Of Kumuyi and the Boko Haram
The young hawk swooped on the ground and snatched a chick. When he presented his trophy to the mother hawk, she asked, “What did the mother say when you snatched the chick?” “Nothing!” “Nothing?” “Yes, nothing.” “In that case return the chick!” exhorted the mother hawk. “Never you eat a chick you snatched from a mother who offers no protest.” This is merely a paraphrase of a parable from one of Chinua Achebe’s novels.
The import of the parable is that the man who offers no protest to a brazen attack is perhaps far more dangerous than he is letting out. Fear the silent man far more than the noisy ones. Silence is not always a response of cowardice but at times, the calm that envelopes the thunder. The General Superintendent of Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor W. F. Kumuyi is not your rabble-rousing pastor who turns his platform into a bully pulpit from which he rails against the ills of the society. He does rail though, in his soft, mellow voice, against sins.
In over four decades of ministry, he has proved himself most pious, least ostentatious, most conservative, seemingly ascetic and highly disciplined. He is the classic turn-the-other-cheek kind of prelate whose values and ultra-fundamentalist theology seem unaffected in any significant way by the dynamic phases of evangelical-cum-Pentecostal hubbub. If Kumuyi holds a political opinion, you never heard of it beyond his routine homilies about how righteousness exalts a nation and the need to pray more for the leaders.
It is therefore incomprehensible that in the long-running season of madness, it is the church of such a peaceful man that Boko Haram terrorists targeted for a most gruesome attack. Last Monday night, Deeper Life Bible Church in Otite, Okene, Kogi State, was invaded by terrorists who put out the generating set supplying light and in the ensuing darkness and pandemonium, slaughtered in cold blood, 20 Christians who were studying their Bible during a vigil. The victims were mostly women and children.
Their crime? They were studying the Bible! A crime more heinous can hardly be found. The Boko Haram fanatics who claim credit for this mayhem are employing this blood-curdling evil tactics to convert us all into their variant of Islamic state, and you shudder at, what a way to market a religion!
The attack on Deeper Life might represent a new low in evil, but it is just another spot in a widespread carnage orchestrated by the fanatics. As a matter of fact, it is coming on the heels of unprovoked slaughter in Plateau State that claimed 100 lives including a senator and a state legislator who attended the burial of victims of the same terror.
For the first time in my experience, Kumuyi was so enraged that he issued a statement that not only captured his outrage, but dismay at the government’s inability to protect its citizens. “It is hard to reconcile,” Kumuyi said, “that peace loving people, sitting in their church, and listening to Bible Study were gunned down in cold blood by people they had done nothing to provoke.”
Well, that’s why they are Boko Haram. Unknown to Kumuyi, with Boko Haram, it is enough provocation that you are a human being at all, yet, not a fanatic! For a man for whom it seems, that sugar may not melt in his mouth, a man who weighs every word to ensure it has no connotation of sin before he utters it, the next statement carries more weight than what would have been the case coming from ordinary people like us. The attack, Kumuyi deadpanned, “is not only wicked, but utterly premeditated.”
I pity the souls of these fanatics. “The government must now come to terms with the fact that a large swathe of Nigerians are being sent to the grave early,” Kumuyi excoriated, “even as law enforcement agents seem unable to provide the required protection for all of them. Without doubt, this callous event has great negative implications for the progress, development and well being of the nation.”
From the mouth of a well-known critic like Pastor Tunde Bakare, this statement would have passed unnoticed, but in my memory, this must pass as Kumuyi’s harshest indictment of government’s ineptitude in the face of endemic national insecurity. But even then, Kumuyi was not yet done. “This spate of killings and destructions have been going on particularly in the northern part of our country for too long,” he added, I suspect, with a lot of emphasis on “too long” without the government coming up with an “enough is enough” stand.
If anything, the government has only prevaricated, not sure whether Boko Haram is a terrorist group as Americans are demanding, a nationalist agitators as some aggrieved political bigots would want us to believe or an infernal religious extremists stretching the bounds of Islamic extremism as many fear. “Each time they (killings and destructions) occurred,” Kumuyi continued with the unfamiliar tone of an incensed activist, no doubt, a potentially sinful imputation, I agree, “the usual condemnations are made, but thereafter, the people are left without any assurance of their security and safety. No nation can continue this way.”
Taken, either as a warning or a prophetic declaration from a respected prelate who carefully chooses his words, conscious of the fact that no words of the Lord coming out of the mouth of His prophets must go unfulfilled, Kumuyi’s last sentence is pregnant with meaning: “No nation can continue this way.”
Pray, what is President Goodluck Jonathan’s answer to Kumuyi’s challenge? If it is merely about those empty presidential rhetorics and promises to hunt down the “perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring them to justice” then the president should forget them. After 9/11, President George Bush found the mission of his presidency: to defeat al-Queda and ensure they never strike again in American soil.
Over a decade down the line, not only has the leadership of al-Queda been decapitated and the group’s evil capabilities degraded, the terrorists have not been able to strike again at American soil, despite all their attempts to do so. In Nigeria, what do we have? A confused, weak and dithering leadership that does not even know whether to declare total war on Boko Haram or to negotiate with the sect. The absence of such tactical and strategic clarity must cascade confusion down the hierarchy, making nonsense of the whooping N925 billion security budget for 2012.
With porous borders stretching 4,000 kilometers and multiple unmanned secret entry points into the country, Nigeria seems to have descended into nestling ground for diverse global terrorism who officially, have now infiltrated our nation with dangerous rocket launchers (rocket propelled grenades). If the government does not act fast to stop the terrorists from deploying their RPGs, then it means that in the days ahead, nobody is safe from any distance. If that happens, Kumuyi’s prophecy may turn out to be the nation’s swan song!