Professor Yusufu Turaki is a theologian with the Evangelical Church of West Africa, (ECWA) and a specialist in social ethics. In this interview with TAI ANYANWU, he speaks on some critical national issues, including the myriads of threats to the Nigerian nation
How would you describe the state of the nation today?
Fulani Herdsmen, Boko Haram, ISWAP-IS, kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, rape cases, corruption and many other social vices are becoming normative and a lifestyle of fringed Nigerians.
The message being preached by these forces of anarchy is: “Salvation is found in violence.” Pervasive negative social values are replacing humane positive values. This is a return to the Jahiliyya era and dark ages. Barbarism, nihilism and anarchy have infested the Nigerian social environment.
Nigeria is gradually sinking into an animal zoo; colony of animals is more humane than the barbarism and gangsterism of a large sector of Nigerians. Truth, justice, freedom, equity and honesty are rare social human values today. Nigeria as it were, is on a short journey to ruin, disintegration and heading towards the death of nationhood. If this prognosis is not correct, where is peace, justice, unity, harmony and peaceful co-existence?
Boko Haram has devastated the North-East; Fulani Herdsmen are the marauding killer machines in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. Kidnappers and bandits operate freely in the North- West and Central Nigeria. We need not mention the impact of endemic corruption and social decay of institutions and society, and poor economy, social conflicts and crises. These are monumental.
One may not be accurate in assessing these realities that are plaguing Nigeria but when I listen to the government propagandists, I wonder whether they actually live in Nigeria or they live in a faraway Jupiter. Lying has ever been a social tool of controlling the masses by despotic regimes throughout history.
How has insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other manners of violence which are more prevalent today affected education, social and economic lives of the people in Northern part of the country?
These social evils have a historical background. They are rooted in the historical, ethnic, religious, cultural and social contradictions that exist in that society, especially in the Islamic Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri societies. In 2000, the Far North demanded for full Sharia and thus created the Sharia States. They told Nigerians that Sharia would bring law and order as Nigerian society is lawless and less religious.
They said Sharia has nothing to do with Christians and that would not affect them and that they should not fear full Sharia for it is only for Muslims. From 2000 to date 2021, we now have the fruits of Sharia. No one can doubt the sociological implications of Sharia in Northern Nigeria today. But in spite of implementing the Sharia, most of Hausaland and Kanuriland are in tatters with lawlessness abound everywhere. Insurgency, Fulani Herdsof \
men, Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping are now being exported from there to the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The word insurgency needs qualification. All these militant Islamic sects are not really insurgents in nature. They are not fighting the government or the state but mainly the ordinary people in northern societies and Christians. Their primary target is not the State, but the people, seeking to change their religions with their brand of Islam and ideology.
No. They are groups whose primary objective is the propagation of their religion and radical ideology. Muslims who do not accept their brand of Islam and ideology are killed also. We can say that the primary goal and target of these various military sects and Jihadists are mainly the Christians, non-Muslims and the ordinary people of Hausaland and Kanuriland. It is important to note that the activities of Jihadism, terrorism, banditry and kidnapping are not modern inventions in Northern Nigeria, but they are rooted in the historical fact of the activities of Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem Bornu in the past.
Modern social dynamics and new social formations and structures have only awakened the historical cultural memory of these terrorists groups. Why is it that the same terrorists groups have not emerged in the Middle Belt region? The activities of these present terrorist groups and where they operate geographically have a very strong correlation with the historical Sokoto Caliphate and the Sultanate of Kanem Bornu.
The historical primordial social factors of ethnicity, religion, culture and geography have provided a fertile ground for the emergence of these terrorists groups, which the Middle Belt does not have. Terrorism, attacks by Fulani herdsmen, banditry and kidnapping are exported from Hausaland and Kanuriland into the Middle Belt.
How do Northerners perceive the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, in the light of prevalent insecurity?
