By IBRAHIM DAHIRU DANFULANI
There is no doubt that the spiritual to a large extent, plays a big role in whatever happens in the physical realm.
And with the complexity of the fight against terrorism, Nigeria needs a lot of authentic religious education, counter narratives and prayers, done through spiritual warfare, to complete the successes recorded in the fight against terrorism.
That more prominent voices from the clergy, lawyers and ordinary Nigerians are beginning to key into the need for counter extremism/radicalization and prayers, shows that we might just be getting to the end of ugly episodes of criminality expressed through insurgency or terrorism.
The chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai in his wisdom, inspired for the Army on Monday 30th September 2019, a Spiritual Warfare Seminar with the theme, ‘Countering Insurgency and Violent Extremism in Nigeria through Spiritual Warfare’, at the Nigerian Army Resource Center, Asokoro, Abuja.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, was represented at the occasion by the Chief of Administration at Army headquarters, Maj General MS Yusuf.
Speaking to participants which included some religious leaders in Abuja, Directors of Chaplain Services Roman Catholic and Protestant as well as Islamic Affairs of the Army, and other Chaplains and Imams drawn from all Army formations, units and operations theatres across the country, the COAS said there was need for religious leaders, families and groups to join the fight against terrorism, and other security challenges through spiritual means by reorienting the people against warped and senseless ideologies.
He said, “It is easier to defeat Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists than their ideology because while we degrade the terrorists and their havens, the narrative of the ideology grows the group”.
“Therefore, communities, families and groups should join in the fight and narratives to reject and prevent the ideologies of the terrorists and extremist groups.
“Religious bodies and organizations in particular who interface regularly with the grassroots should be in the forefront of this spiritual battle and fashion out ways of stepping up their roles.
Lt. Gen TY Buratai added, “The fight against terrorism, against BHT and ISWAP as well as other security threats cannot be left to the troops in the battlefield alone. Yes we will do out duties but the need to tackle terrorists through spiritual warfare and reorientating the followers against the ideology is also a necessity”
Architect Abu Jabir Abdullahi Penabdul delivered a lecture on the Islamic Perspective of tackling and containing the activities of violent extremists through Islamic injunction according to the Holy Quran while Very Rev Dr Uche Obodoechina delivered the lecture on countering insurgency and violent extremism, through the preachings and teaching of Biblical/Christian injunctions.
That seminar, is beginning to yield tremendous results, with the recent trending video of popular Christian cleric, Apostle Johnson Suleiman who in a widely circulated video exposed plans of the terrorists and was optimistic that prayers will thwart same.
Excerpt of the video recording where apostle Suleiman said, – “Many soldiers are dying daily. God told me that Boko Haram are planning for black Christmas, I was asking the Lord what does that mean, the Lord said that’s not your business you need to pray for our soldiers in the North East pray for them against their enemies.”
Prior to that, a well attended Borno Spiritual Workshop brought to the fore hopes of a long term solution to the insurgency, through changing the mind set of potential recruits and even brainwashed followers of terrorist groups like Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa province and others alike.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, at the Borno Spiritual Workshop, advocated for proper religious education and enlightenment to counter insurgency and violent extremism in the country.
Buratai at the one-day seminar organized by the Nigerian Army for community and religious leaders on countering narratives of terrorism and violent extremism. which had as its theme: “Countering Insurgency and Violent Extremism in Nigeria through Authentic Religious Enlightenment,” was organized by the Nigerian Army Directorate of Chaplain Services and Islamic Affairs.
Buratai, represented by Brig Gen S.G Mustafa, the Director of Islamic Affairs, said that religious and community leaders had a greater role to play in imparting correct, – not distorted religious knowledge on the people to change the narratives of the terrorists’ ideology.
He said that the Directorate of the Chaplain Services, which included the Protestant, Roman Catholic and Islamic Religious Affairs, were and are at the forefront of enlightening the people on the dangers of violent extremism and its attendant consequences.
