RE: HURIWA, Are religious leaders above the law?
The above mentioned opinion piece by one Okanga Agila who claimed to have written from the sleepy village of Agila in Benue State wouldn’t have merited a response because we concluded that it will be a sheer waste of man-hour to dignify the innuendos and half-baked invectives with a reply.
But upon a second thought after analytically observing that over half a dozen online platforms were hoodwinked into publishing a material from a near-faceless writer with lots of libelous affirmations, we have decided to appropriately respond for the educational benefit of the audiences who may have read that soft tissues of lies and propaganda which clearly was a hatchet job for the Department of State Services.
Firstly, we are disappointed that the hierarchy of the Department of State Services (DSS) could resort to the use of pseudo writer to respond to our lawfully grounded observation on the emerging pattern of selective attacks targeted against the constituted authority of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
The highly jaundiced and fallacious piece authored by this unknown writer who masqueraded as one Mr. Agila from Agila began with some praises for the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria for always standing in defense of the oppressed in the society but in the subsequent paragraphs the writer quickly recalled that he had a paid hatchet job to do so he descended into the abyss of falsehood to flood his article with affirmations that cannot stand the test of logic, coherence and time.
But we are already used to seeing this pattern of paid attacks especially with political dictators who have zero tolerance for dissenting voices.
In the current dispensation it has become the new normal for persons holding divergent ideas or opinions from the President to be harangued, harassed by security forces andin some cases these persons jave been killed through extra-legal executions like the case of civilian demonstrators killed in Zaria and Onitsha.
In his book “Civilian dictators of Africa”, the Nigerian respected human rights activist and now a Senator of the Federal Republic Comrade Shehu Sani wrote thus: “A leader should strive to be worthy of the mantle of leadership, in whatever way possible. several African leaders have demonstrated failure in this regard, leading to many, if not most, of problems that plague the African continent. In recent times, many of these so-called leaders have even gone a step further in drastically deviating from all known leadership ethos, emerging as dictators in the process.
The Kaduna born Senator also observed that: "Dictators are natural political leaders who wield active executive power and use such power in an absolute or near-absolute manner, with little or no effective check and balance. Some of the attributes of dictators include a fondness for creating cults of personality about themselves, inflamed by natural talents in demagoguery. They favor a “divide and rule” system of leadership, and they sustain and consolidate their powers through means of fear, intimidation and arrest. They tend to be corrupt, kleptocratic and desirous of spewing a dynasty, regardless of the type of state that they preside over. They also exhibit an inglorious tendency to want to protect their own kind- their “fellow” dictators";(Civilian Dictators of Africa by Shehu Sani)”.
In keeping with the notorious dictatorial tendencies, the masters of this unknown writer are not happy that our organization has consistently spoken for the cause of constitutional democracy, respect for the rule of law and respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
In this piece being analysed, the writer went as far as to apply some gutter language to describe this writer as “a closet Biafra/IPOB separatist, who does not believe in Nigeria as a nation.”
This aove rogue phraseology is not only uncivilized but crude; distateful and reprehensible. It's a body language used by operatives in some secirity circles of Nigeria thereby convincing us that the writer may be an operative of the DSS or one hungry hatchet writer with no attachment to professional ethics.
The author of this hogwash and illogicality failed to show what qualifies someone as a believer in Nigeria and what distinguishes someone as a separatist and indeed it is inconceivable that a sane intellectual could seek to connect this kind of unsound thought process and present it as a publishable article.
What is the connection between the concern our association raised with the emerging grave pattern of profiling of Christian Leaders by the current hierarchy of the Department of State Service with his crazy idea that this writer is a sympathizer of IPOB/Biafra? Is this a subterfuge for preparing the groundwork for the harassment and physical intimidation of this writer or what?
Secondly, there is no doubt that the so-called Mr Agila is completely a stranger to meticulous research otherwise he could not have written those insane words about this writer and to even conclude that our organization has aversion for other faith-based groups outside of Christianity is to say the least unreasonable and irresponsible. He even proceeded to question the realness of our national director of media. What nonsense!
Perhaps, the writer of this meaningless and incoherent rejoinder to HURIWA'S media statement on the harassment of CHRISTIAN LEADERS may need to tell his audience how much we got from the D.G of DSS Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura to drum up our support for his appointment last year when politicians of the People’s Democratic Party accused President Muhammadu Buhari of appointing his kinman and a member of his political party as the head of a strategic national security institution like the State Security Services.
Mr. Agila needs to tell his readers whether those numerous times we have risked our lives to speak out loud and clear in defense of the oppressed members of the Shiites Islamic Movement or the Internally displaced people in the North East of Nigeria can as well be used to accuse us of belonging to those affiliations. What about our interventions in condemnation on numerous occasions of the bombing campaigns targeting Moslem worshippers in Kano and the North East or our intervention in the media regarding the killings in Zamfara ztate? Can HURIWA also be accused of defending only Moslems and Hausas?
