The brutal killing of Fr. John Chietnum, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan in Kaduna State who was kidnapped on July 15,2022,killed on the same day but only found on July 19 has again marked out Kaduna State in particular, and Nigeria in general , as a country where Christians are marked for extermination.
In what has since abandoned the circles of coincidence to berth on the shoals of chilling planning and premeditation,Christian clerics in Kaduna State and in other parts of Nigeria are being picked off one after the other by terrorists who so far have failed miserably to disguise the fact that Christians are the principal targets of terrorism in Nigeria.
A cemetery of clerics
In Nigeria generally, and in Kaduna State especially, the road to the cemetery for Christians, bearing the bodies of their clerics, when those bodies have been found, have not been free of footprints for years now.
On April 24, 2018 suspected herdsmen stormed St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor- Mbalom Parish, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State, killing two catholic priests and 17 parishioners.
In November 2021, despite collecting ransom, bandits killed Rev. Dauda Bature, a pastor with the Evangelical Church of Winning All, Nariya, Kaduna State. In September 2021, Silas Yakubu Ali, a pastor with the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA)in Kibori-Asha Awuce in Zangon Kataf LGA of Kaduna State, was killed by suspected hoodlums.
On May 25,2022, two catholic priests of the Missionary Society of St. Paul serving under the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto were kidnapped in Katsina State.
On May 29, 202, the Prelate of the Methodist church in Nigeria Samuel Kanu-Uche was kidnapped in Abia State. One hundred million naira was shelled out to secure his release.
On July 5, 2022, gunmen broke into the home of Reverend David Umaru of the Church of the Brethren in Njiari, Mubi Local Government Area of Adamawa State, killed his two sons, inflicted multiple gunshot wounds on him, before abducting his thirteen-year-old daughter.
On Saturday June 25, 2022, Fr. Vitus Borogo, a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna was gunned down at the Prison Farm, Kujama, along Kaduna-Kachia Road after a raid on the farm.The next day, in Uzairue, Edo State, another catholic priest, Fr. Christopher Odia, was gunned down after he was abducted.
So many clerics have been attacked in just a few years. The chronicle could go on and on, revealing chapter by chapter the iniquitous and sacrilegious attacks committed so far against clerics and places of worship in Kaduna State, and other parts of Nigeria, which continue to make mockery of the freedom of worship and religion enshrined in Nigeria`s constitution.
The past as a predator
Kaduna State has long been a state of harsh religious sensibilities. Together with neighbouring Plateau State, the state has seen some of the worst ethno-religious crises recorded in Nigeria`s recent memory.
The crises have been coloured by religion as much as ethnicity, all twisted into an epic power game that has been as bloody as it has been billous. At the turn of the millennium, religious riots broke out in the state to send chills down the spine of an entire country.
The wounds have never really healed. With the peace in the state remaining that of the graveyard, plunging the state does not take much efforts.
The barbs of banditry
In 2009, Boko Haram broke out on the skin of Nigeria like a case of hives with Borno State as its launch pad. In just over a decade, the virulent brand of terrorism championed by Boko Haram has slowly but savagely weakened Nigeria`s security architecture, creating space for the vermin of terrorism to flood the country, especially its rural areas.
As space has shrunk for them in Borno State, they have moved their merchandise of death to neighbouring Zamfara, Niger and Kaduna States.
In the forests of these states, it is death that continues to be hatched. Hundreds of innocent Nigerians have been snatched from their families with hundreds of millions paid as ransom.
Hundreds have been killed. Many communities are now occupied by criminals who enact laws and impose taxes. In recent times, out of their bottomlessly dark minds have emerged another hobby: attacking Christians and churches
Between competence and castration
For those who can read the signs, it is no coincidence that since 2019, attacks on Christians in Kaduna State, especially in Southern Kaduna, have been taken to another level. Fingers must be pointed at the rhetoric and composition of the current government of Kaduna State.
In 2019, as Mr. Nasir El-Rufai sought a second term as Governor of one of Nigeria`s most iconic states, he took leave of reason and wise counsel to breach an age-long tradition of power-sharing between Christians and Muslims in the state when he picked another Muslim as his running mate. He duly won the election.
That today, whenever the opportunity presents itself, he boasts that in spite of his choice of running mate, he won that election, tells of a man who has no regrets over what he did.
That Mr. El-Rufai recommended the infamous Kaduna model to Nigeria as controversy swirled over whether the APC presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would pick another Muslim as his running mate, which has become the case, gave away a man who lacks contrition and circumspection.
His actions have also betrayed his hysterical wailings over insecurity in Kaduna state as the high-pitched howls of hypocrisy. For in choosing to put phony competence over religion in a state where it is a matter of life and death for many, he ignorantly even if unwittingly provided fuel for the fires built by those who would burn down Nigeria.
The insecurity raging in Kaduna State under his watch has also exposed those who were thought to be competent as actually castrated.
For the church, a calvary
For the church in Kaduna State and in Nigeria as a whole, it is no doubt a very difficult period. The gospel the church bears even in extremely difficult situations is unapologetically one of encounter. It is one of life and everything that upholds life and living.
The church`s willingness to encounter necessarily involves meeting people where they live as individuals and as communities, and living as they do.
This explains why churches are usually found even in the remotest of places, and with them, clerics. Thus,in a community that is vulnerable, the church by reason of proximity is also rendered vulnerable.
This gospel of life and freedom also riotously opposes the work of those sowing death and destruction in Kaduna and in other parts of Nigeria. It explains why courageous and compassionate clerics have become such easy targets for the cowards who bear arms supplied by their co-criminals, and who emblematize more than anything the fact that the government of the day is one steeped in utter failure.
For the church in Nigeria, and indeed all those assailed and assaulted for their religious beliefs, this too shall pass. Someday, this harrowing chapter shall be hacked off Nigeria`s chronicles of calamities, contradictions and curiosities.
Until then, denunciation of the criminals who terrorize families and communities must continue to ring out clearly from every pulpit. For to fall silent is to inhabit the tongue of the oppressor, but to speak up is to inhibit it.