In continuation of the noble efforts, the seminar is aimed at producing appropriate narratives to defeat the wrong religious ideologies used by the terrorists and insurgents’ groups to recruit and indoctrinate their followers in the society.
“It is a fall-out of the initial programme of counter narratives conducted in 2018, which generated enthusiasm from leaders in Borno State.
Due to the fact that Boko-Haram terrorism is ideological in nature, there is the need for intellectual discourses to counter extremist ideology by engaging them.
“The seminar will bring to the fore, the urgent need for our spiritual leaders in the Nigerian Army and civil organizations, to come up with modalities and framework through counter narratives in countering terrorism and wrong or warped religious ideologies,” he said.
Buratai added that the seminar would avail Islamic clerics and clergy, the opportunities to identify religious ethos that would bring the faiths together to promote tolerance, peace, understanding, unity, national cohesion and sustainable development.
The army chief commended Borno State Government, community and religious leaders over their support to the counter-terrorism efforts and the de-radicalization process.
On his part, Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno called for prayers to help the military triumph in its campaign against insurgency, banditry and other criminality in the country. He enjoined religious leaders to rise to the occasion by preaching against the terrorists’ ideology and the unwarranted killings and destruction across the nation.
In line with the persistent calls of the Chief of Army Staff, Zulum, who was represented by Alhaji Galadima Zanna, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Religious Affairs, said such counter narratives, authentic preaching, enlightenment and prayers were/are imperative to end insurgency, terrorism and restore peace in the country.
While lauding the military over the successes recorded in the counter- insurgency campaign and peace restoration process, Zulum pledged continued support to the military.
Following criticism from a few who misunderstood Buratai’s call for prayers a well respected lawyer, Emmmanuel Osuagwu Ugochukwu had slammed such critics, describing them as mischievous.
The Civil Rights Lawyer in a statement issued on October 1, 2019, explained that the Chief of Army Staff’s call for prayers is a good one, in view of its potentials of completely ending insurgency.
In his patriotic statement, the lawyer said, “My attention has been dawn to a sensational headline in THE PUNCH NEWSPAPER publication of October 1, 2019 titled “Knocks as Buratai seeks prayers to defeat Boko Haram”.
“According to the PUNCH NEWSPAPER , “The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said terrorism and terrorist groups could not be eliminated alone by the military unless religious bodies and organisations in the country come to the ‘forefront of the spiritual battle.’ According to the PUNCH, Buratai stated these on Monday in Abuja at a spiritual warfare seminar at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, with the theme, ‘Countering insurgency and violent extremism in Nigeria through spiritual warfare.’
“Now, if not for mischief, how does the headline justify the goal of the seminar organized by the Nigerian Army yesterday? How does the entire speech of the Army Chief amount to seeking prayers to fight a physical war as portrayed by the PUNCH?
“The speech by the Army Chief, though represented by the CHIEF OF ARMY ADMINISTRATION Major Gen S.M YUSUF, never in anyway suggested using spiritualism to fight insurgency in the war front. Rather The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, called on religious leaders to support the Nigerian Army in eradicating ideologies fueling insurgency in the country.
“What the Army Chief stated clearly was that aside eliminating the insurgents in the battlefield their ideologies must also be killed spiritually. Ideology is not a physical realm , it is a thought process and you do not kill ideas or ideology by physical war.
“In essence, the PUNCH PUBLICATION of OCTOBER 1, 2019 was an attempt to portray the Army Chief as suggesting the use of spiritualism in the actual battle field and thus try to tarnish his image.
“Nigerians are urged to ignore the unpatriotic and sensational headline of PUNCH NEWSPAPER as no where in the entire speech did the Army Chief suggest that spiritual method will now be used to fight in the battle field. Such publications are thus misleading.”
From such developments, it is clear that the Nigerian Army is blessed with a patriotic and visionary leader, poised at ensuring the total defeat of insurgency, that will leave Nigeria peaceful, prosperous and the envy of others.
All other religious leaders should emulate Apostle Suleiman Johnson and pray fervently for our nation, educate their followers against extremist/terrorist ideology because without security and peace, there won’t be meaningful progress and development.