The way a Far Northern Muslim sees Buhari policies, administrative practices and attitudes would be different from a Far Northern Christian. The way a Middle Belt Muslim and a Middle Belt Christian or traditionalist sees would likely be different. Northern Nigeria is not homogeneous, but heterogeneous. The Middle Belt people believe that the Northern political and ruling class allows their militant religious and ethnic groups to unleash terror and degrade the Middle Belt, for this serves religious, political, geographical, cultural and social benefits of the Far North.
In your own opinion who are these bandits, kidnappers, herders, insurgents and what and whose interests are they pursuing?
This question has already been answered. We know who they are, their ethnicity, history, identity, geography, religion and culture, mainly from the historical Hausaland and Kanuriland.
The net effect of their negative activities is very destructive in the Middle Belt areas, especially the Fulani Herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits and terrorists. The origins of these terrorists groups are not from the Middle Belt. As the case is, it is the foreign terrorist’s invasions, killings and occupation of the ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt.
Some people believe that the government of the day is suspect because of perceived discordant tunes on issues of insurgency, herdsmen, violence and banditry, especially when Fulani Muslim fanatics are concerned. What is your take on that?
It would be wrong for me to speak factually to issues of suspicion. I deal with facts, realities and essences of things. Some people act on rumours and hearsay. I don’t. It is better to put it this way, ‘the attitude and the practices of the government of the day seem to support the terrorists.’ If only this assertion can be proven. The constitutional role of the government is to protect its citizens and the nation. But the facts on ground show that the government has failed woefully in its supreme constitutional duty and responsibility.
We are tired of this government blaming the previous government. It campaigned on the failures of the then government and assured Nigerians of fixing these failures of insecurity, corruption and the economy. The facts on ground as of today show that this was an empty Trinitarian promise.
The government seems to lack the political will and the stamina to face these three Goliaths (Giants). Speech writings and sermonizing the government’s gross failures before the Nigerian intelligentsia and the ordinary people by the government spokespersons, only serve to reveal its bankruptcy and lack of solutions to the multitude of problems plaguing Nigeria. What role should religious leaders
play at such a time that insecurity calls for separation and regional security outfits are on the rise?
The rising calls for separation and regional security outfits are as a result of the dismal failure of the government and the security agencies to make Nigeria safe, secured, conducive and viable environment for all Nigerians, regardless.
The role of the religious leaders is fundamental in providing the bedrock of sound common- ground values and a national ethic to guide and moderate the excesses of the attitudes, behaviours and practices of all Nigerians, regardless. But the failure of the religious leaders in addressing our insecurity is caused by a lack of understanding of how to use religion as a tool of nationstate building and national integration.
The religious groups only set themselves against each other without creating the common-grounds of social, moral and ethical understandings. Allow me to explain in great details how all religious leaders, traditionalists, Muslims and Christians can play a unifying role of building a peaceful and harmonious Nigerian society. Religions have a dominant role to play in revelation knowledge of God, morality, ethics, and spirituality. But there is a big problem here.
This is our inability to have a clear definition of the sources of religious knowledge and revelations and how to handle the claims of religions in matters of morality, ethics, and spirituality. Sometimes, the tasks of religion are confusing whenever religion fuses together God’s divine mandates and human greed, lust, and pride. In matters of religion, we tend not to classify our sources of knowledge and revelation in order to identify genuine sources from those of false ones and genuine revelations from counterfeits. If religion is to be given the task of promoting the rule of law, morality, ethics and spirituality, then there are important steps which religion must take very seriously so as to conform to the universal moral laws of God.
There is a great chasm between the universal moral and ethical laws of God and that of human practitioners of religions. The gap between God and the humans is caused by ignorance, self-centeredness and pride, greed and lust of the religious practitioners. First, we need to state the familiar pitfalls of religions in general. These include some bogus claims of religions, universality of God, universality of creation, universality of humanity and nationhood of a nation-state. Religions need to embrace the nationhood of the nation-state which creates a national ethic: the national ethics, values, and standards.
