By Sharon Faliya Cham
Lately, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has been waging a relentless propaganda war clearly aimed at sowing seeds of division and strife, either between Christians and Muslims or between northern and southern Nigeria. It is either you see him blowing dog whistles for a religious war based on a new propaganda of false claims of religious victimization from certain killings in the north or you see him parroting blatant falsehoods about nepotism in President Buhari’s appointments without as much as caring to compare the appointments he rants about with the religious or demographic compositions of similar appointments made by former President Jonathan.
Suddenly, Bishop Kukah and CAN have taken ownership of the victims of most of the killings by insurgents of all kinds in the north since 2009 till date on behalf of Christians. With a straight face, and without even batting their eyelids, and without even fearing the availability of records and facts plus the geography and demographics of the areas of the conflicts, they pointedly claim that killings in the north are targeted on Christians. And whenever they make these fantastic claims, a very thoughtful, discerning observer will be left wondering whether they are actually referring to the killings going on between the Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups, largely regarded as Christians, in northern Nigeria or whether they are referring to the gruesome killings by armed bandits against Muslim communities in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger states, or whether they are referring to the towns and villages captured and destroyed by insurgents in the Northeast between 2012 and early 2015, which left over 2 million refugees and of which nearly 100% of them are Muslims!
Or when they take ownership of the victims on behalf of Christians, a careful discerner is left wondering whether the Emirs, Sheiks and certain northern leaders, mainly Muslims, that were targeted and assassinated by insurgents and bandits since 2009 till date were killed as Christians. And was it not just last year that an Emir in Borno State was able to return to his kingdom after 5 years of forced exile by ”Boko Haram” insurgents that invaded and seized his emirate in 2014? Oh yes, bombs went off in churches when ”Boko Haram” was building strength between 2011 and 2012 with comparatively very few casualties than when it shifted from bombing churches to bombing mosques between 2012 till date. So, how did it amount to targeted killings of Christians, as Bishop Kukah and his tag team would want the world to believe?
Why do they always cherry pick certain crises, like the ones often involving Fulani cattle rearers and farmers in Benue, Plateau and Taraba states plus Southern Kaduna, and then paint them as attacks against Christians without putting all the crises and killings in the country, including cult killings, inter-communal wars and even armed invasion of churches by robbers and drug lords in southern Nigeria, in the proper context of general insecurity in the country instead of religionizing select ones in the north? Is there a certain objective or agenda they want to achieve with this cherry picking of conflicts and deliberate mislabelling, or is there some hidden profit they enjoy locally and internationally from hyping these crises and killings by painting them as persecution and killing of Christians in Nigeria?
To put it in proper context, last December a false report was caused to be published in some local newspapers and on Fox News in America that 1,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the year 2019 due to persecution of Christians, but we all know that in the entire year 2019, the only conflict in the country that could have resulted in the deaths of such large number of Christians was the Tiv/Jukun seemingly unending war, and both communities are always referred to as Christian communities whenever CAN or Bishop Kukah want to do their endless cherry picking of crises. And if we are to shop for that figure in the often mentioned Benue State, we all know that since Governor Samuel Ortom won reelection in March 2019, attacks by ”Fulani Herdsmen” in the State was hardly ever heard again. The only conflict that involved any group in the State after the 2019 elections was the Tiv/Jukun war. Or is there any that the media missed to report?
Contrast this with the report issued by the Zamfara State police commissioner in the same December 2019 that over 6,000 people were killed by armed bandits in the State alone. And that did not include the figures from neighbouring Katsina or Sokoto states that suffered the same brutal crises in the same year, and neither did it include the figures from Niger State. Which simply means only one thing: If a Christian group publishes in both local and international media that 1,000 Christians have been killed because of religious persecution in northern Nigeria in one year, and in the same year a single State in the same north has recorded over 6,000 deaths due to armed conflicts – something we can all testify truly happened – then it only means the claim of targeted killings of Christians in the north by Bishop Kukah and CAN is utterly false and a mere propaganda meant to achieve either some unknown agenda or some kind of material benefit from certain international donors who donate to victims of religious persecutions. And knowing how greed, corruption and racketeering have permeated religion in Nigeria, it is extremely difficult to rule this out.
