By James Ogunjimi
Mr. Gambo Dori, in his article in Daily Trust of January 31, 2017 titled: “Caliph Shekau and Apostle Suleman: What is the difference?” compared Apostle Suleiman of Omega Fire Ministries to the leader of the Boko haram terrorist group, Abubakar Shekau.
He drew the comparison using a video of the boko haram leader when he was just an Islamic preacher. In the video, Shekau was seen preaching and admonishing his listeners, asking why they were submitting to the authority of the country. Mr. Dori compared the video to that of Apostle Suleiman telling his members to kill any herdsman that entered the church.
Now, I am not a fan of people who keep quiet until they are affected directly. Such people will not talk about injustice or incompetence until it visits them, and then they’ll start to talk. It has been an issue I have always had with Nigerian preachers. While boko haram slaughtered people, they kept quiet. While government policies crushed people, they kept quiet. While a woman was killed in Abuja for doing morning evangelism, they labeled her “martyr” and moved on. While herdsmen slaughtered over 800 people in Southern Kaduna, they were mute.
Then when boko haram blew up Bishop David Oyedepo’s church in the north, he spoke up, asking his members to kill and spill blood. When Apostle Suleiman got wind of the fact that herdsmen wanted to attack him and his church, he began to speak up. But that is talk for another day.
Mr. Gambo Dori is not alone in his beration of Apostle Suleiman and his weird comparison. We have Prof. Ishaq Akintola of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). We have the Sultan of Sokoto. These are people that were mute when attacks by herdsmen and on Christians were left unchecked. Nobody heard from them. No attempt to condemn the attacks. No statement asking the government to speak up. But the moment someone spoke up, asking those who are being killed to defend themselves, these people found their voices.
One would do well to ask where Mr. Gambo Dori has been when these killings have been going on. We should go through his archives and see if he said anything about the killings. Why is he suddenly finding his voice now?
What of Prof. Akintola? Where has he been? On what grounds is he challenging the preacher’s statement? The same Prof. Akintola condemning speeches now has always made inciting speeches unchecked hiding under the umbrella of MURIC and Islamic advocacy to spew hate and incite readers. What has he said about the killings? He had time to tell the Kaduna Government to unban the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and release its leader, Sheik Elzakzaky but has been unable to say a word about the killings going on nationwide. But the moment someone asks Christians to stand up and defend themselves, he finds his voice. Pathetic.
The Sultan of Sokoto, a traditional and spiritual leader has been silent too. While it is understandable that discretion is important, it is equally important to not come across as giving tacit support to religious and regional killings with his silence. The Sultan had been quiet all along but the moment someone asks his people to stand up and defend themselves, he speaks up, asking the government to move against hate preachers.
Hate is not only preached with words, sometimes, hate is preached with silence. If as a leader you decide to keep quiet in the face of hate killings, you are empowering the hate killers with your silence. And when someone else calls for self-defence and you who has been silent all along suddenly finds your voice, you leave no doubt at all that you have picked sides.
Those condemning the recent calls by Christian leaders for self defence are suffering from an entitlement mentality. They claim that it is ‘unchristianly’ to ask people to fight. The same people don’t condemn those who have been killing in Islam’s name even when Islam is called a religion of peace. They want Christians to be christlike and turn the other cheek. They are promoters of the entitlement mentality who believe that a region or religion should have a monopoly of violence while others look on, getting slaughtered and turning the other cheek.
But things are not going their way and they are not happy. Nobody wants to roll over and die and they are not happy. People are tired of writing off murders as martyrdom and they are not happy. Things are changing and they are not happy.
The likes of Mr. Gambo Dori, Prof. Ishaq Akintola and the Sultan of Sokoto will do well to realize that no individual, region or religion has a monopoly of violence. There is a limit to the number of times you batter people and kill them before they turn back to say NO, and Nigerians have gotten to that point.
No amount of opinion pieces, press statements and calls for arrest will solve this. The government has only one option: address the issue of the killings urgently or continue to dodge it and watch the nation erupt like a deadly volcano.