The Salt of the Earth (1)
By Obadiah Mailafia
THE theme of this summit, “Arise O Lord”, is very timely. The ancient prophets of Israel often invoked the power of God at crucial turning-points in their long and tumultuous history. From them we know that our God is not only a God of peace; He is equally a God of War. A consuming fire. When God arises, his enemies will surely be scattered! When God moves, the proud mountains shall be levelled; the valleys shall be filled up, the crooked paths shall be made straight. And justice shall roll like a river and righteousness like the sea. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I need not remind you that it is not at all well with the very soul of our republic. Young men from the East — young men who do not know what war is — are resurrecting the ghost of a dead Biafra. Not to be outdone, a coalition of Arewa Youths has declared an ultimatum on all Ndigbo to leave the North come 1st October. There are similar rumblings among the youths in the Yoruba West, who are demanding for an independent Oduduwa Republic. Youths of the Niger Delta are preparing to return to the creeks — to doing what they know best.
The cacophony of voices demanding “restructuring” can no longer be ignored. In a recent series of articles in the Vanguard, elder statesman Chief Philip Asiodu traced the sources of the new angst: “…Southern Kaduna killings of Christians; inflammatory speeches by a few clerics calling for Christian self-defence…continuing outrageous attacks and ambushes by Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri…frequent slaughters of farmers in their villages and despoiling and destruction of their farms by well-armed Fulani herdsmen; attacks on oil installations by militants in the Niger Delta with its crippling consequences on oil exports, foreign exchange inflows and the Nigerian economy…”
The Middle Belt, which is undeniably the bread basket of our country, has borne an unfair share of genocidal atrocities by Fulani herdsmen, a good number of whom are well-armed foreign militias. From Benue to Nasarawa, Taraba, Kogi and Jos Plateau, an undeclared war is being waged on an unarmed and defenceless people. Thousands of peasant villagers have been killed while children and women have been hacked into smithereens. Entire homesteads have been rendered into a heap of ashes by rampaging herdsmen. Entire communities have been razed down in unprecedented acts of savagery and rapine. Many can no longer return to their farms. As a result, food prices are skyrocketing across the country, raising the levels of malnutrition, poverty and destitution to unacceptable levels.
Remarkably, nobody has been arrested or prosecuted for these horrendous crimes. And the whole world is silent in the face of such unprecedented evil.
Every student of political theory appreciates the political since John Locke and Ibn Khaldun as an organic community of human beings united together by certain immanent principles of civilisation. In our twenty-first century, the public deontology of the state is to secure the common peace, enhance the liberties and provide public goods while expanding the possibility frontiers of welfare for all its citizens. The first duty of civil government is to secure the lives and properties of its citizens and to guarantee their freedoms and liberties. A government that fails to do that has failed in its most elementary obligations.
I agree with John Cardinal Onaiyekan when he says that Christians have nothing to fear from Islamisation. As a matter of fact, Islamisation is a right for all Muslims, just as evangelisation is the right of all Christian believers. If we know — and we know that we know — that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, what are we afraid of? The Lion of the Tribe of Judah surely does not need anyone to fight on His behalf or to defend His Church, against which the very gates of hell shall never prevail.
But we must not mince words. There is suffering in the land. At the risk of sounding rather personal, I can reveal that my family and me have fallen victim to the insecurity that pervades Nasarawa State. I grew up in the small missionary village of Murya, 10 km outside Lafia. My elderly father and mother had to flee uncountable times in the thick of night to seek refuge from Fulani herdsmen. During his last flight, his health deteriorated rapidly, leading to his death in December 2014. We believe he would still be alive if the insecurity in Nasarawa State had not despatched him to his early grave. Before his death he whispered to me that he was “tired of Nigeria”.
My cousin, Very Rev. Father David Baka of blessed memory, is buried just a few hundred metres away from where we are assembled today. Two years ago, he was in Lafia to procure materials for internally displaced persons (IDPs). On his way back to his Emmanuel Parish in New Karu a hit-and-run driver rammed into his brand new Toyota Hilux, cutting him down in his prime in the evening of Saturday 11th July 2015.
“How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan! Oh, how much I loved you!” (2 Samuel 1:26).
Our Nigeria of today has become a land of sorrows, blood and tears. Corruption has risen to the high heavens. Workers go for months – even years — without salaries. Scriptures tell us that every labourer deserves his just wages. Our leaders have become as cruel as the ostriches of the desert; they care only about lining their pockets while hunger ravages the land; families are suffering while marriages are cracking up; youth unemployment stands at a national average of 40 percent; in the far north the figures are a staggering 70 percent.
(Shortened Version of a Keynote Address Delivered on the Occasion of the First Prayer Summit of Christian Leaders Organised by CAN Nasarawa State Chapter, Lafia, Saturday, August 5, 2017).