Harris Dousemetzis Wins Fage & Oliver Prize

Published Saturday 12.09.20

This year’s ‘Fage & Oliver African Studies Association UK Prize has been awarded to Harris Dousemetzis, the author of The Man Who Killed Apartheid: The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas.

Announcing the award, Jacana Media, the organizers of the Award and South African-based rights group said it was thrilled by the thoroughness of the jury and its decision.

“Chaired by Ray Bush, Professor of African Studies and Development Politics, University of Leeds, the jury found this to be a gripping book based on ten years of solid research,” Jacana said in a statement released at the weekend.

The statement quoted Professor Bush describing the book as “a tour de force of investigative, analytical rigour in righting one of the injustices perpetuated by apartheid.”

Speaking on behalf of the jury, Bush further described Harris Dousemetzis to have aptly documented “the political commitment of Dimitri Tsafendas in his assassination of the architect of apartheid, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd on 6 September 1966.”

He stated further: “The government of South Africa covered up the assassin’s motivation as one of mental illness, fearing political backlash for implementing apartheid. Dousemetzis, however, details the life of Tsafendas, a communist who was committed to racial, economic and social equality.  He became South Africa’s longest serving prisoner, who was subjected to inhumane conditions of confinement and torture, dying at the age of 81 after 33 years of incarceration.

"Harris Dousemetzis has written an accessible biography of Tsafendas that transcends the academic monograph. He highlights the life and times of apartheid, employs transnational historical evidence and in so doing, indicates the book’s contemporary relevance and significant contribution to African Studies. This is a captivating and hypnotising book, a fabulously worthy winner of the 2020 Fage and Oliver ASAUK book prize."

In accepting the prize, Dousemetzis said that he dedicated the award to Justice Jody Kollapen, Professor John Dugard, Advocate George Bizos, Attorney Krish Govender, Justice Zak Yacoob and Advocate Dumiza Ntsebeza.

Harris Dousemetzis is a professor of Politics. He lectures at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, England.




Osun, Lagos, Others Reopen Schools; ASUU Kicks


OSUN State Government on Monday announced that September 21, 2020; had been tentatively set for the reopening of schools in the state.

The State’s Information and Civic Orientation Commissioner, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, who made the announcement in a statement, said the government had conducted an assessment of the situation before arriving at the decision.

“Having conducted an assessment of schools within the State to ascertain the level of preparations for reopening, the government has scheduled schools to resume from the COVID-19 break on September 21st for an abridged third term of the 2019/2020 academic session, which is expected to end on October 30, 2020.

“To make up for lost grounds caused by the COVID-19 induced lockdown, a new academic session (2020/2021 session) is scheduled to commence on November 9, 2020.”

“Because of the Yuletide, schools will be expected to take a brief recess from December 24, 2020, to resume on January 4, 2021, for the concluding part of the first term of the new session which is scheduled to end January 22, 2021,” the statement said.

She enjoined other stakeholders such as parents and healthcare providers to continue to put protocols in place towards the reopening of schools in accordance with the guidelines set by the Federal Ministry of Education.

In a similar development, Anambra State University, has concluded registration of students and courses for a new semester which began a fortnight ago.

Our correspondent who visited the two campuses said all levels except Medicine and those on Industrial Training (IT) outside the campuses have resumed.

Also, the Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun (SAN) while speaking on Eko 89.7 fm Radio programme on Monday, disclosed that following the announcement by the Lagos State Government, students of the university would resume in batches.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, earlier on Saturday, announced that tertiary institutions in the state would reopen from September 14th, 2020, while primary and secondary schools might reopen on September 21.

According to Fagbohun, “a gradual phasing has been done for our students’ resumption. Students in 400 to 600 levels would resume for a duration of two months with an intensive lecture starting from 9am to 3pm for those that reside off-campus.

“After the completion of 400 to 600 levels’ resumption, students in 200 and 300 levels are to resume for a two-month lecture before the commencement of their examinations.

“Resumption of the students in 200 and 300 levels is divided into different days of the week.

“On Mondays and Wednesdays, 300-level students would be on campus for lectures. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, 200-level students would be on campus. This is in order to maintain social distancing and to protect the lives of the students of Lagos State University and the staff.

“In line with the NCDC requirement for medical facilities, LASU has a COVID-19 team to keep the university on toes in ensuring compliance.

“Isolation places have been provided in the University. With the prepared roadmap, LASU is prepared to accommodate students and visitors.”

