By OBINNA EZUGWU
The presidency has responded to last Sunday’s nationwide protests ordered by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), noting that while every Nigerian had the right to peaceful protest, there was no place for those who attempt to play politics of religion.
The presidency which stated this in a statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu noted, however, that it was understandable that CAN’s protest was prompted by the killing of Pastor Lawan Andimi, its chairman of Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State chapter by Boko Haram.
“The actions of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in recent days represent the peaceful right of all Nigerians to protest and express their views on matters of religion, ethics, politics and society,” Shehu said.
“The origination of their protests is the shocking, unacceptable death of Pastor Lawan Andimi at the hands of Boko Haram. The President feels their pain, and that of his family, for his loss.
“The President believes, as does every member of his administration, both Christian and Muslim in the words of CAN’s placards: “All life is sacred.” Whether you are Christian or Muslim, all Nigerians and their beliefs must be respected.
“The duty of all of us is to uphold the rights of others to worship according their faith – and to respect the rights of each other to do so freely in the spirit of brotherhood and respect – and without interference.
“This means, however, that we must stop false claims that only serve to divide one community against the other. There is no place in Nigeria for those who politicise religion. This is the President’s message to both Muslim and Christian communities alike.
“In the light of this, the CAN-inspired prayers and street enlightenment in our cities are much welcome as sensitizers to the need for ALL CITIZENS irrespective of faith, religion or language to accept their duty and role in law enforcement, to prevent crime in all its manifestations, be it corruption, theft, terrorism, banditry or kidnapping. Without citizen involvement, there is no miracle with which less than half-a-million policemen can effectively protect a population of 200 million.
“CAN is right to arouse popular consciousness to this duty to the state. One more thing is this: it is the added need for citizen-consciousness to stand up for the nation.
“Nigerians, only Nigerians can defend their nation against these abhorrent killings and all sorts of crimes worrying us as a nation.
“From the prayers and advocacy by CAN, citizens need to take an important lesson, which is, that our people must rally around the flag.
“Together, they rise to defeat the enemy and defend the state. In Nigeria, some groups rally against the government instead of the enemy. This is not right. It has the effect of playing into the hands of the enemy of the state.
“We will not defeat the terrorists, nor speed the return for those citizens, young and old taken by them by division in our own ranks. To pull apart is to play into the hands of the terrorists: this is what they want.”