The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has expressed disappointment with the remarks by Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, condemning religious leaders for spreading “incendiary messages” through the media.
In a statement on Tuesday, the CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, denied the claim by Mr. Mohammed that religious leaders spreading such messages were engaged in a “campaign of calumny” against the present administration.
Mr. Mohammed spoke at a town hall meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State on Monday.
“The alleged Islamisation of Nigeria under the current administration is totally false and should be perceived in its entirety as a campaign of calumny,” the minister had said.
“There is no bigger threat to the peace and unity of our country today than religion-coated incendiary messages, which are being carelessly sent out by some religious, political and opinion leaders.
“In recent times, the media has been increasingly awash with incendiary statements that seem designed to pitch the adherents of the two prominent religions in the country, Christians and Muslims, against one another. Such fallacies like the Islamisation of Nigeria, the killing of Christians by Muslims, the labelling of Nigeria as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world can only serve one purpose: trigger a religious war,” the minister said.
“Those who are making these allegations know that they are not true, but they have found in religion another tool to demonize the government of the day, divert attention from the government’s anti-corruption stance and create undue tension in the polity,” he added.
But reacting to Mr. Mohammed’s comments, Mr. Ayokunle said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES that “never in the history of Nigeria had there been a leadership so biased as that of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration”.
“The lopsided appointments; with almost all the security chiefs coming from one religion, as if members of the other religions cannot produce competent hands.
“When a preacher in the Federal Capital Territory was brutally murdered, what has become the outcome of that matter? The woman that was brutally murdered in Kano what has happened to that matter? Even the Attorney General of that state says the suspects have no case to answer. The killings in Agatu, Southern Kaduna, that all took place in Christian dominated communities; are we not privy to that?
“The handwriting is clearly there for all to see. They can try, but they cannot succeed,” said Mr. Ayokunle, who is also the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention.
Continuing in the same vein in a statement on Tuesday by his spokesman, Adeboyo Oladeji, Mr. Ayokunle said CAN is made up of patriotic Nigerians who love the country too much to threaten its peace. He said the association only spoke out of sheer concern for what was “obvious”.
“We are disappointed but not surprised with the disparaging lies and abusive statements credited to the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Ilorin during the Town hall meeting where he was accusing religious leaders of making alleged provocative statements that can lead to religious war.
“We want to boldly declare that Nigerian Christians love their country and they not only promote peace and unity but also always pray for her and the leadership. In the last one year, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has declared fasting and prayers for Nigeria and her leadership twice. If we are thirsty for a war, we wouldn’t have gone that far.
“Is Lai Mohammed accusing of us of telling lies: That our members are being killed, maimed and burnt by the Boko Haram terrorists in the Northeast? That our members are being killed by the Fulani herdsmen in Plateau, Benue and now Southern Kaduna states? That those responsible for these killings profess Islam as their religion? That those who killed Madam Bridget Agbahime in Kano were Muslims who were arrested but later discharged and acquitted by the court as requested by the State Attorney- General and Commissioner of Justice? That those who killed Madam Eunice Elisha Olawale while doing the morning preaching in Kubwa, Abuja, were Muslim fundamentalists who were arrested but also freed by the Police?
“Is Lai Mohammed telling us that no Christian was killed by the Fulani herdsmen who invaded Southern Kaduna, killed and maimed our members and razed down their communities recently? Is Mohammed saying the Fulani herdsmen who have been killing our members are not armed with sophisticated weapons and is it wrong for us to ask where they get the AK-47 and other weapons they are using?
“When all those killings were going on in Plateau, Benue and Southern Kaduna, was there any time Lai Mohammed or anyone in the Federal Government raised up a voice against the atrocities?, Mr. Ayokunle queried.
He described the Fulani herdsmen who attacked the various communities as “murderers”, and queried the failure of government to curtail the matter, before the killings occurred.
“If those murderous Fulani herdsmen are faceless, how come the Sultan of Sokoto is claiming that they are not Nigerians and in another instance, the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai said they had been paid for the “wrong done to them’’? Why is it that whenever these murderers are perpetrating their atrocities, the security agencies look elsewhere until their victims decided to fight back? Is it because the security agencies are Muslim dominated? CAN says No to disparaging remarks in the name of politics. Enough of these lies by Lai Mohammed,” concluded the statement.