“We have all summoned courage. They have deceived us to take our inheritance. We are going to get our inheritance back. I want to say one thing: they have started again. I want to reveal one secret here. They have started subtle moves to make Nigeria an Islamic nation. But God will not allow it. This was done in 1984 but it failed. I cannot run away. I am Ayo Fayose. If you hit me, you hit trouble. If I hit you, you will be in trouble. Nigeria is a free nation and this nation will not be taken for an Islamic nation. Today, I decree the return of a PDP government in 2019.” – Governor Ayo Fayose, Port Harcourt, 26th February, 2016.
Ayo Fayose’s words give cause for concern and I must confess that I share his views. Ever since my TED EX lecture in 2014 which was titled ”the Rise Of Islamic Fundamentalism In Nigeria” my greatest crime, in the eyes of my detractors, is that I have fearlessly and continuously stood up to and spoken out against the evil of islamic fundamentalism and the cancer of islamist terror in our country.
Whether it be Boko Haram and its numerous facilitators and sponsors, the Fulani militias and herdsmen, the APC hidden agenda of islamisation of Nigeria or elements within the core northern ruling class who have often promoted and, in some cases openly supported and funded, terror and the cold-blooded murder of our compatriots, I have always stood against it.
This does not mean that I am anti-Muslim because I am not. I believe in religious diversity and I consider it to be a privilege to live in a plural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation where people of all faiths are respected and are allowed to live their lives freely. As a matter of fact I believe that our diversity is our strength and that there is nothing more beautiful than a true Muslim or a true Christian practicing their faith in accordance with their traditions. We are, after all, all children of Abraham and what binds us together is our faith and belief in one God that created the universe and that rules in the affairs of men.
What I will not accept though is the implementation of a terrorist agenda and the destruction of the lives and way of life of others by a small minority of religious zealots and ethnic bigots. I will not accept the fellowship of those that have been brainwashed and utterly possessed by the Salifist/Wahhabi philosophy which was covertly exported to much of the Sunni Muslim world by sinister and clandestine forces that reside in Saudi Arabia. I cannot abide those that kill in the name of God and that use the great faith of Islam to oppress others and force them to do their will.
Those of us that are not Muslims are not slaves in this country and neither can we ever be. Those of us that are moderate Muslims in this country and that do not share the abominable views of the Islamic fundamentalists and the islamists cannot be slaves either. Yet, that does not mean that a misguided few will not attempt to impose their will on the rest of us. To this extent I wholeheartedly concur with Ayo Fayose’s view that there are covert moves by some extremists that are in the corridors of power to quietly and secretly islamise our country and that they are attempting to do so with contempt and impunity. If anyone doubts that this is the case or believes that it cannot happen they should read the history of Turkey and find out how what was once a Christian nation was eventually transformed into a full blown Muslim state.
The truth is that Fayose has said nothing new. I have said it many times before. I saw this coming and I warned Nigerians against it but no-one would listen. Now the scales are slowly falling from their eyes. Two events in the last few days, more than any others in recent times, have confirmed this fact. Firstly there was the horrendous massacre of over 300 people in Agatu, Benue state, a Christian community, by hundreds of well-armed Muslim Fulani militias and herdsmen. In their usual way when it comes to atrocities committed by the Fulani militias, our government refused to comment on or react to the ugly incident for many days and up until there was a national and international outcry.
Secondly there was the abduction of a 13-year-old Christian girl by the name of Ese from her home in Bayelsa State to far away Kano where she was kept from her parents, forced to convert to Islam, married off to an old man against her will and hidden in the Emir of Kano’s palace. All efforts by her parents to see and free their daughter have failed, and to make matters worse, officials of both the state and Federal government have refused to intervene and rescue the little girl from the slavery and torment of her abductors.
I wonder how much more shame, injustice, and indignity we have to suffer as a faith and as a people before we react to such wickedness and injustice? We have even been denied the right to protest because when we do so we are accused, quite wrongly, of being anti-Islam. Well I am not anti-Islam but I am anti-injustice. I am not anti-Islam but I am anti-wickedness, anti-ethnic and religious domination, anti-slavery, anti-fascism, anti-religious extremism and bigotry, anti-pedophilia, anti-Boko Haram, anti-Boko Haram sponsors and anti-armed Fulani militias and herdsmen. I am anti-anything that brings blood, sweat, and tears to my people and anti-anyone that kills, steals, and destroys my nation and my compatriots.
