Wednesday, January 4, 2012


                                          Archbishop John Onaiyekan

The group consisted of members of the League of Imams and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the assembly that undertook commiseration visit to the National Hospital and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital to pray for the victims of 25th December bomb blast. The group also went to the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla where the unfortunate incident happened, ahead of President Jonathan, the CAN president, former presidents, and leadership of the National Assembly; we were there before all of them. I wonder where all these were when numberless Muslims were murdered in Jos on Eid Day, when innocent women and children were massacred in Kaduna and Kafanchan. Conscientious leaders cancel official engagements whenever disaster strikes, visit the site, console victims, assuage their fears and guarantee forestalment of future recurrence. Such leaders do not select where to go, what victims to visit or when to wield the stick to trouble makers; that was why we visited Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

The Bible says: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

Archbishop John Onaiyekan has established his credentials of religious harmony and peaceful coexistence among the adherents of Christianity and Islam. Tragic as the events of 25th December were, they could not be the worse to the personage of a good Christian like John Onaiyekan. The worse would be when the perpetrators of these blasts succeed in killing his spirit of openness to people of all faiths, his spirit of Christian-Muslim mutual respect and understanding. If John Onaiyekan’s conviction in the good of other human beings is defeated by recent happenings in the country, then the worse has happened! Whoever is planting explosive devices in our places of worship is targeting to kill that spirit. We believe that Archbishop Onaiyekan will not allow his spirit to be so defeated; the body may go, but, we warrant the world that Onaiyekan will not let go of the spirit; that was why we visited Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

We did not visit him seeking the meaning of the current CAN president’s statement goading Christians to sharpen their swords in case of any eventuality; we trust Onaiyekan will not be part of such inciting utterances. Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor fails to understand that he is not the leader of all the Christians of Nigeria; he is only heading a Christian association, which means before he can utter a word in the name of all Christians, denominational variations permitting, there must be consensus on exactly what to say and how. The words of a leader, especially those moving on clerical wheels, should be distinct from those of area boys or militants. We did not believe that those coarse, rabble-rousing words such as Oritsejafor emitted in the palace of President Jonathan and captured by the media could have been the consensus of the good Christians of this country; that was why we visited Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

What is more shocking was the audaciousness of telling a sitting president, face to face, that ‘the association had lost confidence in government’s ability to protect Christians’, and that they have no other option than to protect themselves. Former president Obasanjo had an effective way of shutting up utterers of demagogic statements borne out of sheer zealotry at the time of religious tension; (and when he had to declare a state of emergency, he did not wait until the nation was on the brink of the pit of fire, or select a few local governments. Obasanjo used the constitutional provision as and when necessary; it was over the whole state of Plateau whose then-governor failed in protecting life and property of the people). The foolhardiness of calling for arms, in the presence of President Jonathan, as exhibited by Oritsejafor beamed a disapproving light on the persona of his addressee and underscored a feeble leadership style.  We will not achieve anything by sharpening our swords as Oritsejafor admonished; the outcome is sure to lead to more problems. Christians and Muslims relate in harmony as neighbours, colleagues in businesses, banks and government offices; hardly will anybody be asked about their faith. You can be a good Nigerian, living in peace with your neighbours without sacrificing your faith. We, as religious leaders, have lived up to the dictates of our calling and have not abdicated our responsibilities, as averred by Oritsejafor. We will not allow the agenda of those who want to see us in arms dictate our Christian-Muslim relationship; that was why we visited Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

You see, whoever is truly responsible for the inhuman attacks were merely setting up Nigerians for a war; a war that will benefit them. They only need the likes of Oritsejafor to complete their diabolic plans and he has played into their hands. The activities of Boko Haram cannot be translated as ‘jihad or declaration of war on Christians’ because Muslims are not spared either. Some might even say the death of the Muslims in these attacks is mere collateral damage. Just after the St. Teresa Catholic Church was bombed, a mosque in Maiduguri suffered a similar fate. The entire family of an Islamic scholar was murdered for speaking against the group. The majority of victims in Yobe and Maiduguri axis were Muslims. Hundred per cent of people assassinated in their residences happened to be Muslims, among them politicians, and even Muslim scholars. Whoever stood on the way of Boko Haram even by uncomplimentary remarks was killed regardless of the faith they professed or with what kind of uniform they are adorned. Muslim and Christian members of security agencies were favoured targets of Boko Haram. Who then is Boko Haram, and who are the faces behind it? If Boko Haram means proscription of western education why have we not heard of any attack on institutions of learning, primary, secondary schools, polytechnics and even universities that abound in the catchment area of Boko Haram? Wouldn’t it have been more likely for Boko Haram, if it really exists and abhors western education, to target centres of Boko scholarship than the assassination of Muslim scholars and the bombing of places of worship? Bank robberies, attack on the military and police establishments, political assassinations, the murder of Islamic scholars and bomb blasts in front of churches and even the UN building are all said to bear the signature of Boko Haram, or that the group would oftentimes claim responsibility. Is it possible that a group which loathes western education because, according to its understanding, it is un-Islamic would now embrace banditry and killing of the innocent? Is the government doing its part or interested in bringing the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to book? What mobile network is Boko Haram using to claim responsibility of blasts, issue ultimatum and grant telephone interviews? Why are the security agencies more keen in hacking the mobile phones of peace-loving Muslim scholars undeservedly, tailing them and ascertaining where they are at any given time but fail to track Boko Haram? Is Boko Haram what it appears to be or will it be that some unknown persons have assumed that appellation in order to execute a predetermined agenda? Who was exactly behind the ‘disguised Christian man’ who attempted to set a certain church in Bayelsa State ablaze? If that Christian man had succeeded, wouldn’t the credit have been given to Boko Haram? How do we know it is Boko Haram that is truly claiming responsibility for the attacks? Is there a way to know that the e-mails and text messages claiming responsibility are genuine or is it just convenient to say it is Boko Haram? Christian and Muslim scholars should work together to expose those who want to set this country asunder along regional and religious divides; that was why we visited Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

