YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – A Catholic bishop in Nigeria says the policies of the central government is giving the terrorist group Boko Haram a “confidence boost.”
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’s comments came after several anti-Christian attacks by the Islamic group, including the murder of Rev. Lawan Andimi, a Protestant pastor, earlier this week.
In addition, Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been attacking Christians in the country: On Jan. 20, Augustine Avertse, a lay leader of the St. Augustine Catholic community in Nasarawa State, was murdered together with his father in a suspected Fulani attack.
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“I travel around, and I know how the world feels about our lack of vision and direction. Internally, Nigerians have never felt so forlorn and despondent,” the bishop told Crux.
“It is hard to convince any Nigerian today that they should be proud of their country and that they are under the protection of their government. Life has never been so cheap in this country and one feels that absolutely nothing is being seriously done to end the carnage. Imagine the way that Trump has behaved over the fact that someone has taken the lives of American citizens. Here today, death is a daily harvest,” Kukah said.
Kukah is the bishop of Sokoto, in the far north of Nigeria, and his diocese is Muslim-majority.
Nigeria’s more than 200 million people are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims, with Christians predominant in the south, and Muslims in the north. Several Muslim-majority states have implemented sharia law, despite the nation’s secular constitution.
The current president Muhammadu Buhari is a devout Muslim, and many of his critics have accused him of favoring his co-religionists.
Kukah blamed Buhari for “pursuing a policy that is divisive in the area of power sharing.”
The bishop said all the security chiefs of the federal agencies are in the hands of Muslims, including the office of the National Security Adviser and the Minister of Defense.
“Between 80 and 90 percent of federal parastatals are headed by Muslims, not to talk of some of the most important ministries in the land. I am making the simple case that if Boko Haram is killing us and trying to take over Nigeria to establish an Islamic state, if it is killing Christians, if the federal government is so seriously and deliberately marginalizing power, I believe – willy-nilly – it is providing Boko Haram a confidence boost,” he told Crux.
Kukah said Buhari’s policies, which he said are based on religious discrimination, have reduced Christians “to a secondary layer in the scheme of things.”
“By loading the dice of power so outrageously in favor of Muslims, whether inadvertently or not, he leaves room for Boko Haram to exploit the situation. If Boko Haram is killing Christians and Christians feel so much outside the loop of power, the difference is simply between the realm of the physical and the psychological,” the bishop said.
He pointed to the gruesome Dec. 26 murder of a bride and her bridal party by Boko Haram militants in the northern Muslim-majority Kano state. Buhari did not personally condemn the attack, instead using an office spokesperson.
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“Where in the world would this kind of murderous activity as happened with the gruesome killings of the 10 Christians elicit only a comment from a presidential spokesman? Should this not warrant some major shift in policy? Or even an attempt to meet with the families of these innocent citizens?” Kukah asked.
The bishop was quick to point out that there are also Muslim leaders, scholars and ordinary Muslims who are distressed by what is going on. But without a clear hierarchy – such as exists within the Catholic Church – it is easy for their voices to be drowned out.
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“Those who are called religious leaders are actually traditional rulers who are appointed by the state governments and are often caught up in the web of political intrigues should they raise their voices,” he said.
“Witness the drama in Kano,” Kukah said.
“There no religious leaders that can speak in the way of the Christian leaders. They are on the payroll of government and therefore cannot raise their voice beyond a level. In any case, they have moral authority, but they are not theologians,” he said.
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