The security agencies have everything to fight the insurgents and arrest them. Why have they been failing? The bloodshed continues with impunity and it appears as if the security agencies in Nigeria are clueless. That was why Oritsejafor said if government could not defend the people, the people should defend themselves. It is unacceptable for people to die without fulfiling their purposes in life.
Why did you limit the Sunday protest to the church premises?
We did not want hoodlums to hijack the protest. We have seen processions being hijacked many times in Nigeria. In some cases, overzealous security agencies caused confusion. We did not want anyone to add sorrow to our sorrow. It is good to be as wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.
How will you describe the success of the protest?
The media massively made it a success with their nationwide coverage of the protest. The media is aware that we are fighting for them; they know we are fighting for Nigeria. Of what use is the continuous bloodshed to us? Why can’t we apprehend the demon-possessed individuals who rejoice over shedding of innocent blood? These are heartless people that we should all condemn. I commend the media.
Will there be more of such actions from CAN?
Yes. This government should expect more protests from CAN for as long as the killings of innocent souls continue in this country. There are some other people who will still protest this Sunday (today) because the information got to them late; so, they could not observe it last Sunday. We have told them it must be peaceful and within their communities.
What is your view on the kidnap of Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls and the process leading to the release of some of them?
The Dapchi kidnap looks like a drama. The security people attached to Dapchi were withdrawn two weeks before the insurgents struck in that school. Why were they withdrawn? When the girls were returned to Dapchi, they came with new bags as if they were coming from abroad. Where did they get the bag to buy in the bush? It was as if they went on an excursion and they came back with reward.
The Boko Haram members, who kidnapped them, were the same people who returned them with no security agent taking any action. Government missed it in their negotiation. A negotiation that will leave one girl back in the hands of the supposed captors on the basis of her religion is totally unacceptable. It was meant to provoke religious agitation if not religious war.
Why should you do that? You allowed all the Muslims to be released but you could not conclude on the negotiation to release Leah Sharibu because she is a Christian. That appears like complicity on the side of the government against Christians. It is a provocative action and very tendentious. It is annoying and suspicious. Those in government must be very careful. If they have done the right thing, we will not continue to criticise them.
How many people do we want to lose every week? Shall we wait until everybody is killed? Government must wake up. Those in government swore to uphold the security of lives and property of the citizens. Why are they not doing that? What was the magic wand that government used to negotiate the release of Dapchi girls? Why can’t the government use the same for the Chibok girls? Why deliberately leave one girl behind?
Is it possible that the security agencies could have been infiltrated by the insurgents?
I don’t know how the military system works but there appears to be complicity and unfaithfulness on the part of the security personnel.
You said President Muhammadu Buhari should forget about his second term bid if security is not improved on? Can you throw more light on this?
If I am not sure I will be safe as it looks now, how do we commit the future into his hands? We don’t vote people because we want them to go and sit down in government. Are they there for a jamboree?
If security issue remains this way, will CAN raise a candidate using a political platform?
We are not politicians in CAN. Christians can decide on their own to contest.
How much are you doing to sensitise the global powers to insecurity in Nigeria especially as it concerns your constituency?
As much as we have the opportunity, we will continue speaking on the issue. The world is now a global village and most foreign media outfits have their correspondent in Nigeria. We want the international community to come to our aid in Nigeria. The fight against continuous killing is not only for the Christians to bear. It is for all of us.
Do you think the heavy investment Buhari has made in security is worth it after all?
Nothing is too small to fight against those who are killing people.
What is your take on the national lawmakers’ proposal to remove Buhari over the unapproved purchase of fighter jets?
They are Nigerians who have their own opinions on what is going on. If the killers can enter the house of God and kill worshippers and priests, people will not keep quiet. People are frustrated that there is no respect for men of God. What is the government doing? Government always says it is on top of the situation but it looks otherwise. What they have told him is to make him fasten his belt and do his work?
Apart from security, which other areas would you advise the government to improve on?
Infrastructure is number one. There is less supply of electricity. This is the third year of this administration and all we hear are promises. Did the rest of the world get their electricity from heaven? Why has our own not arrive yet? Collapse of our roads is another area.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is 120 kilometres in stretch.The government has been repairing the road for more than three years now. How long will it take to construct longer roads? Most of our roads are death traps and the rail system belongs to the stone age. We need to use modern rail system. Our health care system is another major challenge and that is why those who can afford it like those in government go abroad for treatment.
We have youths that are unemployed too. We need to create jobs but the problem is that investors will not come if there is insecurity. Nobody wants to die in the hands of herdsmen and Boko Haram.
Outside security challenges, are there areas you will commend this administration of Buhari?
I will commend Buhari for at least fighting against corruption physically, but the fight should not be against the opposition alone. It appears that only people in the Peoples Democratic Party are corrupt. Don’t we have corrupt politicians in the All Progressives Congress? It’s a reality that we must face. It must be total.
Is there a collaboration between CAN and Islamic bodies in the fight against killings in Nigeria?
We have been meeting at the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council where we determine joint actions. We all agreed that the killings are unacceptable and must be rejected. We have agreed to call the attention of government to beef up security and make lives safer. We have also agreed that we must lessen religious tension through our choice of words.
What is your advice to the youth?
They should be ready to work for the progress of Nigeria and be ready to be retrained. They should embrace skill acquisition so that they will not depend on the government.
With the enormous task you engage in, how do you create time to relax with your family?
By the grace of God, I know how to withdraw. The body has a monitoring mechanism that will tell you that you cannot go further. When you feel that way, you have to listen to your body. However, I rest more when I travel because the phone calls will reduce and I don’t have to face journalists all the time. – Culled from Punch.