The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said that it is not true that Boko Haram insurgency has claimed the lives of more Christians than Muslims.
He argued that the contrary was the case, insisting that “90 per cent” of deaths from attacks by the terrorists were Muslims.
Buhari gave his position in an op-ed published in Speaking Out, a guest opinion column for Christianity Today, a United States-based magazine.
The op-ed was a tribute to the Michika Local Government Area Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Adamawa State, the late Pastor Lawan Andimi.
The cleric was executed by Boko Haram. The op-ed was titled, “Buhari: Pastor Andimi’s faith should inspire all Nigerians.”
Buhari in the op-ed said it was not true that Christians were the primary targets of Boko Haram insurgents.
The President of CAN, Reverend Supo Ayokunle, had in Ibadan on Sunday, urged Buhari to rise up to his responsibility of protecting lives and property in the country.
Citing the killing of Andim and a student of the University of Maiduguri, Ropvil Dalyep, he said there was no doubt that the Boko Haram insurgents were targeting Christians.
Reacting to the notion that Boko Haram targeted only Christians, Buhari disagreed, urging Nigerians to see the insurgents as common enemies they must team up to fight collectively.
He also wrote that since he assumed office in 2015, his regime had not relented in fighting the insurgents, adding that to a large degree, the insurgents had been weakened by the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Buhari wrote, “Boko Haram are no longer one, unified threat, but fractured into several rivals. These splinters are themselves degraded: reduced to criminal acts which—nonetheless no less cruel—target smaller and smaller numbers of the innocent. We owe thanks to the Nigerian defence forces, bolstered by our partnership with the British, American military and other countries that we are winning this struggle in the field.”
Stop blaming other religion for Boko Haram attacks, Buhari tells CAN, others
He stated that the weakened Boko Haram groups had resorted to pitting Christians against Muslims.
The President urged both Christian and Muslim leaders to stop blaming other religions for attacks and killings by the insurgents.
He stated, “Sadly, there is a tiny, if vocal, minority of religious leaders—both Muslim and Christian—who appear more than prepared to take their bait and blame the opposite religious side. The terrorists today attempt to build invisible walls between us. They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one from another – to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.”
He admitted that the war against the insurgents had not been won completely, but stated that Christianity was not under attacks in Nigeria.
Buhari stated, “Christianity in Nigeria is not – as some seem intent on believing – contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today. Nor is it the case that Boko Haram is primarily targeting Christians: not all of the Chibok schoolgirls were Christians; some were Muslims, and were so at the point at which they were taken by the terrorists.
“Indeed, it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims: they include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate; shootings inside mosques; and the murder of two prominent imams. Perhaps it makes for a better story should these truths, and more, be ignored in the telling.
“It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination. And at this point, when they are fractured, we cannot allow them to divide good Christians and good Muslims from those things that bind us all in the sight of God: faith, family, forgiveness, fidelity, and friendship to each other.”
Paying tribute to the late CAN chairman in Adamawa State, the President recalled the clergy man’s sacrifices and good work as a Christian leader, noting that his lifestyle and faith in God should inspire all Nigerians.
President’s statement provocative – CAN
But CAN reacted angrily to the President’s assertion that 90 per cent of Boko Haram victims were Muslims. It said the Buhari regime was playing international politics with lives of its citizens.
CAN’s Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “The Christian Association of Nigeria notes with pains President Buhari’s unfounded, false, provocative and misleading assertion that 90% of Boko Haram victims are Muslims. On reading this misleading and provocative statement coming from the number one citizen of the country, one will hardly doubt that the President understands the difference between the real victims and perpetrators of the heinous crime against the Church and humanity.
“No wonder the Boko Haram is getting more attention from the FG in the name of rehabilitation and de-radicalization than the victims who lost their lives, loved ones and living in the internally displaced persons’ camps.”
He said it was disappointing to hear the President justify which of the two religions was suffering more from attacks of the terrorists.
