Between Oritsejafor and Buhari By Charles Onunaiju
For the years the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was led by the venerable scholar-cleric, his eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria was unarguably the most moderate voice of reason on crucial national issues. Christians and non-Christians alike look in the direction of the CAN to analyze and proffer views on critical national questions.
For instance, in the heat of the 2007 thoroughly discredited election, denounced both locally and internationally, the then CAN leader, John Cardinal Onaiyekan echoed a widespread non-partisan sentiment, when he charged that “heavens would no fall”, if the election is re-run. The ‘winner’ of the controversial poll, former president, the late Musa Yar’Adua, could not in good conscience accept the poisoned electoral chalice without remiss, and right at the point of receiving the certificate of return at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the setting up of election reform commission, to make future elections less of a criminal carnival.
The Christian Association of Nigeria then created and promoted inter-faith dialogue, expanding the frontiers of mutual understanding and even respectable disagreements between the two major religions. Above all, there was a reasonable and respectable distance between the CAN and the government of the day.
However, since Mr. Ayo Oritsejafor became the President of CAN, everything has changed and one would think that CAN, as many people have suggested, had became the religious wing of the ruling party and the government it formed at the centre. I deliberately chose the word, religious and not ‘spiritual’ wing of the ruling party, because under the current leadership of the association, it has become too showy, canal and resemble any lobby group peddling influence and throwing weight around for the material benefit of its members.
The explosion of Boko Haram violence is a deadly wind that has blown no good to anyone. The crude and purposeless violence of the group has hit as many innocent Christians as it has numerous innocent Muslims. For the misadventure of the group, widely denounced by every right thinking person, whether Christians or Muslims, the CAN leader has made so much political capital of deepening the religious divide. He claims that the intolerant ideology of the Boko Haram is shared by the political opponent of his political principal, the Goodluck Jonathan administration. His latest antics is to suggest and call for the arrest of General Muhammadu Buhari, a major figure in the emerging pan Nigerian political alliance aimed at kicking out the ruling party and their inept, corrupt regime.
Justifying the call for the persecution of the respected opposition leader, Mr. Oritsejafor desperately tries to associate him with extremist Boko Haram sect whose ideology is as reprehensible as it is unattainable. General Buhari spoke in a radio interview, which was the subject of Mr. Oritsejafor’s deliberate twisting. In the General’s elaborate interview to Daily Trust Newspaper, his position was very clear. The CAN leader and his ilks for obvious partisan reasons pretended not to see or read the more elaborate interview. General Buhari in the interview, recalled how “somebody recommended me to represent Boko Haram”. He further said that “I told them the honest truth, I didn’t know who their leadership was and I still don’t know who their leaders are. I don’t know their philosophy because no religion advocates hurting the innocent. So, all those people giving it a religious meaning are wrong. You cannot kill a person and say Allahu Akbar (God is great). It is either you don’t know what you’re saying or you don’t believe in it. It is one of the two”.
A purported Christian leader choose to ignore the clearest denunciation and dissociation of a vile sect from General Buhari and held on to a deliberately distorted version of an obscure radio interview whose transcript is not even publicly available for cross-check. Such fraudulent intention and purpose cannot be contemplated by the Lord Jesus Christ who admonished that intentions would form the benchmark of judgment than public actions.
Further implying that General Buhari cuddles the Boko Haram sect, the CAN leader left the impression that he is opposed to the military operation meant to flush out the miscreants. However, the General himself drew attention to an instance where he supervised the crushing of a similar sect, the Maitatsine. He told his interviewers “…as the head of state I flew to Yola and I went to the area where the operation was being carried out by the military. And that was the end of Maitatsine”. Insinuating that General Buhari was opposed to the military operation and was defending the sect was the height of despicable mischief from anybody, let alone a purported Christian leader. The CAN leadership whether as individual or as a group have a right to their political preference, perhaps depending on who ‘butters their bread’ but to drag the ‘body of Christ’ and all those who live by the example of Christ in their choice, is not only wrong but sinful and would attract sanction in the hereafter.
Opposing the political style of General Mohammadu Buhari should be clearly different than tarnishing and tarring him through deliberate blackmail. One can openly disagree with his politics, where political investment of support may not be rewarded with things like private jets or huge contracts and that will be clearly understandable. But presenting and deliberately tarnishing him by presenting his views and beliefs with a purpose to scare-monger the public about his intention and purpose in politics is wicked. There is still no courageous opponent of General Buhari who has said the real truth that their point of disagreement with him is that the wealth of the nation should remain in the exclusive hands of the few as it is now, while the country and the majority of its people sink into the widening hole of misery and poverty.
Nigerians ought to know the truth that it is not General Buhari’s perceived religious zealotry that scars the governing elite to their marrow otherwise they would have no reason of buying choice properties in Dubai, the capital of the Islamic Emirate where a public hug or private kiss of an unmarried person could land them behind bars. The real reason to which they are mortally threatened by the prospect of Buhari leadership is that accountability, discipline and order will replace brigandage and the mindless pillage of the commonwealth.
The Ayo Oritsejafor led-Christian Association of Nigeria should refocus on the poverty and misery that is ravaging the Christian body of Christ, even in the face of unprecedented receipt of huge public revenue that could have been used to improve their condition. Without any slightest inclination to justify the cowardly targeting of innocent Christians and other Nigerians by the murderous Boko Haram sect, preventable disease like malaria, hunger, violent criminal activities and poverty kills more Christians than the violent Boko Haram. Grandstanding on the obnoxious and befuddled ideology of the Boko Haram sect as a reason to do nothing to the unprecedented assault of the Nigerian psyche by a regime of mindless corruption and incompetence is a complete denigration of the Christian truth. Christians should speak up and make clear to the current leadership of CAN that being bigotedly focused on demonizing General Buhari, a humble ordinary Muslim, without any special claim to piety, is not only diversionary but detracts at the heart of Christian values that our love should extend to others that are not one of our own.
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