By Rev. Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

It was 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was campaigning for the presidency of Nigeria and Professor Ambrose Alli was campaigning for the governorship of the then Bendel State. Some political agents went about fishing youths from the various secondary schools for political campaign and electoral rigging. Some of our students of Our Lady of Fatima College were victims in this political game. During the election, some students were arrested and jailed. While we were writing promotion examinations, the youths whose school uniform had been replaced with prison uniform were going through hell in prison. Some of the Politicians for whose reason these students were in jail were declared winners of the elections. Did they remember that some youths who were supposed to be in school writing their examinations were in prison? Never! By the time these students were out of jail, their class mates had left them behind. I advise the Nigerian youths to resist the seductive pills (money) of the avaricious politicians.

The social media is filled with discordant reactions to the quit notice from the Northern youths to the Igbos of Nigeria. Some critical minds are analysing the saga of the call for the Federal Republic of Biafra as juvenile joke. As usual, some of the agitators are already selling religion and ethnicity to achieve their selfish goal. This is distracting some loyal and patriotic citizens who should know that these political agitators are only using the innocent masses to keep feeding fat in their air-conditioned offices and ultra-modern houses. The children of these agitators are not in Nigeria. They are enjoying the modern facilities and infrastructure in Europe and America where there are no sound of generators. Meanwhile these enemies of peaceful co-existence keep using the poor masses in Nigeria as willing tools to cause disaffection among the different tribes and religions.

Why can’t these agitators challenge the leaders of Federal and State governments to give account of their stewardship to the citizens who voted them into leadership positions? Could it be the case that the man who stole our treasure is still the same man who is helping us to look for it? Some political operators have failed to empower the youths so that they can never be leaders of tomorrow. They prefer that the jobless youths who are not empowered positively because of the colossal failure of government should operate like beasts, killing, raping and kidnapping human beings for them. Just last week twenty four suspected terrorists who disguised as herdsmen were arrested in Auchi after a man was killed and his wife raped at Elele, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State Nigeria. At the time of writing this paper, the women of Elele were protesting on the highway against the raping of the women and killings by herdsmen. Terrorism has traversed from the North to every part of Nigeria. Now the farmers in Edo State can no longer find peace in their farms. I hope the Edo State Government would act fast to prove that they do not support this agenda of terror.

Let the Government deal with criminals as criminals and terrorists as terrorists. I do not believe that terror and crime has a religion or ethnic affiliation. Religion and Culture teach values that respect human dignity and peaceful co-existence. Take the case of “the most wanted kidnap Kingpin”, Mr. Chukwudi Onuamadike, popularly called Evans, a billionaire who was arrested in Lagos. Does his criminal name, Evans, suggest his tribe and religion? Are the terrorists who parade as Herdsmen truly Fulani and Muslims? Is Nnamdi Kano a Christian or Muslim? Is he not also a British Citizen? Is he really speaking on behalf of the Igbo Traditional Rulers and Elites? Did the Northern Youths who gave the quit notice to the Igbos speak for Islam or the Northern leaders? I believe that the Traditional Rulers and Elites of the North still exist. They may not want the youths to speak for them on sensitive issues like asking non indigenes to vacate their land.

We need to know who speak for each region and religion to make the statement sacrosanct like the Vatican’s “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” (Rome has spoken the case is closed). If the Federal and State governments really want to be stakeholders of the collective peaceful co-existence of Nigeria, kidnappers, terrorists, people who make treasonable statements should be arrested as criminals without considering their ethnic and religious affiliations. If the Federal and State Governments show incompetence in dealing with crime to protect the citizens because of ethnicity and religion, then the citizens have no option than to believe that the Government agents are enablers behind the scene. This is because the law of the federation is not a respecter of persons, ethnicity and religion.

Let us do a common sense reflection on the current exodus theory in Nigeria. Let us assume that there is a referendum in Nigeria and there is a consensus that Nigeria should be divided into different countries. Does that implies homogeneity in a way and manner that only those who are biological indigenes of the different countries should live there while none indigenes should relocate to the countries of their birth? I think this is ridiculous. If this theory of homogeneity is sustainable such that there must be an exodus from the foreign country to the indigenous country, then we should ask further, what Nigerians are doing in Europe, America, Asia and other parts of the world. When Nigeria became independent of the Colonialists in 1960, did all the foreigners relocate back to their native homes while the Nigerians abroad returned to the new Nigeria?

The incumbent government must not allow Nigeria to disintegrate. This spark of fire can be prevented from becoming an inferno. “A stich in time saves nine?” The security agents must never appear to be competently incompetent whereas they have just arrested the kidnap kingpin and paraded 24 suspected terrorists at Auchi? Many people are still waiting for the fulfilment of the promise to call to order the youths who signed the treasonable quit notice just as the leader of the Biafra agitation was arrested. If the citizens of Nigeria have the goodwill, intelligence, purity of heart, openness and sense of vision to source for a true and united Nigeria, the mission of every citizen would be the promotion of peace, love and unity irrespective of religious affiliation. The security agents must earn the trust of the citizens in this project of peaceful coexistence by not partisan, ethnic and religiously biased.

Let the true Muslim keep to the teaching that a true believer must enter absolutely into peace and not follow in the footsteps of Satan who is an outright enemy to a Muslim (Qur’an 2:208). Let the true Muslim live in peace and harmony in one nation with people of other religions because he believes that, “there is no compulsion where the religion is concerned” (Qur’an: 2:256). Let the true Muslim not guide people the way he likes because only God guides those he wills. God has the best knowledge of the people he is guiding (Quran 28:56). Let every Christian refuse to be made an enemy of people of other religions because he believes that peace makers are children of God (Matthew 5:7). Let every Christian never believe that every Muslim is a terrorist because there are still very many good Muslims who are also victims of terrorism. Let every Christian obey the voice of the Church that dialogue with people of other religions and living in peace with them is not an option (Nostra Aetate). This is the time to deliver religion and ethnicity from the hands of enemies of progress. Let our exodus not be from North to East or East to North. Let our exodus be from earth to heaven when it is time to meet God and behold him in love face to face (cf. John 14: 1-4).

Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the director of Mission and Dialogue in the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.



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