This generates the morality and ethics of national responsibilities and relationships. Some religions see the nationstate as a possession but they do not see its nationhood as a moral norm that can generate national ethics and responsibilities for all citizens.
The nation-state is viewed from the perspective of a narrow tribal, racial, or religious value. In treatment of the nation-state, they do not apply wholesale the universal moral laws of God, creational ethics and the primal human ethics, national ethic, but use local tribal, racial, or religious values couched in religious language. The nation-state is not seen in the light of God’s eternal attributes, but from the local or international religious boundary which is co-terminus with tribal or racial boundary. Issues of religious discrimination, persecution, marginalization, and intolerance are due to the lack of an implementable national ethic and rule of law. We can examine the nature and value of each religion by applying to it the ethics of God (theism); creational ethic; primal human ethic and the national ethic.
These are universal values that transcend ethnicity, racism, religion, culture, philosophy, and science. From our consideration of the moral and ethical boundaries, we need to formulate and define (1) theistic (God) ethic, (2) creational ethic, (3) primal human ethic and (4) national ethic as means of enlarging our narrow ethical boundaries to incorporate the universal ethic.
Religions have the task of widening their narrow moral and ethical boundaries to embrace the four categories of universal ethics. Religions need to embrace the universality of creation, which creates a creational ethic: the creational ethics. This generates the morality and ethics of creational responsibilities. Some religions see creation as a universal fact only but they do not see its universality as a moral norm that can generate universal creational ethics and responsibilities.
The world is viewed from the perspective of a narrow tribal, racial, or religious value which must be conquered and possessed. In treatment of creation or the world, they do not apply the universal creational laws, but use local, tribal, racial, or religious values of imposition and possession.
The world is not seen in the light of the universal God and universal creation but from the local narrow tribal or religious boundary which is co-terminus with tribal or racial boundary. Such religions do not have a well-defined creational ethic in relationship to God which preserves the values and structures of creation. Human rights and ecological issues and problems are due to the lack of a good creational ethic.
Also, religions need to embrace the universality of humanity which creates a primal human ethic: the brotherhood/ sisterhood and solidarity of humanity. This generates the morality and ethics of human responsibilities and relationships. Some religions see humanity as a universal fact only, but they do not see its universality as a moral norm that can generate universal primal human ethic for all humanity. Humanity is viewed from the perspective of a narrow tribal, racial, or religious value which must be conquered and possessed.
In treatment of humanity, they do not apply wholesale the universal moral laws of God but use local tribal, racial, or human religious values. Humanity is not seen in the light of God’s eternal attributes but from the local religious boundary, which is co-terminus with tribal or racial boundary.
The religious fate of humanity as determined by religions often calls to question their lack of application of God’s eternal attributes upon humanity. Issues of religious discrimination, persecution, marginalization, and intolerance are due to the lack of this universal primal human ethic. Instead of a religion to assume a universal ethic by extending its boundaries to all of humanity, they limit it to the narrow ethnic, racial or a human religion. If truly religion comes from God, then it must be of a universal ethic and not bogged down by human vices of discrimination, persecution, marginalization, and intolerance.
Religions need to embrace the nationhood of the nation-state which creates a national ethic: the national ethics, values, and standards. This generates the morality and ethics of national responsibilities and relationships. Some religions see the nationstate as a possession, but they do not see its nationhood as a moral norm that can generate national ethics and responsibilities for all citizens.
The nation-state is viewed from the perspective of a narrow tribal, racial, or religious value. In treatment of the nation-state, they do not apply wholesale the universal moral laws of God, creational ethics and the primal human ethics, national ethic, but use local tribal, racial, or religious values couched in religious language.
The nation-state is not seen in the light of God’s eternal attributes, but from the local or international religious boundary which is co-terminus with tribal or racial boundary. Issues of religious discrimination, persecution, marginalization, and intolerance are due to the lack of an implementable national ethic and rule of law.
Where has insecurity/violence left Nigeria under Buhari’s administration?
