The 1999 general elections in Nigeria that ushered in a new democratic dispensation after 16 years of military dictatorship from 1983 saw the creation of an electoral coalition on the crest of which Chief (and former Military General) Olusegun Obasanjo came back to power as a “born again” civilian president. The likes of former General T.Y. Danjuma were at the vanguard of this electoral coalition whose majority members were largely from particular geo-political zones in Nigeria and preponderantly of the Christian faith.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo sold himself to this electoral coalition as a “born again” Baptist Christian as well as a strong advocate of only military experience at the highest level could prepare a “politician” for public office under democratic dispensation and thereby fused the idea that only a former soldier and born again Christian is eligible to contest for political office under democratic dispensation in Nigeria.
This eschatology, this theology was made more glaring when Obasanjo embarked, in 2004/2005 on tenure elongation project – the third term project – to prolong his stay in office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The debate for and against the tenure elongation project was pitted on a clear discernible divide. The details of the leaders and foot-soldiers of the supporters of tenure elongation, need not detain us for the time being, but their strategic placement, their geo-political world view and perchance their eschatological mien to the discernible eye is unmistaken as to where their loyalty lies, then and now, and who their avowed enemies are, as it were.
It is from this perspective or context that I cannot help but see the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) as comprising a re-grouping of these same members of the electoral coalition forged in 1998/1999 that have metastasized or metamorphosed or have decided to cloth themselves in a new garb of Christian elders. I am confident that I will not be in error to make the assumption that members of the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum are not members of the clergy, or lay clergy or splinter group of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) or its affiliates.
The Nigerian Christian Elders Forum, considering the activities it has now embarked on must be likened to similar politically oriented entities in South Africa that searched and found, in the Bible, scripture for church doctrines or justification that provided foundation for apartheid, or the justification for slavery in the United States of America, or the premise for Zionism that gave birth to the present discrimination intra Jews from the diaspora (European and Russian Jews and lately North American) against Jews from other parts of the world with specific application against Jews emigrating back to Israel from Muslim majority countries whether on the African continent or Middle East and South East Asia. This Zionist doctrine applied against Palestinian Arabs is to completely dehumanize the Palestinian – as if there is anything racially or humanly different between a Jew and an Arab other than the construct of Zionism.
It is only against this perspective that I could explain or bring myself to understand the statements credited to the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum to classify and declassify intra and inter-ethnic classification on what is clearly an inchoate and sacrilegious criteria. This has yielded my being classified, for example, as a Negroid and not as a Negro in their bid to dehumanize me and set me up for the kill by murderers already psyched up by earlier pronouncements by religious leaders who the Archbishop of the Abuja Diocese, the most respected John Cardinal Onaiyekan called “overnight religious leaders”. NCEF is now preaching the tyranny of intolerance. The NCEF, made up largely of men of yester years, these same “Elders” that have anointed themselves to “their sense of entitlement” in some instances “sense of victimhood” against perceived wrongs of their imagination, men whose mouths have been permanently glued to the tits of the nation and are now fighting teeth and nail to maintain their grip and continue to suckle, irrespective of the damage suffered by the nation and their unsuspecting followers.
Recently, in a widely circulated press statement, the NCEF made wild allegations without providing a shred of evidence and a day or two later Jos and some parts of Plateau State erupted in an orgy of murder and mayhem. They alleged the marginalization of Christians in the governance of Nigeria by Muhammadu Buhari in fulfillment of his life-long ambition of trying to Islamise Nigeria. They alluded to what they called ‘stealth jihad’, something that I believe only exist in their infantile and senile minds. They have now riven partisan politics in Nigeria along the lines of Muslims and Christians that, for example, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is seen as the party of Christians and the All Peoples Congress (APC) as the party of “fanatical/jihadist Muslims” with President Muhammadu Buhari as the jihadist leader to be stopped by all means – if it means killing any person seen on the national highway traversing through Plateau State on the route to Abuja. It was revered Nelson Mandela of blessed memory who was reported to have said “You cannot drink poison and expect your enemy to die” or words to that effect.
They were so intent on demonizing and dehuminising an ethnic group – the Fulbe – that they threw caution to the wind. History was distorted; caution was thrown overboard and selfish emotions were allowed to freely take over. The NCEF press statement was a culmination of a series of such hate-filled public statements that we were inundated with in the recent past, particularly from this particular body and of recent the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Going through the releases by these two bodies and the hate speeches from religious leaders across the country, one had the distinct feeling that something like what happened on the Plateau will inevitably follow.
To be continued…
Toungo wrote this piece from Yola, Adamawa State