Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has dismissed claims by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, that Christians were not under any form persecuted in the country, saying the monarch was insincere in his remarks.
The umbrella Christian body had backed the recent classification of Nigeria as a nation that tolerates religious persecution. But, the Sultan of Sokoto while speaking at the closing ceremony of the 77th annual Islamic Vacation Course in Kano, expressed shock at CAN’s position.
He said if such persecution really exists, it was supposed to have been tabled at the Interfaith Forum which he co-chairs with the CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle.
However, speaking in a chat with Vanguard on Thursday, Vice Chairman of CAN (Northern Region), Rev. John Hayab, said it was unfortunate that the monarch was not ready to face the reality on ground in the nation.
According to him, evidence which point to religious persecution as the basis for the imbalance of political and economic power in the country abound, especially in the north.
Hayab also accused the revered Muslim leader of treating the multiple petitions on religious persecution tabled before the revered Muslim leader at meetings of the Nigerian Interreligious Council, NIREC with indifference.
He said: “With all due respect, we believe the Muslim leader is living in denial on the issue of persecution of Christians in this country. “We have presented several petitions before the Sultan of Sokoto on religious persecution but what has he done? “We brought to his notice in NIREC; the issue of ban on the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in secondary schools in the north. What did he do? “We also presented before him cases where Christians who want to buy land in some northern communities are compelled to sign documents stating that they would not use the property for church activities or for hotel services. What has he done about it?
“Even the very act of comparing church activities with hotel services is not just a form of persecution but an insult aimed at Christian. “Is it the issue of cabinet appointments in state executive councils? There are Christians and Muslims among the Fulanis, the Hausas and other minority tribes in the North. But, how many governors can boast of cabinets that are fair and balanced in terms of religious representation? Is the Sultan not aware of the nepotism? “Similar religious nepotism is also witnessed in the offer of state jobs, admissions into tertiary institutions, and awards of contracts. Does the Sultan of Sokoto not consider these happenings as religious persecution?
“Was he not aware that Leah Sharibu’s was not negotiated by the Federal Government on account of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith? Whereas, the same government activated all its diplomatic resources to ensure the freedom of the daughter of a prominent Muslim faithful whose daughter was accused of drug peddling in Saudi Arabia.”
Hayab regretted that the strides made to downplay religious bias and unite all northerners by the late Sardauna and Premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, had not been sustained by leaders who came after him.
He called on the Sultan of Sokoto and other prominent religious leaders to speak the truth on issues that affect the unity of the country at all times, saying Nigeria would only get better when they do so.