Let’s Work on “how to build a new Nigeria on blood of our martyrs”: Catholic Bishop

Late Deborah Yakubu. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The stoning and murder of Deborah Yakubu and other people who have been killed in Nigeria because of their faith should provide a foundation upon which a country that embraces religious freedom can be rebuilt anew, a Catholic Bishop in the West African nation has said. 

In a reflection shared with ACI Africa on Monday, May 16, Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo appeals to aggrieved Nigerians to “step back” from their anger and to forge dialogue that will help the country to move forward.

Bishop Badejo urges his compatriots to “embark on genuine, robust public discourse and strategies for authentic change for Nigeria.”

“Some of us need to step back from our anger so that we can truly ruminate and reflect on the way ahead,” the Bishop of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Oyo says in his reflection.

He adds, “Let us have robust but positive propositions about how to build a new Nigeria on the blood of our ‘martyrs’. Many seem to be tired and averse to talk and discourses but whatever the problem may be, you need a theoretical basis on which to build action.”


In the May 16 reflection, Bishop Badejo admits that he was deeply angered by the stoning to death and burning of Deborah, an Economics student at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto.

Various media accounts have indicated that Deborah, an Economics student at the Sokoto College, allegedly had an argument with fellow students in a WhatsApp group and the Muslim students among them claimed that she had made blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.

The argument on WhatsApp reportedly took place during the Muslim month of Ramadan when the College was on break. When they reportedly saw Deborah at College on Thursday, May 12, all available Muslim male students allegedly surrounded her and started stoning her until she fell. They reportedly made sure she died and subsequently set her body ablaze.

“I am outraged,” Bishop Badejo says in his reflection, and adds, “I am just as incensed as any sane Nigerian over the dastardly killing in Sokoto of Deborah Yakubu, a Zuru lady from Ribah in Kebbi State, because she allegedly expressed an opinion which some youths found offensive.”

The Nigerian Catholic Bishop describes the murder of Deborah as “a barbaric crime against human life and decency” and says he prays for the repose of her soul.

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“She is now no more with us. May God rest her gentle soul in perfect peace,” Bishop Badejo implores.

He expresses his awareness of the fact that Deborah’s murder has attracted diverse reactions, with some calling for protests and revenge.

He says that while many have pilloried the government and the security agencies for “usual laxity and cover up”, a few have blamed Deborah herself “for being reckless and careless” knowing that she was living among “wolves who would devour her” for any seeming opposition to their faith.

“Some are calling for justice, some others for revenge,” the Local Ordinary of Oyo says, and adds, “Be that as it may however, Deborah is gone. May her soul rest in perfect peace and may God comfort her parents, family and loved ones.”

Bishop Badejo goes on to condemn the murder of the Nigerian Christian college girl, saying that Deborah did not do anything to warranty the death.


“Nothing, I mean nothing at all can justify or even excuse the slaughter and murder of anyone by a mindless mob like what Deborah has gone through. She may be considered careless, carefree or even reckless, name it, but no human being deserves to be treated like she has been treated,” he says. 

“In civilized societies, even the most hardened criminal deserves a fair hearing and trial. Deborah was certainly nothing near a hardened criminal,” the Local Ordinary of Oyo Diocese who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) says, explaining that Deborah’s killing goes beyond religious rights to a higher level of human rights.

He adds, “It really does not matter whether Deborah was E.C.W.A, C.A.C, Redeem, Catholic or even a Muslim person. She had rights and dignity which were criminally abrogated and impugned.”

The Nigerian Catholic Bishop says that denial of rights in Nigeria need to be penalized and prevented from reoccurring.

Deborah’s case, Bishop Badejo further says, should be used as a reference for clearing the backlog of such occurrences in Nigeria and address the prospect of reoccurrence. He adds, “If we take our eyes away from that we lose it all.”

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In his reflection, Bishop Badejo appreciates the fact that many “credible” Muslim teachers and scholars are beginning to speak as never before, criticizing the assumptions and affirmations of fellow Muslims who endorse Deborah’s killing.

The Catholic Bishop says that the people of God stand a great chance of benefitting from what he describes as “a war of ideology interrogating itself” with the new approach taken by Muslim scholars.

He urges Christians to always embrace peace and to engage with the section of Muslims who are more open to dialogue.

“I think we as Christians must reflect and carefully coax and coopt this section of the Muslim community in order to achieve a greater victory for Nigeria and humanity,” Bishop Badejo says in his reflection shared with ACI Africa May 16. 

He adds, “Such projects are not always best undertaken by protest marches and violent reactions. They require well thought out expressions, communications and strategies that will induce reflection, convince and persuade the general public so that this tragedy does not happen again.”

The Bishop says that he had spoken with the fathers of Deborah and Leah Sharibu who remains at the hands of Islamist kidnappers, and that both fathers had demonstrated a great sense of courage and faith.

He says, in reference to the fathers of Leah and Deborah, “These are the main victims and dramatis personae of some of Nigeria’s recent debacles.” 

Bishop Badejo says he had also reached out to his colleague, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, the hometown of the Nigerian institution of higher learning where Deborah was stoned to death.

He says that Bishop Kukah and the parents of Leah and Deborah are all people of very deep faith who have a much wider scope to the problem at hand. “Their perspectives are much wider and even wiser than the views and reactions of most of us outraged Nigerians. I admire them and I deduce from them that this particular case, coming at this critical time in our political history, if handled well, can be the turning point for Nigeria to uncover the hypocrisy of our leaders and prospective leaders.”

Bishop Badejo says that if handled well, Deborah’s case “can help us embark on genuine, robust public discourse and strategies for authentic change for Nigeria.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.