*says Nigeria not rife for allowing all to arm themselves
*escaping Kaduna Sharia crisis by the whiskers gave him new orientation
Today’s AUTHENTIC SUNDAY INTERVIEW features Reverend John Hayab is a Kaduna based Christian cleric of the Baptist Church. He is recognized nationally and internationally for his efforts at ensuring peaceful co-existence in Nigerian and African communities, which he does through active participation in more than 10 NGOs. In this interview with AUTHENTIC News Daily’s Editorial Team, he spoke on how he got involved in peace building, challenges and the way forward. He also spoke on the Southern Kaduna crisis, where coincidentally he hails from. Excerpts
You have a passion for peace building and preaching peaceful co-existence was it borne out of an encounter with conflict?
I was almost a victim of the Sharia Crisis in Kaduna. I was watching on the news and saw that my neighbours’ office a major car dealer, where he was the manager was burnt down so I went to console him in his house and he was shocked to see me and asked me ‘Pastor, why did you risk coming out”, because then I was not yet ordained a reverend. I then told him I was there to console him.
Within a short while, thugs stormed the compound and he took me and my wife and hid us in a room for I think about five hours, yet, the thugs insisted that he delivered me to them, so that I can be killed with my wife. Then I was just the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna North Secretary.
He then deceived them by telling them they needed to go and eat, offered them some money and while they went to eat, he came along with some elderly people and they escorted me and my wife who was heavily pregnant to the barracks.
We got to the Army barracks, which was already filled up with people running away from the crisis and fortunately for us, a woman took pity on us and offered us her room for goats, which she cleaned up for us.
I was actually worried about my first daughter, whom we could not pick up from school when the crisis started, so I checked everywhere, even the morgues to see if I could find her corpse because I had already lost hope that I could still find her alive.
Fortunately for me an officer told me that they did not hurt children, that I should check for her at the Air Force Base and thank God I found her there.
Though my daughter escaped, a pastor who preached in my church a week earlier was not so lucky as he was killed and his remains burnt. We found it difficult to identify his remains but for his head and legs, which we later used to identify him.
Similarly, in 2012, when I was the Kaduna State CAN Secretary, I was returning from a conference in Enugu where I represented Kaduna CAN. On entering the city, I learnt crisis had broken out as a result of a publication on a newspaper the previous day.
I managed to drive to Hayin Banki, where my family was then, and we went to safety.
So based on that, I have seen the ugly side of crisis and have made up my mind that I would always channel my energy into promoting peaceful co-existence because there can never be a gain from a religious fight. It is a fight that nobody wins; hence we have to do all within our powers to prevent such crisis.
What are the best ways to resolve crisis in the society as suggested by some of the NGOs you are working with?
We can always adopt non violent approaches. So that when we have differences, we can talk. Then we have the issue of those who are victims of violence they need trauma counseling. This is what NOVAD does. People that are victims, they may need help. Sometimes, we also have the challenge of proper data. When there is a conflict, we don’t have a correct data of what happened. Sometimes, what triggers or fuels more crisis is presenting a story that is not true. Presenting figures that are ambiguous, exaggerated. For example, there was crisis yesterday in Sabo, five people were killed or there was crisis this morning in Kawo, 10 people were killed. So total number of Sabo and Kawo, 15 people killed, 200 houses were destroyed.
Okay, so how do we address the people who lost their lives? How do we also address 200 people who sustained injuries etc? We don’t have that kind of data, what we have is someone would just wake up in his home and say ‘the crisis in Sabo, 500 people died. The crisis in Kawo, 1000 people died. You mean 1,500 people have been killed? That kind of figure raises more tension. This is what NOVAD wants to address. We will have a way of compiling data and preaching to people that we should have a non violent way of addressing issues.
And you know the Global Peace Foundation is primarily to remind people of human origin. We are all humans and one origin. It is all about educating people that we are all humans and brothers, you can’t start fighting your brother. If you fight me because I am a Christian, you are fighting your brother. We are all from one ancestor Adam, who had two sons, named one Cain and the other Abel.
He didn’t give them the same name. So if we all came from the same father, likely Abel became Muslim and Cain Christian, or Abel became Christian and Cain became Muslim depending on which direction you want to explain, then we start killing, yes of course it happened with them, but that is not the original plan that children of the same parents should fight.
