By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The United States (US) has accused the Nigerian government of restraining religious freedom. On its own part, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has also supported this allegation. CAN claimed that Christians were becoming endangered species in their fatherland. The umbrella Christian organization also claimed lopsidedness in appointments under the Buhari administration.
However, a press statement issued by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has debunked the above allegations. The human rights organization faulted US democratic status and described its role in global matters as the height of double standard. The group also accused CAN of shedding crocodile tears. MURIC’s statement was signed by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
According to MURIC, “We see the mention of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) by the US as a smokescreen. IMN is not being denied freedom of worship. It is the excesses of the group that is being curtailed. Nobody stops them from worshipping but the government has a duty to protect the rest of Nigerians from actions of the group which undermine Allah-given fundamental rights of other citizens.
“We are not bothered by the US latest ranking of Nigeria as religiously biased. Has the US ever seen anything good about our country? Some foreign powers are always eager to discredit developing nations. It is a game mastered by imperialists. We can see the signs. Instead of breaking up in 2015 as predicted, Nigeria is waxing strong. The war against corruption is on course. Infrastructure is growing at a fast rate. Therefore, a spanner must be thrown at the works to justify forceful intervention and a grip on Nigerian oil.
“America should do some introspection. Those who claim to be the champion of democracy in the world cannot, in good conscience, beat their chests and say, ‘We have been fair to all’. America complains to Nigeria that Christians are being killed even when it is well known that Muslims are the greatest victims of the killings. America invited former CAN president to address Congress a few years ago. But no Muslim leader has ever been invited to the same platform. Yet America has been using the lies told before Congress to judge our country. Is this fair?
“Muslims of Southern Nigeria have been complaining of persecution for decades but America turned its deaf ears. America pretends nothing is happening to Nigerian Muslims even when the Muslim girl child is locked out of school over an ordinary head scarf which is even allowed in US schools.
“US human rights record outside Nigeria is even nothing to write home about particularly regarding its attitude to issues affecting Muslim nations and Muslims in general. Sanctions are used selectively against Muslim nations in order to weaken them militarily and economically. Israel is free to kill and maim Palestinian children while America uses vetoes to frustrate resolutions of the United Nations aganinst Israel. In fact, democracy is a sham if assessed against the backdrop of happenings in the UN where America alone can stop any decision made by the rest of the world. The US invaded Iraq without approval from the UN. So what moral right has America to judge other nations?
“If America is truly the world’s champion of democracy and the chief promoter of human rights, why is that country always silent each time Muslims are at the receiving end? More than 8,000 Muslims were massacred in the Bosnia genocide, particularly in Srebrenica and Zepa in 1995. What did America say? What did America do when Muslims were being killed in their hundreds in Myammar? Even right now hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims are being detained in Western Xinjiang, China, but America cannot be bothered. Since last week, Muslim demonstrators are being killed over anti-Muslim Indian citizenry laws but the White House is only interested in bullying Nigeria.
“Our message to CAN is this, allow America to set fire to your country and we can assure you that it is not the Muslims alone who will face turmoil. Our people say that when a hen perches on a rope, neither the hen nor the rope will enjoy stability. Whether to avoid foreign interference in your country and live in peace with your Muslim neighbours while you watch your children and grandchildren play peacefully in the garden or to open the doors wide for an army of occupation which will bring general pandemonium, the choice is yours.
“CAN should remember that religion or no religion, America’s national interest is America’s priority. America has no permanent friends. Neither should anyone blame Americans for loving their own country. The blame goes to those who open the doors of their country for foreign forces to support them in eliminating or, at least, in undermining their perceived rivals or oppressors.
“CAN has only manifested its naivety in modern international politics. The US has thrown religious persecution as a bait. Unfortunately CAN has swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. It is not the first time that America will fly a kite. What was America’s excuse for invading Iraq? Was it not weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? Was any WMD found at the end of the day? Did America apologise? Iraq’s infrastructure paid for it. It was completely demolished. But above all, Iraq’s oil paid for it and that was the real target ab initio.
“The same America is now talking of religious bias in order to create tension. If nothing like religious bias is found after Nigerians have killed themselves in their thousands, America will never apologise and we will be the suckers for it. CAN is free to bring in America. Afterall, if the heavens will fall, we are all under it. But history will remember our warning to CAN.
“CAN is simply playing to type. This is a group that does the hurting, yet it is always the first to scream. CAN aptly personifies the parable of the mischievous housewife who beats up the husband but screams for help. The only time neighbours bothered to check, they found the husband trembling in a corner, with the wife beating him with a huge stick.
“How can CAN start complaining now? All the Chiefs of Army Staff under Obasanjo were Christians from 1999 to 2007 (Victor Malu, Alexander Ogumudia, Martin Luther Agwai, Andrew Azazi and Paul Dike). Four out of the five chiefs of defence staff were also Christians while all the chiefs of naval staff were Christians and the Muslims did not complain. CAN did not talk at the time. How come CAN suddenly found its voice?
“Under President Goodluck Jonathan, Christians took all the sensitive security positions. The Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff were all Christians until January 2014 when a Muslim took over as Chief of Naval Staff. Not only that, the Director Generals of the State Security Services and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency were Christians. The Secretary to the Federal Government was a Christian. The Senate president and his deputy were both Christians under Jonathan but CAN had the temerity to demand that a Christian must head Senate under Buhari.
“CAN accuses President Muhammadu Buhari of appointing Muslims only whereas President Buhari shares the four sensitive military leadership positions among Christians and Muslims. We must expose CAN for deceiving the global community and for inciting its followers in the country. Check the records. These are verifiable facts. The Chief of Defence Staff is General Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin and he has been appointed since 13th July, 2015. He is still in that position. Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe is the Chief of Naval Staff. He was appointed by the same Buhari since 13th July, 2015. Only the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief of Air Staff are Muslims. That is 50 – 50. CAN is definitely lying. But the wind has blown. We have seen the ruff of the hen.
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).We appeal to discerning Christians not to allow CAN to set them against their own brothers. CAN is fully back as an unrepentant advocatus diaboli after a short interregnum. Only the truth can set you free.
“We charge compatriots to verify claims being made by either the US or CAN. We invite all Nigerians to manifest the well known African hospitality to every American or Western citizen as those individuals do not represent their countries’ tortuous diplomacy. We call on Muslims to continue to exhibit love and care for their Christian compatriots. We warn against CAN’s connivance with Western powers. It can only be a gang-up in iniquity.”