Fagbohun further disclosed that the varsity had concluded its online examination for post-graduate students.

It is not clear when the federal varsities will reopen. Though Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently cautioned against reopening saying facilities in the universities do not encourage such reopening, observers said ASUU was being partisan, dishonest and unrealistic on issues affecting tertiary institutions in the country.




US Suspends Military Aids To Mali


THE United States of America on Friday suspended military aid to Mali after a group of rebel military officers seized power and placed the West African country’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, under arrest.

There will be “no further training or support of the Mali armed forces — we have halted everything until we can clarify the situation,” the US special envoy for the Sahel, J. Peter Pham, told reporters.

“It’s not clear which forces are involved in the mutiny, who is involved specifically, where loyalties lie,” he said.

On Tuesday, mutinying troops seized the country’s elected but unpopular 75-year-old president, Keita.

They forced him to announce his resignation and unveiled a junta that would rule until a “transitional president” takes over.
Pham said the US government, which is particularly concerned about Islamist jihadists carrying out attacks in the country, was in contact with the junta, which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.

“These contacts are operational,” Pham said.

“They do not imply recognition but acknowledgment that these people are to a certain degree in control of certain things.”

The takeover — Pham avoided the term “coup” — “is certainly not going to help,” he said, as the United States and other countries work together with the Malian military to combat Al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups conducting attacks in the region.

Washington currently provides surveillance and logistical support for French troops in the country conducting operations against the extremists.

He reiterated the US demand that Keita be released, noting his age and poor health.

“He is the legitimately elected head of state,” Pham said.



COVID-19: New Guidance For Testing, Evaluating

By Diana Ernst, RPh


THE American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the guidance for evaluation of persons under investigation for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), expanding the criteria to a wider group of symptomatic patients. As more diagnostic testing becomes available, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs/symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested.
  • Decisions for testing should be made on local epidemiology of COVID-19, as well as the clinical course of illness (most patients with confirmed COVID-19 have developed fever and/or symptoms of acute respiratory illness).
  • Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness (e.g. influenza).
  • Priorities for COVID-19 testing may include: 
    • Hospitalized patients who have signs/symptoms compatible with COVID-19 in order to inform decisions related to infection control.
    • Other symptomatic individuals such as, older adults (≥ 65 years) and individuals with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease).
    • any persons, including healthcare workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, or a history of travel from affected geographic areas (China, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea) within 14 days of symptom onset.  

In a recent press statement, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD provided an update on the current state of diagnostic testing for COVID-19. As of March 7th, the CDC has shipped tests to public health laboratories sufficient to test roughly 75,000 people, with labs in areas of highest need receiving additional tests. In addition, 1.1 million tests, manufactured by Integrated DNA Technologies, have been shipped to nonpublic health labs and another 400,000 are expected this week. According to Hahn, other manufacturers are also scaling up production which could mean an additional 4 million tests by the end of next week. 

“A very important point I want to make here is about the reporting of numbers,” said Hahn. “The actual number of tests that have shipped is larger than the number of patients that can be tested. With current estimates (and this could change), 2.1 million tests would roughly translate to 850,000 Americans being able to undergo testing.” Hahn noted that once the tests are received, labs will need to verify the tests and train staff; the number of tests that can be run will also vary based on the size of the lab.  

SOURCE: Renalandurologynews




Diarrhea As Initial Symptom of COVID-19


GASTROINTESTINAL (GI) symptoms were reported to be the chief complaint in nearly half of patients diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to the findings of a cross-sectional study conducted by the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 in China.

The study, which was recently published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, analyzed data on 204 patients (107 men, 97 women) who were diagnosed with COVID-19 at 3 different hospitals in Hubei province between January 18, 2020 and February 28, 2020. The average age of the patients was 54.9 years (SD +15.4).

Findings of the study revealed that the time from symptom onset to hospital admission was significantly longer in patients with GI symptoms vs those without them (9.0 days versus 7.3 days, respectively). “This may indicate that patients presenting with digestive symptoms sought care later because they did not yet suspect COVID-19 in the absence of respiratory symptoms, like cough or shortness of breath,” the authors stated. 

The study also showed that patients experienced a variety of GI symptoms, including anorexia (83.8% of cases), diarrhea (29.3% of cases), vomiting (0.8% of cases), and abdominal pain (0.4% of cases). Seven patients reported experiencing GI symptoms but had no respiratory symptoms. 

