The Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, Kaduna, Rev. John Hayab has called for the sack of the service chiefs, as according to him, they have outlived their usefulness. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the cleric called on the government not to sweep the outcome of the investigation on the alleged suicide bomber at the Living Faith Church, Kaduna, under the carpet.
What is your view on the state of insecurity in the country?
The state of insecurity in Nigeria has reached an alarming state, and it is very unfortunate that those who are supposed to secure us, instead of doing the job of security are just doing the job of what is not. You don’t make people feel that they are secured by propaganda; people are secured by the reality of what they see.
So, the insecurity in Nigeria is quite unfortunate, the commander in chief is saying something, while the men around him are denying something. The army is saying something, while the action we see around is something else. So, these and many others are the issues we are facing, and we don’t even know what to do and what not to do. That actually became the reason why CAN said, “ok, we cried to the government they didn’t listen, we cried to the army, and they didn’t listen, so, let’s cry unto God, perhaps He would do something and intervene to bring an end to these unfortunate security challenges. ”
Bandits are killing both Christians and Muslims, but the former are making so much issues that it is an attempt to exterminate them from the country when both faiths are victims. Why?
Anybody holding this view is probably not familiar with the reality. Our experience with the bandits shows that they have this particular incense when their victim is a Christian, and that is why we are crying. I can give you few examples: One, if they kidnapped people, the rate at which they negotiate and release some people, and the rate at which they negotiate and keep torturing if the victim is a pastor or has strong connection with the church, tells us that they have a particular interest about the church. I remember during the Engravers kidnap, one of the victims was a Fulani Christian, these bandits severally told her parents that they are ashamed that as a Fulani, he chose this bad religion, and that is why if they do not pay money they would not release his daughter. At a point, her father became so angry that he told the abductors that they should give his daughter phone to speak with her. He said to her, ‘I have done my best to get you out of these people’s hands, since they are not willing, they are insulting me and insulting my religion; you know, I love you, but I have nothing to do, if they kill you, we meet in heaven.’
When it came to Rev Andimi, what the bandits said before they killed him, and I can go on and on to tell you names of Christians they killed, and what they said about our faith before they killed them tells us that they have particular interest to exterminate Christians or put fears in our mind so that we cannot effectively carryout our faith. We are crying because we know what we are facing; we are crying because we know the challenges our members are facing. I can assure you that there is enough evidence to show that the evil going on in our land has Christians as one of the primary targets, the other people they just pick them so that they would divert attention, but the real target are Christians. There are instances where those criminals whether Boko Haram or kidnappers would kidnap and separate the people; the Christian would be killed and members of the other faith are spared.
How do we go about solving this problem?
That is why we are crying, and when we cry, we don’t say the bandits are representing Islam; we never said so, and anybody who said that is not telling the truth. We are crying to the constituted authority that has been saddled with the responsibility of securing Nigeria; we are crying and telling them that we are all Nigerians and our lives are in danger, our property are in danger, so do something; whatever it takes that the government does to secure its citizens, it should do it. If it means fishing out all the criminals to secure us, do it; if it means going after the criminals to secure us, do it. Whatever you will do to secure us, do it. That is simply what we are calling for; we are telling government to do its responsibility because if criminals succeed in wiping out those of us crying today, the ones that are keeping quiet today will be the victims tomorrow.
Given the scenario you have painted of Christians being wiped out, is it not ripe to suggest that they bear arms to defend themselves?
That is a different thing entirely. Constitutionally, everybody has a right to self-defence; even the United Nations Charter agrees with it, natural law agrees with it, but imagine a situation where everybody is armed, our country will be terrible, and our situation will be worse.
I keep saying, instead of people defending themselves, let the authority defend, but if the authority fails, let them admit that they have failed so that people will begin to defend themselves, but that is not good for a country and that is not what we want. We want to celebrate our army, celebrate our police and all the security agencies in protecting Nigeria, that is what a civilised country does. We don’t understand the implication of people carrying arms in Nigeria because when arms enter into wrong hands, you can never tell how out of anger, somebody can use it to cause havoc. That is why the emphasis on owning arms, some of us disagree with it because it will not help. We are simply calling on government to do the needful, if it fails to do the needful, and then it is left to individuals to use their initiatives to know what to do, but that is not the right thing to do. As a country, why do we pay soldiers, why do we pay police, they are being paid with taxpayers money to protect the people. We want them to do their jobs and we are also praying for them to succeed; we wish them well because some of them are our friends, brothers, our relatives, our schoolmates, etc, but let them do what is right. What is going on in our security architecture is that people don’t care what happens, people are dying and nobody is being held responsible. If somebody is called for account on why there was no security measure and people died somewhere, then people will begin to sit up. There is nobody that is being called to account for those errors and those errors keep repeating.
