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Friday, November 28, 2014

WRITING BOKO HARAM


                                                                         Pastor Oritsejafor

The office of Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Islamic Affairs, Barrister Tahir Umar Tahir, and that of SSA  to the President on Christian Affairs organised a two-day roundtable meeting for special advisers on religious affairs from 36 states of the Federation and the FTC at the State House, with the theme: Towards Synergising and Interfacing in the Religious Sector for National Development. In his remarks as Father of the Day, His Eminence, the Sultan said, among other things:
“The fact that we are able to sit under one roof to discuss common issue, is a very big blessing from the Almighty. If He had willed otherwise, we would have been on the street slapping and fighting each other. But the fact that we are all here to talk on one particular issue means a very important step towards having peace and stability in our great country."
I cannot but agree with His Eminence on this one. If not for Allah’s intervention, we would have been goaded into war by certain members of both Muslim and Christian communities. Many of the ill feelings people have towards themselves because of religious bigotry stem from the unguarded and irresponsible utterances of certain people in the position to either misguide or guide their flock. One of such leaders is Pastor Oritsejafor of CAN who fancies himself as the mouthpiece cum champion of the Christian faith.
What he has done to alienate Christians to their Muslim brethren will take quite some time to undo. Of all leaders that CAN have elected in decades, he has proven to be the most confrontational and deliberately controversial. He seems to enjoy controversy.
The most recent one was the role he played in the over $9 million so-called arms deal; a deal that looks more like a covered up money laundering attempt the more you look at it. The truth must be said; no one should hide under the “anointing” to do as he pleases hoping no one will talk. This is the fellow who broke the country’s laws to ‘lease’ a private jet to another company which then rents it out to the Nigerian government which then gives a supposedly military contract to civilians to handle. 
Prominent human rights lawyers asked a series of questions on the matter at the time it was a front burner issue. Of course events have since helped push that into obscurity. No one remembers that Pastor Ayo would have probably been explaining to an unbiased security apparatus of government how his ‘private jet’ came into the employ of military contractors if not for the peculiar nature of our country.
The pastor had characteristically remarked that the Muslims have not been doing enough to stop Boko Haram. He has often been quoted as saying the Muslim leaders know the Boko Haram people but are not acting against them. That which he said, and which has been parroted by those who have not done their research and those blinded by bigotry, is mere fiction not supported by fact. 
In the event under discussion, Pastor Oritsejafor was also Father of the Day. His Eminence, the Ameerul Mu’mineen, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar spoke first. “I agree with previous speakers,’ he said, ‘but I’d like to add some few remarks of mine, to substantiate and make what they have said stronger. Because it is when we speak that a lot of people listen. When I speak, most Muslims take that as a serious issue. When CAN President speaks, most Christians take that as a serious issue.

"There are no problems between Islam and Christianity, but if there are problems between Muslims and Christians they should be dealt with at that level. It is important for us to know that all our holy scriptures have portrayed that there are no problems between these great religions. 
“As Muslims we know what the Holy Qur’an says about the people of the Book. And so, I think, the Christians too should know a little bit about Islam and Muslims. That brings us to the issue to educating ourselves about our religions. For all the problems that have been besetting us in this country have been lack of proper knowledge about our religions. Of course, without education concerning religion, there will definitely not be trust and sincerity. 
“Where Muslims leaders make comments condemning the activities of some miscreants, terrorists and insurgents who wear the garb of Islam to commit crimes, and the Muslims in their majority say no, that is not Islam, and condemn that, but still, the same Muslims will be told that ‘you are not doing enough to bring an end to this problem’. I think that is very unfair.” 
There has been so much biased assessment of the efforts of Muslim leaders by those who say they represent the Christians. Incidentally, these people never speak in public when one of the adherents of their own faith commits heinous crimes. They seem to give tacit approval to such crimes. From looting the country to bombing our oil installations to other acts of brigandage, they are usually silent.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am a member of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), which draws its membership from all over Nigeria. I however do not hold brief for His Eminence the Sultan who is more than capable of defending himself from such petty allegations.  What I will not accept is for someone to throw into trashcan the hard work people are doing for political points.
There has been no time the Sultan has not come out to personally condemn what Boko Haram is doing since 2011. The two years before then, he had given instruction to the then Secretary-General NSCIA, late Dr. Adegbite, to issue press statements condemning Boko Haram and their sponsors. He instructed the JNI to similarly issue press statements condemning the madness from Boko Haram. He has been the target of the terrorists on account of that in the past. See, for example, this March 8, 2012 article titled, ‘Boko Haram targets Sultan of Sokoto’ 
For want of space, I cannot reproduce all the references to the Sultan’s interventions but let me quote just a few here. A diligent online search will definitely yield more results for those who want to know.
  1.  27 December 2011  Nigerian Islamic leaders, Sultan of Sokoto, condemn Boko Haram
2. February 6 2012.    ‘We Must End Boko Haram, Says Sultan of Sokoto’