Several associations between the presence of GI symptoms and the severity of COVID-19 were also observed during the study. One finding of the analysis showed that GI symptoms became more pronounced as the severity of COVID-19 increased. Another finding revealed that patients with GI symptoms were less likely to be cured and discharged compared to patients without GI symptoms (34.3% vs 60%, respectively). 

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Brennan M.R. Spiegel, MD, MSHS, FACG, Co-Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Gastroenterology, stated, “In this study, COVID-19 patients with digestive symptoms have a worse clinical outcome and higher risk of mortality compared to those without digestive symptoms, emphasizing the importance of including symptoms like diarrhea to suspect COVID-19 early in the disease course before respiratory symptoms develop.”

According to the study authors, it is imperative that healthcare providers strongly consider GI symptoms as a potential presenting feature of COVID-19 in at-risk patients. This, in turn, could potentially lead to faster diagnosis and treatment of patients who may initially only present with extrapulmonary symptoms

Pan L, et al. Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients with digestive symptoms in Hubei, China: a descriptive, cross-sectional, multicenter study. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 10.14309/ajg.0000000000000620.
SOURCE: https://www.gastroenterologyadvisor.com/






President Buhari, Deep In Religious Crises


By Pius Odiaka

IT seems beyond controversy that Nigeria as a country tolerates religious persecution, whereas the recent US listing of the country among practicing countries is unacceptable to the federal government and Islamic authority in the country, while Christian groups continue to uncover episodes of such persecution.

In its announcement on December 18, the US Department of State included Nigeria in its 'Special Watch List' for governments which engage in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) reacted, backing the listing with some instances, while warning that “discrimination against Christians can result in another civil war which Nigeria may not survive.”

Sultan Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar 111 of Sokoto, who doubles as the president-general of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, reacted saying “if such persecution really exist”, it ought to have been “tabled at the interfaith forum where Muslims and Christians leaders meet periodically to discuss issues that would promote harmonious coexistence between (faithful of) the two religions.”

The Sultan of Sokoto, who spoke, Tuesday December 24, at the closing ceremony of 77th annual Islamic Vacation Course organized by the Muslim Society of Nigeria (MSSN) at Bayero University in Kano, dismissed CAN's claim, noting that though there had been violent crimes allegedly committed by armed Fulani herders, “not all Fulanis are Muslims.”

In a typical ethnic-religious conflict in the country, CAN reacted,  saying the Sultan ought to have maintained silence as he did during genocide and killings of Christians in parts of Nigeria.

In a statement issued by its director of legal and public affairs, Samuel Kwamkur, CAN cited among others the invasion of churches and execution of 11 worshippers on Christmas Day; the killings of Priests and invasion of churches in Southern Kaduna, Taraba and Benue; the beheading of an early hour preacher on duty in Abuja by the operatives of Islamic State in West African Province; besides the continued captivity of Leah Sharibu, a kidnapped teenager, on the basis of her refusal to denounce her faith.

Another glaring case include the murder of Eunice Olawale, a Nigerian Christian female preacher, who was murdered by suspected Islamic extremists in the early hours of July 9, 2016. She was on morning cry when she was murdered.
David Tamko, a Catholic priest, was ambushed, killed and burnt at Kufai Amadu in Takum Council area of Taraba State on Thursday August 29, 2018 while on a peace mission.

Part of the statement issued by CAN on Saturday December 28 reads:
“It was painful reading in the media that the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa'ad Abubakar III, said there was no case of Christian persecution in the country where Christians are being killed on a daily basis and their landed property confiscated.

“It would have been better if the Sultan had remained quiet the way he did when those killings were taking place.

“According to a highly respected organization, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, a British non-profit organization run by a member of the British House of Lords, Baroness Cox, no fewer than 1000 Christians were killed by the Fulani herdsmen this year alone while about 6000 have been killed since 2012 and 12000 displaced. If this is not persecution, what is it?

“If those who were responsible for the genocide in the Middle Belt were Fulani atheists 'whose main interest is to protect their cattle,' what stopped him (Sultan) from condemning the unprecedented genocide?

“By the way, if Fulani atheists took it upon themselves to be killing Christians the way they did in Benue, Southern Kaduna and Plateau, will it still not be called Christian persecution? Do the Fulani atheists have the right to kill people the way they did and are still doing in some states?”

However, it has been subjective associating the killing of Reverend Father David Tanko with Islamism. For instance, after the incidence, the chairman of the Kufai Adamu council area of Taraba, Shiban Tikari, associated the killing with ethnicity, alleging that the Reverend Father was killed by Tiev militias, whom he also alleged were responsible for many other attacks in Taraba.

