Nigeria must not allow religious war – Bishop Hammawa – The Sun Nigeria
By Sylvanus Viashima. Jalingo
Bishop Charles Hammawa is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jalingo Diocese. In this interview, he warns of an imminent religious war in the country and calls on the authorities to intensify actions to avoid it. He lamented the poor party primaries and expressed fear for the 2023 general elections due to the deteriorating security situation in the country.
What do you think of the recent upsurge in attacks on the Faith and allegations of Jihad in the country?
Obviously, it’s a very sad development, it’s shameful, boring and very upsetting and disturbing. This raises so many questions. There is an ongoing debate; some think it’s not religious at all, and others think there’s religion and persecution, especially of Christians. Others also think that there is an agenda, a jihad. From the events, I will not blame those who consider it as such and I will subscribe to it because these attacks are not sporadic. It is apparently systematic, well planned and executed and therefore very difficult to predict and from what we hear from the clerics it is as if they are calling their people to this.
Sometimes when we’re supposed to look at issues from an economic perspective, they bring in religion. The recent issue of Taraba after the primaries where there is propaganda that “we are the majority, so we should have our own” usually comes to mind. So you can’t help but think there’s a religious connotation.
And the attack in Owo is not a targeted individual or a community, they went directly to a church to do this. Why won’t someone think there is religious persecution? And I don’t understand why religion should be a cause of fight between people. If we really serve God, it shouldn’t reach that degree no matter what.
Another dimension to this, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we start from the argument that they’re not motivated by religion, religion is still used because religion is an important aspect of life human. And anyone who is inclined to this belief in God and wants to serve God will want to defend his faith. So when you appeal to people for these reasons, they will do anything. And that is why I am of the opinion that some politicians who are not religious but who know what the religious cause can bring, bring a religious element to achieve their ambition, and that is also very sad.
The picture is therefore very dark, shameful and regrettable that we have come to this path in this country. All I can say is that we must be sincere in everything we do, be it politics or religion. Every religion has the obligation to promote its religion to preach its religion but not by violence
There is a video of some Islamic clerics threatening religious war and the establishment of Sharia in Taraba. What do you think ?
If we remember the story very well, it was when sharia came into some parts of the country that these things became exaggerated. Of what use has it been even to those who claim it. Why do you keep doing something that divides people if there’s no ulterior motive behind it? In a place like Nigeria, it is rather divisive and anyone with a spirit and interest in unity and peace will not seek it. When you look at the behavior and the language of those who demand this, there is nothing peaceful about it. The Taraba we are talking about, can they give an example of a court here that gave verdicts based on Christian law? No, it’s the constitution. And if anything, a sharia court there isn’t for christians, customary court isn’t for christians it’s for everyone so you can’t equate a sharia court to customary court which means a sharia court is for muslims and customary court for christians. This arithmetic does not work and if someone pursues this course of action, there is something wrong.
They can put such a law in place within themselves but not be funded by the government. In the Catholic Church, we have our courts where we try our cases but that only concerns our members and it is not at the expense of the government. So when you put in place Sharia law, it should be strictly for the internal operations of your adherents and should not affect the generality of the people.
When it started in Zamfara, it wasn’t limited to Muslims, you catch a Christian, you want to judge him by Sharia, that’s not fair. I think this is one of those sad developments that these people use to perpetuate our animosity against each other. It is unjustified.
Do you see the possibility of these attacks leading to a religious war?
I don’t want that to happen, but unless God intervenes, it can end like this. We have seen these things all over the world, not just in Nigeria; live with this idea of plurality. If you want to convince me to buy your ideology, talk to me, convince me and let me gladly join you but you can’t impose it on me. If you impose it on me, I won’t bring anything that can improve religion. I’ll be a hypocrite there and I won’t help any cause, that’s simple logic.
With the continuing insecurity, what do you think is the possibility of having peaceful elections in 2023?
Now, it’s a general fear held by everyone. I think many have also expressed the same view that this is probably a tactic to make it impossible to hold an election so that the current government can continue. It has happened before although it was not postponed for long. We could walk the same line. They make it a perfect excuse not to have an election.
What do you think of the call for an Islamic-Muslim/Christian-Christian ticket for the presidency?
Let’s be honest, it’s like adding fuel to the fire, we are already divided on these lines, why continue to follow the same line. There will be no point in doing so, it is the epitome of insensitivity to the danger we already face.
If all goes well, I don’t mind, as long as we have people who don’t govern us on religious grounds, either federal or state, if they govern us fairly, I don’t mind the ticket . But if the goal is to ride smooth and invade this country, then no. Skeptics will therefore have reason to complain. It’s not good for us. Let’s find a balance. Struggling against marginalization is about power being in the hands of a certain group and by doing so you are making it worse. And when others want to bring their own, state laws are used to incarcerate them.
We have just witnessed primaries of various political parties at the state and national levels. What is your assessment of the primaries and what do they say about the 2023 general election?
As a person, I’m terribly disappointed with what happened in the primaries and to be honest, it doesn’t give us any hope for the future.
This is where the litmus test will be; if we want to have peaceful elections, free from fraud, violence, election buying, this is the test and it has not passed at all. It is a terrible disappointment and if they were to continue like this in the next legislative elections, we will end up with unsatisfactory results and in the end, even if the winners are declared, disputes will arise.
But that’s a bummer and again, I wonder, isn’t that against election law some of the things that we see happening especially in primaries? And if we allow this to continue, won’t it continue until the general election? Just like we saw in Ekiti, people were showing money in their bags and again INEC said nothing. Is this the only job of the EFCC?
They leave us no reason but again we have to keep hope and hope that INEC will stand up and be really independent and put in place a mechanism that will make electoral fraud difficult. If that happens, what happened in the primaries will not continue because I hope Nigerians have learned a lot now. Some even receive these funds with the mentality that it is their money after all, so if INEC has a good system in place, they will be surprised at the outcome. And this is where journalists need to step in, write stories and articles that will educate people on the right thing to do?
Considering the high cost of forms, does the common man with passion, zeal, ability and capacity without the bags of money have any hope of leading this country or the leadership of the country is now in the hands of the rich ?
It was good news to hear that the president had signed into law the Not Too Young To Run bill. But to have made this law and proposed it simply means that the elite are determined to control the country and deny the ordinary Nigerian the right to rule. Tell me how many young people can afford this money. So it’s a contradiction of the law; it’s a ploy to keep the brigade going.
Who among these candidates who have spent this large sum of money, who if they win will not get this money back; and if so, when will the corruption end. It’s just a vicious cycle. So they should put their deeds together and convince us, but they have already beaten many capable people by these exorbitant form fees.