Last Sunday's nationwide protests by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, against the senseless murder of its members by terrorists in the northern part of Nigeria, drove home one salient lesson: We have reached a dangerous point in the history of Nigeria where life amounts to nothing in the hands of murderous gangs terrorizing the land in the name of religion.
It is obvious from the way the sect has so far carried on that in the over a decade of its wanton attacks on innocent Nigerians, their method of killing had never been as horrendous as it has been in recent months.
Mass abduction of innocent school children from Chibok, Dapchi and the burning of 59 school boys from Federal Government College, Bunu Yadi, in Yobe State as well as the bombing of the UN building in Abuja and bus station in Karu had been recorded as some of the most devastating atrocities of the sect until last month's emergence of the video of the brutal beheading of Rev. Lawal Andimi, the Michika Local Government Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the murder of the University of Maiduguri Student, Ropvil Dalyep and the killing in Kaduna of a doctor's wife, Mrs. Ataga and an 18-year-old seminarian, Michael Nnadi by terrorists who invaded the seminary and made away with four of the students in the night. Although they later released three of the students, they brutally murdered Nnadi and dumped his body by the roadside.
Painfully, after killing their mother and dumping the corpse on the roadside, the terrorists are now demanding N20 million from the husband as a ransom for releasing two children abducted with their slain mother.
The mindless killings in parts of the north and the resurgence of violence in Maiduguri, the epic centre of the Boko Haram sect, brought the Buhari administration in conflict with Christian leaders on one hand, and the Islamic groups on the other hand. The CAN-ordered protest, which was led by the Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, where Nigeria's Vice President is a top pastor, featured prayers against incessant killings of Christians and for the return of peace to all parts of Nigeria and the revitalization of the fading economy and the glory of Nigeria.
The feeling of the Christian leaders is that the Buhari administration has not done enough to prevent the killings of innocent Christians while the President gives himself and his administration a thump-up that they have done well in securing the lives and property of Nigerians. Even Vice President Osinbajo said so on Monday this week, praising the administration for fighting harder to protect Nigerians.
Buhari's avoidable article of dispute
But it is Buhari who even put himself in a tighter corner by declaring that 90 percent of those slain by Boko Haram terrorists were Moslems without supplying any empirical evidence to back such claim. His position seems to be that the Boko Haram terrorists do not base their killing on religion, tribe or creed but simply just go ahead to kill whoever comes their way, a claim that recent abductions, beheadings and murder of Christians in the North disapprove even on the face value.
And, as it emerged, the president did not conclude his speech when critics began to pillory his claim. The Christian Association of Nigeria took the President to task and drew his attention to the fact that there was no justification for the figure being bandied by him.
The Vice Chairman of CAN in the North, Rev. John Hayab, said: "We believe that the claim by Mr. President that 90 percent of those killed by Boko Haram were Muslims is untrue. No serious-minded person will agree with this claim.
"We make bold to say that the Federal Government has not commissioned any multi-stakeholder survey to ascertain the facts and figures. Let the president show us the full facts backing the claim," the CAN leader said.
The President's remark also drew immediate opium from the opposition party, which found the claim as a ready tool to hit back at him and his administration. In a well calculated statement by its Spokesman, Kola Olagbodiyan, the PDP criticised the President, saying he did not need to brand any religion or tribe as the victims of Boko Haram attacks, having failed to secure the nation as promised.
The PDP said: "Mr. President's disturbing statement shows that the Buhari Presidency and the All Progressives Congress, APC, attach no value to the lives of Nigerians as well as further exposes their manifest lack of capacity and commitment to effectively tackle the worsened security situation under President Buhari's watch.
"Our party holds that for President Buhari, a commander-in-chief, who promised to fight from the fronts and now holds all the paraphernalia of power; and on whose shoulders the security of the nation rests, to make such a statement leaves no one in doubt that the Buhari Presidency has reached its wits end, exhausted its propaganda and has no solutions to offer.
"It is instructive for the Buhari Presidency to note that rather than engaging in lame attempt at rationalizing failure, the expectation of Nigerians is for it to take decisive steps, track down and vanquish terrorists, who resurged in our country after Mr. President took over as Commander-in-Chief.
"More distressing is that Mr. President's divisive comment is coming at a time when all well-meaning Nigerians, irrespective of religion, partisan and sectional interests, are rallying together following calls by patriotic individuals and groups, particularly the PDP, to find solution for the worsened security challenges under the APC administration.
"President Buhari and the APC must know that every life is precious, irrespective of religion, and that this obnoxious body count as rationalization for failure is completely unacceptable.
"The PDP notes that with such dismal attitude Nigerians have lost all confidence in the commitment of the APC administration to find solution to security challenges under its watch.
"The party therefore counsels President Buhari to immediately apologize for his comments, accept failure, rejig his security high command and engage more competent hands to effectively tackle the security challenges.
"Indeed, what Nigerians want to hear from President Buhari is the apprehension and prosecution of perpetrators of mass killings in Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Niger, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and other states of the nation where communities where pillaged under his watch."
While the altercation between the government and Christian leaders rage, the carnage by the Boko Haram sect appears to be assuming a more latent and repugnant dimension. And, there are ominous signs that they may not be receding any time soon despite strident onslaught against the members by the Nigerian military especially in the epic centre of the skirmishes in the Northeast. The fact remains that, like a bad seed, Boko Haram sect has continued to breed evil across the land, leaving in its wake tales of horror, blood, tears and sorrow.
Indeed, Nigeria had remained a relatively peaceful and forward-looking nation since the crushing of the Maitatsine sect that reared its ugly head against the land in the early 80's. And, apart from few minor skirmishes that did not make the government at both state or local levels to lose sleep the emergence of the Boko Haram sect, has posed a tremendous setback to the peace and security of Nigeria and threatened to sink the very foundation of Nigeria's continuous existence as a country.
Boko Haram terrorists' confused agenda!
The danger is that in one hand, Boko Haram and its terrorists tend to give the impression that they are frontally opposed to Christianity and its adherents in Nigeria through the mindless murder of Christians, rape and assault and forceful seizure of Christian girls such as Leah Sharibu and other Chibok girls who refused to denounce their faith and were therefore seized since 2014 till date.
But it is also on record, the Boko Haram terrorists have visited many mosques, markets, palaces and other public places in the North and detonated bombs and other improvised explosive devices, killing many Moslems in the process and leaving behind tales of woes of unimaginable proportions. Overall, the terrorists have succeeded in using their mode of killings and destruction to create apprehension and confusion as to their real motives and vision: They slaughter Christians as mere lower animals with knives and swords but shoot Moslems as common criminals with guns, making it clear that they give a little form of respect to one group of worshipers than the other.
But the terrorists have also driven Nigerians into a different kind of confusion when they invade mosques, detonate bombs and other Improvised explosive devices to kill Muslims thereby creating uncertainty as to their real motive and agenda.
In all of this, neither the founder of the sect, Yusuf Mohammed, who died in police custody in 2009, nor his lieutenants - Abubakar Shekau, who succeeded him can aptly explain what the real motive of the sect is about largely because from its initial credo of "Western Education is forbidden", it has gone into full time sophisticated bombings, kidnapping, beheading of Christians, forceful marriages of Christian women and girls and takeover of communities and seizure of security apparatus and arms, thereby turning itself into an army of occupation. In the process it has taken over swathes of local government areas and attempted to carve out territories for itself, a development that Nigeria and allied nations have jointly resisted, using the umbrella of the Multinational Joint Task Force "Operation Lafia Dole".
Boko Haram: Northern politicians' muffled tongues as was the case with Niger Delta militants
One inexplicable aspect of the Boko Haram sect is that its dastard and malevolent operatives come from families, communities and local government areas with known Nigerian faces and identities some of who are politicians. But the difficulty about the terrorists is that not many people have been bold enough to give their identities out despite the formation of several groups and vigilante bodies to gather intelligence about the sect and its members.
Regrettably too, as it was in the days of the Niger Delta militancy, some politicians who fancy their services and do not loath the idea of using them for political reasons. Then, in the oil rich but environmentally-challenged region, it was fashionable for politicians to boast of the 'Militant Camp' they belonged or the 'leader of the camp' which they support, which also demonstrated how 'politically powerful' they could be at that time. It is believed also that in the current guerrilla war being waged by the Boko Haram gangsters, there are political elements that are tactically giving financial, moral and security support to the terrorists in return for some symbiotic backing during electioneering.
Those who hold such strong suspicion, do so basically on the ground that despite the myriads of atrocities orchestrated by these elements, no significant voices of dissent have been raised against them by those who are familiar with bad boys even though they come from same families, community, local government and share the same beliefs and religion. Those who are in a position to speak out against the terrorists prefer to keep mute and pretend that all is well or do so with measured utterances so as not to lose their patronage.
The level of self-deceit displayed today by some northern politicians in cahoots with Boko Haram terrorists may not be totally different from the treachery unleashed by their Niger Delta colleagues in the run-up to the 2002/2003 polls when some of them reportedly acquired sophisticated weapons for their preferred militants and also 'showered' them with the needed war chest to be able to 'fight and conquer' adequate territories for political victory during the elections.
As a result of this well funded divide-and rule game power, many communities in the Niger Delta were overrun by foot soldiers belonging to militants working for politicians while prominent politicians like Marshal Harry and A. K. Dikibbo were easily exterminated by yet to be identified gunmen believed to have acted the wicked scripts of opposing politicians. As it is in the areas affected by terrorism in many northern parts of Nigeria today, kidnapping for ransom, brutal killings and general breakdown of law and order were rife across the affected states of the oil region, leading to a general state of despair, tension and economic loss by oil industry operators, with most of them, particularly foreigners, closing shops and leaving Nigeria.
And, to cap the perfidy championed by politicians, a public show was made at Bori Camp in Port Harcourt in 2004 when the militants signed for peace and 'surrendered their weapons to the military' and they were destroyed at a ceremony supervised by the then defence minister Rabiu Kwankwanso, who later went on to become Kano State governor.
But the truth is that while the politicians and their gangs went to nearby market in the Southeast to buy cheap dane and hunting guns and submitted for cash of $1800 per one, their sophisticated weapons were safely buried in their compounds and other secured locations in readiness for any eventuality. That was why the war of attrition among the rival militias in the Niger Delta persisted until the Yar'Adua administration finally granted amnesty to them and announced a Presidential Package to end the cycle of violence and destruction.
As it is, according to one top leader, not many northern politicians from Boko Haram's strong holds can boldly swear to an article of faith as to their knowledge of the terrorists, their location, sources of weapons supply, how they secure such arms and ammunition and where they pass through to commit their crimes and where they return at end of the day.
He said that "if that oath were to be administered today, it would be interesting to see how many northern politicians would readily and boldly present themselves to take it and move on to prove ignorance of the operations of the sect, which has dismantled many communities and turned them into refugees and sent thousands into early graves.
While the government continues to battle the Boko Haram terrorists, the sect has, through its bestial tactics of assassination, destruction and forceful marriage, appear to have successfully planted a seed of discord between the Christian and Muslim religions and their followers in Nigeria and broken the slim cord of unity that once existed between the two oldest religions in the country.
Boko Haram tears Christians, Moslems apart
Right now the crisis created by the Boko Haram terrorists has created a verbal war between Christians and Muslims, effectively heating up the already tensed religious atmosphere in the country. For instance, the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, on Wednesday addressed a world press conference in Abuja and taunted the Christian leaders, who staged a prayer walk against the killing of Christians by terrorists, describing them as hypocrites.
Although the group did not give any figure, it however agreed with the president that more Moslems than Christians had been slaughtered by terrorists in the North.
The Muslim group also dismissed insinuations that Boko Haram terrorists wear the mask of Islamists to eliminate Christians, saying the insurgents were rogues merely pursuing venal agenda far removed from Islam.
The monarch said: "It is the height of insincerity, wickedness, falsehood and hypocrisy to suggest that Boko Haram is a ploy to eliminate Christians, a dummy being promoted by some dealers camouflaging as religious leaders and their followers and the outside world.
"It is incontrovertible that more Muslims, including imams have been slaughtered, displaced, and dismembered than Christians since Boko Haram became what it is: a hydra-headed monster.
"Indeed more mosques have been bombed or destroyed in the bloody campaign which has consumed precious lives including those of our professors.
"To suggest that Christians are killed because they refused to embrace Islam stands logic on its head. Were Muslim scholars and individuals killed in mosques, markets squares, and villages killed because they refused to denounce Islam?
"Christians have been known to engage in terrorism in Nigeria with a view to blaming it on Muslims. Only cases of failed ones are known. They commit murder, engage in kidnapping and resort to heinous propaganda to put Nigeria and her Muslim population on the defensive.
"Their media wings distort news and skew reports to reveal and project their islamophobia but the voiceless Muslims have Allah and He is sufficient."
The monarch then reeled out eight instances out of many failed terrorist acts and false flag operations allegedly committed by Christians, which he claimed, would have been blamed on Muslims in Nigeria, if they had succeeded.
As expected the Christian Association of Nigeria did not allow the attack to die down when it fired back its cannons on the Muslim group.
CAN's National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, Evangelist Kwamkur Vondip, openly accused NSCIA of playing politics with security by trying to make a mockery of the crucial issues raised by its members over subsisting threats to their members in the north.
He insisted that Boko Haram was an Islamic group on a mission to exterminate Christians going by its full names, statement of purpose, leadership structure and modus operandi.
The Christian body said: "It is on multiple records that Boko Haram took years to form under the tutelage of a prominent Islamic scholar in Borno. And when he died, there was seamless succession to power within the organization.
"When the Islamic group started terrorizing Nigerians, they told the nation that they were religious group with full name as Jama'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid Da'wah was' Jihad (meaning Jihad Brigade), and on a mission to islamize the country.
"So, we make bold to say Boko Haram is a Muslim group. They kill by chanting Quranic phrases. The insurgents have never killed saying 'in the name of Jesus.'
"Let's not forget how they also abduct Christian girls and boys, forcefully convert them to Islam and hang suicide vests on them to go and destroy Nigerians in both Christian and Muslim places of worship. All we are saying is that solid evidence abound that Boko Haram is an organized Muslim group," CAN insisted, warning NSCIA to stop acting as it they were not in Nigeria to witness the brutality visited on Christians by the terrorists.
Boko Haram threatens Nigeria's corporate Existence as regional armies emerge
But the trouble does not just end there! Right now the sect has also dangerously threatened the foundation of Nigeria to the extent that all sections of Nigeria now prefer to take the laws into their hands trying to defend themselves and their territories with the emergence of strange sobriquets invented to match the level of threats in their respective domains.
In the Southwest, Operation Amotekun, has already been flagged off, putting the federal government and the governors in that region at loggerheads while on Wednesday a northern coalition group, CNG, launched a similar outfit code-named 'Shege Ka Fasa' in Kaduna to help halt the spate of terrorists assaults in the state and its environs, a development the Attorney General of the Federation has already ruled unconstitutional.
To underscore the fear of terrorists' attacks in the land, some states in the country have quietly established their private security outfits and embellished them under innocuous branding, .
The descent into religious war between the major religious groups in Nigeria, coupled with rising killings, kidnapping and forceful marriage of Christian girls and women in parts of the north all spearheaded by terrorists, is a sure route to Nigeria's perdition if not urgently arrested because not only have these malicious actions weakened the foundation for national unity and cohesion but have also dangerously blighted the much needed religious harmony that the nation needs to flourish in the 21st century.
Without mincing words, no single group has ever posed a monumental threat to Nigeria's continuous existence as the one being unleashed by the Boko Haram terrorists since the return to democracy two decades ago. There are also the activivities of criminal herdsmen.
They constitute a huge danger to national security. While it was easier for the military to crush the Maitatsine uprising that caused the death of over 3000 Nigerians in the north between 1980 and 1985, using tough military onslaughts against the sect led by Mohammed Marwa, President Muhammadu Buhari has battled to contain the onslaughts of the terrorists.
Again, it is safe to say that without the actions, endorsement and approval of some political actors in Borno State with the return to democracy in 1999, the emergence of Boko Haram in Borno in 2002 and the subsequent nefarious activities that are now waging unceasing war against Nigeria and its people and threatening to torpedo the very foundation of the nation, would not have been possible. Is this body that is seemingly a creation of politics succeeding in tearing Nigeria apart by setting Muslims against Christians? If that is their aim, the leaders must not allow this to happen. Rather than claiming that more Christians or Muslims have fallen victims their efforts should be to wipe out the sect and secure the lives of Nigerians and guarantee peace and freedom everywhere.
Clearly, what Nigerians pass through today in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists fits into Alexander Herzen's postulation that "The men who proclaimed the republic become the assassins of freedom". Too bad!