Late Reverend Tanko was on his way to Takum for a peace meeting with his fellow clergymen on how to resolve the lingering crisis between Tiev and the Jukun in the state.

Again, last year's January 11 killing of 73 people in Gaambe, Ayilamo, Turan and Umenga communities of Benue State was blamed on Fulani herdsmen who allegedly carried out the attack while protesting against the anti-open grazing law in the state.

There have been such similar attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen, not associated with Islam.
Amidst the confusion, President Muhammadu Buhari recently seemed to have dissociated Islam from the Christmas Day' s execution of 11 Christian hostages by a terrorist group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

In a statement issued by his senior media aide, Garba Shehu, President Buhari lamented the activities of Islamists in Nigeria, while calling on Nigerians to avoid division along religious leanings, which unfortunately, though, has been the true situation.

The statement reads in part:
“I am profoundly saddened and shocked by the death of innocent hostages in the hands of remorseless, godless, callous gangs of mass murderers that have given Islam a bad name through their atrocities.

“We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don't represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world.

“As a President, the collective security of all Nigerians is my major preoccupation and the death of an innocent Christian or Muslim distresses me”.

“No true Muslim would be shouting 'Allahu Akbar' while killing innocent people, an evil frequently condemned by the Holy Qur'an.''

“These agents of darkness are enemies of our common humanity and they don't spare any victim, whether they are Muslims or Christians; and therefore, we shouldn't let them divide us and turn us against one another.

“The goal of these psychopaths is to cause confusion and spread distrust between Muslims and Christians, despite the fact that they aren’t representing the interest of Muslims or Islam.

“While I condemn this evil, I wish to reassure Nigerians that this administration will not lower its guards in the war against terrorism, and we will continue to intensify our efforts towards strengthening international cooperation and collaboration to break the backbone of these evil doers''.

In a similar concern on Tuesday December 24, while receiving Letters of Credence of United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, Buhari lamented that the recent listing of Nigeria for human rights abuse created an impression that some groups in the country were being unfairly treated or marginalized.

“I know that those with access have created an impression of being marginalized.

“I sit here with a clear conscience. I took an oath and I am honouring the office,'' Buhari is quoted to have said.

“It is not an easy task to work for the unity of the country, and I am doing my best. During your stay in the country I am asking you to ensure that your sources of strategic information cut across,'' he appealed.

Observers and critics however noted that cases of human rights abuse in Nigeria in the past four years have been worse since 1999 when the country returned to democracy. Sometimes, certain incidents appear organized.

For instance, Premium Times edition of June 9, 2017 reported that 11 months after the murder of Eunice, the police could not establish any arrest. Its online edition quoted the then police spokesman, Moshood Jimoh, to have said that the police “cannot manufacture suspect.”

Whereas shortly after the murder on July 9, 2016, the Federal Capital Territory Police Command was quoted to have said it arrested some suspects allegedly involved in the murder; adding that their confessions were considered helpful in the investigations into the matter.

“We have made some arrests and they are helping in our investigation,” Premium Times quoted former spokesperson for the FCT police command, Manzah Anjuguri to have said at the time.
Some of such official complicities give the impression that the government does not only tolerate religious persecution, but also encourages it.

Nigeria, no doubt, is polarized by religion and ethnicity. In most cases, regional and religious leaders react subjectively along cleavages. For instance, President Buhari is constantly accused of “looking the other way” each time Fulani herdsmen allegedly commit heinous crime in the country.

In like manner, most political leaders in parts of the country are also believed to be using such cleavages in their campaigns for the actualization of personal ambitions.



Jesus as God, creator of heaven and earth?


IT sounds odd and unbelievable that someone born of a woman is said to have been the God which created the universe in which he once operated as a human. From the time of William Marion Braham, the Canadian prophet in the mid 1950s to the present, it has remained a controversy.

