In what add its own dimension to the social unease in Nigeria, Christians are expected to embark on a procession tomorrow across the country. The procession is anchored on expression of deepest displeasure in unison with the Diocese of Makurdi over what John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, for instance, calls the ugly happenings in our country and prayer for the nation.
Decrying the erosion of the perception of life as sacred, the Cardinal is, however, asking those he called trouble makers to keep off from the challenge of peacefully fighting for a better Nigeria. “I want this march and prayer to be peaceful from the beginning to the end and to send a powerful message to the Government of our country and the rest of the world for positive change”, said the Cardinal in the summoning to all Christians, local and international media to the procession which would take-off from the National Ecumenical Centre in the capital city. In Abuja, the procession is underpinned by the slogan of ‘Life is sacred, Stop the killings’.
Tomorrow is when two priests killed April 24th, 2018 along with 17 members of their congregation in Ayar Mbalon Village in Gwer East Local Government Council in Benue State would be buried. The procession is coming on the heels of protests by activists of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, (IMN) which is pressurising the government to release their leader who has been in detention after a clash with the army late 2015.
Added to what is clearly a breakdown in elite consensus on the direction of the nation and a fierce struggle for power, the question of who killed the priests as well as previous deaths from attacks by what has generally become known as herdsmen violence has been a subject of controversy and concern.
The president first called them armed herdsmen, then said they were Gaddafi’s boys let loose after the late Libyan leader’s death. President Buhari has also said the attacks were being staged with intention to provoke a war, literarily fingering opponents of his government for being behind it. Contrary view insists it is a land occupation and Islamisation agenda unfolding.
When the president visited the United States recently, Donald Trump told him America would not accept the killing of Christians. Critics say the Nigerian president missed using the same global opportunity to provide a contrary view, a silence which translates to consent.
Similarly, the Catholic Bishop of Gboko, William Avenya, tasked visiting Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to Benue State last week to exonerate himself from what he called “this situation”. Said he, “The point I’m trying to make is that a day is going to come when you, as the Vice-President, will bear the brunt of that problem of injustices in our land, especially those perpetrated on smaller ethnic groups that have no one to fight for them. So, as a Christian person, exonerate yourself from this situation”. He was thus speaking truth to power by handing over the matter to God for His longer reach.
Reacting, the Vice-President went into a preachy dialogism invoking his born again status in Christianity, privileging that as well as his professorship of law of evidence over his politician status, ruling out being part of any agenda whatsoever, because, as he framed it, “How possible can anyone say that the killing of women and children doesn’t matter because he is Vice-President or because he is President?”
So, neither the government nor the power elite seem to know the truth, leaving the governing elite and the governed in a kind of political wilderness that allows all interpretations to fester, particularly when it involves the killing of priests and members of a congregation. Yet, according to former president Obasanjo, there is nothing Buhari can do about the ‘Libyan boys’. Meanwhile, unlike Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades, President Buhari would not go for his own version of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk from those he keeps alluding to as intent on provoking war even as does not appear to be in a position to overwhelm them. A complicated case of the grasses bearing the brunt whether elephants make love or confront each other! But, what sort of national elite would embark on going for broke on the dead bodies of her own citizens when elite are supposed to possess the knack for knocking elite pacts in moments of national stress?