HURIWA remains the only vocal non-governmental body that issued a public statement urging politicians to allow the DG of DSS Alhaji Daura to concentrate and do his job.
Although, we are not obliged to respond to the accusation by this faceless writer that we have always opposed the current Muhammadu Buhari’s administration but for the sake of other readers, may we educate this writer that for ten years of our existence as a duly and legitimately registered Non-governmental body, we have always operated as a fully independent voice for all Nigerians irrespective of political, religious faith or even ethnicity.
It is on record that this writer (Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko) has on many occasions been found worthy and meritorious to be chosen by two previous Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to work in the national capacity as a federal commissioner of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission and a member of a standing presidential committee. This writer has to his credit over 100,000 published articles promoting the ideals of nationalism and patriotism.
Between myself and this biased and opinionated Mr. Agila, I am a far better patriotic Nigerian who has worked at the highest levels for the people of Nigeria than himself who only has just written once because he has been paid to so do. HURIWA intervenes on behalf of poor and oppressed Nigerians without charging fees.
In as much as our first statement titled “HURIWA to DSS: - Stop Persecution of Christians”, has answered all the mischievous questions the so -called Mr. Agila raised, let me remind him once more that the Department of State Services (DSS) has more pressing national security duties to do than their current pastime of engaging in the unconstitutional profiling of Christian leaders to the exclusions of leaders of the opposite and equally dominant faith-based group in Nigeria-Islamic religion.
The DSS is not an Islamic police. It must not be used to harass and intimidate Christian leaders only because they are engaging in very legitimate, credible and transparent global process of inviting funding support to reconstruct church buildings destroyed by armed Islamic terror group of Boko Haram in the North East of Nigeria.
By the way the Islamic State terror mastermind intercepted in Lebanon on his way to Kano state Nigeria was reportedly invited by some Islamic clerics who till date haven't been interrogated by the DSS nearly two years after.
How many times has this Alhaji Duara-led DSS invited leaders of the Islamic religion for interrogation over their fund raising drives in such places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and other middle eastern nations for the propagation of Islam?
Was the DG of DSS not aware that the Chief Imam of the Holy mosque of Meccah visited President Buhari and paid some high profile visits to some other officials and Islamic clerics?
The invitation for interrogation of Christian leaders for seeking to rebuild churches destroyed by terrorists is discriminatory and is therefore unconstitutional, null and void and stands absolutely condemnable.
Section 42 (1) (a) of the NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION states emphatically thus: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject..”
By the way why has the Department of State Service not gone after state officials in most Northern states who have set up Islamic police that are used to abuse the fundamental human rights of citizens of different faiths?
As Lewis Carroll stated in his work titled: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)” thus: “Where shall I begin, please your majesty? He asked’. ‘Begin at the beginning ‘the king said very gravely’, ‘and go on till you come to the end”..
In the same vein let me begin by educating Mr. Agila that the State Security Services as an agency set up by law must comply with Constitutional provisions by not profiling selectively the Christian religious leaders only because the current Director General is a Muslim.
He is the Director General of Department of State Services for all of Nigeria.
Mr. Agila said the DSS invited Christian leaders because according to him “they were making dangerous utterance and seeking foreign incursions into the country under the guise of raising funds to build destroyed churches”, but he forgot that the Right to freedom of religion did not restrict those who have embraced universal religions such as Christianity or Islam from going into communion with their other global members with the legitimate aspiration of evangelization.
Is Christianity or Islam local religious groups? It would have been plausible to want to interrogate adherents of African Traditional Religions if they are seen in the Vatican city or Saudi Arabia canvassing for fund for evangelism but it is laughable to intertogate a Christian or Moslem who goes abroad to source for fund legitimately to do their religious obligations when in the first place these faith based groups are imported practices into Nigeria.
We are aware that over a thousand places of worship for Muslims have been built over the years using legitimate donations from abroad and the heavens hasn’t fallen nor did the Director General of Department of State Services arrested or interrogated any of these Muslim leaders for accepting donations to build their places of worship from their brethren of other nationalities.
For the benefit of readers, here are the duties of the State Security Services or what is now called DSS: “(3) The State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for- (a) the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; (b the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and (c) such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary,” (National Security Agencies Act 5th June, 1986).
Interrogating religious leaders for doing their lawful pursuit of evangelisation is alien to the above stated statutory roles of the Department of State Services.
To conclude, let me say that no Nigerian is above the law including religious leaders or heads of security agencies. But let no Nigerian be intimidated and silenced whilst expressing a lawful opinion.
Like Winston Churchill stated: “An appeaser believes he is not powerful enough to defeat a tyrant. Therefore he makes concessions in order to avoid going to war. His concession makes him weaker and makes the tyrant stronger ”.
In the same vein let all Nigerians stand up, speak out in defense of constitutional democracy. Let them not be afraid of one million Mr. Agilas.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and can be reached on [email protected]; www.emmanuelonwubiko.com.