Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Before We Crucify Apostle Suleman

By Solape Lawal-Solarin
Apostle Johnson Suleman of the Omega Fire Ministry recently hit national headlines when a video of him urging his listeners to “kill any Fulani that comes close to me” went viral on the social media. He immediately attracted the attention of the Directorate of State Security (DSS). It was a drama that saw the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, playing the super hero as his timely intervention stopped the DSS from swooping on Suleiman, who was on a crusade to Ekiti, and whisking him away to its office in Abuja.
*Apostle Johnson Suleman
Although, the dust has settled now as the pastor came out to ‘clear the air’ that he was only urging his listeners to defend themselves in the event of an attack, arguments are still raging over the propriety of the apostle’s statement and the response of the DSS.
While it is okay to condemn the apostle irrespective of the excuses he gave, the fact still remains that the Nigerian state for so long has paid lip service to the ills bedeviling the system. It is often said that history is the best teacher for today, tomorrow and the future.
However, the country has failed to learn. It has simply been an unwilling student. This apathy has created a vacuum, cum crater, that has now become a gorge, thereby making it difficult for the government to fill it up.
Many atrocities have been committed and have gone unpunished in Nigeria’s history of religious violence. Killings have been carried out by various groups under religious garbs with the government looking the other way. The government’s inaction somehow rubber-stamped the impunity of the killers and further reinforced their beliefs and confidence. It also strengthened their resolve to continue perpetrating the heinous crimes.
This is a dangerous situation that can only dent the peoples’ belief and trust in the ability of the Federal government to ensure their security. It also called into question the sanctity of the ‘one Nigeria’ mantra   being bandied in Abuja and further raised eyebrows on the country’s professed secular constitution.
In a diverse, multi-ethnic country like Nigeria, it is important for those that are saddled with steering the wheels of state to acknowledge and respect the multi-cultural beliefs and faiths that would always be embedded in such peculiar political entity. Even the democratic government and principle in practice recognises and accepts this fact.
Under its tenets, respect for the minority and religious faiths is an essential feature in its modus-operandi. Hence, fear of bias and marginalization by a group seriously indicts any government practising democracy.

Unfortunately, Nigeria seems to be swimming towards this.  Some groups now feel the system is unfavourably skewed against them, no thanks to the government’s handling of the herdsmen and southern Kaduna killings.
The latter seems to have further stoked the embers of distrust and also vindicated those who feel there is a sinister campaign with state approval in southern Kaduna.
Or, how can one explain Kaduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai’s statement that he embarked on a peace mission to the troubled southern parts of the state to “offer monies to the perpetrators of the killings in his state to give peace a chance”? It is an absurd and unbecoming statement. In the tenets of dispute and conflict resolution, it is an anomaly.
Nigeria and the ruling elite need to learn, and learn fast, because using religion as a tool to foist their ambition on the people comes with catastrophic consequences. For one, even they may not escape unscorched.
Narendra Mohdi, Indian’s prime minister, learnt that during his reign as the Governor of Gujarat state. His Pro-Hindustan philosophy caught up with him as the international community, especially the US, blamed him for the killings and maiming of Muslims in Gujarat in 2007.
While across the borders into central Africa, the atrocities and open wound that has scarred Banjui and the rest of the Central African Republic (CAR) as a result of the political cum religious crises that gave rise to selaka (Muslim rebel group) and anti-balaka(Christian faction) still haunts and hurts the former French colony.
So, Nigeria’s political authorities must look inward and toe the path of unity and oneness by addressing the religious ills that are threatening the existence of this country.
And, for the Islamic and Christian leaders, preaching peace, tolerance and respect for not only their followers, but also the followers of other faiths, should be their main service to God and humanity.
If the government had been sincere in its handling of the religious crises in the country, religious leaders would not have exploited the loopholes in the system. This should be food for thought for the government before ‘crucifying Pastor Suleman’.
Solarin writes from Lagos.

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