Tags: Boko Haram, Emmanuel Chukwuma, Ikemba Nnewi, Nicholas Okoh
Action, not talk is needed from Muslim leaders if Nigeria is not to fall into civil war, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria said last week in the wake of Christmas Day terror attacks mounted by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh appealed to Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to exercise leadership, saying “it is not enough to condemn the act. It is not enough to dissociate itself from it.”
Muslim leaders “must take some pragmatic steps in the interest of all of us to bring about an end to this matter. There is no other body in a better position to speak to Boko Haram,” the archbishop told reporters last week during a visit to St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla in the Niger State.
On 1 Jan 2012 Boko Haram issued an ultimatum to Christians living in the Muslim majority areas of Northern Nigeria to leave within three days, or face their wrath. The terror group has claimed responsibility for a series of bomb and gun attacks on churches and the police stations across five states on Christmas Day. At St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla near the capital of Abuja, 35 people were killed when a bomb was tossed into the congregation as the service was ending. A half dozen other Christians were killed in related attacks across the North also.
Archbishop Okoh called upon Nigeria’s political and traditional leaders to take immediate action to prevent the country from falling into civil war. The governors of Nigeria’s northern states must come together, he said. “They meet to discuss national issues and I don’t see any national issue that is more critical than this one; the issue of the security of the nation.”
“If they can meet on other things, this is a critical issue that should engage their attention. They should find a solution to it. They are in a better position to find a solution to it.”
“I also make my appeal to the political elite in the National Assembly and those of them in the states,” the archbishop said. “They should find a solution to this matter as a matter of urgency, because if there is no Nigeria, there will be no political office holders.”
The spectre of sectarian war loomed, the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Rev. Ayo Oritsjafor told AFP. “The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and property.”
In a speech given on 30 Dec 2011 Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma also warned that the Ibo people of the South-East would not hesitate to follow the example of the late Ikemba Nnewi – the leader of the short-lived Biafran Republic which attempted to break away from Nigeria in the 1960’s – and take up arms to protect themselves.
“If the Federal Government fails to do something urgently, we shall declare war in Nigeria. Our quietness should not be seen as cowardice. If the issue is not addressed, we will resume [Ikemba Nnewi’s] fight against injustice. Enough is enough.”
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.