Traditional View
The traditionalists, largely the orthodox and Jehovah's Witnesses  say it is heresy or sacrilege to equate Jesus with the same status as God, for Jesus himself often referred himself as “son” of God. To them, God is the “Almighty” while Jesus is the “Mighty.”
Confronted with this question recently, a witness  Mr. John in Okpanam (Obodogba Kingdom Hall) Delta zone argued that each time Jesus prayed he referred to God as “my father;” therefore could not have been mistaken as the same God which created all things. He however noted that Jesus was present when the universe was created; quoting God in Genesis Chapter One Verse 26 when He said “Let us make man in our image after our likeness…” The Witness believed that Jesus was the same Arch Angel Michael which rescued an angel sent to Daniel but was held hostage by Satan. He supported this view with the scriptures disclosing the voice of God calling Jesus “my beloved son” in three instances of the ministry of Jesus. 
On their part, if Jesus was performing as an angel before he was born, Brahamites say many Christians are still confused about Jesus.

End Time Approach
According to Brahamites particularly in North America and Nigeria, Jesus Christ is not such “someone;” he rather “was, is and is-to-come,” they often quote Prophet Isaiah. He is “the God which created all things,” Braham writes.
The Brahamites argue that it is not an error; rather the true Word of God is manifest through revelation. For this reason, Jesus expressed dismay when His disciples asked Him questions arising from His parables. It was expected that those of them who were of God would receive the revelations even before the parables were told.
Brahamites like Pastor Moses Alu of Brides Assembly further argue that Christ in all his encounters here on earth, spoke in parables, because he was addressing only those for whom the Truth was meant. Salvation is not for all, they say.
Christ rebuked the Apostles when they asked for explanations of certain parables. The parables were in symbols. It is the view of Brahamites that the reason was because not all the twelve deserved salvation; not all of them had their names written in the book of life; noting that Judas was with them; so the likes of him were not required to understand the parables. The Truth was not meant for him. In the same manner, only those, for whom it is meant, receive the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

Fulfilment of Time
Brahamites argue that this is the time which the books of Malachi and Revelation speak about: the mystery of Jesus Christ is revealed.

What is the mystery
Brahamites often quote Isaiah 9:6. It says “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting father, The prince of peace.”
We can also see John 1:1-5; 14. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” (1). Who does this scripture refers to as 'the Word'? This is the same 'Word' as the 'Light' which was there before the sun, moon and the stars were created.
Again, the Brahamites support their argument with John 1:3. “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” In other words, it is the 'Word' that created heaven and earth including human beings and all living things.
Verse Four of John Chapter One says “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men;” while Verse Five goes on to say “and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”
The world is the “darkness” which, despite the whole things it receives from God, it lacks the understanding of the giver or maker. 
The Brahamites argue that there was light before the sun was created; and that it is the same light which God decrees upon Jerusalem in Isaiah 60:19-20 where He says “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light.”

Understanding the truth
Brahamites lament that people are still without understanding. “They comprehended it not,” because it was not yet time, they argue.
It is the view of Brahamites that now that the time has come, the Holy Spirit has made people to be aware of whom the Lord Jesus Christ is, as revealed in Verse 14 of John Chapter One. It says: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father,) full of grace and truth.”
Turn to 1Timothy 3:16 which says: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels preached unto the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into Glory.” Note again: “God was manifest in the flesh.”
Why the use of pass tense, 'was'? Brahamites say it is because, the 'Flesh' has returned to the spirit which it was before manifesting in the Word, yet retained in every Christian who truly believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and personal saviour; which is the redemption.
It can also be seen in Colossians 1:15-29 for more revelation of Jesus Christ as the mighty God.
The Truth was not revealed to the brides before now because they had always been in the midst of the multitude; lest Satan understand also, disguises as the pale horse rider and prepares to meet Him also just as the brides prepare or even scuttle everything.
Even now that the Christ has been revealed to the bride, Satan does not yet understand it; the serpent seed will never agree that Jesus Christ is God, because God has hardened his heart lest him understand; because the serpent seed is everywhere today in the church to confuse the bride.
In this end of time, the last church age, the Laodicea Church (Rv. 3:14-22), the gentile world has the last opportunity to receive the grace, after which it will return to Israel (Rv. 7).
Brahamites draw inspiration from the book of Revelations; by which Christians in America and Canada refer to them as the followers of prophet of the seven thunders.
When the thunders sounded (Rv. 10:4) John said he was barred from writing down what the voices said. “What is the message; and why was John prevented from writing it down?” Marion Braham queried.
John was prevented because it wasn't yet time. It is now time; “the days of the Seventh Angel” (Rv.10:7) are here, “when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”

Two Gods
Brahamites also argue that if God is “Almighty God” while Jesus is the “Mighty God,” it concludes that there are two Gods; a doctrine that is never acceptable in any of the Great Books or in divinity. God says He does not share His glory with anyone. So, if Jesus is the “Mighty God” separate from the father which is the “Almighty God,” it means there are two Gods. For this reason, Jesus declares: “I and my father are one.”

