In this interview with FRED ITUA, the Secretary General of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Musa Asake, says, in spite of the clamour for a president of northern extraction in 2015, Christians of that enclave “are solidly behind Jonathan.” He also took a swipe at Mallam Nasir el-Rufai for his recent utterances, maintaining that with the manner the former FCT minister has been approaching affairs of state, “I think psychiatrists should examine” him.The CAN scribe, among other issues, also described some of northern governors’ actions as religiously motivated.Excerpts:
Former FCT minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai in a recent interview, referred to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as the mouthpiece of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), how did the statement come to you?
I take his utterance as an insult. For him to take our leader and associate him with a political party is s total disrespect. It is not just an insult to our leader; it is also an insult to the Christian community in Nigeria. We cannot do that to the Muslims. I think psychiatrists should examine el-Rufai. The way he has been talking of recent is worrisome. I think he must tender an apology to the Christian body and our president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor in particular. We know that the PDP has its own spokesman. How then will el-Rufai say that? That is total disrespect. A true Muslim knows that he cannot just disrespect a religious leader like that. Enough is enough. He’s been saying a lot of things and we can no longer tolerate that.
The same el-Rufai allegedly tweeted some derogatory things about Jesus Christ some months back…
We responded to him then and also told him to shut his mouth. If it was a Christian that said something like that about Islam, this country would have gone up in flames. That tweet was deliberate. The man is so arrogant and opens his mouth wide.
The president of CAN, Oritsejafor revealed sometime last year that the Christian body would take Boko Haram to the International Criminal Court (ICC). We’ve not heard anything about it since then. What is the position of CAN right now on this?
As at the time our leader, Oritsejafor made that statement, you would agree that things were really bad in the country. We were helpless then because nobody was listening to us. But when the Federal Government went ahead and proscribed them, things became different. We’ve not abandoned the plan to take the case to ICC. We have to study the whole situation. The Federal Government has done a lot, even by declaring a state of emergency. We are both living witnesses to the fact that the killings have reduced. So, we are warning. We are supporting what the Federal Government is doing right now. We support them. Christians are not being killed anymore the way they used to kill them. We’ve not dropped the idea. We are praying for the security agencies.
The atrocities committed by the sect for which CAN wanted to take it to ICC are still there. Does that mean CAN is now going to overlook all that since there is a planned amnesty for the sect?
I am not saying that the atrocities will be overlooked. People are still being killed. If you look at it the way it was, things have slowed down. That was why I said we were watching. Our lawyers are studying the situation.
The president of CAN has openly declared that the proposed amnesty programme forBoko Haram members will fail. Judging by what you’ve said, does CAN still maintain that stand?
CAN has been very consistent since the Federal Government came up with that word, amnesty. We said ‘no’ from the very beginning. We said you cannot give amnesty to somebody you don’t know. Let them come out. We’ve never supported amnesty because you cannot give amnesty to people you don’t know. That was why when the committee on dialogue invited CAN, we said we were not going to talk to them. There were two reasons for that. The committee was given 90 days and it invited CAN towards the last week of its sitting. We felt it was an after-thought. If you look at the combination of the committee, out of over 20, only seven of them are Christians. We felt there will be no justice. So, for us to go and sit down and begin to talk to a committee that had already finished its work, was not fair. We Christians are the people who are being killed and whose churches are being destroyed. We didn’t understand. CAN has never considered amnesty at all.
The recent move by the Borno State government to demolish over 20 churches in the state has been described by many religious leaders as a ploy to islamise the region and possibly the country, by shutting down churches. What is CAN doing about that?
Everybody is entitled to his own opinion. In our office, we have a letter from the Ministry of Lands and Survey, Borno State. In that letter, they wrote, using the authority of the governor that they were going to remove the people living in that area. When we checked, we discovered that there are many churches there. These churches have about 600 acres of land. They have a school. That has a concern. They said they want to build a housing estate. These people they want to evict are fully settled. They were given the place a long time ago. For the state government just to come around and say that they want to demolish the churches, that raises some concern. We are not talking about islamisation. We are talking about fairness. There are 20 churches there. I can even give you the names of churches in that area.
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