Another vital fact that proves the endless tendencies of Bishop Kukah and CAN in cherry picking conflicts for propaganda and politicisation is a report prepared by Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), which was released on Sunday, February 16, 2020 and published by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, February 17, 2020 wherein the group said 1013 persons were killed in the entire Niger Delta region in 2019 in cult clashes, political disputes, land disputes, communal clashes and ritual murders. That’s the Niger Delta region alone, without the data from the Southeast and the Southwest where similar crises and killings have been occurring for decades, including the year 2019 in perspective. So, why the cherry picking and one-sided fixation in a country where rogue politicians have been known to saturate the entire country with sophisticated weapons for their thugs and cult boys, and have consequently thrown the Nigerian State into a state of utter violence and mass murders? Why the selective outrage over killings, and doesn’t this selective outrage underline the hypocrisy of the outrage itself?
Here, it is not difficult to see the hypocrisy of the very same persons and groups who lie that President Buhari was rationalizing victims of insurgency in northern Nigeria in his recent essay published on an American magazine called CHRISTIANITY TODAY as a rebuttal to their lies and propaganda, whereas they are the very ones who always politicise and rationalize deaths or victims of conflicts on religious ratios, often cherry picking and presenting false figures like the ones above. While they lambast him for saying 90% of the victims of insurgency in northern Nigeria are Muslims, they on the other hand are always at the forefront of doing dodgy maths with the conflicts and presenting false figures to boost their endless claims of religious persecutions!
In the end, the non perceptive or the undiscerning Christian believer ends up becoming the target and victim of false information and deception, which the Holy Bible has clearly warned will happen, especially in times such as this that we are in. And unfortunately, the deceptions are being waged by profiteers masquerading as shepherds who stoke the fears of the people under them instead of giving them hope and teaching them love, which the Scripture tells us conquers all fears. They see the flocks under them as mere objects of trade and manipulation for the benefit of rogue politicians as well as for their own personal profits instead of turning them into agents of love and building blocks for national development.
So therefore, when Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah claims that Christians in the north are being persecuted and specifically targeted for killings, one wonders whether he is deliberately provoking hostilities from Muslims in Sokoto, the headquarters of Islam in Nigeria, where he oversees a very large Roman Catholic diocese, and with whom he has been living peacefully without ever any report of any attack against his or any other church in the State. From Sokoto he gallivants across the country, making speeches here and there, including his recent incendiary ones laced with all the venoms of bigotry. From the same Sokoto he also freely travels to practice his ability of brokering peace between politicians who plundered us yesterday with the hope of them grabbing back power in 2019 without as much as helping to put that same ability into brokering peace in the conflicts they are now politicising and religionalising!
And if I may ask: Just how does Bishop Kukah feel whenever he travels out of Sokoto to make such divisive, bigoted claims against Muslims and thereafter return to the same Sokoto, the headquarters of Islam in Nigeria, where they live peacefully with him? Doesn’t he feel a tinge of contrition, or even a tinge of shame for what is obviously an act of brazen hostility against his hosts? Or, could Bishop Kukah be merely letting out a possibly bottled up frustration and bitterness over the failure of his political choice to come back to power in 2019, or else what could have possibly triggered a member of the so called National Peace Committee to blow his cool like this and even veer into the cherry picking of crises for purposes of propaganda in order to inflame passions of bigotry and hate?
Nigerians should be quickly reminded that the 1994 mass killings and destruction in Rwanda that grabbed global headlines were ignited and inflamed by hateful rhetorics from certain priests wearing priestly uniforms daily like Bishop Kukah does, and some of them are currently serving time in jail for their crimes against humanity. We can therefore do well by always properly filtering whatever they say with the fine filter of truth and information, otherwise we will blindly walk ourselves into their trap of national conflagration.
Scripture and history have jointly taught us that wearing religious uniforms or wearing religious titles don’t necessarily confer truthfulness or honesty or even piety on the wearers, just as much as it does not even confer on them any evidence of being lovers of peace. Therefore, it cannot be mere coincidence that the ”peace brokers” who brokered the emergency reconciliation of Atiku Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo for the purpose of returning Nigeria to the years of the locusts in 2019 are all at the forefront of the hateful and divisive rhetorics against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Therefore, if their ability is to only broker peace among politicians of their choice without being able to broker peace among warring ethnic groups across the country, then we shouldn’t fall into their trap of destabilizing the current administration on behalf of their puppeteers. They simply don’t mean well for the country. And if we are not discerning enough, we may fall victims to puppeteers of certain Nathaniel Samuels on deadly errands with explosives and remote buttons in their hands, waiting to remotely trigger conflagrations meant to give plausibility to false claims of persecutions and targeted killings.