*Christians protest killing of Deborah
*Kaigama cautions against religious fanaticism
*Soyinka calls for sack, trial of Imam for Justifying Killing of Deborah
Goddy Egene and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 northern states has raised concern that false allegation of blasphemy has now become an excuse to kill its members, especially those living in northern Nigeria.
This was just as Christians in Nigeria yesterday observed a protest march against the murder of Miss Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a 200-level female student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, for an alleged blasphemy by some Islamic extremists.
Also, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, at the weekend called for the removal from office and trial of the Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja, Prof Ibrahim Maqari for incitement to murder for justifying the killing of the late Deborah.
According to CAN, false allegations of blasphemy are now being used for blackmail or settling of scores with passive enemies or well-mannered young girls who allegedly refused sexual advances by the opposite sex from another religion.
The Vice President of CAN in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, stated this in Abuja, in reaction to the violence that erupted in the Katangan area of Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State over an alleged blasphemy, few days after the Sokoto incident.
The organisation therefore called on government authorities and security agencies to act fast to address what it described as, “this abuse of our constitution,” before it leads to a more serious conflict that cannot be controlled.
The Bauchi incident came barely two weeks after the gruesome killing of Deborah Samuel by Muslim fundamentalists over alleged blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.
The unrest in Bauchi started following a social media post by a 40-year-old staff of the Medical Department in Warji Local Government, Rhoda Jatau, which was considered as blasphemous to Islam.
An unspecified number of people, including a pastor, sustained varying degrees of injury while many houses were burnt.
In his reaction Hayab said, “Allegations of blasphemy have now become the new excuse by fundamentalists in northern Nigeria to kill the remnant that bandits and terrorists have not yet killed. How can you justify the period of what happened in Sokoto, the allegation in Borno, the fake allegation on Babachir Lawal by one northern actor who we have on record how he made blasphemous remarks about Jesus Christ, but quickly went and brought it down on the internet to cover himself before coming out to falsely accuse Babachir Lawal, the former SGF?
“And we are seeing another carnage in Bauchi under the excuse of blasphemy. We know and have evidence of how some of these allegations of blasphemy are false and just for blackmail or settling scores with passive enemies or well-mannered young girls who have refused sexual advances by the opposite sex from another religion.
“We are also aware of how fanatics have in the past raised lies in the name of blasphemy. CAN wonders if the recent sermons we are getting from some Islamic clerics on what the Holy Quran says about what should be done if anyone is accused of blasphemy is unpopular amongst followers?
“The challenge now is for government authorities and security agencies to act fast to address this abuse of our constitution before it leads to a more serious conflict that cannot be handled.”
According to him, “Nigeria’s Christians, most especially those of northern extraction have for ages exhibited tolerance despite many provocations and lack of reciprocation of our love and friendship.
“But these new tactics for killing our people from any and every accusation of blasphemy are unacceptable to CAN and all Christian faithful. We will not accept this brutal way of murder and inhuman treatment of our followers to continue.
“The government and security agencies should come out to enforce the law on every murderer hiding under religion. We will also wish to appeal to Christian leaders and parents to guide their children to resist any ungodly provocation that will make them say things that blood-thirsty fundamentalist can easily use to kill them.”
The CAN scribe appealed to religious leaders from both religious divides to intensify teachings about the evil of taking the laws into one hand and killing another person for whatever reason.
“Alleged offenders should be reported to security agencies or taken to any competent court of law for judiciary pronouncement.
Nigeria is not a Banana Republic but a nation we believe should be governed by the rule of law,” he said.
Meanwhile, Christians in the country yesterday observed a protest march against Deborah’s murder.
In Abuja, worshippers at the RCCG Central Parish Wuse 11 marched round the church to protest against injustice on Christians in northern part of the country.
The Regional Pastor in-charge of the Parish led other worshippers in the protest march with all of appearing in sealed lips.
The protest which commenced immediately after the day’s Church Service at about 11.30 am saw protesters carrying placards with the inscriptions such as: ” Stop the killing, God is watching; Let’s be our brothers’ keeper, Don’t defend the indefensible, Let’s live together in unity, ‘No Killing in God’s name,” and “God is watching.”
Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan Archdiocese His Grace Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama in homily at St. Peters Catholic Church, Nukkai, Jalingo in Taraba state, said some persons have become fanatical and aggressive about religion due to ignorance.
“We must make the distinction between essentials and non-essentials in religion. The Apostles made it clear to the entire body of Christ that true religion is that which lives according to the dictates of the spirit of truth. “Hence, while it acknowledges the importance of religious traditions, norms and practices, it is above all concerned with the meaning or the spirit behind the worship that we offer to God.
“In the different religions we have always witnessed the presence of certain individuals who are out to distort the message of their scriptures with falsehood, tainted by crass ignorance or fanatical aggression,” he said.
Kaigama enjoined Christians, to amidst the world’s confusion listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and allow it to guide them.
