Recently, he spoke on the incessant killings of Nigerians, particularly Christians, by herdsmen and the 2019 elections.
Tony John, Port Harcourt
Most Reverend (Dr.) Sunday Agwu is the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Methodist Church Nigeria. He is from Abia State. Recently, he spoke on the incessant killings of Nigerians, particularly Christians, by herdsmen and the 2019 elections.
What is your comment on the incessant killings by suspected herdsmen in some parts of the country, particularly the recent incident in Plateau State?
I must say, as a matter of fact that it is a very painful thing. Very painful, in deed! And some of us, the religious leaders are beginning to feel that life has lost its sacredness in this country. Life is sacred. But it seems Nigerians do not value it again. That is why the killing of fellow human beings has been a daily occurrence in this nation. I read in a newspaper recently, where Prof. Wole Soyinka said that the life of a cow is now more precious than the life of a human being in Nigeria. That is the summary of the whole thing, killings by herdsmen. How can people be massacred like this in a nation like ours? We claim to be giant of Africa; we say we are this and that, but very shameful things are happening in this nation. It is not only in Plateau State that human beings had been massacred in such a gruesome manner. I remember, in April, two Catholic Church priests were murdered, while they were conducting church services in Benue State. I begin to wonder how the international community is feeling about Nigeria. And I remember also, watching the visit of our president to the White House in America not long ago. And President Donald Trump was pointing at him saying, killing of Christians in Nigeria must stop. Yet, it has not stopped. I want to say that, we Christians are truly feeling the pains so much to the marrows. That is my reaction.
What is the cause? Does it mean that the Federal Government is not serious with checkmating the excesses of the herders?
That is exactly the cause. I know and I am sure that the essence of governance is for the wellbeing of the people; for the protection of lives and property. But our nation has become such that lives and property are no longer protected. Yet, we have law enforcement agencies. My question is, what are these law enforcement agencies and agents doing, apart from fighting Boko Haram in the North-east? What are they doing? Nigerians are yet to hear that any of those murderers has been brought to book. Even those that killed the priests in Benue State, I am yet to hear that they have been arrested and government is interrogating and prosecuting them, to serve as deterrent to other Nigerians that indulge in similar dastardly acts. The question we are asking is, what is the Federal Government doing to tackle this hydra-headed monster? I must come in to the discussion that is going on now. The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was saying of presenting a bill on State Police. He said that the more we delay in passing that bill, the more we risk people being massacred everywhere like animals. So, we are asking the question, why is it like this? I am more than 60 years. Since I was born, I have never seen or heard of anything like this happening anywhere, let alone in Africa, particularly Nigeria. Killings everywhere, everyday! For us in Africa, life is sacred and very precious. If under the watch of this All Progressives Congress Federal Government, people are being massacred like this, it beats one’s imagination.
What is your message to Christians, who are mostly hit by the attacks?
Christians should come together and have an agenda. I repeat, Christians must have an agenda both at the national and state levels. I don’t know whether you are aware how Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was formed? It was because the Muslims were lording it over us in the 1970s. That was what led to the birth of CAN. So, we decided then that we should have a body called Christian Association of Nigeria that would be the mouthpiece of Christians in Nigeria. So, I am calling on Christians because I have seen that Christians are not together. And because they are not together, we don’t have an agenda. The Muslims have an agenda. And whether we like it or not, this issue of Islamization of the nation is true. It is true. We are only safe because God is there to fight for us. God is there to fight for us. Apart from that, these Muslims would have cleared us as Christians in this country. So, if Christians can come together, it would help us to have an agenda, to help us to say to ourselves ‘what do we do’?
What can you say on Federal Government’s plan to establish cattle ranches in some states of the federation?
That is a wrong step. I support all the states that have condemned and rejected that decision. And my question is, can cocoa farmers in the South go to the North and tell them to give them lands to do their cocoa farming? Can it happen? Can poultry farmers in the South go to the North and demand for such? What is this kind of thing that is happening in this country? What is this lording it over people, because that is what I am seeing in it? That is the truth. They are lording it over us. I support South-east governors, of course, I am a South Easterner, to reject it outrightly. I am glad Rivers State has also rejected it. We will not do it. We won’t give them any land for cattle ranch. There is a cattle ranch in Obudu, Cross River State. Maybe, that is the only ranch you can find around the South-south and South-east. But making it as a decree, we will not agree or obey it. This is quite unfair. It shows that the South-south and South-east geopolitical zones are disregarded by the Northerners. They don’t have regards for us. They believe they can get up and tell us to do anything and we do it. I want anybody that can answer this question: can Southerners go to the North and ask them to give them lands and the Northerners agree? Why this impunity? That is the question we have been asking.
What can you say on 2019 elections?
What I believe in my heart is that, it is only God that is saving us in this country called Nigeria. We are safe in God’s hand. That’s all. Humanly speaking, I don’t foresee safety during that election. This is because of the word, impunity. There are many things that are being done in this country with impunity. And it would get to a level where people would begin to revolt. Of course, people are already revolting. That is why we have IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra). People are feeling marginalized; when you want to appoint 30 persons in positions, you appoint 28 Northerners, you appoint two from South-west and ignore South-south and South-east. Some of us are sad about it. And it is contrary to the constitution of this country. I don’t know whether you have heard about Federal Character principle? The Nigerian Constitution recognizes Federal Character principle. The Federal Government is not following that principle. It is abominable in the sight of God. Who has ever ruled like this? I cannot pretend that things are well in this nation. I won’t pretend. Of course, when I do not speak, who else will speak? What I am saying is, some of those things they are doing should be revisited. Look at the millions of naira spent on National Conference by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The report is not remembered. That money has been wasted. That is the kind of government we are witnessing in this nation.
Are you then, saying implementation of the 2014 Confab will address some of the lingering issues in the country?
Of course, yes! You know the essence of that Confab was for Nigerians to gather and ask ourselves question what are our problems? How do we go about solving them? Do
you know that plenty of money was spent on the National Conference. And the resolutions on that Confab had been put to the cooler, swept under the carpet. Money for that Confab could have been enough for some developmental projects. It was used to fund that Confab. And now, nothing is being done about it. What I am saying is that implementation of that Confab should be revisited. What we are witnessing in Nigeria, when a government comes onboard, it would ignore completely what the former administration has done, is not good. I know some projects that have been abandoned. Those in power should know that it is not for the good of this nation. They should realize that, when you are voted into power, it is for continuity. But some of them ignore what their predecessors had done and then initiate their own. When they leave office too, their successors would ignore what they have initiated. That is what they do and it cannot help this nation. And some of us church leaders are saying no, that is not the right way. That is where I score the Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, a pass mark. It is only this monorail that he cannot do anything because I don’t know what he can do. A lot of billions of naira had been sunk into that project, and I wonder whether he would have the financial muscle to do something about it. So, instead of going into that, I would rather advise that there are three facilities that help the common people. These are roads, water and light. Instead of talking about monorail, let him concentrate on these three facilities in the interest of the common man. That is the essence of government. The former administration had the money to waste; that was why it initiated the monorail project. What I am saying is that the Federal Government should revisit the resolutions reached at that Confab. It would help this nation a lot.