Remaining In Faith
If one may remain in the faith as professed by his or her group, he must stick to the precept as taught by his founder. Such position is required of loyalists in every imperialistic situation. It marks a patriot or good citizen. But it does not give such faithful the knowledge of truth. It does not lead to fulfilment. It is a deceit by socio-political demagogues or leaders. It amounts to clubbing on false foundation.
Sometimes, emerging political or religious philosopher kings, set aside the traditional precepts, having been victimized or deceived by past generations or imperialist misdirection. For this, no one group can hold sufficient evidence for the truth according to his group’s foundation or precept. For this reason also, civilized societies ensure absolute enforcement of individual rights to religion.

The Truth
Understanding the truth will require a quiet and non-denominational prayer, requesting the Holy Spirit of God to do the explaining. Holding on to dogma in group interest can be fatalistic. Let no one waste his or her effort and resources here on earth arguing and acting in defence of his or her race, precepts, group or denomination, believing that it leads to salvation.

All evangelists and ministers of God are invited to participate in the discussion. You may send your contributions to editor@courtly.ng.com or whatsapp@ 09069674834 for interactive discussion for publication in this column. If you are writing, include your address/ministry, e-mail and phone numbers for readers to reach you.




Jihad, the Cross and ethnicity in Nigeria

By Pius Odiaka


TUESDAY May 22, 2018 witnessed a turning point in religious affairs in Nigeria.

Catholic priests, constituting a group previously known for conservative and stoic reaction to religious uprising in the country, rose in cross and tears to mourn and protest the killings of their colleagues, 17 worshippers and many others by suspected Islamists and herdsmen.

Of course, during his visit to the White House, President Muhammadu Buhari received a stern warning from his American counterpart. “We heard you are killing Christians in your country. It's unacceptable to America and the world,” President Donald Trump warned him in an unambiguous tone.

In a lame and patronizing response, Buhari blamed the killings on former late Libyan strongman, Muammar Gadaffi, whom he alleged proliferated arms in West African countries during his struggle against rebels backed by America. No doubt, Buhari couldn't fool the White House.

On April 24, also last year, two Catholic priests while conducting Mass were murdered in a Benue Church, north central Nigeria. 17 other worshippers were also killed by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. The May 22 protest coincided with the burial of the 17 Catholics and the two priests.

Before the killings in the church, there had been serial attacks on farm settlements and towns in the state killing a total of 492 persons between January and April this year; 73 of the victims were buried in a mass grave. The presidency and police have continued to deny the fugures.

Before the protest, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria had called out all Catholics in the country to peacefully march round the cities same day to protest the killings.

The protest was successful in many states including Lagos, Osun, Benue, Kwara, Oyo, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Adamawa and parts of eastern states.

Some of the protesters carrying placards with various inscriptions, marched through various streets in Lagos without singing; without commenting when required.

A priest leading protesters from the gate of Saint Agnes in Maryland Lagos declined comment when approached but waved a hand; gently shaking the head with a heavy face.

In Osogbo, Osun Sate capital, the protesters marched from Our Lady of Fatima down to the State's House of Assembly.
The Vicar General of Catholic Diocese of Osogbo, Thaddeus Ajayi, called on the killers to stop further killings if they would not incur the wrath of God. While calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to defend the innocent citizens in the country, he told newsmen that the country required peace and love; not killings.

Joining others in solidarity, Chairman of Niger State Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Matthias Echioda, advocated national unity to curb what he called “dangerous developments.” Also in Mina, Niger State capital, the Priest of St. Michael's

Catholic Church, Gabriel Onuh while on a sermon, expressed fear over the state of insecurity in the country.
Recalling other killings of 492 persons in same Benue State, between January and May, governor of the state, Samuel Ortom observed that it “looked more of ethnic cleansing than a jihad.”

Ortom further alleged that the killings were linked to earlier threats by the leadership of Miyetti Allah to destabilize the state in opposition to the implementation of the anti-open grazing law in the state.

Barely 48 hours of the killings of the 73 victims buried in a mass grave, National Vice President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association, Husaini Bosso, warned of more attacks in the state if the anti-open grazing law introduced by the state government was not reversed.