Our religion does not teach taking the life of an innocent soul. This is a grave sin! "…whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (Al-Maa'idah, 5:32) The Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, mentioned a special place in Hell reserved for a woman who imprisoned a cat till it died of starvation – she neither fed the cat nor freed it so that it could feed itself. (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 1, Hadeeth 712) This punishment was for killing a cat. Of course, there should be a sterner and a more painful punishment for killing a human being. The teachings of the Prophet taught us that a believer remains within the scope of his religion as long as he doesn't kill another person illegally. Even in war Muslims are commanded to only fight those who fight them, who take up arms against them. No tree is cut down, no property is destroyed; women, old people, children and even monk in his place of worship and seclusion are not killed. I cannot understand, with all these proofs from the sources of Islam, why one will detonate a device that will cause the death of many innocent people. All human beings, Muslims and Christians, are honoured by Allah as His vicegerents on earth; that was why we visited Archbishop John Onaiyekan.

We can understand the suffering and pain of the victims and their families; we are all victims and casualties of this new madness raging across a fragile country. We can understand the disappointment with and the lack of trust in a president that says one thing and simply does another. He said the removal of subsidy on petroleum products was yet to be finalised; Nigerians woke up to ambush on the first day of 2012. The subsidy was gone! How do you trust your life will be safe with a man who deceives the country so? We seem to be on our own in this country in truth. The morale of Nigerians today is at an all-time low. The optimism of the happiest people on earth is dying in the face of inept leadership and barbaric slaughter. Lest we forget that God is watching; lest some people decide to fan the embers of religious war into a blazing flame sure to consume both the kindler and the people; lest we forget that we are a brotherhood in humanity; lest we be seen to sanction the madness, we went to soothe, assuage and reassure. We went to show solidarity, commiserate, sympathise and consult with other religious leaders; that was why we went to visit Archbishop John Onaiyekan.


  1. Ustaz i am in support of what you have done and whatever needs to be done should be done in the name our creator and according to the teachings of islam as stated in the Holy Qur'an. Islam is a religion of peace and scientific in all its doings as such we should try at all times project the religion of Allah as a religion of peace.

  2. Salam. Muslim scholars and leaders alike must demand for justice for the victims of southern kaduna and Jos massacre. The perpetrators of the heinous acts must be brought to book and full compensation paid to the families of the victims. This is the only recipe for peace. As for why president Jonathan and his government failed to live up to their responsibilities when Muslims were massacred, I think of two reasons:

    1. Both Muslim scholars and leaders have failed to act decisively on the matter. Till date, the world is not compelled to recognize the gross misdeeds of Christians in Jos and in southern Kaduna against muslims as unjustifiable aberration that must be condemned and punished. Ironically too, Muslims scholars and leaders in Nigeria are still sharing blame on what had happened!

    2. Jonathan has only proved to be a christian leader for the Christians alone. He does not even recognize the complicity and stupidity of Muslim elites, including some misguided ulamas who worked against more competent Muslim contestants during the April 2011 elections to make him president. He believes that the phantom votes that were said to have been cast in his favor in the Muslim north were by the igbos, not any Muslim. And no body has challenged him to date!

    Ustaz, the basis of stability and peaceful coexistence among Nigerians has been undermined right from the time Jonathan was instaled as president without true election. The fact remains that majority of Nigerians will never wish him well while he will never show compassion to them. This will be our lot until he is no longer in charge of our affairs!

  3. Great piece, as usual, sheikh. From our first meeting and following your work since, I have not stopped being pleasantly amazed by your nice combination of deep commitment and sincerity to your faith on one hand, and an invigorating openness to the other's faith, on the other hand. "All human beings, Muslims and Christians, are honoured by Allah as His vicegerents on earth...." How exponentially relations between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria (or every place in the whole world for that matter) would improve if all people of faith (or non-faith) were to affirm and embrace our common humanity and intrinsic worthiness of every human person as God's image bearers! Which brings me to another point about your visits. Of course, I am first to grant that Nigeria (I still have to believe) is a free country, and persons or groups can visit whomever they chose to. However, I would humbly opine there are reasons why "members of the League of Imams and [especially] the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs" should visit and commiserate with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); which is personified in Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor in his official capacity as chairman of CAN. There is a variety of reasons why many of us might want things to be different, but the fact of the matter is that Archbishop John Onaiyekan is no longer the CAN chairman and no longer represent the Christian community in Nigeria in any official capacity--especially in relation to official governmental or inter-faith matters. It should not be the role of Muslim groups or other groups to pick and chose leaders for Nigerian Christians, and vice versa. We can only acknowledge and respect the leaders groups have chosen for themselves. (I hope I am repeating something I would expect that Bishop Onaiyekan had himself communicated). There is an Igbo saying that when one is preparing a portion of eye-salve one should not add pepper to the concoction. Without question a huge burden for those who would stand in the gap and bridge the divide between parties is being walked upon by all people--including (especially) people they may not like personally. Jisike. God's speed!