Some people have been calling for the sack of the service chiefs for non-performance, do you share in their sentiments?
I honestly join them in the call. For every work, there is a limit to your effectiveness. It is just like the game of football, there was a time we had certain stars and we were celebrating them, but after some years they ceased to be stars, the same thing with the service chiefs, there was a time they had good ideas, but they have run out of ideas. So they should be replaced, all the services know the right persons to do the jobs, not people who have failed. It is not good for this country.
Some people are criticising the over concentration of the security architecture of the country in the hands of one faith and people from one side of the country as part of the problem. What do you say to this?
This thing started long time ago. When Obasanjo, as the president wanted to decentralise this idea of having security from one side, the North came out and was shouting. To me, I just want a professional soldier to deal with the issue; I don’t care about his language, about his faith, but if he fails professionally, then questions will start coming up. When Nigeria wanted that kind of professionalism, the north shouted that those people that were called were not from their place, probably, in order to gain back, they have come with their own, sadly their own is not giving what the nation wants.
We must learn a lesson and it requires that a professional person should be given the work not based on his side or religion because if your car breaks down on the road, you won’t say you are looking for a Muslim mechanic or a Christian mechanic, you are just looking for a good mechanic who will repair it. We have to be careful with this argument of where a person comes from and his religion because it is denying us getting the services of the right people, instead bad people are coming because of sentiments of religion and ethnicity. A patriotic Nigerian is a patriotic Nigerian, if he is patriotic enough to defend Nigeria, everybody will be happy. The complaint you are hearing today became loud because there is a failure of security, if they had succeeded, if things were going on right, nobody will care about their religion or their ethnicity. This is what we need to help this country; we are looking for a future for Nigeria, where our children will grow to be happy, but if things continue like this, I begin to doubt if the future will be bright for our children.
It was reported that an alleged suicide bomber gained access into Living Faith Church, Kaduna. What is your reaction to this?
The story has turned out to be some kind of funny drama. There is inconsistency in his name, age, state of origin, and so many things said about him. However, as Christians and also as the leader of the church in Kaduna, I have said that we are not concerned about his identity; we are not concerned about all those things they are saying, we are concerned about the criminality. Who sent him, does he have other people they are working together, what is their agenda, is it really explosive? The police should make a thorough background check on the man. When the US government recently added Nigeria to list of countries they are refusing visa, one of the reasons they gave is that Nigeria does not have a proper background check on their citizens. One citizen can have ten names. If he comes to this part of the north, Kaduna, his name is Femi, he goes to another part, and bears Abdullahi; if he goes to another part, he changes to John, and then to another area, he answers Emeka. He gets people confused and can use those names to get international passport, national identity card or drivers licence. You are calling him Emeka, not knowing that he is not Emeka; you are calling him Femi, not knowing he doesn’t have anything to do with people who bear Femi. You call him John or Abdullahi when he doesn’t have any bearing with people who bear such names.
If you have a proper background check on Nigerians, this mix up we are having wouldn’t be. Whatever happened, we thank God that it didn’t cause any harm.
In Nigeria, the outcome of this type of issue is not usually made public or swept under the carpet; do you see this coming up differently?
This is the unfortunate part of our country. Our failure to come up with honest investigation and making it public is the reason our crime situation keeps on increasing because the criminal you cover yesterday, the criminal you cover up day before yesterday, the criminal you cover up his secrets this morning can be the terror of our nation a day after tomorrow.
Our security men must understand this, you don’t cover crime, and you don’t play game with the story of a criminal just because of his identity. The danger is that you are putting the entire country into a terrible situation. I want to appeal to the security agency that for once let’s call a criminal, a criminal. If my child, my wife, my mother etc, can cause Nigeria harm, I should be able to come out publicly and denounce him or her and tell the truth so that I save myself and other fellow citizens. But if those in charge of security are playing game with them and the government covers such criminals because they relates with a person in government, it will not help us, it will only increase the rate of crime and evil that is going on in the land.