Samuel asked, “Are we into any competition with the number of the victims? Is there any life that should not be precious to Mr. President.
Muslim victims: Bring your records, CAN challenges Buhari
“What is the source of the President’s records? He should bring out his records with figures and the Christians will present theirs! Is he calculating the figures brandished by security chiefs as victims killed by Boko Haram; killed during operations? We are so sure that even if the President combines the number of Muslim victims plus the number of the terrorists killed by the army, it cannot be up to half the number of the Christian victims of the insurgents.”
Samuel said Boko Haram from the outset did not hide their mission. “The sole purpose of Boko Haram is the killing of Christians and Islamisation of Nigeria,” he added.
Boko Haram has wiped out Christian communities in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe
Citing examples, Samuel stated, “Boko Haram has wiped away all Christian communities in most local governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe to mention but a few. Almost all the Christian communities in Northern states have fallen victims to the insurgents.
“What about the repeated attacks on Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and most of the states of the Middle Belt? On attacks on mosques and Muslims, it’s true that some Muslims have fallen victims to Boko Haram, but those victims are few Muslims who speak against the activities of Boko Haram.”
He also faulted Buhari on the issues of Chibok and Dapchi girls, who were abducted by Boko Haram.
Samuel asked, “Is it not surprising to the President that the Chibok girls who were abducted many years ago have yet to be found and returned as he promised Nigerians?
“Yet, the Dapchi girls who were abducted within his regime have since been returned with the exception of Leah Sharibu, who was retained because of her faith?
“Nigerians need to know if they have not known the reason why the Presidency could not pay ransom to rescue Chibok girls. It is because 80% to 90% of the girls are Christians. The reason why Dapchi girls’ ransom was quickly paid and they were returned is the discovery that most of the girls were Muslims except Leah Sharibu who is still in captivity.”
“It’s very sad that instead of the government to apologise to Christians and Nigerians on their inability to defend their lives and property, they are busy playing international politics with the lives of the citizens.”
Buhari’s claims indisputable – JNI
The Secretary General of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar led Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Dr. Abubakar Khalid -Aliyu said claims by the President could not be disputed.
The JNI secretary said, “That 90% of victims of Boko Haram are Muslims and that Boko Haram is not targeting Christians are statements of truth that can’t be disputed because Muslims who engage in the pursuit of Western education are mostly their target. It is not a hidden secret that Muslims are the greater victims of Boko Haram insurgency. If they are targeting Christians, then, they will be pursuing Christians all over the place.”
On the assertion of CAN that the Presidents claims were provocative, Aliyu said, “I think when people make statement, they should think of what to say first. The thing is that religious leaders should live above board rather than to be parochial. Go to the IDP camps and count the numbers of those who are there and see who suffered most.”
But the Secretary General of the apex Northern socio-political group, Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr Anthony Sani, backed the President, saying Boko Haram was not targeting Christians.
The ACF secretary, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “That is a known fact that most of Boko Haram sects are not only Muslims but are also people from the North- East.The same with their victims most of whom are Muslims and from the North-East.
“The sect does not target only Christians but also Muslims whom they consider are not willing to adhere to their version of Islam. We all know Boko Haram is not pursuing any jihad but in search of mundane things like political power.”
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group Afenifere, said the government should be looking for ways to stop the killings instead of rationalising them.
The group’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, recalled that Buhari promised to ensure the protection of Nigerians when he was campaigning for office in 2015.
He noted, “How could the President who was talking about competence some years back; who promised to secure Nigerians could now be telling us after five years that Boko Haram has killed more Muslims than Christians? How does that sound in the ear?”
On its part, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said Buhari should have been thinking of resigning instead of giving statistics of those killed by Boko Haram and their religions.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Achi-Okpaga, in an interview with The PUNCH, asked, “Why is he giving us instances of those who have been killed? What we are saying is to stop the killings. The government has the capacity to stop them but the body language of the Federal Government is showing otherwise.”