Why are we playing politics with the issue of Boko Haram? What do we believe: the façade of dialogue that the government presents in its interaction with the press, or the belligerent and confrontational posture that its security agencies exhibit in their fight with the group?
Is there any lesson to be learnt in the war on terror where the proponents vowed never to dialogue or negotiate with terrorists, only to now realise, after the demise of thousands and loss of billions of dollars, that dialogue is the only option left for a lasting peace in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we see such fervour and sensationalism by the press on these botched attempts as we witness when the culprits happen to be Muslims?
What would have happened if those Christians had succeeded in carrying out the blast? In a nation where the press in mainly in the hands of people of a particular faith, it is hard to be neutral in their reportage of these kinds of events; especially if it reinforces a stereotype and serves a hot selling item of news. John Akpava was caught with weapons at a Ministerial Press Briefing held at Radio House, Abuja. What would the press have done with this story if John Akpava were a Muslim?
A ‘suicide’ bomber was allowed into the premises of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), Jos, by a fellow member of the church, who detonated explosives that led to the death of 8 persons; 38 others were seriously injured. The Sun Newspaper of Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 reported that the said Boko Haram suicide bomber was identified by The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), as Mr. Adams Joseph Ashaba, ‘who allegedly masterminded the bombing of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Jos, the Plateau State capital on February 26, disclosing, that he was actually a member of the Church.’ In another report on Daily Trust of Monday, February 27th, 2012, 8 members of the same (COCIN) were arrested this time in Bauchi with explosive devices desiring to set ablaze the church.
Their arrest was almost thwarted by some Christians, but for the timely intervention of the Police. The above examples and that of the arrest of Augustine Effiong of Akwa Ibon origin who was reported by Thisday of May 21st, 2012, to have confessed his involvement in the BUK bombings, should make Muslim and Christian leaders realise that we are all in this together, and that we should work in harmony to bring about workable solution to the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. We have to do this. The problems of this country could only be solved by Nigerians. Yes, we can listen to good advice from abroad, and learn from other people’s experiences on similar matters.
The ambivalence of the sacred is not to be seen as a bad thing. A polarised world is the one which should be strange. What we hold dear are not the same; our understanding of who God is and what His Laws are is also varied and diverse. The only thing we can firmly attest to as people is that we are brothers in humanity. The multiplicity of religions is a manifestation of our diverse backgrounds and reasoning.
While some are content to worship the air and trees; others worship a fellow being as god. Look at Christianity and Islam for example: In either faith, we have hundreds of sects and variants. Each sect or variant in turn has its own idiosyncrasies and modes of worship and body of beliefs. The realisation that every time you are looking at the number 6 on a table, another sees the number 9 across that table helps to devise means to study and tolerate conflicting ideologies. While Muslims have been stereotypically dubbed as violent, Christians have had their share of stereotypes too. A typical uninformed Muslim thinks all Christians are Crusaders, trying to snuff out the light of Islam.
He detests the Christians in his surroundings and distrusts them. When he meets the right Christian, he is confused and disorientated. He asks more and learns; he deepens his understanding and the shallowness of undue hate goes away. We also have stories of Christians referring to Muslims as idolaters and heathens who slaughter a ram every year to their god. One of such ignoramuses even wrote a book he titled “Who is This Allah?” He used that rare opportunity to show just how ignorant he is. The average uninformed Christian distrusts and despises the Muslims.
The irresponsible journalism tactics employed by some media houses have also helped fuel the problem. The annual holidays connected to the Christian faith given by the Federal Government and most state governments are the Christian New Year, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas and Boxing Day. We also have the weekly holidays of Saturday and Sunday to enable them go and worship. On the Muslim side we have the yearly holidays of Eidul Adha, Eidul Fitr and Mawlidun Nabiyy.
The Osun state governor decided to give the Muslims their right by making 15th November, which corresponds to 1st Muharram a public holiday. Objectively, no one should have any issues with that; after all, are citizens are equal and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; but alas! That was not to be! The Christain owned Punch newspaper wrote an editorial condemning it and saying Nigeria is secular. How convenient! Muslims say he was sent by God as a messenger, bearer of glad tidings and warner against the impending doom of the end of time. They revere him and truly believe in him.
They do not elevate him to a rank above prophethood. Any attack on his personality is an affront on their faith. The Muslims believe that Jesus (or ‘Eesa) the son of the Virgin Mary is alive, never died or resurrected, ascended to the heavens until his return, is a great prophet who was born in one of the four ways God perpetuates life. Any insult on him is an affront on the Muslim faith and any who disbelieves in him is not a Muslim. The Christians have two main beliefs about him. One says he is in fact God, Lord and Saviour; a part of a triune while the other contends that he was sent by God but lesser than God. These are clearly opposing views about the same people!
Do we go out and persecute those who do not share the same sets of beliefs with us? Only a fool will answer in the affirmative! This madness must stop, and to stop it, we must know ourselves and what we hold dear better; that is no fool’s calling. We know and believe that if more of us know what you and I know today and if more are willing to practise our faiths to the letter, there will be little or no bloodshed. Over centuries Muslims and Christians and Jews have been murdered for the simple reason that they belong to a different faith; we can and must stop it.