As the security situation in Nigeria gets worsen consequent upon the incessant attacks by terrorist group, Christian leaders insist this ugly trend must be put to check before it degenerates to full blown religious crisis.
EBUN SESSOU interviewed Rt. Rev. Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Lagos West who insists that Christians must brace up in order to address the aggression against them. Excerpt
What is your opinion on the state of the nation?
Presently, the state of the nation is very fragile. Our and by extension, the nation is heading towards disintegration. Already, some group of people are treating fellow Nigerians as aliens. This potends danger for the nation. When there is no peaceful co-existence, tolerance, mutual understanding amongst the citizens of a nation, then that nation is heading for disintegration and that is a very serious and critical thing to think about. At the moment, that is where Nigeria as a nation stands.
What is your opinion on the present state of the nation?
The issue of insecurity has been problem for long.The inability of the government to provide a practicable system that would help to curb criminality has remain a major challenge. We are operating a system where criminals go unpunished. This development is contrary to what obtains in the advanced countries. It will interest you to know that anyone who violates traffic laws wouldn’t go unpunished. Today, the country is face with Boko Haram’s activities are targeted at Christians.
It has become a Sunday-Sunday syndrome and it shows that some parts of this nation did not want the existence of other citizens. It is a sign of hatred and if it continues, there might be a reprisal. And that is why the issue of insecurity should address. The nation must sit down and address this issue critically.
How has the Christian body taken the issue?
The Christian body has been crying. They have been talking to the government and urging President Jonathan to address the issue. The CAN Chairman nationwide, Rev. Ayo Oritsajafor, Primate Sunday Makinde as well as other religious leaders have been addressing this issue but it seems the government itself is confused. And according to sources, it seems the sponsors of this group are planning to attack the South-South, South West, South-West and Christians have been advised to be at alert. We have the right to worship our God, and according to Bishop Chukwuma, we are ready to meet force with force if that would solve the problem. If government would not rise to this occasion, then, Christians would raise to defend themselves. And that has been the voice of our Christian leaders.
So, you are of the opinion that Christians should defend themselves?
No one is inferior to the other. We have the right of existence, worship.
So, where is the place of the ten commandments that say, thou shall not kill stand?
It doesn’t say we should not defend ourselves. This is ethical. It is beyond ten commandments. And when the Lord rises to fight, then we should join in the course. It is important to tackle spiritual things with spiritual things while physical things are tackled with physical things. This is not a spiritual issue where you cast out demons. However, when it comes to the right of a citizen in a nation, including the right of existence, freedom to serve God, there is no one who would wait until everybody is dead. God will not do what we can do for ourselves. He will only strengthen us. David in the Bible, “God strengthens my hand to win the battle”. We are not talking about war but we must do everything within our hands to defend ourselves.
Are you advocating war?
In the days of Nehemiah, when the broken walls of Jericho were to be rebuilt, some people rose against the people of God. But, Noah told them to be ready to fight their course by themselves. Right now, Christians must learn how to hold cutlass on one hand and Bible on the other to defend themselves.
Then, where is the place of prayer in conflict?
Christians must pray. Although, we cannot worship God under duress. A situation where some people are praying, others should defend themselves.
Nobody prayers for war and this is a warning to the federal government. And I hope the President will pay attention to what is happening right now.
Are you insinuating that Boko Haram has religions backing?
The handwriting is on the wall.
Have you been able to talk to religious leaders?
We have been meeting at the NIREC level where all religious bodies converge. We have been talking about this particular issue but it seems nothing is done.
Do you think this group is agitating for something?
If they are agitating for their right, then, their leaders should come out openly and tell the world what they want. But, it seems they are faceless.
Poverty and Nigeria concept what can you say, what is role of Christian leaders?
We are blessed as a nation but the more the resources we have, the poorer we become. It is confusing. Nigeria is not poor except that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation. And until corruption is tackled, it might be difficult to eradicate poverty. Almost everybody is affected except for some privileged few and these are the politicians.
…What efforts have been put together by the Christian leaders to influence government’s decisions?
We have been playing our roles and praying at the same time for the nation. The |Christian leaders have been warning and encouraging the Nigerian government to do the right thing.
What is the way forward?
Christians are not warming up for war. We are praying for peace for our nation. We don’t want this country to be dis-membered. Boko Haram must stop the killing and government must rise to the occassion. Government must respect the law of this nation. We have the laws and the government is saddled with the responsibility of defending every Nigerian. But if the government fails in her duty to protect Nigerians, it means Christians must think of how to defend themselves.