Following incessant conflicts between farmers and herdsmen claiming high number of lives in parts of the country, some state governments proposed bills banning open grazing. The bill, so far, is successful in Benue, Taraba and Ekiti states where it is currently implemented. Abia state government recently signed the bill to law, after creating a public ranch in the state.

“We, the association wrote a letter to him, even met with him (Ortom),” Bosso said; “we told him that the law cannot work. We told them that there is an international cattle route from Niger to Eastern Nigeria. He said he will not allow cattle to pass through Benue state even if it is the cattle route. We told him that if he wants to implement such law, he must provide a land for us to rent. He did not provide any land for cattle herders. We advised him and he refused to listen to us. We are not against the law but he has to provide a land for these people before implementing such a law. If there is no land, there is a problem.”

On 4 January, 2018, Garus Gololo, the leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Benue state similarly told BBC that the New Year attack in Benue State was a reprisal for the theft of cows in the state. Another member of the group, Usman Ngelzerma, on 12 January, 2018, said Fulani herdsmen attacked Guma and Logo communities because the herdsmen were fined by livestock guards.

Similar message were credited to the national president of the Association, Abdullahi Bodejo. “To us, ensuring security of citizens should be the priority of governance, but this anti-grazing law is nothing but a time bomb if not addressed with wisdom.” Bodejo said after the group's northwest recent meeting in Kaduna.

However, the people of Benue said they called for the law given that they would no longer tolerate frequent damage to their crops by grazing cattle. There had been attacks on villages and farm settlements by herdsmen each time the farmers made attempts to stop grazing on crops in parts of the country particularly in Benue and Taraba states. In many occasions tens of farmers were killed with their houses burnt by the attacking herdsmen.

The President General of Mzough Tiv, Edward Ujege, speaking on behalf of three socio-cultural groupings in the state said they persuaded the governor to ensure full implement of the anti-open grazing law.

"We called for it (the law), because we lost so many people; our homes were being burnt and properties worth several billions of naira were destroyed," Ujege told newsmen.

Critics accused the federal government of empowering the herdsmen and doing nothing to stop the killings. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a public letter to President Muhammadu Buhari accused him of posturing against corruption whereas he “looks the other way,” each time there was need to react. Among other regular critics are former Aviation Minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and Nobel Laureate for Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka who repeatedly queried the refusal of the police to disarm the herdsmen who go about with prohibited AK 47 riffles and, many times, claimed responsibilities for some of the attacks.

On June 12, a magistrate court in Densa council of Adamawa state, convicted and sentenced to death five farmers for “killing a herdsman and maiming several cows.” Locals said three herdsmen invaded the convicts' farms with a cattle numbering over 80 on June 1, 2017. It was alleged that the killed herdsman fired and injured one of the farmers but was overpowered and lynched. Police in Densa denied knowledge of any conflict but told the court that it was a conspiracy by the convicts.

Same day of the conviction, Governor Samuel Ortom, estimated a loss of over N400 billion worth of property to the renewed herdsmen attacks on communities in the state. The governor noted that only ranching of cattle could end such colossal loss and incessant conflicts.

“Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 was the people's legislation and no amount of intimidation and blackmail would make them repeal it. For me, I have no regret whatsoever concerning the enactment and implementation of the law. Why should I have any regret doing the will of my people? They trusted me and gave me their votes and I will not betray what they want. I'm doing what they want and I've no regrets.”

Ortom called on Defence Minister Dan-Masur Ali to apologise to Nigerians for turning against them. “I also challenge the Defence Minister, Dan-Masur Ali to come out and tell Nigerians why there are killings in Zamfara, his home state, and other states of Nigeria like Kaduna, Adamawa, Plateau, Enugu, Kogi, among others, where there are no anti-open grazing law. I am waiting for the minister to come out and apologise to Nigerians over his recent comments, calling for the suspension of the law which is blamed for the killings in the country.”

Meanwhile Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was at the funeral of the two murdered priests where he promised to stop what he admitted to be “senseless killings.”

“We must revamp and rebuild our system of law enforcement to ensure that all those who live and work in this land are safe. Most importantly, we must, and we will stop these senseless killings,” Osinbajo promised at the funeral.

That has to be done urgently and with sincerity for peace and true plurality of the Nigerian state. Otherwise, further killings might result full blown religious and tribal wars in the country, for it is believed among many Christians in the country and minority tribes in the north that President Buhari is using style to Islamize Nigeria.

For instance, the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) eventually tabled seven-point demands before the British Government, which the group said could assist in resolving sectarian crisis in the country.

