Terrorism/banditry: Northerners, Muslims are worst hit, says Dambazau
Former Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau, has said the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Dr. Matthew Kukah, got it all wrong when he told the US Congress recently that Nigerian Christians, especially in the North, were being persecuted under the Buhari administration.
Dambazau, a retired Lieutenant General and Chief of Army Staff between 2008 and 2010, said on the contrary, the majority of the victims of the ongoing terrorism in the North are Muslims.
The former minister spoke in an interview with The Nation on the security challenge in the country. Dambazau said while it is true that Boko Haram elements sometime in the past burnt down churches, they did not spare mosques or even top Islamic clerics in the North.
“We all know that the main thrust of this crisis is in the Northeast, and most of the victims, without contradictions, I will say more than 95 per cent, are Muslims,” he said.
Citing Zamfara State, which he said is close to Kukah’s base in Sokoto State, the former COAS said: “The concentration of this violence is in Zamfara, not far from where he lives.
“And he knows that 99 per cent of the people in Zamfara are Muslims, and almost on a weekly basis, we hear of 40s, 50s and 60s being killed by these bandits in Zamfara.
“So, for him to use that as a way of Christian persecution is what really surprised me.
“I think as a bishop and man of God, if he is fighting any kind of injustice, he should fight for humanity.”
Dambazau said the whole issue of insecurity in the North is not even about religion but “about the fact that these victims are Nigerians and they require protection against these horrible people. But Kukah makes it look as if it is a systemic issue that maybe government is coming out, as a matter of policy, to persecute these people.”
Kukah, in his virtual testimony to the US Congress last week, had said among other things: “In the last 10 or so years, we have witnessed things we never dreamt about before: that is the mindless targeting, slaughtering and kidnapping of church personnel.
“In 2018, two of our priests and 17 of their parishioners were slaughtered during the morning mass.
“Before now, one or two or three of our priests had been killed in the moment of crisis.
“We have had a lot of other killings and there’s probably no need for me to go into details, but a lot of our young Christians who have been kidnapped, some of them have been forcefully asked to convert Islam, some have been turned into spies, cooks and sexual slaves – the story of Leah Sharibu suggests that very clearly.
“I think what is also significant and worthy of note is that things have just unravelled in the last five or six years since the coming to power of General Buhari.
“He didn’t make Boko Haram happen, but the fact that today the Northwest and North Central and literally the length and breadth of Nigeria have now been invaded by bandits, herdsmen and killers of all kinds of people who have come from God knows where, and the fact that the government just seems to be either helpless or almost uninterested in dealing decisively with these people.
“Muslim militants have absolutely no qualms about the destruction of Christian churches at the slightest provocation even when a lot of the issues have no direct bearing with the situations in Nigeria.”
The Presidency was the first to denounce Kukah for his allegations.
In a statement last Sunday, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said government has been fair to Muslims and Christians alike.
His words: “There is no bias in this government when the President is northern and Muslim, the vice president southern and Christian, and the cabinet equally balanced between the two religions.
“But neither is there anything in our Constitution to state that political posts must be apportioned according to ethnicity or faith.
“It takes a warped frame of mind for a critic to believe ethnicity is of primary importance in public appointments.
“It is yet more troubling to hear a Churchman isolating one group for criticism purely on ethnic lines.
“With due respect to the esteemed position he holds, the bishop’s assertion that only Christian schools are being targeted by bandits or terrorists is not supported by the facts on the ground.
“It is sad to say but also true that victims of crime, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism cut across all strata of the society.
“Sad but true that Kankara students in Katsina State were stolen by bandits of the same Islamic faith as those they took away.
“The same may be true of those who are still holding the 134 students of the Islamic school at Tegina in Niger State.
“The nation witnessed the sad incident of the female students abducted by bandits at Jangebe in Zamfara State and the over 100 predominantly Muslim students of the Federal Government Girls College Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State who are currently in captivity- and the nation’s security agencies are hard at work to release them unharmed.
“The attack on Christian students is sad and unacceptable; so also is the abduction of students of other faiths. The claim that only Christian schools are being targeted is totally untrue.
“As a nation and a people, we must together define evil as evil. We must not allow our religious differences to divide us.
“No one gains but the evil doers when we divide our ranks according to ethnicity and religion in confronting them.
“The bandit, kidnapper and terrorist are the enemies of the people who should be confronted in unison.
“To be clear, The Bible is definitive on matters of ethnicity and racialism: In Romans 2:9-10, it says: ‘There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good’.
“And in Galatians 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’
“Whether Christian or Muslim, we stand by these beliefs and are steadfastly committed to them in governance.” (The Nation)