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Nigeria is at a crossroads, the kind it has never experienced before even during the period of the civil war. The way the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) approaches the Boko Haram atrocities (these days, unlike before) is unfortunate because its leaders make it look like Christians are the only targets, to the extent of “informing” the world that members of its faith are an endangered species in Nigeria.
For the avoidance of doubt, nobody is safe from Boko Haram except those who buy into their warped understanding of Islam. More Muslims have been slaughtered and shot to death by the insurgent group in the last ten years than Christians. In the same period, more Muslims have lost property than Christians.
If we are to look at the humanity in us first before all else, CAN should be seen to be concerned about Boko Haram attacks on all.
The Boko Haram insurgents are quite aware of our religious fault lines, a phenomenon exacerbated by inciting statements by the clerics of the two major religions.
In an earlier article entitled “Mr President, Nigeria is at war!” I had extensively broached on this and I will reproduce a part here:
“But the worst aspect of the whole thing is that it is as if the federal government is not aware that it is dealing with ruthless, very intelligent terrorist organisations that see whatever they are doing as games.
“These terrorists know our fault lines and they know that religion can threaten to burn down this country if anything will.
“That they left Leah Sharibu Nata behind, purportedly on the premise that she ‘refused’ to convert to Islam, is a ruse and a deliberate ploy to make more money. They know the pressure that will be exerted on the government may be greater than the one on it when the girls were abducted. They are just being adept at exploiting our fault lines.
“Nigeria is unfortunately peopled by mischievous rabble rousers like Fani Kayode who are neither Christian in thought or action but who use Christianity in order to further divide the country at any such ‘opportunity’.
“Other Christian organisations, NGOs and even some countries that will now begin to insinuate that ‘Nigeria is the most dangerous country on earth for a Christian to live in’ will now join in heaping pressure on the ‘Muslim government of Buhari’. The saddest aspect is that they all know the truth but mischief is preferable.
“Knowing all these as the mindset of the Nigerian is why the Boko Haram abductors refuse to release her. Recall that Chibok girls, police officers wives and many other girls/women had been released with their faith intact, then why is Leah’s different?
“The Boko Haram, be it the Shekau or Albarnawi faction, does not see even Muslims as Muslims except those who share the same ideology as theirs. Therefore, Leah’s case has less to do with faith than with hard currency. And because of the peculiar nature of Nigeria and our religious hypocrisy, they may end up collecting at least twice what they collected on the returned 104 Dapchi girls. And just by the way, the girl’s father’s level will soon change for ‘breeding a pious’ girl who will soon be ferried, on her release, abroad for further education”.
Sometimes, CAN gets worked up that Boko Haram attacks were not “condemned” by the federal government. But to what end, if one may ask? Well, condemnation can only serve the diplomacy aspect of governance but that’s all. Condemnation can only make them laugh and do more. That’s what they want to hear!
Rather than hearken to the anarchist calls of people like FFK, who are bent on inciting Christians to carry arms (to fight who? Their neighbours? Colleagues at work? In-laws?) Christians and Muslims should come together to find a lasting solution to the issues of insecurity threatening us as a nation because neither Muslims nor Christians are safe from Boko Haram and bandits.
This brings me to another thorny issue, “deradicalisation”. Can those who have tasted blood, whose creed is to shed blood, be “deradicalised”? Let us pray we are not going to empower enemies of the people who will refuse us and our children a future.
In any case, the El-Zakzaky people who are the ones being prosecuted in courts while Boko Haram members get “deradicalised” should also be incorporated into such a novel programme. Perhaps we may have a solution to their problem in this.
By and large, the federal and state governments must rise up and address the issue of out of school kids and teens because this sector is a major recruitment fountain for dissidents. Much effort should also be made to address the poverty eating away at citizens. An uneducated, poor citizen can easily fall for the “glamour” of crime.
Wealthy individuals and organisations must also join hands with the government at all levels to help the citizens out of illiteracy and poverty. They should know that they are doing it for their own growth as well. An educated, economically buoyant citizenry is an assurance for high consumption that would propel the growth of production. And there is the reward of less fight against the state.
Poverty: Emirs to the rescue
The general perception is that emirs, being custodians of our culture and anything that is good, and can catalyze our development, should be at the vanguard of addressing the issue of poverty and out-of-school children.
This is because government, corporate organisations and influential people have enormous respect for them and they can easily mobilise them for good.
However, while some emirs prefer the limelight through visible publicity, one emir who is silently eroding the out-of-school menace with the potential to eradicating poverty is the Emir of Gombe.
The Emir, Alhaji (Dr) Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III, who is also the chancellor of Gombe State University and that of Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, established a nongovernmental organisation, Shehu Usman Abubakar Foundation (SUAF) in 2015 to execute various humanitarian developmental programmes in the state.
The initiative has succeeded in supporting the needy through its health intervention scheme which supported a thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gombe as well as contributing to the building of new schools and construction of water boreholes across communities, among other essential activities.
With particular attention to underprivileged and the girl child, the foundation had in 2015 sponsored 1,500 children of between the ages of six and seven into various primary schools across the state.
The next year, another set of 1,500 underprivileged children, comprising orphans and children of the less privileged families across the state were also extended the same scholarship.