Last Monday, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, was in Abuja where he sniffed the air and declared that a war between the Christians and the Muslims was possible in Nigeria if the current security challenges were not tackled. The erudite sacerdotalist gave the warning during the National Summit on the Freedom of Information Act organized by the Media Rights Agenda. He also told his listeners that he had warned Mr. President about the future of Nigeria. The Bishop is convinced that Nigeria “is running out of time. There is an impending war between Muslims and Christians.”
The Bishop then noted with a tone of finality: “The attacks on the Christian communities in the North are a deliberate attempt to push them out of the North.”
I have known Bishop Kukah way back in the 80s. I never missed his column in the Sunday New Nigerian entitled “The Mustard Seed”. When I became the Editor of the Sunday Standard of Jos in the mid-80s, I got him to write for the paper. Rev. Fr. Kukah’s masterfully crafted theologies were a must read.
Bishop Kukah is not known to cry wolf where there is none. The Monday’s wolf alarm is real. My apprehension is whether the Jonathan administration has the capacity and capability to tame the wolf of insecurity now ravaging the North. Before the fall of the Libyan strongman, Mouamar Ghadaffi, he advocated a North-South dichotomy:
Muslims should occupy the North, while their Christian counterparts were pushed to the South. Of course, the proposition was laughed off. How could that be possible? Christianity and Islam are interwoven in Nigeria. There are Christians who are indigenes of Kano, Borno, Kebbi, Yobe, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Kogi, Gombe, Jigawa, Niger, Zamfara, Kwara, Bauchi and even Sokoto and Katsina states.
Then, there are states like Taraba, Plateau, Kaduna and Benue whose governors are Christians. Even in the South where Ghadaffi wanted all Christians from the North to be garrisoned, there are Muslims who are governors in states like Lagos and Osun. Many monarchs in the Southwest are Muslims: the Alafin of Oyo, Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba of Lagos, Olubadan of Ibadan, Awujale of Ijebu Ode, Akarigbo of Remo, Timi of Ede, Ataoja of Osogbo and Oluwo of Iwoland to mention just a few.
In the Niger Delta, we have the Otaru of Auchi, Oba of Agbede, Adonogie of South-Ibie and Uliola of Anegbete… all in Edo state. Would all these Muslim monarchs from the South be given domains to lord over in the Muslim North or become commoners? And would the likes of Jonah Jang of Plateau, Gabriel Suswam of Benue, Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna and Danbaba Suntai of Taraba swap offices with Raji Fashola of Lagos and Osun state’s Rauf Aregbesola? And what would be the fate of sabre-rattling Niger Delta warlord, Alhaji Mujahedeen Asari Dokubo? He would be chased to the Muslim North, of course.
Now, back to Bishop Kukah’s warning. Yes, religious war is possible in Nigeria. But how would it be fought? And at what point would the war be declared? How would the battle line be drawn? For instance, in the community (Offa) where I come from, virtually all the clan compounds are inhabited by both Christians and Muslims.
The ratio of Christians and Muslims is two to five. Nevertheless, they share the same roofs, sitting/bedrooms, kitchens, toilets/bathrooms and verandas. A few of my uncles, cousins and nieces are Muslims. Are we going to segregate ourselves into opposing camps, armed with poisoned bows and arrows, machetes, spears and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) ready to fight a senseless war in the name of God or Allah? Ahaaa! I remember Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos state who is married to a Christian. On whose side would their kids be when the couple face each other in the combat?
And by the way, who are the elements that are going to wage the ‘religious’ war? Certainly not Christians or Muslims. Christ, the Founder of Christianity, is referred to as the Prince of Peace. And what is the definition of Islam? Peace, of course. So, the religious arithmetic of Peace plus Peace cannot be equal to war.
In that case, those who would fight the imminent war can neither be Christians nor Muslims. They are elements who do not believe in the teachings of the two Holy Books – the Bible and Qur’an – that forbid adherents of the two faiths to kill one another using God as an alibi. What is, therefore, looming is a war of unbelievers.
I am still trying to figure out how this weird war will be waged.