‘If injustice is not addressed, crises will persist in Nigeria’
The chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Adamawa State chapter, Bishop Stephens Dami Mamsa, in this interview with MANSUR ARAMIDE, faults Federal Government’s approach to security issues, lamenting that Nigerians’ sufferings are as a result of misrule. The prelate urged Nigerians to rise against any agitation to break the country.
• I Don’t Expect Much From New Service Chiefs, Says Mamsa
How would you assess security in Adamawa and Nigeria generally?
First, I have every reason to be interested in security situation in the country, particularly in Adamawa State, because I have been seriously affected by the activities of Boko Haram insurgents. I have lost a brother and relations to the insurgency. The whole of my local council was displaced between 2014 and 2015.
I think, so far, in the entire Nigeria, nowhere can be said to have perfect security. As far as we are concerned, the present government has failed us, because one of the key campaign promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari was to tackle insecurity. And, as you and I know, the situation we find ourselves today is the worst experience in this country’s history.
Life no longer has value. People now kill at will, are kidnapped without caution. Kidnappers collect ransom to spare victims and in some cases, they kill victims, even after collecting the ransom.
But, 10 years ago, the issue of kidnapping was non-existent, especially in northern Nigeria. It was completely foreign to us, but now, it has become more prevalent here in the north than any other part. The security situation is getting worse by the day.
Before, we used to complain that Northeast was the worst, in term of insecurity, but now, Northwest has taken the lead. This aside, Northwest is the President’s geopolitical zone and a lot of security chiefs are actually from there.
So, we can’t really understand what is happening. The President is aware of the situation around, but we don’t see any action being taken, nothing serious. The only thing we see is propaganda.
Imagine the number of schoolgirls being randomly kidnapped, as if it is a planned job. The trend now is to see people kidnapped for few days and released in new clothes, looking well taken care of.
We just don’t know what is happening. I am sure government is deeply involved; otherwise it ought to be more seriously handled. After all, we have been assisting sister African countries in this kind of battle.
But, here at home, our soldiers that used to be the best in Africa have become a disgrace to the country. It is embarrassing and disgraceful the kind of soldiers we have in this country. I think the leadership is actually responsible for the widespread insecurity in Nigeria.
With new service chiefs in the saddle, don’t you think insecurity will be addressed frontally?
The replacement was long overdue. The President ought to have effected the changes early last year, but he decided at his own convenience. Nobody expected he was going to change them when he did. People had already given up.
Moreover, this new set of people has always been there. For example, the Chief of Defence Staff worked in Maiduguri as theatre commander; the Chief of Army Staff also worked in Maiduguri as the theatre commander.
And, I heard that some of them were unfit, even to lead a team in Maiduguri. They were removed, but they are now in charge of security apparatus. I don’t expect any or much change from the new set of security chiefs.
How did we get where we are today on insurgency?
If the issue of Boko Haram had been taken seriously, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I was working in Maiduguri, when Boko Haram started rearing its head. When Mohammed Yusuf used to worship was less than 500 metres away from my church.
A lot of things were taken for granted. Mohammed Yusuf was arrested more than five times and taken to Abuja, but each time he returned, his members in their thousands would rally and receive him at the airport.
It was the same security that arrested him that released him. That means the security knew the dangers ahead long time ago, but no serious action was taken.
Even Borno State indigenes did not also show the much-needed commitment. Remember that even when the military were clamping down on Boko Haram, they were saying, ‘No, these are our children; these are our brothers.’
These were the positions taken in the beginning, but now that everyone has seen that Boko Haram does not discriminate in abduction and senseless killings, people are now taking them serious. Imagine Borno elders kicking against the military, when the latter were clamping down on the outlaws. I ask ‘who in Borno State is not either directly or indirectly affected by the activities of Boko Haram?’ Everybody is counting losses.
Since you have lost confidence in Federal Government’s efforts, would you support the agitation for dismemberment of the country?
Personally, whatever be the reason, I would still want Nigeria to be united. We just need to come together, discuss issues with solutions proffered, and we will be able to move forward. The major problem is that people are not ready to come together and face the reality.
Again, another glaring major problem is justice. Where there’s injustice, you will always find problems, and inasmuch as issues of justice are not addressed, we will continue to live in crises and problems.
How does justice relate to happenings in Nigeria?
The issue of justice is centered on control of Nigeria’s affairs. I am from the North, but I tell you that somebody like me will not be considered a Northerner by Northerners, because I am a Christian. It is as simple as that. Justice is not given to me, as it ought to.
Well, I can’t build my church everywhere I want. When it comes to appointment and they see my name as Peter, James or John, I am discriminated against. Even in terms of admission in schools; in terms of courses that are given. You know it is only here that James would score 300 in JAMB and still be denied admission to study Medicine at the University of Maiduguri, but Muhammed with 200 points would be granted admission for the same course in the same school.
These are some of the things people don’t want to talk about, but we have to talk about them for justice to prevail. We cannot continue going on in this fashion.
Are you then tilting towards the call by such regional agitators as IPOB?
The Southeast has not enjoyed any justice in any little way whatsoever. Even the IPOB we are talking about has not wreaked one-tenth of the havoc Boko Haram people have caused in this nation.
But, while IPOB was immediately declared terrorists, herdsmen killers roam about the entire country untouched till date.
I am not from the South, but the Southerners have been taking a lot of nonsense from the North for a very long time. Look at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Oil is from the South, but most people heading the corporation are from the North. What kind of injustice is that?
I make bold to say that if it had been the other way round, no Southerner would have reached the position of a director. The oil came from the South, but it is the North that handles important offices.
How then would you appraise regional agitation?
I would support any agitation that fosters a better Nigeria. Any call that will make Nigeria stronger has my support, though not the agitation that will break it.
The way out is to separate religion from politics. Nigeria is a secular state; Nigeria first before religion.
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