Posted by News Express | 1 December 2019 | 916 times
“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” — Indira Gandhi
Abiodun Ogunyemi, Bishop of the historic St George’s Anglican Church, Sabon Gari, Zaria, was vitriolic and caustic in his reaction to the apology tendered by the Anglican Church of Nigeria to Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, over the orchestrated media campaign by Ogunyemi and the Revd Joesph Hayab-led Christian Association of Association (CAN). This was unfortunate because the apology was tendered by a powerful delegation led by the highly-respected Dean of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Buba Lamido. Perhaps, it is a confirmation that Bishop Ogunyemi’s mission was to “sufficiently provoke” and force the Kaduna State Government to demolish the church. Going by his conduct, this assertion is as certain as saying the sun will rise from the East.
The motive behind the acerbic reactions of Ogunyemi and Hayab, his co-conspirator, is clearly manifest and definitely political. Recall that some so-called opposition members had boasted, prior to the 2019 General Election, that they would ensure the defeat of el-Rufai in the governorship elections. And, having woefully failed, they have obviously shifted the battle to the 2023 presidential elections, which many people believe el-Rufai would contest, despite his vehement denial that he hasn't given the top job his deserved attention.
But this hasn’t stopped the plot to hang the toga of a religious fanatic and tribal warlord around his neck, which they hope would “kill” his rumoured presidential ambition. This, apparently, is at the root of the false allegation concocted by Ogunyemi, who, it must be stated, was hastily posted out of Yobe State, due to his cantankerous nature and Hayab, whose open partisanship has made CAN irrelevant.
According to Ogunyemi, “The governor (el-Rufai) is being prepared for 2023 elections. The governor should know that he will never be president of Nigeria. I speak prophetically as a servant of the living God.” Thankfully, Ogunyemi is not God! The bishop and his ilk, including those who predicted the day El-Rufai would die, have refused to learn from their failed predictions in the past, which explains their haughty predictions would also certainly fail in the future.
At this juncture, a brief history of St. George’s Anglican Church is necessary, as it would have sparked a religious crisis due to the unnecessary politicisation by Ogunyemi and Hayab. It was clearly an innocuous mistake, but for the tactful handling of the matter by the Kaduna State Government and the Primate of the Anglican of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, who also sensibly sidelined Ogunyemi from the negotiations that saw the state government reiterating what has consistently been its position since 2016. That the historic church would not be demolished to pave way for the redevelopment of the Sabon Gari market which, by the way, has engulfed the church, because of its history. It must be stressed that el-Rufai has a sense of history, which is why he reverted Muhammadu Buhari Way to Waff Road, its original name, due to its historic background. Waff, which is an acronym of West African Frontier Force (WAFF), is a reminder of the great exploits of the multi-battalion field force formed by the British Colonial Office in 1900 to garrison the West African colonies of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
On assumption of office in 2015, the Nasir el-Rufai administration undertook an extensive and in-depth study of previous reports into the series of crises that had bedeviled the state. The reports shockingly revealed that lack of adequate market shops were at the very root of virtually all the crisis – from Kasuwa Maigani, Kajuru to the Zangon-Kataf crisis, all had their origin at the markets – which unfortunately always assumed sectarian/ethnic dimensions. Just as el-Rufai said, “contentions over the location of markets and access to them have been implicated in the legacy of violence that has blighted some of our communities.” For instance, the decision of the then chairman of the Zangon-Kataf Local Government Council to relocate the market triggered the deadly 1992 Zangon-Kataf crisis, which was to eventually engulf the entire state. The Kasuwan Magani crisis – like that of Zonkwa, Kafanchan and Kajuru – all started in and around markets.
The conclusions garnered from the reports and the post-conflict assessment of the 2018 Kasuwan Magani crisis further convinced the government to, as a matter of urgency, address the market issue. It consequently adopted a two-pronged approach of embarking on a massive redevelopment of markets as a strategy of attacking the root-cause of the crisis and as part of the administration’s programme of promoting equal opportunity and economic development of the various communities. For instance, the new Kasuwan Magani market will have over 1,000 shops, modern abattoirs, police post, clinic, and fire service area in compliance with health, safety and environmental regulatory requirements that are a must for a model market. Hopefully, access to shops for everyone who wants to trade having been addressed, we shouldn’t have crisis from that front again.