I am anti-the dark forces from hell who have plagued our people with their unadulterated violence and their religious and ethnic intolerance over the years and who erroneously believe that they own Nigeria. The days of remaining silent out of fear of reprisals and insults or in the name of political correctness are long over. If I am the only voice left in Nigeria to do so I will continue to speak out and stand against this evil. I will also speak out against the notoriously indifferent, lukewarm, cowardly, and stoic disposition of those amongst us who appear to be happy to be the victims and who are ready to accept this barbarity and live with it.
No matter what I will not bend from this course, I will not flinch and I will not compromise. I will not run away from my calling and doing that which the Living God has called me to do. I would rather we redefine Nigeria than sit by silently as my people and those that share my faith are slowly and systematically turned into slaves by a tiny minority.
The situation in our country today gives cause for concern and raises many questions about precisely where we are heading. The assertion that Fayose has made compels us to ask, whither Nigeria? And there are many other troubling events that give us cause to ask the same question.
Consider the following. Thousands of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members and Biafrans are regularly slaughtered by our security agencies. We must ask, wither Nigeria? Thousands of Shia Muslims are murdered in cold blood and regularly tormented by our Armed Forces. We must ask, whither Nigeria? Thousands of Middle Belters and southerners are regularly raped, abducted, and butchered by Fulani militias and herdsmen. We must ask, whither Nigeria? Thousands of ordinary working class northerners are regularly massacred by Boko Haram. We must ask, whither Nigeria?
Yet all hope is not lost and we must not despair. I am glad that President Muhamnadu Buhari has said that our country will not join the military coalition of Islamic nations that Saudi Arabia is putting together. This is a welcome development that has allayed the fears of many but it is clearly not enough and he must go further.
The next step that he must take is to properly address the agitation for Biafra and attempt to make life a little easier and better for the people of the east. He must acknowledge the fact that self-determination is an inalienable right and that the only way to forge national unity is by consensus and the enthronement of equity and justice and not by state-sponsored tyranny and the spilling of blood.
He must accept the fact that when you beat a child for long enough one day he will stand up, say ‘’enough is enough’’, rise up in his own defense, and beat you back. It is time for us to stop beating those that call themselves Biafrans and to stop regarding Biafra as a dirty word. It is time for us to enter into a meaningful dialogue with them rather than subject them to insults and opprobrium.
It takes nothing from Nigeria if and when we make these concessions. As a matter of fact the contrary is the case: it would simply confirm our humanity and reaffirm our sense of justice and decency. Whether those that hold the levers of power in our pathologically conservative and obsessive ruling class wish to acknowledge and accept it or not, today’s reality is that Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, rightly or wrongly, has become a hero to millions of young Igbos all over the world. His name is etched in their hearts and memories.
Like Che Guevera and Fidel Castro of old he brings the hope of a new and better life to an aggrieved and abused people and a new generation. He is viewed by the majority of his kinsmen as the emancipator of an oppressed region and the champion of their collective aspirations and dreams. Simply put he has been transformed and elevated into the status of a living symbol: a symbol of the their deep yearning for liberty and freedom.
We can be rest assured that the seed that he has planted in the psyche of the Igbo youth is here to stay. As each day passes it grows bigger and stronger and it becomes more and more irresistible. The appropriate response to the agitation for Biafra is not the forceful establishment and implementation of an insidious and relentless religious and ethnic agenda which is designed to hold Nigeria together by force because this will not work. Instead it is a display of maturity, understanding, moderation, equity, and fair play in all matters touching and concerning governance and the running of the Nigerian state. A better understanding and appreciation of this most basic of all principles will bring more stability to our country and more joy to our people. Indeed it is the only way to guarantee our peace and it may well buy a united and indivisible Nigeria many more years.
Permit me to end this contribution with an insightful and timely word from Mr. Babatunde O. Gbadamosi who is an outstanding public commentator from an illustrious and distinguished lineage. On 28th February he wrote the following on his Facebook wall:
“The “Fulani Cattle Rearers” is a remix of the Serbian Vigilantes that Slobodan Milosevic used to intimidate the rest of Yugoslavia, until the Croats and the Albanians decided to fight back. Today, Yugoslavia is dead and buried, and Croatia is one of the success stories of Europe. If some people think they can intimidate the rest of us, the arms dealers are looking for customers, and the same people that sold them guns will sell to everyone else”.
I am a man of peace and I abhor violence yet this is indeed food for thought.
Femi-Fani Kayode is a lawyer, a Nigerian politician, an evangelical christian, an essayist, a poet and he was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was the minister of culture and tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 and as the minister of Aviation from Nov 7th 2006 to May 29th 2007. He tweets from@realFFK.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.