Several churches and worshippers nationwide, yesterday, complied with the directive of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to protest the wanton bloodletting across the country, with a stern call on President Muhammadu Buhari to end the carnage or forget his 2019 re-election bid.
CAN directive to its members to stage a protest nationwide followed the serial killings by suspected Fulani militia groups and armed herdsmen. This year alone, more than 200 persons have been reportedly killed in various parts of the country, especially in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and Plateau states.
Leader of Christians in the country, Rev’d Samson Ayokunle, who spoke when he led over 2,000 worshippers in a protest within the premises of the Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan, said the security situation in Nigeria, particularly the killings of Christians in cold blood was unacceptable.
Ayokunle personally carried placards with other protesters at Oritamefa Baptist Church with inscriptions such as: ‘Enough of bloodshed in Nigeria’, ‘CAN rejects FGN’s poor handling of insecurity’, ‘FG, be sensitive to families that are mourning’, ‘No more excuses for mass murder’ ‘Enough of unlawful killings in the country’’, ‘CAN says no to violent killings’, ‘FG, stop this wicked act’, ‘CAN says no to religious killings’, ‘FG, release Leah Sharibu from captivity’ and ‘Human beings are more valuable than cattle, protect human beings’.
Addressing protesters, Ayokunle said: “We, Christians all over the country are gathered and united to say no, capital NO to bloodshed in Nigeria. Since 2009, bloodshed has continued, government after government, administration after administration has been promising us not to fear and go about our business; that they are on top of the situation, but we have seen that they are never on top of it.
“Bloodshed has continued. It used to be Boko Haram alone. Now, herdsmen, especially the Fulani people have joined them and they have been killing people and decimating communities. Now, they have concentrated on Christian communities, the Middle Belt, which is majorly Christians, they have been killing and maiming and to cap it all, they have now started going into churches.
“In the last one week, they have murdered two priests inside their churches while they were conducting Mass and killed the people who came for worship. If we are still not safe in the house of God, where else do they want us to be safe?
“The Inspector General of Police is there doing nothing. We have always been hearing of unknown gunmen. When will these unknown gunmen become known? Are they spirits? Are they not human beings? What of the intelligence service of the security agencies? Why are they inept?
“Instead of them going to comb bushes to recover all these guns from the murderous herdsmen, they are going about houses and telling people who are licensed to own guns to submit them. What type of security approach is that?
“We have lost faith in the security agencies and they must sack all the security chiefs and replace them with new ones. No more bloodshed; if the bloodshed continues, this administration should forget about 2019. We cannot continue like this.Enough is enough.”
Asked if the protest was staged to call for revolution in the country, Ayokunle responded: “Well, I don’t know whether a revolution or not. But I know it is time to use our vote to say no to a government that cannot protect the citizens. My advice for the citizens is for them to be up and doing and to be circumspect, they should go and get their voters card and they should be ready to vote out a government that cannot protect them.”
He encouraged Christians living in communities prone to attacks by either Boko Haram or herdsmen to stand firm and be strong.
Last week, Catholic bishops had also called on President Buhari to step aside.
Also, Ayokunle made a case for the release of Christian girl, Leah Saribu, who was abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Dapchi, Yobe State, but was not released with more than 100 other schoolgirls that were also kidnapped.
“Leah Saribu must not die and she must regain her freedom now. No longer tomorrow. This government will have blood on its hands if Leah Sharibu is not released with immediate effect as well as all the Chibok girls who are still in captivity. What was the magic wand they used to release the Dapchi girls who were predominantly Muslims that they couldn’t use for the Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu? That has put a question mark on the sincerity of the government and we, the Nigerian Christians are demanding the freedom of those girls without delay.”
Similarly, there was massive turn out at the National Ecumenical Centre and First Baptist Church, Area 11,Garki, Abuja.
Rev. Tom Atakpatore of the First Baptist Church, Garki, said the protest was meant to reawaken the consciousness of the government to the need to review its security strategies and perhaps introduce measures that would end the killings.
In Taraba State, where thousands of Christians across the 16 local government areas took over the streets of Jalingo in a peaceful protest, acting chairman of CAN, Apostle Joseph Aina said if the killings were not brought to an end urgently, “the people may be forced to do the needful” before they were totally annihilated.
He urged the people to be vigilant and remain steadfast in prayers trusting God for victory.
Worshippers in Benue State, regardless of denomination, wore black and white dresses and held peaceful protests within their churches.
