(Codewit.com) National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN), Pastor Ayodele Oritsejafor, in this interview with KEHINDE OYETIMI, stresses the need for a collective fight against Boko Haram, holding that the protest against fuel subsidy removal has political undertone. Excerpts:
WHAT will you say on the declaration of war on Christians in the North by members of the Boko Haram?
I will encourage the Federal Government to be firm and do what they are supposed to do for the security of lives and property of Nigerians. I donâ€™t think I want to comment further than that for the fact that it was the Boko Haram leader that said that. I canâ€™t see myself responding or reacting to him. It is belittling.
The protest by Labour and many Nigerians against the increase in petrol price seemed to have been hijacked. Unfortunately, it appears that many do not even understand the position of the Federal government on the removal of the subsidy. What is your take on this?
My heart truly goes out to Nigerians at this time. Many people are angry and that is understandable. You have to pay so much for transport now. It is heavy on Nigerians and I understand how they feel. But I would appeal to Labour and the civil society and the various groups out there. Please for the sake of God and for the sake of our country, they should go back and sit with the government and find a way to come out of this. This strike should not go on indefinitely.
Like we are already seeing, the some people are already taking advantage of it. It has started already and only God knows how far this can go. There are even more dangerous persons. I must be very blunt. God forbid that Boko Haram would come in and take advantage of what is happening and cause the real big problem that we are all running away from. We do not want to hear such things.
Again, they should give the President a chance; they should sit and negotiate further and talk. I pray that Nigeria would not lose sight of the plight of fellow Nigerians that are dying every day in the North. While we have well meaning protest leaders, I noticed that there are some people who are just opportunists. Because they found out that this thing is popular, all of them are out on the streets. They want to score cheap political points. They are out there making a lot of noise.
The question that I have for such persons is: Where were you when Nigerians were being shot all over the North? Why did you not organise this kind of protest? Are you trying to tell me that petrol is more important than human life? Can we put petrol and human life on the same scale? We canâ€™t do that! I mean human life is precious. You canâ€™t compare petrol to human life. Dead people donâ€™t buy fuel! Dead people donâ€™t go to the market! Dead people canâ€™t drive cars! It is only the living that can use fuel for Godâ€™s sake.
There are some wrong people out there right now. I am very sad with the House of Representatives for convening an emergency sitting because of fuel. They could not convene emergency meeting when people were being killed every day. In fact, it was on a Sunday. The Christians abandoned church services because of fuel subsidy.
As we are talking now, people are dying. Last week, four young Igbo Christians, who were buying fuel in Potiskum, were gunned down and nobody is talking about this. Three women in Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi went to look at their farms but were gunned down. Some people said that their eyes were plucked. They had to call me to console the people and talk to the elders of that community by phone. You could feel the pains.
Some days in Gusau, Zamfara State, six churches were vandalized under the pretext of fuel subsidy riots. Only God saved us that people were not inside those churches. I can go on and on.
Some days ago, the governor of Borno State gave N100 million to the families of the father-in-law of the late Yusuf. N100 million to the families of a slain criminal! Who is going to compensate Pastor Orjiâ€™s wife and children that I had to relocate out of Maiduguri? I rented a house for them; I paid for two years. I bought a car. I started a business for her. I am still spending money on the children.
Are you saying that Nigerians should fight Boko Haram and not fuel subsidy?
That is my point! Yes, I feel that fuel subsidy is important but human life is on a higher scale. They should put this energy into fighting Boko Haram. Let us end this madness.
On Saturday, President Jonathan slashed the salaries of members of the executive but many believe that his fight against corruption is not strong enough. What can you say on this?
Probably what people want is for him to do more. I think he is doing what he is supposed to do. They want him to do more. Desperate situations demand desperate measures. I think with the way things are today, even the EFCC is being reorganised. Let us give the man a chance, let us see what he is going to do.
In many parts of the country where there are protests, it appears hoodlums have taken over as they now collect valuables from Nigeriansâ€¦
When things like this happen, there are opportunists. There are people who just jump on things to get cheap popularity. They donâ€™t really mean well for Nigeria and Nigerians. Some of them are failed politicians; they are people who have lost out in the political equation. They are trying to use the removal of fuel subsidy to re-launch themselves and to be acceptable to the people. Some of them have never seen such assemblage. They want to jump there and talk. Unfortunately, for journalists, instead of concentrating on the people who are dying every day, they flash them (the protests) on the front-page: mother of all protests, sister of all protests and uncle of all protests! I mean it is ridiculous. It is not surprising to me that the wrong people have hijacked it.
My advice is that Labour should sit with the government and find a way to end this thing. It is not good for us; it is not good for Nigerians and for anybody. We should concentrate; we should return to the issue. The issue that Nigeria is facing is the issue of security. We have a serious problem of insecurity in the country. We need to go back to it. If this protest was on that, I think it would be more meaningful. That does not remove the fact that I care for Nigerians.
I want to use this opportunity to say shame on southern governors! Shame on them! Shame, shame, shameâ€¦three times on them! That their people are being killed and slaughtered and none of them is coming out to say anything. They cannot even engage their northern counterparts, to tell them and insist that such things must stop, and publicly or privately go to them and tell them that they must stop this. That we are doing all we can to protect the lives of your people in the south. This is not proper. Does it then mean that southern governors are not religious too?
If Borno State governor can give out N100 million to the families of Yusuf, I am asking myself where are the governors in the south? Donâ€™t they wear shoes that pinch them? Does it then mean that their people who are dying are not shoes that pinch them? That they cannot go to their counterparts and tell them that they must compensate them? That they must rebuild their businesses? That they must settle the widows? That they must help the orphans? No wonder no single church has a Certificate of Occupancy in the north? Does it not occur to them that there are states in the far north where there are laws on ground that says that any landowner must not sell any piece of land to anyone who wants to build a church or brothel? It is a law in some of the states in the north.
Can you imagine putting a church and brothel side by side? That means that you are comparing a church with the harlotâ€™s house. If any law like that comes out in the south, how would this people take it? I am not against Islam; I am not against these Muslims. I know good Muslims, men and women who are good Muslims with good hearts. We own Nigeria together; we want to work with them but these are the realities on ground. I am also putting this blame on all governors for not doing what they ought to do. I am ashamed that they are silent and not doing anything. They ought to make stronger moves and go to their colleagues and say this thing must stop. We ought to fight this from different angles.