The tempo of the protest was however affected by the last minute change of plan for the protest by CAN as most of the churches observed their normal services without any protest march.
CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, had in a statement on Saturday, directed Christians not to assemble for protest at the association’s headquarters as previously scheduled due to possible clash with some Muslim groups.
In his statement, to the Church/ Denominational leaders, CAN president had urged them to: “Observe the peaceful protest in your church. You are all aware that some Muslims had sent out information that they were going to counter our peaceful protest on Sunday, May 22. Their intention is to cause chaos and attribute it to us.
“In view of the foregoing, I urge you all to do the protest of placard carrying within the premises of your local churches or your CAN Secretariat.
“However, where it is unsafe to do the protest in the premises of your church or CAN Secretariat, you may carry the placards inside your church and pray for justice for Deborah Samuel who was wickedly and extra judicially slain. Pray as well for a change of heart for the wicked who find it convenient for them to kill their fellow human beings under religious guise.”
Soyinka Calls for Sack, Trial of Imam for Justifying Killing of Deborah
In a related development, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has called for the removal from office and trial of the Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja, Prof Ibrahim Maqari for justifying the killing of Deborah over alleged blasphemy.
Speaking at the weekend in Abuja, during the one-year remembrance of the late former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Soyinka said Maqari should be sacked with immediate effect, labelling the Imam an “apostate of the creed of humanity.”
Soyinka, whose speech was titled: “In Time Of Crisis: Civilian and Soldier,” said by his comment, Maqari directed his followers to take the law into their own hands in the name of religion.
He said: “The Grand Seer of Abuja mosque should be hounded from office. He should be tried under any existing laws that approximate hate rhetoric, incitement to murder and abuse of office. It is no longer sufficient for all to declaim that Islam is this and that, that the Sharia is thus and thus, that Prophet Mohammed set this or that example and made this or that humanistic pronouncement. We have gone beyond theocratic rhetoric that merely pays lip service to civilised norms. Let all pietistic denunciations be backed by affirmative action.”
According to the playwright, the Islamic cleric had done nothing but encourage his followers to kill anyone that blasphemes Prophet Muhammad.
“Prof Maqari, however, insists, with a handful of others including vocal serving policemen quite recently that there is no remorse involved in the torture and lynching of a young student on this earth.
“Maqari has implicitly directed his followers to take the law into their own hands in the name of religion, and innovation. That is the message of a supposedly holy man to a nation embroiled in his madness of multiple incidences,” he said.
Soyinka noted that the nation’s president, traditional rulers – among them the Sultan of Sokoto who also serves as the Amir of Nigerian Muslims, women organisations, workers’ unions and professionals from all walks of life, young and old, have all raised their voices in accents of apology and condemnation.
“However a glorified cleric, no less than the Grand Vizier of the iconic Mosque of the nation’s capital, Abuja, has inserted a dissenting voice. The young woman, Deborah, he declared, deserved her death.
“This mullah, allegedly a man of learning, since his name is professorially captioned, says that there is a line, a red line that none of us must cross, no matter who we are, what we think, profess or value. Like the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, this mere mortal has declared himself a Supreme Being with the power of life and death over all the denizens of the world. His call is unambiguous. “Professor Ibrahim Maqari has placed his myrmidons of faith on the alert, primed to emulate the example of these death dealing mutants of fanatic indoctrination,” he stated.
Speaking about Attahiru, Soyinka said the late COAS would be immensely pleased and appreciative if he could become aware of another passing being commemorated in his memory.
He said: “The connection is that the late Prince Tony Uranta, whose week long remembrance rites have also commenced in Lagos, and Opobo, shared an article of faith with the late General, namely, that the sustainable security of society is crucially dependent on a tripod whose three legs are: the People, the Army and the government.
“Thus, the weakness or flaws in any one leg leads to the collapse of society. The mandatory implication of this in practical terms is that each must come to the aid of others to compensate for weaknesses, but also to enthrone mutual understanding and collaboration.
“Tony Uranta actualised this credo by forming a Troops support initiative in 2019 under the name – WECARE. I did not hesitate to serve on the board. Regretfully, owing to my notoriously charged existence, my membership has been more symbolic than active.
“Why do I regret this? And why do I readily welcome any opportunity to make up for this deficiency? Well, to begin with, I happen to have been raised in a family with a military history that goes all the way back to World War II.
“Those who have browsed through my childhood biography will recall the story of my first encounter with a serving member of the then West African Frontier Force, then on leave from, or freshly discharged from the war theatre. My sister and I engaged in unequal combat with him when he visited our home in Ake parsonage, Abeokuta.
“Our parents were absent on that day, and this stranger in uniform conducted himself in a less than decorous manner. In retrospect, I find it one of the most hilarious episodes of childhood, and I sometimes suspect that it laid the foundation for the total demystification of militarism that is part of my makeup, but also induced lasting empathy with the humanity of the serving man.”