, 05 February, 2020 / 3:48 AM
Following increased cases of abductions and murder targeting Christians in the West African nation of Nigeria, the most recent case being the killing of the 18-year-old seminarian Michael Nnadi, the retired Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie has faulted claims by government officials that Boko Haram has been defeated and said President Muhammadu Buhari and some members of his administration have a task of defending themselves before God.
“Any government spokesman, presidential media assistant or service chief, who says that Boko Haram has been defeated, will be answerable to God for every life that Boko Haram has destroyed,” Cardinal Okogie stated in his Tuesday, February 4 open letter that lists various murders attributed to “a faction of Boko Haram under the banner of Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP)” since last December.
“One of the biggest lies ever told by any government in the history of Nigeria is that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”. Boko Haram has not been defeated. It is, in fact, waxing stronger”, the 83-year-old Cardinal stated in his letter titled “Walls have ears”, Nigeria’s Daily Post has reported.
According to the Nigerian Prelate, President Buhari does not seem to be in control of the affairs of the country, his government is not honest with citizens, and wondered how many innocent citizens will have to “be killed before our government and its functionaries admit that Nigeria is not winning the war against terrorism?”
To explain the failure of President Buhari’s government to maintain the security of citizens, the Cardinal emeritus has chronologically highlighted multiple incidents that demonstrate how ISWAP seems to have “intensified its terrorist acts.”
“On December 12, ISWAP executed a police officer and 14 civilians in northeastern Nigeria,” Cardinal Okogie recalled.
On the following day, “on December 13, ISWAP executed four of the six workers it abducted in July 2019. One of the abducted workers had already been executed last September,” he said and also recalled the December 14 event when “as many as 19 Fulani cattle herders were killed by Boko Haram near Ngala, close to Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.”
He went on to highlight the killing of six people and the abduction of five on December 22 near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria.
On Christmas eve, the Nigerian Prelate recounted, “Boko Haram visited Chibok, a Christian town, killed seven and abducted a teenage girl.”
The widely shared report of the execution of 11 Christians in Nigeria’s Borno State by a terrorist group affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) on Christmas Day was a demonstration of the level of insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation, the Cardinal noted, adding that the perpetrators “obviously meant to dampen Christmas celebrations.”
The Cardinal also recalled the January 2 abduction of Pastor Lawan Andimi, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika local government area of the State of Adamawa and his eventual killing on January 20 as an illustration of the government’s failure to protect it’s citizens.
“On January 7, not less than 20 soldiers were killed, and more than 1,000 people were added to the number of displaced persons in Borno,” Cardinal Okogie recalled and added, “Nigerians saw on video how the Governor of Borno State witnessed extortion on the highway by soldiers mounting a checkpoint in Borno. Nigerians are yet to be told what happened to those soldiers.”
He also highlighted the January 8 abduction of four first-year philosophy seminarians, “young men being trained to become Catholic priests.”
“Three of the seminarians were found after their captors inflicted serious injuries on their bodies and their minds. Another one, Michael Nnadi, was murdered,” the Cardinal bemoaned.
“On January 9, young Daciya Dalep, an indigene of Plateau State on his way back to school at the University of Maiduguri was abducted and later executed by Boko Haram child soldier,” the Nigerian Prelate said and added, “Dalep was abducted along with Lilian Daniel Gyang, another student of the University of Maiduguri and fellow Plateau State indigene.”
He also recalled the abduction of Leah Sharibu, a young Christian woman who “has spent over one year in Boko Haram captivity. Abducted among other young schoolgirls, she has not been released because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. Her release does not look like something that will happen soon.”
The then probed, “With these and other indices available in the public domain, can it be sincerely said that Boko Haram is in any sense defeated?”
“With heightening insecurity in the land, Nigerians have a right to question the competence of the service chiefs. They are yet to demonstrate that they have solutions to the menace of Boko Haram,” the Cardinal lamented, adding that Buhari’s government need not shy away from answering citizens’ questions with honestly “For the truth shall make us free.”
He faulted Buhari’s government for being insincere, with government spokespersons insulting Nigerians “by their insensitive and unguarded utterances” that seem to show the President is in control of the country.
“While this country is burning, presidential spokespersons, allergic to dissenting voices, deceive Nigerians by peddling the myth of an omnipotent and omniscient President. The most potent dangers to our hard-earned democracy are the President’s men,” the Cardinal decried.
According to the Nigerian Prelate, President Buhari has to call the Service Chiefs “to order or fire them” to demonstrate he is in control of the country.
He further reflected, “While Boko Haram has not spared members of the Muslim community, the fact of the affiliation of these aggressors with Islamic religion is undeniable. Neither is it deniable that many of their victims are Christians.”
The Cardinal went on to lament, “While it is true that friendship in Nigeria does cut across religious boundaries, it is also clearly evident that some practitioners of Islamic religion are saying it is a crime to be Christian in Nigeria.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa