By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.
I have waited since Sunday, July 10, 2016, when the news broke, of the gruesome murder of Mrs Eunice Elisha, an assistant pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Abuja, for the comment and reaction of the President, Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari, retd, to no avail. The President’s silence is ominous, worrisome, unfortunate and disappointing. And after listening to the Commissioner of Police of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Channels television, coupled with the pictorial report of the visitation of the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, to the family of the deceased, it became clearer to me, that the President is deliberately keeping silent, on this cold blooded murder.
In section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, it is stated that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. All Citizens of Nigeria should therefore feel safe in any part of the country that they choose to reside in, irrespective of their faith.
Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution states clearly that “the government of the federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State religion”, signifying clearly, that Nigeria, by law and by the choice of our people, is a secular state.
By section 38(1) of the same Constitution, “every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private), to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
It is this section 38(1) that Mrs Eunice Elisha, was relying upon to manifest, propagate and practice her religion, through evangelism, in public. She could therefore not have constituted a threat or a nuisance, to any person or any other religion, especially in Abuja, which is declared and designated by law, as the federal capital territory of Nigeria.
On the same day that life was snuffed out of Mrs Elisha, it was also reported that Fulani herdsmen invaded a community in Benue State and killed over 81 persons. Still, the President has kept mute. The stage-managed killings by the Fulani herdsmen, who are Muslims, have been targeted at predominantly Christian settlements.
The worrisome dimension of the President’s silence, is more frightening because majority of the people that the President has openly complained did not vote for him in the 2015 presidential elections, are mostly in the South South and in the South East, who are mostly Christians, in their majority. The States that have been free of any form of attack by Fulani Muslim herdsmen, in the South West, are Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun, all of which are either headed by Muslim governors or controlled by Muslim party leaders.
In Ondo State, where a Christian governor holds sway, chief Olu Falae, has been attacked twice, by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, right in his own farm. In Ekiti State, where a Christian governor holds sway, Muslim Fulani herdsmen, have also attacked farmers, but for the prompt intervention of the governor.
Interestingly, neither the ruling APC nor the opposition PDP, has uttered a word, on the heinous and barbaric murder of Mrs Elisha and indeed the invasion of other Christian communities. They have been busy, as has been customary with politicians, fighting dirty, for the control of our national treasury, through political power.
Neither the Islamic nor the Christian religion preaches violence and bloodshed, but fundamentalists and fanatics of these different religions are unleashed on our people by our leaders, when it is convenient for them to achieve a sinister motive. From all indications therefore, it would seem convenient, for the President to keep sitting upon the blood and death of innocent Christians, who are considered to form the bulk of the critics of his government presently and also in the opposition, politically.
In times past, we have learnt to respect the faith and beliefs of all fellow Nigerians, in demonstration of a single, United and indivisible Nigeria. But that national unity seem to be in apparent peril, under this administration.
Presently, it is alleged that Christian Religious Knowledge, has been removed from the educational curriculum of all the Northern States. It is alleged that there is a pending Bill in the National Assembly, to codify Islamic law as part of the criminal jurisprudence of Nigeria, with universal application in all the states of the federation. The Grazing Bill pending in the National Assembly is targeted at the acquisition of the customary land of the Southern Christian States, for the use and occupation of Muslim Fulani herdsmen. It is alleged that most critical appointments of the present administration have been dominated by Muslims. There are indeed other serious concerns, voiced against the Buhari regime, in relation to religion.
Ordinarily, we should have no concern about the faith or belief of any leader, if and when aberrations, such as happened to Mrs Elisha in Abuja occur, the leader is quick to speak and act, in genuine condemnation and detestation of same. But our President has been silent, and indeed uncomfortably silent, in all of these attacks.
The President is very well aware of the effect of faith and religion, on our national life. Thus in 2011 when he sought to rule Nigeria, General Buhari picked Pastor Tunde Bakare, a vocal Christian, as his running mate. And in order to garner more votes in 2015, General Buhari chose Pastor Yemi Osinbajo, a provincial pastor in The Redeemed Christian Church of God, and close confidant of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, leader of the biggest pentecostal church in Nigeria, as his running mate.
It is therefore a great disservice to the loyalty of Osinbajo and indeed all his supporters, for the President to openly ignore the barbaric and cold blooded murder of Mrs Elisha, who is also a pastor in the same church of his Vice-President, which occurred right in the domain of the President, in Abuja. No statement, no visitation, no condemnation. It is indeed ominous, especially in an administration that rules through body language.
It is bad enough for the people to be complaining that their leader is clueless about how to run his government, it is painful enough when a leader openly reneges upon his campaign promises, to the detriment of his own integrity, it is hurting enough when a leader runs the economy aground and is implementing anti-people policies, that impose hardship and suffering on the people; but it becomes saddening, when the leader is openly insensitive to bloodshed and violence, perpetrated on the strength of the faith of that leader. General Buhari must speak loudly and act decisively, against any form of religious intolerance, if that is the only dividend, that they will get, for their votes and support for him.
It is on the strength of all the above that I call on the President to urgently visit the family of the Elishas, that the President should personally visit and console with facilities of the communities that have so far been decimated, devastated and wrecked by Fulani herdsmen, in demonstration of the unity and secularity of Nigeria.
Nigerians love themselves and would love to dwell in a country united in faith and religious practices. I therefore urge the President not to destroy that unity and togetherness, with his seeming preference for religious fanaticism. If previous administrations have done this for their selfish and ulterior purposes, it behoves on the present government of change, to depart from this inglorious and divisive practice.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Lawyer, writes from Lagos