It’s this resolve to address the question of markets that brought the St George’s Anglican Church Sabon Gari into focus. What Ogunyemi and Hayab have bluntly refused to tell the world – because it doesn’t fit into their evil plot of demonising el-Rufai – is that 45 houses, including several mosques, were marked for demolition, for which compensation had been paid. And that the church was never valued, so no compensation was paid. Therefore, even when the quit notice was mistakenly issued to the church, it amounted to absolutely nothing, because the church had not been compensated. If not mischief, why would Ogunyemi pretend or feign ignorance of the solemn pledge by the governor – at the Anglican Synod which held at Owerri – to the entire Anglican Church of Nigeria that he would not to demolish the historic church, in addition to previous official letters to that effect? If Ogunyemi can’t remember, Most Revd Bennett Okoro of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province can testify to this statement of fact, because Okoro was the one who asked el-Rufai about the fate of the church, in the light of the government’s policy to redevelop the various markets into model markets which, apart from being flashpoints, are also eyesores.
The Kaduna State Government, contrary to the lies being bandied by Ogunyemi and Hayab, never shelved any plan to demolish St George’s Anglican Church; because, in the first place, there wasn’t any such plan. If there was, the church would have been valued and paid a hefty compensation, as demanded by the law. The gospel truth is that Ogunyemi and Hayab thought they finally had their archenemy el-Rufai in a tight corner, which explains the resort to the media, rather than engaging with the government and resolving in a peaceful manner whatever issue that had cropped up. Also, in his desire to scandalise, vilify and portray el-Rufai as a religious fanatic, Ogunyemi bluntly refused to consult with the leadership of the Anglican Church Nigeria on the way forward, just as he refused to reach out to the government when the quit notice was mistakenly served on the church.
The insults and abuses rained on the official delegation from the Anglican Church Nigeria, custodians of the Church, by Ogunyemi, is a confirmation of his disappointment at the resolution of the a crisis that he had created and had hoped to use in his stop el-Rufai “presidential ambition.”
Ogunyemi and Hayab must be delusional, thinking that the negative media campaign against the governor thwarted the demolition of the church. From his handling of the teachers’ crisis to the reform of the local government, it’s obvious that had Governor el-Rufai believed that it was in the greater interest of the community that the church should be relocated, he wouldn’t have shied away from that line of action. But the governor wasn’t convinced and so never issued the directive. Moreover, he saw through the antics of Ogunyemi and Hayab and refused them the fame they cheaply sought. That is, to be seen as “Defenders of the Faith.”
In the meeting with the Anglican Church, el-Rufai clearly restated the fact that “over 40 structures that were to be affected by the exercise were identified and assessed for compensation. Three years later, after it became clear that the private developer could not raise the funds, KDSG decided to ask its market development company to fund the project.”
So, from where did Ogunyemi and Hayab get their facts that could have thrown the entire country into a big crisis?
On a final note, Bishop Abiodun Ogunyemi, who claims to be a servant of God, should stop playing God by boasting that el-Rufai would never be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nor does Ogunyemi’s statements, calling his fellow bishops “fake Christians and religious spies placed in our church by a particular religion” show him as a man of a peaceful disposition. He should find out from many others who had predicted dates that el-Rufai would die or the margin by which Isa Ashiru would defeat him, how they woefully failed. That el-Rufai continues to wax stronger in spite of the evil machinations of the likes of Ogunyemi and Hayab is a testimony to his goodness.
The Anglican Church of Nigeria deserves the commendation of all men of goodwill for putting Hayab who had questioned the decision of the church to visit el-Rufai in his place, by telling him that they didn’t need his permission to visit the governor. Hayab, clearly seeks relevance. But, because he lacks an unflinching commitment to truth, he seeks it in vain.
•Danjuma Musa sent in this piece from Kaduna.
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