3. May 9, 2013   ‘Sultan-Led Council Begs Boko Haram To Embrace Amnesty’

4. July 27, 2014 “A criminal is a criminal”: Sultan of Sokoto says Boko Haram shouldn’t be associated with Islam’

5. Saturday, 26 July 2014 ‘Sultan of Sokoto To Boko Haram: It's Delusional To Kill & Expect Paradise, Says Boko Haram Now a 'Franchise'’

These are just a few out of about 30 different references I could find in less than a day of casually combing the net for what the Sultan has said in the past on the deluded sect. To say the Sultan has not been talking about Boko Haram is intellectually lazy and outright dishonest.
The second charge is that the Muslim leaders have not been doing enough to stop Boko Haram. We ask the question, ‘What else do you expect from us that we are not doing?’ This is because at least 10 prominent Islamic scholars have been attacked and killed by Boko Haram for condemning their acts and educating their followers against the twisted ideology Shekau and his cohorts are peddling. Yet they have not done enough? Haba Pastor! 
People would be in prayer when Boko Haram would storm in, kill the Imam and storm out of the mosque. His crime was the last sermon he delivered where he urged people to shun Boko Haram. A man would go and report the strange activities of the sect members at a police station and be killed as he arrived his house. People soon learnt to shut their mouth and pray. There is no protection for anybody except the protection of Allah.
The Sultan, earlier this year ordered that all mosques in the country should invoke Allah’s wrath in each of the five daily prayers on Boko Haram, their sponsors and sympathisers. Many mosques are still complying until date. There are also the sensitization workshops, the denouncements in mosques where their Imam is still brave enough to condemn the group publicly.
His Eminence continued, “We have to tell ourselves the truth, because one of the greatest problems of this country is that we don’t tell ourselves the home truth. And we all know that in our religions we have been ordered to speak the truth even if it be against us, against our parents and near kindred. Therefore, if followers don’t tell leaders the truth, then we have a serious problem, because the leaders will assume that what they are doing is right.
“At our level of being the leaders of Islam in this country, we have tried so much. I want to underline the word ‘so much’; across this globe. There is nowhere I have not been to, to speak about peace and Islam.” 
Speaking of not doing enough, I advise the CAN leaders to throw that charge in the direction where it belongs - with the leadership of this country and its security operatives. No country that budgets in excess of a trillion naira on security should be said to have a poorly equipped army or air force.  The victories recorded by common hunters and civilians with crude weapons over Boko Haram have exposed the futility of the “we are poorly equipped” excuse that had become a chorus song with the military.
Trained officers and men of the Nigerian Army now desert military formations and poorly trained terrorists take over, only to show in the terrorists’ videos that the barracks actually had weapons but did not use them! Whole towns have been lost the same way! This is an area where the government is not doing enough and they should neither shift the responsibility to us nor use clerics that are close to them to do that dirty job.
Having said this, His Eminence must step up his game and inaugurate more committees of scholars to de-radicalize the gullible and hungry who seem to find solace in the unIslamic ideology of Boko Haram. 
The government should do more to protect those brave enough to defy the murderers. Sometime ago, some civilians helped the army to identify and arrest the members of the unIslamic sect. They were later murdered in large numbers. The feeling in those parts is that the government cannot or will not protect them.
The government should do more to restore hope and trust. As things stand now, many believe that the government itself is the main benefactor of Boko Haram and is in no hurry to see the insurgency end. They point to the allegations against people who were and remain very close to the president of being sponsors of Boko Haram. One of the individuals mentioned continues to enjoy an inexplicably heavy security protection that even the sitting governor of the state is denied.
Pastor Oritsejafor at the roundtable urged the Sultan to write Boko Haram the way he and other world Muslim leaders wrote ISIS lately. It would have been laughed off as another joke but for the person making that remark. He has serially insinuated that the Sultan knows Boko Haram in the past. It was not funny. Incidentally, this was the only thing the mainstream media reported from the meeting. They somehow managed to exclude the words of His Eminence, part of which I have quoted above.

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