Confusion is trailing the story of a reported military raid on the home of the Bishop of Gboko in Benue State yesterday. Just a while ago, the Catholic Diocese of Gboko distanced the Catholic Bishop, Rt. Rev Williams Avenya from an earlier statement regarding a military raid on his compound yesterday ostensibly in search of arms. The story of the raid which the social media had taken over and in which space various interpretations are now contending includes inferences about whether the military would have carried out such a search in a Mosque in some of the versions while reference to herdsmen carrying weapons without being searched stands out in others.
But in the new statement issued by Rev Fr Isaac Dugu, the Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko, the Bishop made no such statement about any raid on his house nor did any raid take place in Gboko but in Saint Paul’s Quasi Parish, Ayetwar in Katsina Ala where Rev Father Benjamin Versue is the priest. Some observers are tracing the retraction to crisis management communication while others are saying that the original story was the obvious handiwork of merchants of political misinformation.
Before this disclaimer, there was still no lead as to what might connect the Catholic Bishop of Gboko and his quarters with stockpiling of arms to warrant a military raid on his compound yesterday. Speaking when Intervention called the Diocese at 4. 20 pm earlier today, a spokesperson who declined to be quoted described yesterday’s exercise as a case of ransacking but said nobody could guess why the search was ordered, hinting though that it might have been due to what he called recent happenings which he said has made everyone to be suspected. But he was categorically clear that “as Catholics, nobody here can be associated with that in this environment”.
Intervention could not obtain any insight to what might have happened recently around Gboko or Tivland that could make the Bishop’s House or a Catholic Diocesan headquarters suspect in stockpiling of arms. The closest may be the declaration of Terwase Akwaza also known as Ghana wanted for alleged killings but that is not entirely a new development as security agencies have been pursuing Akwaza for over two years.
The original story would have put the Federal Government which is said to have ordered the raid in worse image crisis. It attributed to Bishop Williams Avenya, the Catholic Bishop of Gboko as calling it an invasion of his home and his parish by the soldiers who effected the search. Obviously taking off from there, citizen journalists have been circulating the story across sites, with additions and subtractions as the case may be.
The source of the initial story did a poor research by insinuating that the government could not have done that to a Mosque, forgetting the invasion of Shitee leader’s house in December 2015. Still, the inference speaks to the terrible evolution of Nigeria whereby only a Muslim president could do certain things to the Muslim community just as only a Christian president such as Obasanjo could say to hell to a pastor in Jos in 2004 without such acquiring a different meaning if he were a Muslim. It is a major deformity of the Nigerian State that the law takes flight when ethnicity and religion are invoked. Critics lament that when advocates of restructuring get on the platform, these are not the kind of issues they raise but issues of ethno-religious ‘apartheid’. The question is whether there would ever come a Nigerian leader, the genius of whose political praxis puts him or her above suspicion by both Christians and Muslims and makes it impossible for religion or ethnicity to save anybody from the law. Perhaps too idealistic but this is how it basically is in several societies.
Whether the raid took place in Gboko or Ayetwar in Katsina Ala, it is interesting that the Catholic Diocese of Gboko is, however, pleading for forgiveness for its traducers. The spokesperson who responded to Intervention’s call beseeched Almighty God to forgive those behind the search. “The spirit there is forgiveness”, he said.