President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Revd Samson Ayokunle, has said that killings across the country were as a result of moves to spread Sharia across the country as declared earlier by the leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau.Ayokunle who spoke exclusively with Saturday Sun in Abuja on the sideline of the celebration of Europe Day, declared absolute support to John Cardinal Onaiyekan’s recent statement that the way Christians mobilized against corruption in the 2015 presidential election, the Christendom is going to mobilize against continued corruption and insecurity in the 2019 election.
According to Ayokunle, “The problem is people taking laws into their hands; people becoming sick about religious ideas, mentally sick, thinking that they will by force, sweep over every place and convert everybody to their religion because Abubakar Shekau didn’t mince words about his intention. He said it loud and clear that his intention was to establish Sharia from the north to the south, to the Atlantic Ocean.”
Taking a swipe at the security agencies, Ayokunle said “The security agencies were not helpless, but they didn’t do their work as they ought to do. Why should they be helpless? Is it because they were not given weapons? Was it because they were not trained? They were trained, they were given weapons. But what we see which we have been talking about is complicity.”
Ayokunle spoke on this and plans by CAN to ensure that the right person is voted into the presidency in 2019, which he said, will be “somebody in the mind of God.” AIDOGHIE PAULINUS conducted the interview.
During the 2018 first plenary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in Abuja, you hinted that the Catholic Church would be returning to CAN. Have they returned fully?
Partially. Because they have joined us in the review of the constitution and that they didn’t do before. So, we are reviewing the new constitution together. Their promise was that they will be back fully when we finish with the constitution review because they believe that the new constitution will set the tone for the CAN of their dream.
Are you saying the CAN of their idea?
The CAN of their own dream and they feel is the ideal CAN.
What, in your understanding, led to that alienation in the first place?
It wasn’t alienation. It was because they didn’t want a misunderstanding that will blow out. Instead of being involved in rancour, they decided to step aside and then, they wrote what they wanted and we invited them and they came and we agreed that we would review the constitution and they said they will join in the review of the constitution. So, this happens in any human society.
Could it be that they didn’t like the direction the Ayo Oritsejafor-led CAN was heading to?
It was not about a personality. It is about the whole system itself, which they felt needed overhaul. The constitution that has been drafted since 1986 or thereabout needed a review. That was what happened.
The protest that CAN called for across the country in the wake of killings, how did you see the turnout? Were you pleased with it?
Quite pleased. That was the first time we will go to that extent and we did that because we cannot bear with bloodshed again. Bloodshed of innocent people and the government continues to promise that the security agencies are on top of issues and the next day, another one. If we are not careful, everybody will be eliminated. And somebody must be ready to speak for others.
Apart from that protest, what other actions do you hope to take?
Well, as things unfold, we will let you know. But we are praying. We are praying and we are also dialoguing with people, even dialoguing with government.
Are you also planning to give international dimension to it?
We have been drawing the attention of the international community to what is happening because Nigeria is an intrinsic part of the international community. If we have refugees increasing in Nigeria, it will not only affect the West African sub-region. Europe is very close to us; it will affect Europe. So, this is what we are saying. Before humanitarian crisis begins, the entire world must come to our aid to rescue this situation.
The problem is people taking laws into their hands; people becoming sick about religious ideas, mentally sick, thinking that they will by force, sweep over every place and convert everybody to their religion because Abubakar Shekau didn’t mince words about his intention. He said it loud and clear that his intention was to establish Sharia from the north to the south, to the Atlantic Ocean.
It seems that in the affected areas, the security agencies are helpless. Will you advise residents, particularly Christians, to defend themselves?
The security agencies were not helpless, but they didn’t do their work as they ought to do. Why should they be helpless? Is it because they were not given weapons? Was it because they were not trained? They were trained, they were given weapons. But what we see which we have been talking about is complicity.
So, General Danjuma was right?
Before Danjuma said that, you saw the paper I presented in Aso Rock in November 2017 when we met the president for the first time, that we are afraid of complicity because how can the insurgents who didn’t have formal military training be beating our security agencies who were well trained for their job; I mean, just like that as if they were clueless and they are still clueless. What of their intelligence service? Before these people will carry out their acts, why didn’t their intelligence unit reveal what was going to happen?
We talk of complicity again because of this situation of the Dapchi girls. Two weeks before Boko Haram struck in that school, the security agencies withdrew from that region. Was it not to give the Boko Haram safe passage? They took them away. Complicity again when they were to return the children; there was no interruption at all. They drove to the city. The girls came back with brand new bags as if they went on tour.
What do you think the government should do?
You also know what the government should do. They should be alive to their responsibility. And I have said it that they should not be campaigning for 2019 if they do not stop the bloodshed.
Is CAN coming out with a Christian presidential candidate in 2019?
No. We are not politicians, but we encourage Christians, called of God into politics to make themselves available in the service to their motherland because we believe that if God has called them, He has put what they will use to give Nigerians hope in them.
President Buhari got popular support in 2015. Will you say that the confidence reposed in him has been dashed?
Only the public can do that. I don’t know.
As we move towards the 2019 election, what is CAN planning to do?
We are already mobilizing, mobilizing in the sense of giving people political awareness. The Bible says my people perish for lack of knowledge. We have a population that is massive in this country, but we have not been taking advantage of that because of laissez faire attitude during the time of voting. People will not get voters card, they will not go and vote and bad leaders will be emerging. We must put a stop to that.
Is that move to vote out President Buhari in 2019?
It is to vote the right person in, somebody in the mind of God.
Cardinal Onaiyekan said that the way Christians mobilized against corruption in the 2015 presidential election, the Christendom is going to mobilize against continued corruption and insecurity in the 2019 election. Do you support that?
Absolutely! Will you not support that