Elder Samuel Biu is an 80 year old indigene of Southern Borno, a predominantly Christian area in the North East. In this short interview with Martyrs CRY!, he provides a deep insight into the religious crisis that is ravaging the North eastern zone of Nigeria.
How did we get to this point?
Persecution of Christians did not just commence in the North. It has always been there, even before the amalgamation of the two Protectorates. The early missionaries were equally persecuted and they did not find ministry work easy in the North. Even though there were no killings of the missionaries then, but they were denied land to build places of worship and efforts were consciously made to restrict their activities.
It was part of the persecutions that led to the designation of certain areas as Sabon Gari. Christians were confined to specific areas and were restricted. Most of the early Christians in the North met in private homes; even till today, churches are still denied access to land to build places of worship.
Over the years, Christians would experience some peaceful respite and when they have developed and flourished, the Muslims would destroy their properties, destroy their lives and burn their places of worship. That has been the pattern in the North.
The attacks against Christians have taken place all over the North, from Kano to Yola, Maiduguri, and so on. I am sure you remember the era of Maitatsine? Now there is no Maitatsine, but we now have Boko Haram.
Boko Haram started in Maiduguri and the State Government established Boko Haram, nurtured it and supplied the insurgents with arms and ammunitions. Now, Christians are murdered inside churches in Maiduguri.
Which Governor started Boko Haram?
It was Modu Sheriff. It was under him that Boko Haram was established. It is not a lie, it is the truth. You see, something is seriously wrong, because all this happened during the period when Obasanjo was the President. Mohammed Yussuf, the founder of Boko Haram was brought to Abuja several times for interrogation but he was released each time. This was very unfortunate.
Now, Modu Sheriff has left office but Boko Haram has continued unabated.
Initially, it was designed as a plot against the Christians but it has now gone out of hand. Three, four years ago, did you hear the Muslims complain about Boko Haram? No, they did not. Because then, Boko Haram was only killing Christians, and burning churches. The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs did not say anything against Boko Haram.
But, now that the boys have gone out of control and they are killing Mallams and Imams and throwing bombs into markets and bus stops, and the bombs did not ask whether you are a Christian or Muslim, they are saying it is un-Islamic. Even now that Muslim leaders say Boko Haram is un-Islamic, what are they doing about it? They only condemn it but they are doing nothing about it.
I am from Southern Borno and I can tell you that Boko Haram goes from village to village and from house to house slaughtering Christians. Women are burying their dead husbands in large numbers. It is sad, very sad.
What is the situation now?
It is terrible. They have almost sacked all the Local Governments in Borno State. As I am talking to you, (August 2014) only three Local Governments are not under the control of Boko Haram.
What about Maiduguri city?
Is Maiduguri really safe? It is only the presence of the security forces that prevent Boko Haram from taking over the city. Pull out the army and the police out of Maiduguri, and the whole city will go on fire by Boko Haram.
They attacked a church in Maiduguri and forced people to convert to Islam. Those that refuse to convert were killed and the church was burnt. Around four weeks ago, big churches that used to sit 500—1000 worshippers were burnt to ashes. Now, the survivors worship under trees.
In my own village, Christians do not sleep in the house again. Once it is 6pm, all the Christians will enter the bush for fear of the attacks by night. The sleep in the bush, without any cover from rain, snakes, or other dangerous animals. In the morning, they will return to their houses only to enter the bush again by 6pm. I am talking about my own village, not another one. What kind of life is that?
Is this in Southern Borno?
I am talking about Bui and Hawul Local Governments in southern Borno. The killings and maiming of people is concentrated in all of southern Borno. There are nine Local Governments in southern Borno where Christianity is very strong. Unfortunately, genocide is going on in the area.
The attack is not only religious, but it is also politically motivated because the Christians voted for Goodluck Jonathan. Therefore, the Muslims say, “kill them, so they will not vote again”.
The Christians are in the majority in southern Borno. What is going on is a deliberate plan to eliminate Christianity by destroying the minority groups in Borno state. You can call it ethnic or religious cleansing. It is part of the deliberate plan to destroy education so that everyone will become illiterate. Students are kidnapped and killed and girls have been abducted up till today.
