Christians, Not Muslims, Are The Targets of Boko Haram; Only Northern Leaders Can Stop Them – Oritsejafor
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, I an interview with Sunday Vanguard again maintained reiterated his earlier stand that Christians are the primary target of Boko Haram. He said contrary to the claim in some quarters, Christians, rather than Muslims, are the targets of the Boko Haram Islamist group. While giving suggestion on how to stop the insurgency, Oritsejafor said only Northern leaders can stop the sect from further attack.
Here is an excerpts of the interview:
Of late, a lot of people are saying that Boko Haram is actually not just killing Christians, but that there are more Muslim victims than Christians. How do you respond to that?
I was embarrassed by such statement. As a matter of fact, I read one piece where it was said that 98 per cent of all the people killed by Boko Haram are Muslims. It is not true. How can you say 98 per cent of those killed are Muslims? First of all, in every single statement that Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, has made, he always made it very clear that their target are Christians; their purpose is to create an Islamic state, to the ridiculous extent of telling a sitting President of a country that he needs amnesty from him (Shekau) and that his only option is that Christians can only be saved if they convert from Christianity to Islam. And you tell me that 98 per cent of those who have been killed are Muslims.
These are the things that create tension. These are the things that certain people use to make it look like we hate Muslims when we respond. You can’t turn Nigeria to a Muslim country. To think like that is to insult the sensitivity of rational people. This is very wrong. Until about six months ago, almost all the people killed were Christians. That’s the reality. In 2013, from the reports I’m getting, there were not more than five mosques that were destroyed.
In 2013 alone, from the information I have, there are not less than 300 churches that were destroyed. I don’t know how such people come up with their statistics. Are they trying to tell me now that everybody in Borno or Kano or Adamawa states are Muslims? This is not right. Let us put it on record that nothing less than 90 per cent of people who have been killed by Boko Haram are Christians. I’m the leader of Christians in Nigeria, so I put it on record and that is the truth.
Let me also add that the Muslims that have been killed, every single one of them, his life is as precious as the lives of the Christians killed; I am aware that there are two categories of Muslims that they have been killing and my heart bleeds because they are human beings. Two categories: there’s the category of Muslims who oppose what they are doing; their clerics who come out to say this is against Islam, they slaughter them. The second category belong of Muslims they kill are those they feel have betrayed them. In other words, they’ve been giving information to security agents that were used to either capture them or kill them.
From information I have, they go to mosques where preachers are against them or somebody in the congregation has spoken against them and they don’t know the exact person, they just go and blow the mosques up. These are the two categories of Muslims that have been killed so far. Killing Muslims is not their primary target. If anybody has the opportunity of interviewing Shekau today, he will say what I’m saying now.
Their primary targets are Christians. He has said it again and again that Christians are his primary target. Look at the post-election violence period, who are the people who suffered, who died like rats, killed, burnt, destroyed? There are Muslim clerics that have been killed; my heart goes out to them, but how many pastors have been killed since 2009? Who really cares? Who has taken the pains to look at it?
Some of the widows and orphans they left behind are being taken care of by me. A recent one was in Borno State where a CAN secretary was slaughtered in the presence of his family members. The latest one was in Katsina, the chairman of CAN in Katsina local government, they said they saw the corpse of a child near his house, they went into this young man’s house and they beat him unconscious. He was rescued and taken to hospital. They surrounded the hospital, dragged him out of the hospital and burnt him alive. Where is justice in all these things?
The security situation in this country has gone out of control as the Boko Haram members now go to barracks to kill soldiers. Do we need another approach to tackle terrorism?
I wouldn’t say we need a new approach. I’d just say that we need to sharpen our approach because there are basic things; just that some people don’t see it as an important area to look into. There are about six or seven things that must be done and we have no choice but to do them. One is prayer; we can’t run away from that. That is why I have said that Christians and all well-meaning Nigerians should join us every last Friday of every month to fast and pray for the peace of Nigeria. Whatever God needs to do to turn this tide, He should do it.
Two, the military should be strengthened. They must continue to bombard these people. The number of men in the military is not enough to meet the demands on ground. All I am advocating is that the number of personnel needs to be multiplied. The screening has to be done right because the insurgents themselves will try to join the military.
In fact they are inside the military as we speak. There are also members of the Boko Haram in the military. Some have been prosecuted, some are top officers. The authorities should be careful in giving out positions particularly with regards to information gathering. They have to find ways to detect such people and flush them out with no sentiments attached. The most important thing to be done is the involvement of Muslim political leaders; Muslim clerics and Muslim traditional rulers.
When our boys in the creeks were doing what they were doing, some of us went there. We engaged them, and we didn’t ask government. We engaged them because it was the right thing to do. My friend, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), is now talking. These are people who said the insurgents should be given amnesty; they should be treated like Niger Delta boys. They are now talking, but they must go beyond talking. We strategised, we talked to our boys, and they should go and talk to their boys. They say they are talking to the boys, yet they are killing. We want them to go beyond the talking; go to where these boys are, risk their lives like we did, and begin to engage them, dialogue with them.
It is not government that will dialogue with them; it is their people they will listen to. The boys respect some of the clerics that are good. Bring these boys and discuss with them from the Qur’an. This engagement must filter into the mosques. They must start teaching that Nigeria is their country; re-orient their minds so that they can think positively. All these are what must be done at all levels and done not just by Jonathan, but by governors of the affected states as well as the local people there. The talking is important, but they must go beyond the talking.
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