“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
By ONYEDIKA AGBEDO
Following the Federal Government’s perceived inability to curb incessant and unwarranted killing of innocent Nigerians by herdsmen across the country, the president and founder of Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, recently threw caution to the wind and put forward a radical solution to the problem that rattled the establishment. The Edo State-based preacher had reportedly, while preaching at a church’s programme recently, said he had been warned that herdsmen were planning to attack him, and urged his congregation to kill any herdsman found around his church.
“If they are busy killing Christians and nothing is happening, we will kill them and nothing will happen,” he declared.
The statement was contained in a video, which went viral. The Department of State Services (DSS) apparently accessed the video and considered the statement to be inciting. The service sought to arrest the cleric in his hotel room in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, after a recent crusade but for the intervention of the state Governor, Ayo Fayose. Although Suleiman later clarified that he was not targeting any herdsman for extermination but only those who might seek to kill him, as he must defend himself, the DSS later invited him to its headquarters in Abuja for interrogation last Monday. He has since honoured the invitation and is now a free man, but with a warning to “watch his tongue because of the importance attached to his messages by his followers.”
Without going into the propriety or otherwise of Suleiman’s outburst, which is still a subject of debate in both religious and social circles, one thing that is clear is that it sank deep into the consciousness of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. The DSS, which quickly waded in, was perhaps working to prevent looming bloodshed in the country and nothing else, in spite of the hullabaloo their approach to the issue generated. The truth is that the possibility of Nigerians resorting to self-help to defend themselves against killer herdsmen was staring the administration in the face; and it made them uncomfortable. Who knows how many preachers would have re-echoed Suleiman’s message, after all a good percentage of Nigerians feel the government is tackling the herdsmen menace with kid gloves. And where would that have taken the country? Did not late Indian nationalist and leader, Mahatma Gandhi warn that “an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
The issue of killer herdsmen in the country is therefore one that the administration must address very urgently. Under its watch, according to a recent report, herdsmen have killed more Nigerians than Boko Haram terrorists with about 1,404 deaths as against Boko Haram’s 418 in the last 12 months. The menace irritates not just Suleiman but all Nigerians who respect the sanctity of human lives. This is the time for government not just to act but also to be seen as acting. Suleiman’s outburst is therefore a necessary provocation that should be so seen. If government could decimate Boko Haram within just one and a half years in office, it can also do same to killer herdsmen whether they are Nigerians or they come from neighbouring countries as we hear. Finding a solution to a menace like this will surely deepen understanding among Nigerians and reinforce our corporate existence as a country.
Suleiman was born in Auchi, Edo State, into a Muslim family. His parents were said to have at first discarded a prophecy given to them by a traveling group of missionaries that he would be a prophet of God. He, however, grew up to fulfill that call. He converted to Christianity while in the secondary school. Against all pressures, he fully gave himself to the service of God early on, partaking in many church activities. On June 20, 1994, he had an encounter with God, which jump-started his ministry.
He first served as an Assistant Pastor in the Armour of God Church, Lagos, which he joined in April 1998. After series of encounter with the Holy Spirit, he established Omega Fire Ministries International in 2004.
The Church has a global reach as it runs 24-hour Christian television and radio channels called Celebration TV and Voice of the Fire, respectively.
The church has in its website that God gave Suleiman a divine mandate to “clean the tears, have people’s destinies restored by preaching the word of God, and bringing into manifestation the power and reality of the Holy Spirit.”