Distinguished Muslim Leaders,
Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
Gentlemen of the Press,
I welcome you all to this World Press Conference. The need for this briefing is informed by a curious development in Osun State.
ATTEMPT BY A PASTOR IN OSUN STATE TO IMPLICATE MUSLIMS IN BOKO HARAM ‘ATTACK’:
You are all aware of the precarious security situation in the country today with particular reference to the Boko Haram insurgency. Let me remind you that the leadership of the Nigerian Muslim Ummah, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’d Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has vehemently condemned the activities of Boko Haram. All Islamic organizations in the country have also rejected the group. Condemnation of Boko Haram and its satanic activities have also emanated from leading Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
It is however sad to note that in spite of this all-round rejection of the renegade group by Muslims, a large section of the Christian community, some sections of the Nigerian security agencies and a section of the Nigerian press still treat mainstream Muslims in the country either as active members of Boko Haram, sympathizers of the group or their accomplices.
This does not make sense because more Muslims than Christians have been killed since the emergence of this ugly phenomenon. More Islamic scholars have also been killed than Christian clerics, particularly Islamic scholars who speak out against Boko Haram. In addition, at least three Northern Emirs have been attacked by the rebellious group.
It is now becoming clear that in spite of all these glaring facts, while some good and level-headed Christians continue to interact peacefully with Muslims, some overzealous Christians use every means possible to link peace-loving Muslims with the activities of Boko Haram.
A good example of these fanatical Christians is the pastor of the Baptist Church, Ikonifin, Osun State, who attempted to launch false Boko Haram in the State. According to reports, Pastor Olatoke, who is also the CAN President of Ola Oluwa Local Government, conspired with three members of his church, Emmanuel Atanda, Peter Oyedepo and Ogunniyi Babatope to launch a false Boko Haram attack on his church with the aim of blaming Muslims for the attack.
They therefore dressed like Muslims, wrapped their heads in turbans and covered their faces to avoid being recognized by members of the church. They stormed the church during the church service held on Sunday 18th May, 2014. They threw banga which sounded like gunfire thus scaring all the worshippers who thought they were real Boko Haram insurgents. On seeing this, the worshippers took to their heels, running helter skelter to save their lives. Many of them were injured. They then jumped on their getaway motorcycles and sped off into the dark night.
Fortunately the ‘attackers’ were arrested by the youths of the community. The culprits later confessed that they were members of the same church which they came to ‘attack’. They also revealed that it was their pastor who planned the whole thing. When confronted, the pastor said it was just ‘drama’.
The case was reported at Bode Osi Police Station, near Iwo. MURIC is aware that some powerful Christians are now trying to bury the case. We are also amused by the paucity of reportage for the incident in spite of its serious implications and eye-opening value. Osun State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Oba of Ikonifin have been fingered as parties attempting to sweep the case under the carpet.
The implications of a Boko Haram ‘attack’ on a church in Yorubaland is better imagined than experienced. Muslims generally would have been the ones to suffer if this grand conspiracy had succeeded. Security agents would have picked up many Muslim leaders. Yoruba militant groups like the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) would have pounced on the Hausa communities in the South-West for a pound of flesh. It has happened before. It can happen again. May Allah forbid evil speculations. Christians in Yorubaland would have started attacking their Muslim neighbours, burning mosques and properties of Muslims.
MURIC seizes this opportunity to alert the Federal Government, the Senate, the House of Representatives, delegates in the ongoing National Conference, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the State Security Services (SSS). The whole world must know that this is exactly how some Christians have been roping Muslims unjustly and labeling them as terrorists. There may be more of such plans.
CALL ON OSUN STATE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE:
In particular, we charge the Commissioner of Police in Osun State to do the needful. The law must be allowed to take its full course and quickly too. Justice delayed is justice denied. Pastor Olatoke has disturbed the peace of Osun State and if we want peace in the state, he and his fellow trouble-makers must be dealt with according to the law in order to serve as deterrent to others. False alarm is a criminal offence and this problem must be nipped in the bud because it is election year in Osun State.
APPEAL TO MUSLIMS:
We appeal to all Muslims to remain calm and law-abiding. We call on Muslims not to judge the rest of Nigerian Christians by the attitude of Pastor Olatoke. We implore you to continue to love and tolerate your neighbours. Allah created the world for love and peace and gave us Islam as the religion of peace. We urge you to intensify your prayers for peace to return to Nigeria. Pray that Allah should expose all those behind the Boko Haram saga in Northern Nigeria. Pray against the spread of this social cankerworm to other parts of Nigeria. Pray for a peaceful 2014 election in Osun State.
KIDNAPPED CHIBOK GIRLS:
MURIC appeals to the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, to set the Chibok girls and all other captive females free. We call on the Federal Government to continue the process of negotiation for the kidnapped girls until their freedom is secured. We also understand the latest decision of the Nigerian military not to attempt to rescue the kidnapped girls in a daring raid. It is clear enough now that any attempt to forcefully free the girls may result in a national catastrophe. The number involved is too high. The possibility of high casualty among the girls in case of a raid is therefore very high. No responsible government will allow it.
APPEAL FOR PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE:
MURIC seizes this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians of different backgrounds and culture to rekindle their passion for peaceful coexistence, neighbourliness, forgiveness, love and tolerance. These are the golden values and true teachings of Christianity and Islam. We are prepared to live peacefully with our neighbours regardless of their faith. We therefore call on all Nigerians to reject any attempt by rabble-rousers like Pastor Olatoke to cause mayhem by demonizing Muslims.
SPECIAL APPEAL TO THE PRESS:
MURIC appreciates the sacrifices being made by the Fourth Estate of the Realm particularly in these difficult times. We regard the media as powerful partners whose role can make or mar the entire process. We therefore charge you to discharge your duties with utmost sense of patriotism and responsibility.
MURIC advocates that the press should create a level playing ground for all religious groups. A situation where the press catches pneumonia when the leaders of a certain religious group cough whereas a news blackout is placed on the leaders of another group is highly unethical. It does not portray our press as professional.
We advise against incitement of one religious group against the other as this is capable of igniting chaos in our society. We remind Nigerian journalists that they also belong to this same society and working towards its destruction is, to say the least, self-defeating.
Finally, we thank the press for its cooperation with MURIC over the years. We look forward to working together in the days ahead.
Gentlemen of the press, thank you for coming.
Abdul Razaq Uthman
Professor Ishaq Akintola
Distinguished Muslim Leaders,