President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor
By Charles Onyekamuo
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has taken a swipe at the seeming reluctance of governors of the Northern states to tackle the menace of Boko Haram.
This came as a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), urged the Federal Government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Islamic sect in order to end the frequent killings of Nigerians.
CAN wondered why the governors can not put measures in place to checkmate the Islamic sect’s killings and destruction of properties of Christians and others opposed to their nefarious activities.
President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who spoke Wednesday during the association’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the Women Development Centre in Awka, the Anambra State capital, said the way the sect succeeds in its attacks and its method of operations show that they are not done yet.
Oritsejafor, who described their host, the state governor, Mr. Peter Obi, as a patriotic, resourceful and dependable politician, called on governors of the 17 Southern states to hold a meeting on the fate of their people being killed daily in the North by the Islamic sect and urged them to challenge their Northern counterparts on the killings.
He urged the Southern governors to continue to play the role of peace makers while sustaining the measures they had put in place to forestall reprisal attacks in many parts of Southern region of the country.
He expressed regret that in spite of the many press conferences CAN had addressed in the past stating its position on the spate of bombings by Boko Haram on Churches across Northern Nigeria which have led to loss of lives, the bombings of churches have continued.
He said property worth billions of naira which include church buildings, equipment and facilities as well as residential quarters of presiding clergies have either been reduced to rubbles by bombings or burnt by enemies of Christianity.
He said the Boko Haram had been the mastermind of series of bombings and gun attacks which are primarily targeted at Christians in the North but also at Muslims who disagree with their extremist ideology and bid to exterminate Christianity and enthrone Sharia law as the national law in the country with multi-religious population.
He, nonetheless, commended the efforts of the security agencies, but noted that with the way the sect members are succeeding in their attacks on military and other security posts and installations including Churches in their area as was the case in the church bombed inside the Command and Staff College, Jaji, their commitment to checkmate the menace is highly needed.
“I speak in this manner because as we are here, my heart goes to those brothers, sisters and children who have paid the supreme price in a state that is supposed to be secular,” he said, adding that CAN cannot shy away from the North because the Boko Haram sect has become a recurring presence somewhere in the sub-consciousness of Nigerians.
“Those of us who receive daily distress calls from relations of victims of the sect members and our men on ground know how it feels.
“Since July 26, 2009, when the sect members had their first clash with security agencies in Bauchi till today, Nigerians and in particular, Christians have been subjected to all sorts of harm.
“The barbaric activities of the sect is the reason why I call on the governors of the 17 southern states to come together and hold periodic meetings where issues affecting their people would be tackled.
“I am not comfortable with the silence of our southern governors whose people are being killed indiscriminately. I expect the governors to be forthcoming on this issue of Boko Haram.
“I expect the governors to challenge their northern counterparts on what they are doing to secure the lives of southerners living in their domain,” he said, adding that without the security measures they had put in place, there would have been killings in the South in reprisal for the bombings and killings of their brothers and sisters in the North.
He queried why their northern counterparts would not put similar measures on ground to secure the lives of citizens living there.
He said Christians have been pushed to the wall and the time has come where all should speak out against the menace of Boko Haram.
“You should hold your colleagues who govern states where your people are being killed accountable. You should ask for explanation why your people are being displaced from their business places and killed in both open and private fora. You should let them know that their silence in the face of all these happenings is unacceptable.” he said.
He said that the verdict of International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Boko Haram sect has committed crimes against humanity has again vindicated his stand that the American Government and in deed the international community should as a matter of urgency designate the organisation a terrorist group.
The CAN, he further said, is strongly considering criminal charges against Boko Haram for crime committed against Christians at the ICC because it can’t continue to fold its arms while the killings continue.
Obi, in his remarks, charged the Church to help in building a better Nigeria by not celebrating criminal politicians, adding that his administration will partner the Church to identify role models.
He observed that time had come for Christians to come out and build the Church and that Churches in the South must collaborate with Churches in the North.
He called on CAN in the southern part of the country to embark on fundraising for the purposes of helping to rebuild Churches destroyed in the North by Boko Haram and even fight for them.
He said he was ready to mobilise support for the association because the problem of the northern Churches must be seen as a problem of the southern Churches.
Agbakoba said the reason is to understand the driving agenda of the sect on why it perpetrates its attacks as it is “clearly affecting our national security system.”
According to him, “Is it poverty that is driving them; are there particular issues behind it? We need to know the issues surrounding it, when we know the issue on the table, then we can address them.”
Agbakoba, in a chat with Nigeria Politics Online, said while some people are of the opinion that dialogue should not be made with violent people, others say dialogue with them can bring about peace in a record time.
He noted that if there was peace in the country, then the focus would shift to other important things like good governance.
The senior advocate opined that questions must be asked if there was actually a will to come to the table to talk.
“This is a war, when two persons are fighting, what resolves the fight is first of all their willingness to dialogue.”
He noted that the greatest challenge facing the country was that a known face is yet to be associated with the group.
“I subscribe to the view that generally the Federal Government should do all it can to bring to the table the people who are aggrieved.”
He said the matter is a purely political issue and the judiciary should not be dragged into it.
He also cited the issue of the Gaza strip conflict saying: “You remember in the Middle-East when there was confrontation at the Gaza strip; Egypt played the role of a mediator and there was peace and truce in the region”
In addition, Agbakoba said the appropriate tools are to bring to bare the best conflict resolution techniques as peace and truce are what the country needs at present.
On Tuesday, November 27, the Boko Haram wrote to the Federal Government listing new conditions for dialogue.
Though President Goodluck Jonathan had given the indication in his November 18 media chat that his administration would not dialogue with the sect.