Pastor Frederick Ikyaan of NKST Church at High Level area of the metropolis, said the Christian community was in mourning.
The state CAN Chairman, Revd. Akpen Leva demanded that Buhari should resign for failing to protect lives and property of Nigerians.
Leva who lamented the continued incessant killings by herdsmen insisted that the Federal Government under Buhari must take the bull by the horn and declare Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore (MAKH) a terrorist group.
While positing that ranching remained the international best practices in cattle rearing, the CAN leader lauded the state government for standing by the stance of the Benue people as regards ban on open grazing.
In Ogun State, Senior Pastor of the Faith Baptist Church Onikolobo, Abeokuta, Revd. Tunde Amusan, also led members of his congregation in a peaceful protest. The protesters who carried placards, appealed to government for prompt and decisive actions.
Amusan said the church has a responsibility to speak against evil, vices and poor governance at every level of government, noting that, “men of God should rise and speak against injustice in the land.”
In Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, called on government at all levels and the various security agencies to ensure adequate security of lives and properties.
He said the responsibility to provide security rested squarely on the shoulders of the government as that was, according to him, part of the social contract it entered into with the people.
Apparently referring to the call by some prominent Nigerians for the people to defend themselves, the prelate said a situation where everybody would have to carry arms would spell doom for the country.
However, Christian community in Kano elected to pray instead of staging a protest.
Chairman of CAN, Revd Adeolu Samuel Adeyemo, who briefed the press, dismissed insinuations that the action was influenced by any outside force or interest.
According to him, the resort to pray was not in disobedience of the central body’s directive, “since the original instruction was for us to pray or to protest within our churches.”
He said the Federal Government should not only look out for sponsors of killer herdsmen and bring them to justice, it should go an extra mile to secure the release of Leah Sharibu, the remaining Chibok girls as well as all those abducted by the terrorists, irrespective of their religion.
In Osun, Christians who trooped out in their large number carrying placards with different inscriptions called on Buhari to urgently find lasting solution to what they described as inhuman and barbaric acts by the perpetrators.
Pastor Femi Abiola of the Calvary Baptist Church, Osogbo, who bemoaned perpetual killings of innocent Christians and kidnapping of their children in some parts of the country, called on the Presidency to proffer urgent solution to the menace.
Pastor Olamide Kehinde of the Union Baptist Church, also expressed displeasure over the continuous security challenges, which Nigerian security operatives have not been able to surmount.
Members of the First Baptist Church, Kaduna also joined other churches nationwide to stage a peaceful protest within their premises.
The Undershepherd of the Church, Reverend Banjo Ajao said the protest became necessary to draw attention of policy makers to the unnecessary killings and abductions ravaging the country in recent times.
According to him, as a church, the peace and prosperity of Nigeria were their concern because in it laid the prosperity of its citizens, especially those that fear God and keep His commandments.
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, Christians, after close of church service took to the streets, carrying placards and asking Buhari’s government to take more actions to bring to an end the senseless killings in the country.
In Asaba, Delta State, notable leaders of CAN were absent during the peaceful protest which temporary halted free flow of traffic on a section of the dualised Okpanam Road.
But at the Divine Way Baptist Church, Asaba, worshippers armed with placards assembled in front of the church building along Okpanam Road in the capital city.
Although, the leaders of the church did not speak, inscriptions on the placards shed light on their grievances. Some of them read: ‘Christianity is not a crime’, ‘A wicked leader brings sorrow to his people’, ‘No one’s political interest is worth shedding of innocent blood’, ‘No religion is superior to others’, ‘Government must stop Fulani herdsmen attacks’, ‘The killings must stop now’, ‘Enough is enough, no more herdsmen killings’ among others.
Also reacting, former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi lamented that the spate of killing and bombing was classical cases of the desecration of the human life and bad narrative about Nigeria.
“I was attending an international event in London when a highly-placed British official that was at a conference with me showed me the news as published on social media. Though I felt humiliated being shown such news by a non-Nigerian, nonetheless, I Immediately called home and confirmed it. The Briton, even though he was most courteous, told me the impression such killings have on international community. He said that nobody would like to invest in a country with such proclivity for taking of lives without compunction,” Obi said.
He called on government to act quickly and seriously to stop the killings, which he noted would be scary to even local investors and injurious to Nigerian’s economy.
Besides, Obi said, the incessant killings were a negation of the fundamental freedom of worship, association and movement as well as put a question mark on our unity as a country.