2015: Christians Express Fears Over Buhari's Candidacy
BEVERLY HILLS, December 24, (THEWILL) – The election of General Mohammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections against President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has triggered off some concerns among the Christian community in the North.
The fears being expressed are not unconnected to the bloody experience of the 2011 polls when supporters of Buhari, who contested on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), launched a violent attack on many innocent workers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and indigenes of southern Nigeria residing in the North.
The attack resulted in the killing and maiming of thousands of southerners, especially ad hoc staff of INEC, mostly youth corps members, who the rampaging Buhari supporters believed were sympathetic to President Jonathan.
Following the killings which resembled a well-orchestrated massacre of non-indigenes of northern Nigeria, an outcry for justice by the affected families appeared to have fallen on deaf ears except the belated financial relief given to the immediate family members of the slain youth corps members by INEC and the Federal Government.
Despite the pains and agony of the bereaved, General Buhari did not condemn the actions of his supporters nor did he console the grieving families. General Buhari simply walked away into silence while the violence precipitated by his supporters after the 2011 presidential election continued to grow in depth and reach across the northern parts of the country , killing over 10,000 Nigerians.
It is against this background that Christians across Northern Nigeria now express the fears over a repeat of the same violence with Buhari's candidacy in 2015. According to a poll conducted by our correspondents, the fears appear more real now than publicly expressed by the spokespersons of the various Christian communities in southern Nigeria.
Already, many southerners residing in the north are believed to have started making arrangements for their exit from the north before the election in anticipation of another wave of violence that may be perpetrated by the angry Buhari supporters.
At the Holy Trinity Anglican Church located in Sabon Gari, Kano, worshippers, mostly from south west Nigeria have already informed the Vicar of the church of their expected absence from the Church from the yuletide season till after the general elections in February 2015.
Some of the Christian families in the church have resolved to remain at their villages while the breadwinners in the family return to Kano after the yuletide season. At the St. Stephen Anglican Church in Sabon Gari Kano – comprising of mostly south easterners – many of the worshippers have already departed Kano for good because of the fear of the violence a Buhari candidacy will generate. Many at the St. Stephen Church based their fears on the allegation that Buhari is the spiritual/political leader of Boko Haram. At St. George Anglican Church located on the outskirts of Sabon Gari – mostly attended by elite/bourgeoisie southerners – many have expressed the fears over Buhari's candidacy and his perceived closeness to Boko Haram.
In Bauchi State, the sentiments of fear are the same as in Kano for the non-indigenes, particularly for the non-Muslims who have lived through the 2011 violence precipitated by Buhari's failed presidential outing. Many of the non-indigenes and non-Muslims fear that the forthcoming election would trigger the type of violence that Boko Haram had been exhibiting in the State since Buhari lost out in the elections. They pointed to the promise made by Buhari guaranteeing bloodshed should he not become the President of Nigeria.
A member of First Methodist Church in Bauchi, Mathias Agbo, said his fears stemmed from the promises made by Buhari and other fanatic Muslims of making the country ungovernable and bloody should anyone other than Buhari win the 2015 presidential elections. Agbo, who is married with two boys and a girl, said his children were born in Bauchi and attend school there. He has however resolved to send them back home in Edo State because of the anticipated violence.
“I am working to transfer my family to the southern part of Nigeria and leave the North and Buhari with their sharia and Boko Haram”, Mathias who pointed to the generality of the movement towards Muslim fanaticism as the cause for the increased bigotry in the north, particularly the supporters of Buhari, said.
Another top member of the Christian community in Bauchi, Pastor Francis Otti, confessed that his folk shares the same fear of an impending violence after the 2015 presidential election, especially with Buhari in the race.
“They fear the same will happen as in 2011,” said the pastor who also expressed the perceived sentiment that Buhari has sympathy for Boko Haram.
In Abuja, the fears are the same, especially at the Redeemed Church in Karu. “We feel they will come after us immediately it's clear that Buhari has lost the election,” said Susan Okon, who also pointed to the growing sentiment that Boko Haram is in close contact with Buhari.
Mrs. Okon told our correspondent that her family has decided not to travel for Christmas in order to travel in January and return after the elections. Another member of the church, who gave his name as Clement Aigbe, even postulated that Buhari and the leaders of Boko Haram are working together to return power to the fanatic Muslim set of the north.
He said Buhari “cannot be said to be totally innocent of the lives lost to the jihadist movement of Boko Haram. He is one of the benefactors”.
Others, who spoke angrily on the fear of violence targeted at Christians living in the north, said the Sharia movement funded by the Federal Government was partly responsible for the growing fanaticism that is fuelling the violence allegedly being perpetrated by Buhari's supporters against non-Muslims living in northern Nigeria.
Interestingly, the fears espoused by the Christians living in northern Nigeria may not be without factual basis or foundation. The spread of Sharia in northern Nigeria got to its peak during the first four years of Jonathan Presidency – and it touched on the many sensitive areas of the north – of which the leaders when campaigning for the spread of sharia made many inflammatory statements and threats should Sharia not be adopted as the law of the land/Nigeria.
General Buhari had allegedly promised bloodshed should sharia be stopped from being the law in Northern Nigeria. Buhari allegedly threatened that Nigeria will cease to know peace should sharia be stopped. The then President Olusegun Obasanjo buckled under pressure and allowed the Buhari group to have their way. Sharia immediately spread – with 12 northern states adopting Sharia – and also the adoption of Islamic Police to enforce the Sharia law and arrest violators of the law.
The governors of the respective 12 states opened up their state finances to the new Sharia project. Kano budgeted over N1.1billion annually for Sharia and its militant wing, the Hisbah. Bauchi State budgeted N850 million annually to sharia project and Hisbah. The remaining 10 States followed in the same manner. The growth of the Hisbah further helped the militarisation of the Muslim fanatics in northern Nigeria.
The militarisation of the Muslim fanatics by the facilities accorded the Hisbah group provided the necessary cover and a suitable breeding ground for Boko Haram.
Most of the 12 states have since abandoned the strict enforcement of sharia law. Some have rolled back considerably on the annual budgetary allotment for sharia and its militant wing, Boko Haram. But Boko Haram has since found a more suitable breeding ground in that it has grown and has found better funding streams from politicians and other local and international jihadists.