The metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has expressed worries over the recent killing of over 70 persons in Benue State.
The former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), said it wasn’t as if two communities were at war, but that people were sleeping and in the process, were slaughtered in cold blood.
Onaiyekan told Sun that, “My brother, I will not be sincere and I will not be doing my duty if I don’t express the fact that I am very worried. I am very worried at what is happening.”
“Like I said, who can see what happened, for example, in Benue state and not be worried; the way children, pregnant women, old men and men were slaughtered? And slaughtered in cold blood! It is not as if there was a fight between two communities and some got killed here and there.
“For whatever reason, this cannot be allowed to go on. And, especially, because of what we saw in Benue and it went viral all over the world; it is a shame for me that my friends all over the world are seeing those gory pictures and saying ah, ah, this is Cardinal Onaiyekan’s country, look at how they are killing themselves. Are they still at this stage of savagery? Well, if I am ashamed, I hope the leaders are ashamed.
“Before prayer, I would say what must we do? My first position is that we must admit that this is not an inevitable situation. First of all, we must admit that this is not even an acceptable situation. We cannot continue like this. And if we don’t want to continue like this, we must then know how to change behaviour, how to change our attitude.
“And I think all the question of they killed us 10 years ago, we kill them this year; they killed our cows, then we kill them; it is all sad! And it is sadder still when people up there, who ought to be helping to improve matters, tend to talk as if they are condoning what has happened.
“We heard a group saying that all these happened because of the law that the Government of Benue State passed. And honestly, by now, whoever said that, justifying what has happened, should be held responsible for it.
“By now, I expect that government ought to have arrested those people and accused them of aiding and abetting the massacre of Nigerians. For as long as there is this kind of unjustifiable silence, there is fear that more violence will still come.
“I thought it ought to be clear to everybody that we cannot continue with a situation where you have cows that always roam about freely. It is not possible. And the people who are herding their cattle ought to know that.
“One major issue about all these things, and I keep asking the same question, ‘Who are the owners of the cows?’ My mind is, if we find who owns the cows, then we know those who are hiring terrorists to do this kind of thing in the name of protecting their property. Certainly, it is not the haggard young men who are carrying their sticks around. And everybody seems to have agreed now that the people who come to perpetuate this kind of thing, sometimes don’t want to be called Fulani or herdsmen.
“Whatever you call them, they are not the ones we know around. So, there is a well-organised criminal group that moves in, well-armed, commit atrocities and get away.
“That kind of thing is happening in a country that is democratic, with policemen as many as we have, and army as powerful as we claim to be, that such a thing can continue happening without the government being able to determine who is behind them, who is arming and funding them, means that the government is not working, it is not serious.
“And I don’t think they should expect, at least, most of us in Nigeria to congratulate them for doing nothing. We are complaining about Benue, but we cannot forget that Benue is just the last we have seen, so far. Before Benue, we had a lot of similar problems, first, in Plateau. And after Plateau, we had Southern Kaduna. Did I hear that there was similar problem again in Kaduna? The same pattern, people come into a village and killed people. The same pattern!
“What else can my prayer be? My prayer is that God should deliver us from ourselves because we can’t even blame God for this. God, please, deliver us from ourselves, let us be able to look at one another as human beings first and foremost; and, secondly, as members of the same national family, and then we ask God to also give us the grace of leaders who can really face these matters without pretending and telling lies.”