Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian attorney and human rights activist residing in the United States, sought to put into context the various reports emanating from Nigeria about Christian reprisals for the deadly attack on a Catholic church on Sunday, October 28, in northern Nigeria. Ogebe told Spero News in an exclusive interview that in the past, Muslim extremists of the Boko Haram movement have lain awaiting those fleeing from bomb blasts and fighting in order to commit further mayhem that has been attributed to Christians. While reports of violence on the part of Christians is disturbing, said Ogebe, it is understandable from the standpoint of the local Christian community since in many areas of Nigeria they are attacked at will by Muslim extremists and with little effective response on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan's government. Ogebe is in constant contact with Christian religious leaders, activists and journalists in Nigeria.
Ogebe said that the death toll of the suicide blast in Kaduna will certainly rise from the official figure given after the blast. While at least eight persons are known to have died, said Ogebe, the number of dead is expected to rise because of the poor medical care in Kaduna. He also noted that in some instances, medical personnel at Muslim hospitals have refused admission to women not dressed according to Muslim custom and thus refused medical care.
The Washington DC-based lawyer decried what he perceived to be a media bias in reports about sectarian violence in his oil-rich homeland. He noted that following a deadly blast at a Catholic church in the city of Jos, the opening line of a Western report noted that 'Christians attack Muslims after bombing at Catholic church." At the city of Kano, said Ogebe, in one instance there were only seven deaths attributed to a Muslim bomb attack on January 20 when the actual toll was nearly 200. This, said Ogebe, was the single most deadly day of any recent conflict, including the carnage in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Ogebe said, "During Christian religious holidays, Nigerian churches are bombed. Now during Muslim religious holidays, like this weekend's Eid (a Muslim holiday), St Rita's cathedral was bombed, indicating that it is open season for killing Nigeria's vulnerable Christians at all times."
Said Ogebe, "Attending regular Sunday services is now an extremely high risk behavior and there is no let up to the slaughter that has seen over two dozen churches attacked in addition to countless other attacks on innocent Christians this year alone."
"While the US maintains that the Boko Haram terrorists are trying to ignite a war between Christians and Muslims, US policy does not give credit to the Christians who have shown tremendous restraint in the midst of a jihadist insurgency that is now the longest running sustained onslaught on Christians anywhere in the world. More needs to be done by way of relief, preventive and protection assistance to reassure Christians that they are not left at the mercy of this bloodthirsty Islamists. This is as important as the current US policy of appeasing the generally intolerant northern Muslims."
As a journalist in Kaduna told me "The atmosphere yesterday almost degenerated to full scale riot. Two bike men were lynched and burned. Angry youths were already mobilising to launch but the security personnel stopped it immediately. In such volatile situation anything is possible. In a way, most of the conflicting reports on the social media yesterday were correct. "
According to Ogebe, the journalist continued, "Kaduna, (Ed. note: the city in northern Nigeria where the deadly attack at St Rita's Catholic church was bombed on Sunday, October 28) was calm the next day. The anger has waned. However if government allow this suicide bombers to continue to attack churches in Kaduna, I am afraid the government may not be able to stop the looming mayhem."
Ogebe said, "This is a far cry from widespread reports that Christians went round the city targeting Muslims. Kaduna like Plateau has a sizeable population of Christians who are able to defend themselves when attacked unlike many other states in northern Nigeria where Christians are completely defenseless."