The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr Matthew Kukah, yesterday expressed fresh frustration at the unrelenting security challenge in the north where he said a “catalogue of unprecedented cruelty has been unleashed on innocent citizens.”
He feared the region could soon become Arewanistan in view of the persistent killings.
“In their sleep, on their farmlands, in their markets, or even on the highway, innocent citizens have been mowed down and turned into burnt offerings to gods of evil,” an angry Kukah said in his Christmas message entitled ‘A nation still in search of truth and vindication’.
“Communities have been turned into gulags of misery, death, pain and perfidy. We must move quickly before Arewa, our beloved Arewa, descends into Arewanistan,” he added.
Kukah recalled how he was heavily slammed in parts of the north when he first criticised the federal government’s handling of the security situation in that part of the country last year.
He said: “At about this time last year when I raised the alarm about the perilous state of affairs in northern Nigeria, all kinds of accusations were levelled against me, especially by my northern brethren.
“When the Catholic Bishops protested openly against the killings of our people in March 2020, we were accused of acting against government with religious motives being imputed to our noble intentions. Now, we are fully in the grip of evil.
“Today, a feeling of vindication only saddens me as I have watched the north break into a cacophony of quarrelsome blame games over our tragic situation.”
Urging President Muhammadu Buhari to speak on the situation, Kukah said: “Tales and promises about planned rescues have since deteriorated into mere whispers. Nothing expresses the powerlessness of the families like the silence of state at the federal level.
“Today, after over seven years, our over one hundred Chibok Girls are still marooned in the ocean of uncertainty.
“Over three years after, Leah Sharibu is still unaccounted for. Students of the Federal Government College, Yauri, and children from Islamiyya School, Katsina are still in captivity. This does not include hundreds of other children whose captures were less dramatic.
“We also have lost count of hundreds of individuals and families who have been kidnapped and live below the radar of publicity. We have before us a government totally oblivious to the cherished values of the sacredness of life.
“The silence of the federal government only feeds the ugly beast of complicity in the deeds of these evil people who have suspended the future of entire generations of our children.
“Every day, we hear of failure of intelligence, yet, those experts who provide intelligence claim that they have always done their duty diligently and efficiently.
“Does the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not believe that he owes parents and citizens answers as to where our children are and when they are coming home?
“Does the President of Nigeria not owe us an explanation and answers as to when the abductions, kidnappings, brutality, senseless, and endless massacres of our citizens will end? When will our refugees from Cameroon, Chad or Niger return home? We need urgent answers to these questions.
“While I commend the efforts of our security men and women, I call on the President, in collaboration with the governors who are doing their best to preserve and protect their people to develop a more honest, open and robust strategy for ending the humiliation of our people and restoring social order to our people. We have borne enough humiliation as communities and a country.”
Kukah paid tribute to several northern Christians who, he said, have either been killed or kidnapped for their faith.
His words: “When Michael Nnadi, our teenage Seminarian from Sokoto Diocese, stared down the nozzle of the guns of terrorists and called them to repentance, he knew he was signing his signature with the blood of martyrdom.
“When Mrs Bolanle Ataga, a Kaduna-based housewife of a medical doctor, defied the evil hands of the head of her
captors who sought to violate her honour in exchange for freedom, she knew she was signing her signature with the blood of martyrdom.
“When Lawan Andimi, leader of the Christian community in Michika, Adamawa State stretched out his neck and was slaughtered by his abductors because of his faith, he knew that his blood would flow into the ocean of those martyrs who have gone before him.
“When our dear Leah Sharibu raised her voice against the advice of her young Muslim friends who loved her dearly and wanted her to deny being a Christian, she, like Jesus, acted in defiance but she knew what awaits her in a new Jerusalem, the capital of martyrdom.
“Their heroic witnesses re-echo the defiance of the Apostles who said: We must obey God rather than men.”
He asked religious leaders to stand firm in the face of what he called the injustice in the country, saying: “When the politicians embark on outright favouritism or nepotism, we must not be carried away by the belief that our religion is being favoured.
“Religious leaders must stand together and condemn lack of fairness to any group because the powerful and the powerless all need to be saved.”
On the polity, especially the Electoral Amendment Bill which President Buhari recently declined to sign into law, Kukah asked the National Assembly to “quickly take notice of the observations made by the President on the issues of Direct or Indirect Primaries and return the Bill to the President for assent.
“I believe that the President’s heart is still in the right place and we should focus on the serious issues,” he said.
He told the youths to “seize the moment by coming out to register and be ready to vote.
“Endsars protests and the aftermath should be a mere punctuation mark in the sentences and chapters of our struggle for a better society.
“There is a lot to live for in this country. There is a lot for our Youth to dream about.
“The spirit of Christmas should be seen as a spirit of renewal. Be courageous, because we shall turn the corner together.”