BUHARI, TRUMP AND NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS Sonnie Ekwowusi argues that the killing of anyone is unjustifiable

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President Buhari and US President Trump during Buhari's visit to Washington DC in

Speaking at the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat in Abuja last Tuesday, President Buhari reminisced how he met President Trump at the White House in April 2018, and, how Trump looked at him in the face and asked: “Why are you killing Christians in Nigeria?” President Buhari said that he tried to defend himself before Trump by telling him that the killing of Christians had no ethnicity or religious colouration. In his words, “… I wonder if you were the person how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion. So, I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and stagnant farmers I know is older than me, not to talk of him (Trump)… With climate change and population growth and the culture of cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any route to your water point, they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it was….”

The concern of the Trump administration over the killing of Christians in Nigeria is indeed a genuine concern. The concern is not predicated on hearsay or speculations: It is based on factual tragic killings of Christians in Northern Nigerian especially in Southern Kaduna. In any case, America has insiders in Nigeria reporting day by day the manner and pattern of the killings in Northern Nigerian. So Trump’s question, “Why are you killing Christians in Nigeria?” was not unfounded. As far as the U.S is concerned, Nigeria is the killing field of defenseless Christians. Over 11,500 Christians have reportedly been murdered in Nigeria since June 2015. So far, about four to five million Christians are said to have been displaced. Last week, barely 24 hours after the Southern Kaduna Peace Summit in Kafanchan, some killers attacked the Zango Kataf Local government Area, killing two persons and setting many houses ablaze. So, when Trump looked Buhari in the face and queried, “Why are you killing Christians in Nigeria?” he (Trump) was not just acting a drama; he queried Buhari from the available facts on the consistent killing of Christians and anti-Christians attacks in Northern Nigeria.

It must be noted that President Buhari didn’t deny before Trump that Christians are being killed in Nigeria. He only tries to rationalize the killing. He tries to explain to Trump the circumstances, peculiar problems and the need of the cattle rearers warranting the killing of the Christians. He argues that cows are cows and they must eat grass and must find their route to drink water no matter whose farm it is. With the greatest respect, this pseudo-rationalization is fundamentally flawed. To begin with, in our Presidential democracy, President Buhari is constitutionally empowered to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians, be they Christians, Muslims, free thinkers, pagans or not. President Buhari was elected to protect all Nigerians: he was not elected to pass the buck or to tell Trump that the killing of Christians is older than Trump himself. More importantly, in both his pre and post-election speeches, Buhari has been reassuring Nigerians that he would defeat Boko Haram insurgents. The pertinent question: Are they signs that Boko Haram will be defeated by this government? No. Instead of seeing such signs, we are experiencing, inter alia, the massacre of Northern Christians. Of course, the persistent calls on the president by the House of Representatives and others to replace the current military Service Chiefs with new ones have not yielded any fruit. Consequently the massacre has continued unabated.

President Buhari says the massacre has no religious or ethnic colouration. Of course, it has. One example will suffice. A Seminarian of the Good Shepherded, Seminary, Kaduna who survived the sporadic shooting unleashed on the Seminary by Boko Haram insurgents on January 8, 2020 recounted how he met Rev. Timothy Lawan Andimi, the then Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), for the Michika area, shortly before he (Rev Lawan) was beaded. On Wednesday January 8, 2020 at 10.27 p.m., he says, he goes to the room of his friend and classmate called Michael Nnadi. Suddenly there were gun shots all over the Seminary followed by the following command in Hausa language: “Ja su waje, Alsaabiun…Kafirai, Ja su wa je! Alsaabiun…Kafirai !! (Drag them out…infidels!, Drag them out…infidels!!). Thereafter two heavily-armed men in military uniform entered the room where he and Michael were lying flat on the floor in trepidation. After collecting their laptops and other personal belongings, the two men wasted no time in whisking them away to a waiting vehicle where Michael was later killed.

One of the tragedies that had befallen Nigeria in recent years is the loss of sense of value for human life. In most countries when a citizen is illegally murdered the whole country will be thrown into mourning. The president delivers a national broadcast regretting the murder as well as directing the state security operatives to ensure that the culprits are arrested and prosecuted. But unfortunately in Nigeria, hundreds of innocent citizens can be illegally murdered in one day without any remorse or regret from our public office holders. President Buhari told Trump that cows must “eat grass, any route to your water point, they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it was….” Please, no blood of cow is worth the blood of any single human being. President Buhari’s aforesaid assertion before Trump is reminiscent of a similar assertion by Miyetti Allah in the aftermath of the 2018 Plateau crisis which claimed the lives of about 200 Nigerians. Immediately after the killings, the Miyetti Allah quickly issued a statement accepting responsibility for the killings. Instead of regretting that many precious human lives had been wasted on the Plateau, the Miyetti Allah regretted that they had lost about 300 cows. According to the then Chairman of the North Central zone of Miyetti Allah Danladi Ciroma, the killing of about 200 Nigerians on the Plateau was in retaliation for the loss of their cows. “We lost 300 cows, no one should expect peace in Plateau”, he said. Till date, Miyetti Allah has not been proscribed as a terrorist organization. And no Miyetti Allah murderer has been arrested let alone prosecuted in a law court.

I can’t understand why some prefer to kill fellow human beings in retaliation for some cows that were allegedly killed. The intrinsic worth of one human being is worth more than million cows. God created us and put us in the world to do noble things, to love and to cherish our fellow human beings, not to kill them. No rationalization can pacify the conscience that it is okay to kill human beings in order to preserve the life of cows. Human development (not cattle or cow) is the epicenter of all developments.