During their visit to the British High Commission in Abuja, the group accused the British Government of assisting the Islamists to gain political power in Nigeria. Led by its chairman, Solomon Asemota, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the group noted that the Nigeria Christians had a responsibility to themselves and their religion to resist imposition of Sharia in the country and transmute it into an Islamic Sultanate. “NCEF is persuaded that Jihad has been launched in Nigeria...” the group said in a statement released to newsmen in Abuja.

The group further admitted knowledge of modern jihad, giving “jihad by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen” as examples.
Indeed, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, in one of his video clips in 2012 had said that the war they were fighting was not political but a religious one. “It is between Muslims and unbelievers. It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant (ideology) in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight.”

The Jihadists claimed President Buhari's 'New Nigeria' is indeed a total Islamic state.

President's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, countered the claim when he said “the times in which we are, do not call for unnecessary suspicion.” He added that the only agenda which the President had “is emergence of a new Nigeria, safe, prosperous, corrupt free.”

Developments are ominous, for Nigerian Christians are no longer patient with the legendary philosophy of turning the other cheek. Thus, a retired army general, one time external affairs minister and another time defence minister, Theophilus Danjuma, recently called on Nigerian Christians to rise in self defence if the federal government had failed in its constitutional duty to provide the defence. He accused security forces in the country of complicity with the jihadists.

Within fort-eight hours of the call, National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) issued a statement supporting the position of Danjuma. Confirming what it called a conspiracy between the presidency and the Jihadists, the group further accused Buhari of concentrating security offices in the hands of certain tribe and Islamic sect in anticipation of armed conflict.

“That such a conspiracy could exist is confirmed by the flagrant violation of the Federal Character Principle in the Constitution by the Buhari Administration. The NCEF had repeatedly decried the concentration of the entire security infrastructure in Nigeria in the hands of Muslims from the North. All the key positions in Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, State Security Services, Police, Customs, Immigration, Office of National Security Adviser, Army, Civil Defence, Prisons, are held by Muslims from the North. This is a total violation of the Constitution of which the Buhari Administration should be totally condemned and thoroughly rebuked,” the group declared. Many other groups have made similar accusations.

Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, after serial attacks on communities in Taraba State accused the Nigeria military of complicity. Speaking through his Senior Special Assistant on media, Dan Abu, the governor lamented that “the case against the military in Taraba is that of outright collusion against the people which has made it easy for the Fulani militia to kill and destroy property.” He said before the attacks on Gassol, Bali, Ibi, Donga and Gashaka communities by Fulani herdsmen, governor Ishaku wrote a letter to president Buhari; copied to the National Security Adviser and the Inspector General of Police, giving intelligence report on the planned attacks but the president, the military and inspector general of police ignored the report.

Moslems in the southwest Nigeria are not comfortable with the development; however frowning at what they perceived as a generalization. They have thus dissociated themselves from the alleged plan to Islamize the country through a systematic Jihad.
Muslim leaders under the aegis of Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria, (MUSWEN) faulted claims by worried Nigerians. The group's Executive Secretary, Dawud Noibi noted that the introduction of Arabic Language in schools has nothing to do with the alleged Islamization. The group whose other members include Prince Bola Ajibola, former World Court judge in the Haig; and Zakariyah Babalola, Deputy President of Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, said the concern of Nigerian Christian groups over the issue was worrisome. 

Nevertheless, Defence Headquarters recently announced the launch of 'Operation Whirl Stroke' for the most troubled states of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Zamfara, where armed herdsmen and militia have continued to kill people since January.
Acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim who briefed newsmen at Tactical Air Command headquarters in Makurdi said the operation which began on 8 May comprises all the military services, police and Department of State Services (DSS).

Meanwhile, it is feared that military focus seems to be shifting from northeast Nigeria besieged by the Boko Haram for the past 10 years. While the military claimed victory in the region, the terrorists have continued to stage guerrilla attacks on communities and public places. Early this year, the terrorists kidnapped over100 school girls at Dapchi area of Yobe State and forced them to renounce their faith before releasing them. Leah Sharibu, a-15-year old girl, who refused to renounce her faith, has remained in their captivity. Some feared she might have been killed.

A general election comes up early next year. It is feared that associated tension and insurgency in parts of the country may increase and compound the fragile security in the country. Some countries including Britain and United States of America are already warning their citizens to be cautious visiting Nigeria.

Additional reports by Rabiu Abubakar (Abuja) and Isa Gambo (Makurdi).

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