Recently, some people protested in Abuja over what they said was the silence of a man of God. They alleged that the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, hadn’t spoken on the current security challenges as they affected Christians, and they wanted to hear him. Meanwhile, I anchor this intervention on a recent comment made by Adeboye that “a prayerful Christian achieves much more than an activist.” I shall return to it.
There’re undercurrents to the said protest in Abuja. Therefore, I separate into three groups Nigerians who might have given thought to Adeboye’s supposed silence. There’re those who hear Adeboye regarding how Christians should conduct themselves in a situation like this but choose instead to believe they’ve not heard. There’re those who hear him but want him to say something different. There’re people who hear him, accept what they hear as what a religious leader should say, and have kept their peace. Simply put, the first two groups want to hear the rhetoric of an activist from a pastor because it’s what they’ve become used to these days.
Nevertheless, I believe in silence that’s golden as the working words of religious leaders. Some of them know what to say, how to say it, and when to refrain for obvious reasons. That’s ‘tact’ which I presume Baba Adeboye would call wisdom. A man of God and an activist share neither the same occupational register nor philosophical standpoint. One uses words lifted directly from the Book he carries, while the other adopts rhetoric that must compulsorily be popular with everyone. Some religious leaders combine both, and they’re making mistakes. I’m not alone in this conviction. After the immediate past deputy governor of Kaduna State, Yusuf Bala Bantex (from Southern Kaduna) watched the video of some servants of God preaching from pulpits, he was alarmed at the level of hate on display. So he and fellow Christians in government at the time denounced the servants of God in question with respect to what they were saying on security situation in Kaduna State. Bantex said in part, “Pastors have a mission to promote peace, bring people together, and motivate them to better follow the example of Jesus Christ. The reckless rhetoric from some pastors reminds decent people of the unfortunate involvement of pastors in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda” (The PUNCH, November 16, 2018).
Equally, at a meeting with some Christian youth groups from the north of Nigeria not long ago, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said his listeners shouldn’t harbour hate, feeling that some human could either marginalise or stop them from becoming what they were destined to be. He said some of the youth listening to him were tongue-speaking, holy spirit-filled Christians and as such no human could stop them. I imagine that only Christians, not churchgoers, understand what Mustapha is saying. I take note of his comment because many activist-pastors are communicating to youth contrary messages that aren’t in the Book they carry.
There was also a comment which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo once made regarding the hate that some ‘Christians’ exhibit. He said if the same people that the founder of Christianity died for are the people that some Christians harbour hate for, then darkness has descended once more. Osinbajo’s comment followed the accusation some made that he didn’t do anything regarding Christians in the current security challenges. I suppose such people expect him to make incendiary comments that some activist-pastors make, and thereby further divide our peoples.
Massive damage is being done across our nation by servants of God of who also wear the garb of activists. Mostly, their ethnic affiliations have taken over their theological obligations. So they spread hate about fellow humans that it’s their calling to win over, thereby grab media headlines, and lead many churchgoers astray because it’s their pastor that says so. As such these followers have completely lost that sense of what it means to claim to have a religion. Like the religious leaders they follow, they say what they like to anyone in the name of defending their religion. Two examples would suffice. After I called the attention of Christians in the north to the need to not hate people of another ethnic group because of a few bad eggs, someone called and flippantly said I was defending Fulani people who “should be chased out of the country”. He has a religion that instructs him to win other people over, but he wants the same people chased out. It’s the kind of mentality that has ensured the spread of Christianity isn’t making progress in certain parts of the country.
There was another occasion when I stated that Nigerians should stop saying people of ethnic groups other than theirs shouldn’t live among them. One M.K.M Tanko from Kaduna wrote to me that I shouldn’t write about Christians, and “If you lack ideas go and ask your mother!” For me, it’s not surprising that in their utterances regarding the security challenges that this nation has such people single out the Fulani, projecting them as devils as though everyone in their own tribe is perfect. Meanwhile, many who support them comment from the corner of the country where they’ve always been. They get their information from the prejudices they find in the media, making up the rest from their fertile imagination which includes believing every Fulani is a herdsman. Many overlook the fact that that there are polished people of Fulani origin in government agencies who make their own contribution to the progress of this country. I have educated Fulani as friends; people whose tact, wise quietness, solid character, kindheartedness, sensitivity and considerateness I admire. Their cultured manner, for me, brings into sharp relief the loose character, repulsive tactlessness, and vituperation of some who think their ethnic groups are the best thing to happen to Nigeria. Frankly, I can’t understand how anyone who claims to have a religion could harbour the hate-filled things that some utter.
The approach and comments of some activist-pastors regarding our security situation are unbecoming, and careful observers would have noticed that they’re making fundamental mistakes. They do more harm to their faith and the people on whose behalf they take on activism. Their approach which inevitably includes ethnic bashing can’t help their cause. There are people of Fulani origin in the security forces, executive, and the National Assembly. When some demonise their ethnic group, do they expect such people to be sympathetic to their security concerns? Also, the same wrong approach can’t help the propagation of their faith, that’s if those who claim to have a religion but engage in ethnic bashing still have that in view.
Moreover, different denominations send people to spread their message across the country. Among those who have accepted their message are Fulani people. I know Fulani in the north who are fifth generation Christians. I know Christians in the north who have purely Hausa origin. But in the heat of the hate for those that some activists say attack their people, they’ve projected Christians in the north to mean only members of those minority tribes who are predominantly Christians. We’ve even heard some say “Christianity is our heritage” as though one can inherit salvation and their tribe has exclusive right to Christianity. They actively promote the “us versus them” narrative, appearing on TV to say “we don’t know why they (Fulani) are killing our people”. Rather than point to criminal elements these activists, use rhetoric to demonise a whole ethnic group. How do they want members of that ethnic group who are Christians to feel?
The matter is made worse as a section of the media sensationally reports “killing of Christians”, rather than the security challenges that every Nigerian experiences. The picture many get from this is that every Fulani kills people from predominantly Christian minority tribes in the north. This way, an atmosphere of hate is further promoted even among people who are far from the theatre of crisis. Yet, the reality is that among communities with predominantly Christian minority ethnic groups in the north, there’re indigenes who have Fulani and Hausa people as mothers, fathers, in-laws, and spouses.