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Reverend Supo Onyekunle Is Wrong

By Saleh Bature
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Our religion and tradition have taught us that hardy would a nation survive if its religious and temporal leaders give lip service to objectivity, balance, reason and decorum in public discourse. I also understand, while growing up that matters of religion in Nigeria are sensitive and therefore very difficult topic to commentators who want to be impatial. Religious leaders are the voices of reason that serve as buffer.

This is why clerics are expected to be circumspective and employ wisdom in their utterances. A religious leader who is careless with his choice of words threatens peace of a nation more than a merciless armed robber who holds a fully loaded AK 47 riffle.

It is against this backdrop that I take on the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Supo Oyekunle on his recent tantrums following visit of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry to his Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar the II and the northern governors.

Ordinarily CAN president should be the least expected person to condem Kerry's visit, coming as it did at a time when Nigeria needs America more than ever before. This is not a visit by a foreign minister from oil rich Saudi Arabia, a situation which some religious bigots will exploit to create disharmony in the country.

Describing the visit as discriminatory, personal and divisive," Rev. Supo warned the US Secretary of state to stop "interfering in the internal affairs of the country, alleging that the visit was aimed at furthering the federal government’s plan to continue to persecute the teeming population of Nigerian Christians."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Never has there been a time in human history when the United States of America, a self proclaimed Christian nation which is proud of its Christian faith ever connived with a Muslim leader or group to undermine Christians in favor of Muslims. In fact the reverse is almost always the case. The Reverend's remarks is therefore spurious and most unfortunate.

A former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, writes in his book, dancing on the brinks, that Christians' churches in Nigeria have strong link with American evangelists. It is an open secret that Churches in Nigeria receive huge financial support from America with which they run their activities at home. I have no problem with this because I know Muslims too used to get financial support from waqf (endowment, foundation or charity) and individual rich muslims from Saudi Arabia to execute Islamic projects at home. But such assistance has stopped coming since the unfortunate incident of 9/11, because the US labels all financial support to Islamic causes as "aiding" terrorism.

Data from Pew global attitude project on America showed a big discrepancy between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. "eighty nine percent of the Former viewed the United States favorably, while only 32 percent of the later did." The truth is that Christians in Nigeria are more favorably disposed to America than Muslims are. In the same vein, America feels more at home with Christians than Muslims in Nigeria.

With this deep seated mutual mistrusts and sometimes hatred between Muslims and America, only a dullard or ordinary simpleton will believe with Rev. Supo's unsubstantiated and rather reckless statement that the US will connive with a Muslim president to persecute the Christians in Nigeria.

I do not understand why CAN should have problem with Barack Obama's administration, for openly supporting (as alleged by the Reverend) the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the last presidential election in Nigeria. It is inconceivable to question Obama, President of the most powerful country on earth for dumping Good Luck Jonathan, a Christian, in preference to Muhammadu Buhari. Did America not support President Obasanjo? When has it become a crime for an American President to back leader of a foreign country whom he trusts and wants to partner with? This has been the trend by successive American presidents and Supo's odium will not compel the US to change that policy, now or in any foreseeable future.

From the questions asked by CAN it suggests that the headship of the Association is doubtful of the official visit by Secretary Kerry to Nigeria: “If US Secretary of States is coming for official visit, it’s understandable..., said CAN's President, Supo Onyekunle. From available records, John Kerry wasn't in Nigeria for tourism? The Secretary of state of the US is not an ordinary person who will waste his time visiting Nigeria for a jamboree. He was in Nigeria to talk on important bilateral issues of interest between the two nations. Security of the North, which by extension is also security to the entire nation, and US unflinching support to the present government's effort to degrade the fighting capability of Boko Haram is a geostrategic interest of the US in this region.

America is no longer interested in our oil because it has alternative to it. This is why it has not been buying from us. The Policy of the US in Nigeria has now changed from oil to security. Peace in Nigeria is paramount to US strategic interest in the African sub-region.

Back to the meeting with northern governors. In the presence of Plateau, Benue and Taraba state governors, Kerry and the the 16 Muslim governors of northern states would not be foolish to discuss issues that will be detrimental to Christians. I could recall similar meetings being held between US and the governors in Washington DC, when GEJ was in power. If that meeting did not harm the Christians then, why should CAN be jittery now? The answer is not far fetched. It is simply because a Muslim is now the president of the country. And CAN or its leader is not happy with what God has ordained. There is no justification for Christians to fear just because the person in charge of the affairs of the nation does not wear the cross. They should not believe that they are under siege in Nigeria as the CAN President would want us believe. Can Buhari stop Christians from church services?

Lie, it is said, is the sweetest poison. The Joe Chinakwe incident, from all intents and purposes, is directed at embarrassing President Muhammadu Buhari. The Reverend argued that: "naming an animal with somebody’s name is never a criminal offence." But I tell you, Man is a special being. He cannot be compared with an animal no matter sacred the animal is. Moreover, Buhari is the president of our country, a husband and father. You cannot therefore name a dog "Buhari" unless you have ulterior motive to ridicule Mr. President. Is it not dehumanizing if a dog, donkey or pig is named after one's own mother or father? In my culture it is derogatory and most demeaning to call a man with animal name.

The CAN President jointly accused Muslims, the Police and Department of State Security (DSS) on "selective persecution of Christians" adding, "it was obvious the administration was anti-christians."

While I do not deny that there are pockets of violent attacks (all of which are condemnable) on Christians and destruction of Churches in Nigeria, I find it difficult to agree with Rev. Supo's claim of government deliberately conniving with muslims to annihilate Christians in Nigeria. This is a cheap lie which should not have come from a leader and a revered man of God.

Even though not the object of this discourse, I can as well mention similar deadly attacks committed by Christians, in areas where they dominate, over the last 20 years before the ominous emergence of Boko Haram. The examples of Kafanchan, Tafawa Balewa, Zangon Kataf, Kaduna, Plateau and Zonkwa cannot be denied. More telling was the attack on Muslims on Eid ground in Jos and the cannibalization of their bodies in the presence of law enforcement personnel.

If we will be sincere, there have been violent attacks on both sides. The only difference is that very few coordinated attacks involving bombs and suicides have been recorded on the Christian side. The Christian fanatics do not declare war against the state or attempt to forcibly Christianize all Nigerian citizens. But they do kill soft muslim targets when ever there is crises of sectarian nature.

Most of the blames on Muslims' killing of Christians recently may not be unconnected with Boko Haram's carnage. One important point which most Christians fail to understand is that Boko Haram does not respect the sanctity of life of any Muslim who do not believe in the TAKFIRI ideology. You must believe in the killing of unbelivers ( the blood of any one who does not believe in this weird mindset is "lawful").

"Nigerian Christians cannot be treated as one organic collection of murderers that deserve a carpet treatment of bombs and bullets." In the Boko Haram "school of thought" a person like me (a Muslim) is not different from Rev. Supo Ayokunle. If we are caught(God forbid), they will apply the same treatment on us. So, by generalising all Nigerian muslims as Boko Haram, Nigerian Christians are not being fair to the Muslims.

At this critical time of our existence as a nation, Nigeria is earnestly in need of interfaith cooperation. Leaders like Rev. Supo Ayokunle should be in the forefront of building bridges between Christians and Muslims to provide mechanism for resolving conflict.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Saleh Bature and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."