Today, all Nigerians are insecure; Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists are all over the place. The most powerful social value in Nigeria is the false ideology which preaches that salvation is found in violence or redemptive violence.
The incapacity and the ineptitude of the government provide a thriving atmosphere of security fuels all shades and kinds of violence, terrorism and banditry.
Do you support the use of military contractors to fight the war on terror?
Such an idea is the blatant failure of government to protect and secure Nigeria. Nigeria was a world champion of military and police peace-keeping, remember Congo, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur-Sudan. Today, Boko Haram, the dreaded Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers and other terrorists groups are ravaging Nigeria.
It does not matter how the government rationalizes its gross failures, the factual truth is that both the state and the security agencies are incapable of defeating and eradicating the terrorists groups. Some argue that this is because the military and the police are highly compromised and corruption.
The former President Goodluck Jonathan once cried out that the elements of Boko Haram has infiltrated the arms of government. Massive corruption is currently being announced in the military regarding its war on terrorism. Nirvana would have to wait to hear another piece of rationalisation and excuses.
How do you see the failure of the developed nations to assist Nigeria, but they can send them weapons to perpetuate violence?
Why should we blame the merchants of warfare and arms? They are simply in business. If you do not know how to keep your house clean, dirt will take over. Nigeria simply lacks transformational political leaders with a national vision, mission and mandate of developing and transforming Nigeria.
Our political leadership is characterized by self-centredness and pride, greed and lust, and anxiety and fear. Nigerian political philosophy and culture was founded by the British colonial masters upon three primal pillars: ethnicity, religion and regionalism. The sociological and political development of these three primal social factors has become a prohibita to national development and transformation.
The insecurity in Nigeria is being fanned by ethnic, religious and regional sentiments, fears and anxiety. Nigeria needs a new political culture and philosophy that transcends ethnocentrism, primordialism and regionalism, religious and cultural bigotry. These are the primordial social factors that have held Nigeria captive and have suffocated national life out of Nigerians. As it is often said: ‘To your tents oh Israel.’ This is the current rising cries of Nigerians. Boko Haram is battling leading a sectarian religious war; the Fulani Herdsmen are also battling
with ethnic-religious wars in Nigeria, and the bandits and kidnappers are challenged by anarchistic and nihilistic protest against the ordinary Nigerians as their victims.
Nigeria is in a dare need of transformational political leaders that can reform Nigeria for good. The intolerance of the present crop of politicians is the very negation of the spirit of our founding fathers. In the North, we no longer have the Sardaunas of Sokoto, but a crop of Islamists whose concept of national development is Islam only; Sharia only; hijab only; Arewa only. All these slogans are taking Nigeria back to the Jahiliyya era. Nigeria now has been taken back to the primitive era characterised by survival of the fittest.
Less than two years before the next to general elections, political aspirants for the presidential seat are still not bold enough to declare their interests. What do you think is responsible for this?
The state of the nation has raised both constitutionalists and sovereignty questions. How the 1999 Constitution was imposed upon Nigerians without a referendum and the way it is being interpreted and applied by the political class today. Amending some clauses or bringing in new ones into the 1999 Constitution will never solve its default problems that are fundamentally rooted in Sovereignty of all Nigerians.
Nigeria needs a complete new negotiated Constitution fashioned out by all Nigerian constituent representations. Only those who are the beneficiaries of the 1999 Constitution would want to keep it. Rationalising its defaults under any argument is only postponing the inevitable breakdown of its nationhood. When an old car has outlived its usefulness, it is usually a waste of time and resources in fixing it. This most controversial and divisive 1999 Constitution must give way to a Common- Ground Constitution based upon the sovereignty of all Nigerian peoples.
Any argument or debate about the Nigerian Constitution that avoids the question of sovereignty is a denial of the fundamental sovereign rights of the peoples of Nigeria. The educated ignorant or impostors may want to justify otherwise. Those who stand for freedom should not listen to such impostors.