Friday Olokor and Olaleye Aluko
The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs have scolded the Presidency for attributing the nationwide #EndSARS protests to hate message from religious houses.
CAN and NSCIA, in separate interviews on Friday, knocked the Presidency for engaging in a blame game, rather than resolving the issues.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had in an article titled, ‘If Nigeria dies, hatred killed her,’ said the #EndSARS movement was a vehicle of hate message encouraged by religious centres.
He wrote, “The EndSARS campaign began as an agitation against police brutality, in which there was unanimity of purpose. And suddenly, it became a vehicle of hate. Against leadership, against national cohesion, an opportunity to settle political scores, and equally prepare for a power grab in 2023. Hatred came into the mix.
“From hateful messages from the pulpit, as if that was the message of love Jesus Christ handed over to his followers; from unduly critical messages during Juma’at services; from radio and television programmes, in which bile is spewed. From talk shows which became a harangue of government, newspaper articles and columns tailored to instigate and generate dissent, and the like.
“Those beaten black and blue in the 2015 and 2019 elections also crept in, and asked for their pound of flesh, while also plotting for a return to power in 2023. Hatred is evinced from many quarters for Nigeria, and for its government and people at any given time. It comes from churches, mosques, professional activists and agitators, interest groups, some elements in the media, so-called analysts who never see anything good, and so on and so forth.”
In its reaction, CAN through Pastor Bayo Oladeji, the Special Adviser to the President, Rev Supo Ayokunle, said the church was not a praise singer of the government and would always seek the welfare of the people.
Oladeji said, “It is difficult to know if Femi Adesina was speaking his mind or the mind of his principal. The problem of some government’s functionaries begins with their myopic thought that they love the country more than the people. This is very wrong and unfortunate.
“Right from the outset of this government to date, its functionaries and spokespersons are notorious for blame game. They have never owned up like Adam and Eve who threw themselves out of the Garden of Eden as a result of blame game.
“Was it the church that gave an order to the military and the police to move to the streets against the protesters in the pretext of preventing it from being hijacked? Did the Federal Government seek counsel from the church on the steps taken? Was it the church that hired exotic cars, buses and lorries to transport the thugs that attacked unarmed protesters?
“The position of CAN has been the position of the United Nations, global citizens and some eminent citizens who have spoken. We learnt there was a virtual meeting organised by the Presidency with the former Presidents and Heads of State, we challenge the Presidency to publish the verbatim report of the virtual meeting to see if those former leaders commended the government for allowing the unprecedented peaceful protest to degenerate into bloodletting.”
Also, the NSCIA head of Media and Publicity, Ibrahim Aselemi, said, “The NSCIA has done a lot in sensitising spiritual leaders of mosques in Nigeria to why hate speech is injurious to our collective existence.
“At various times, the council has appealed to the Federal Government to deal decisively with the users of hate speech. The council has cautioned imams that hate speech is not free speech. So I don’t know with the greatest respect where the President’s spokesman got his information.