The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has warned that the ongoing killings in Southern Kaduna is a dangerous sign Nigeria is ignoring.
He said it was unfortunate that some prominent Nigerians and government officials were insisting that the crises have no religious undertones when that is clearly what is happening.
“Immediately you play into a religious matter, nobody can intervene in any serious way, and that is really a pity,” he told Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.
“This is why the statement attributed to the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, is generating ripples.
“He tried to say we should not give this any religious colouring but the fact is that there is now a religious colouring and that is what he must admit and tackle.
“Whether it is in Southern Kaduna or Plateau State, all these conflicts are a continuation of the tribal wars of the last century and those tribal wars have some religious connotation.
“After all, they are called Jihad. We are in a situation now whereby, for historical reasons, any conflict in that area takes up a religious tone which is why it becomes very difficult to handle”.
On the claim that over 800 lives have been lost in recent months, Onaiyekan said “The statement of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan was issued more than a month ago. This is a serious allegation.”
“It is clear (from), concrete statistics of damage done, lives lost, homes destroyed, people displaced and I am sure they have evidence of all these allegations.
“For the governor and indeed the President to still say everything is okay is dangerous because it means that it is okay that people are getting killed.
“For me, it is better, easier, and more effective if the president simply insists that no human being should be badly treated. Any Nigerian should have the right not to be killed
“I have no reason to doubt the statistics which my colleague has put together. I believe that he just did not sit back in his house and draw up those numbers. I believe in those numbers, and I am very worried about them.
“He sent it to all the bishops in Nigeria, and we are all in one way or the other reacting to it. What exactly can we do? There should be a meeting of people who are not just Christians or Muslims.
“We believe that if what is happening in Southern Kaduna is not stemmed, it can become very dangerous for the whole country.”
Speaking of the seeming silence of President Muhammadu Buhari, the prelate said he is the only one who can take responsibility because sincerity is in the heart.
“You know how difficult it is to get to Aso Villa, so it is possible for the President to sit there looking through all kinds of papers.
“There are a lot of issues to deal with in Nigeria: economic, climate change, diplomatic relations, Boko Haram and then somebody brings a file on Southern Kaduna, and it depends on how the person who brings it presents it and it is possible that Mr President can sit there and not know how bad the situation is.
“The President doesn’t send someone to the newsstand to buy newspapers. Somebody looks at the newspapers and brings him the items that he is supposed to pay attention to.
“There is no excuse for Mr President to be kept in the dark about it and if I were Mr President and I finally found out that all these things have been happening and I was not told, then all those who should have informed me would be fired immediately.
“They are destroying his work. I am saying this because it will be difficult for Mr President to know all these things and keep quiet. If he does, it means that he is happy with what is happening.
“Some are even suggesting that maybe he is behind it all, well if he does nothing, he cannot stop people from speculating that.”
(Wale Odunsi, Nigeria’s Daily Post )