Chibok is in southern Borno. There are nine local governments in southern Borno. They are Askira/Uba, Bayo, Chibok, Damboa, Gwoza, Biu, Hawul, Shani, and Kwaya Kusar. These are the local governments where the persecutions are daily going on.
Have the girls abducted in Chibok been located?
My friend, people do not seem to understand the secrecy of the abduction of the Chibok girls. If people carefully compare the statements of the state government, the Minister of Education, the statement of the Principal of the college, they will understand that the state government must be behind the abduction of the these girls.
The Minister of Education argued that the WAEC examination should not take place in Chibok because of insecurity. The state government said it must take place in Chibok. In a Local Government in which there are only 10 policemen, what can they do when Boko Haram arrives in hundreds with machine guns and AK 47?
We believe that the girls were abducted with the knowledge of the state government and they know where they are keeping them. The women that were paraded where most likely not all the girls. These were Christian girls, how could they in a matter of days begin to recite Arabic?
The government needs to explain why Nigerian troops have been sent to Mali to help Malians yet the same Nigerian army cannot rescue girls help captive in one local government. Hundreds of millions of Naira are being spent in the name of security yet there is no positive result on the ground. Some people somewhere are benefitting from this calamity.
My fear is that if Boko Haram is not stopped now, one day it would raise its flag over Aso Rock, then it would be too late for anyone to do anything about it.
They are operating like ISIS. Those ones have overran Iraq, and they are overrunning Syria. Hezbollah is doing the same in Lebanon. They all belong to the same group and they are linked. As they grow, they acquire more sophisticated weapons, more resources and at the same time are becoming more vicious.
If the Nigerian army can end a full scale civil war in the South East in 30 months, how come the same army cannot take care of a group of insurgents in one state? There is something definitely wrong somewhere. Jonathan is a good president but he is a bad president in the time of war. If Boko Haram is not dismantled before the end of 2014, I am afraid something stronger than Boko Haram will emerge in 2015. May God deliver us.
What do you suggest should be done?
There are two things that can be done. One is prayer, which is being done. However, prayer alone is not sufficient. Faith without works is useless. The Israelis are fighting for their lives. If we sit down here without fighting and only keep on praying, while people are being slaughtered, every body will be killed. Christians must demonstrate courage and fight. Christians have to decide to end this crisis. I believe that Christians must find avenues to come out and fight for their security, their land, and their religion. That is the only way. We have reached the point that Christians must come out, raise funds and acquire arms to defend themselves. This is the only way.
It is naïve for Christians to fold their hands. Let us begin to protect ourselves. Christians should arm themselves since it is clear that government has failed.
If government is sincere in this affair, let them send intelligence gathering people into the villages and pick those committing these atrocities. Government must also fish out the financiers of Boko Haram. The government cannot say that in five years, it has not been able to ascertain the financiers of Boko Haram. There is too much of insincerity in the whole affair.
Meanwhile, anyone who dares to identify the members of Boko Haram will be ambushed and killed. Therefore, nobody will talk in my area to the police or the army anymore.
For the past two years, I have not even seen policemen in my village and I am on the high way. I challenge anybody to show me one police officer there. There is none.
Even if you give quality information to the security agents, they will not act on it. Let me give you one example. Before the Emir of Gwoza was killed, I told the security agents that it would happen and mentioned the exact spot. The three Emirs passed the front of my house that day, and at the exact place that I mentioned, they were ambushed and the Emir of Gwoza was killed. What did the security agents do?
Look, you can only stop Boko Haram by arresting the brains behind them and execute them. If they are emirs, politicians, military personnel, or clerics, fish them out and execute judgment on them. Then there will be no more Boko Haram.
Muslim Leaders have been heard to say Boko Haram is un-Islamic
And so? What have they done about it? They have done nothing! If they say it is un-Islamic, what are their plans to dismantle it? It is not enough to mount propaganda and do nothing.
The Muslims will not do anything. It is the Christians that should come out and train their youths and take steps to defend themselves.
Today, I cannot go to the village, because if I do, they will come after me. The day before yesterday, they rained bullets from AK47 in front of my house. This is one of the shells. It was brought to me. Fortunately, there was nobody in the house. All the members of my family have been evacuated before they arrived.
Today, village after village is being sacked by Boko Haram and nobody is doing anything.
My friend, it is a pity. God will help us but we need to stand in faith.