Was it the original plan of God that people should fight? No, it was evil, it was lack of appreciation and lack of fear of God that led Cain to kill Abel, and so we can change the story. If today we embrace faith and say we are preaching God, how would people understand when they see us fighting? People of faith, I am not speaking of one faith, but all. So these are some of the motivating factors. I am not claiming that we can address all of humans problems. What I am saying is that we cannot just be talking one side war, war, war, lets also talk the other side peace be unto you that was what Jesus brought.
Lets come down home now I believe you are from Southern Kaduna some are advocating that the second amendment just like adopted in America stopped attacks and should be adopted here where everybody can carry arm to protect such attacks, do you agree with that, and if not, what do you think is the way out of the Southern Kaduna crisis?
Well you see people have different versions and understanding on the issue. The issue is of self defence is well defined in the constitution but the issue of carrying arms has some ambiguity and complications. The moment people start carrying arms how normally do they end.
After the killing and dethronement of Muammar Gadafi I remember I became worried that day I watched, when I saw people carrying arms if you check the archives of Deustche Wella Radio, I didn’t even wait for them to call me and they interviewed me and aired it. Where I spoke on the arms proliferation, questioning where they would end. Today we are all living witnesses.
Let’s also consider our level of education in Northern Nigeria. An uneducated, less informed, someone not well established, but has access to arms think about it. Also consider the way we live with the religious intolerance, if everybody has access to arms in Northern Nigeria, think of how it would be.
Look! It doesn’t have to be Muslims and Christians fighting, even among Muslims and Muslims and Christians and Christians they will start shooting one another when they have little issues. So those who think, second amendment, I have serious concerns about that. I don’t just have to say because they killed my brother then everything should spoil.
As we speak, I am in serious pains because one of the young girls that was killed on December 24, I know her parents and I know the dreams and plans her parents had for her. So I am in pains because it could also be my daughter. But I still don’t want my pains to lead me to demand for what is not tenable. As a Christian, I can be angry with you if you do things that I don’t like, but I am not sure if I had a gun I would shoot you.
I have a gun I now advocate that we should all have guns, but I don’t think I would use it. But someone else out there, anytime he puts his hand on the gun, he would pull the trigger. How do I do about him? He doesn’t think the way I do, s my request for second amendment has just helped him.
So anytime you want to ask for something, consider how it would be in the other man’s hand. So my fear about this is let’s assume it’s okay and we get it, how do we do with the other man? We have seen in this country, when politicians arm some young men for political reasons, how does it end? They end up terrorizing with it. Most of the time, they terrorise us even more than those that armed them and refused to pay them. After elections, those guns were supposed to be retrieved, but no, instead they terrorise us. For that reason, I would be careful to say let’s ask for this, let’s ask for these.
What I would advocate is, why are we fighting who is fighting, let’s go to the root of it. Because every crisis in the world ends up on a round table discussion. South Sudan had their time with Sudan. After the independence have they stopped fighting? So let’s go to a round table. Let’s not ask for what we cannot control. Let’s seek for ways that better understanding will come so that people can appreciate and value fellow humans life.
If you ask me, I go further to say, one of the reasons I don’t advocate this war I am losing valuable people and the person I think is killing me, doesn’t lose anything. If you walk to a village and kill 20, 30 people, probable five or 10 of them are graduates, or five 10 directors or assistant directors to recover the loss, it would take years of giving birth to a new child, educating the child, training him in the university before going through the rank of officer cadre, to the rank of director or assistant director. The person who is shooting you does not care about this.
Have you really gone out to see some of those behind these crisis, they are not really organized people.
But some say that they are being sponsored
Now they are being sponsored that is where you put government to the task. Who is sponsoring them? Just as I take measures against protecting my house from a thief, or an armed robber or criminality, if I take measures against you coming to steal my wrist watch or how to harm my family, I take measure not to allow you harm or cheat the community where I live, these are measures without making noise. If I take these are measures, why do we have vigilantes? Why do we have other forms of securing our communities?
Okay, if today they say people go to farms and they attack them, there are ways we can go to farm without being attacked. If he comes to attack us, we would be ready for him. It didn’t start with this time, it started, and we had that in the Bible, Nehemiah and others were building the walls, they had challenges at a time they had to challenge themselves as they were rebuilding. (To be continued)
Part two of the interview will be be published next Sunday