Kaduna State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Reverend John Hayab, tells ISRAEL BULUS about the same faith ticket of the All Progressives Congress and the current security challenges in the state


What is your take on the killings in Southern Kaduna?


It is unfortunate because the region is suppose to be a home for everybody, but others who came and were received resorted to inflict evil on the people. The unfortunate thing is that these same people don’t want to admit that they’ve done evil. There is a history of killings that took place in Southern Kaduna but the most popular among them all was the one of 1987 that took place at the Kafanchan College of Education which was clone to become something else but we’ve different kinds of conflict going on in Southern Kaduna.


As someone who is from Southern Kaduna, I always desire to see that Southern Kaduna is peaceful and a place of joy but the people are suffering. The strategy of the enemy is to divide and rule. So, even if they attack Bajju this time, next time, they go to Atyap, Marwa, and another time, they will attack Chawai. Sometimes we get confused. That’s the kind of pain our people are going through. Sometimes, I find Southern Kaduna killings as an unfortunate experience that our people are going through. Southern Kaduna people don’t have any industry apart from education, farming. Unfortunately, the attacks and the killings have disrupted those two industries. Today, people in Southern Kaduna can no longer go to school or access their farmlands because of these constant attacks.


Do you think the state government is doing enough to resolve the issues?


To be honest with you, I don’t really want to talk much now about government because, do we really have a government? Do we really have people who are leading or care about the people or we have an institution called government that is not connected with the people or care about them? What the government does is just using the media for propaganda. I have read in some papers where people were sent to Southern Kaduna and according to them, they came to survey and confirm whether the crises are true or false and they go and write what does not exist. I am the one who buried my father, my son, my wife or any other relation and you’re telling me that there was nobody killed? You think we are just telling lies by saying I buried my father, my son or I just want to lie that people were killed in my village and they were buried? The way government is treating the matter; instead of addressing the yearnings of the people or bringing an end to the killings, government is sponsoring propaganda against the people.


So, the reality is that even the governor (Nasir El-Rufai) is one of those the terrorists want to kill. Now, the conversation is to go after them and completely wipe them out. Why didn’t you wipe them out since? Even if you have not wiped them out, there are measures government would have taken and stop them from growing wings but as they grow wings and they’re not even afraid of anybody, that’s what I find difficult about government. The reason why we are where we are today is because of the failure of government.


Christians in Southern Kaduna have had a firsthand experience of a Muslim-Muslim executive in office. How has the Muslim-Muslim administration faired in the engagement of Christians and Muslims in the country?


The whole idea about the Muslim-Muslim ticket is an insensitive decision, it is not a popular decision, it is not a decision to unite us, neither is it a decision to heal the existing wounds nor a decision to restore sanity. To me, you know something is wrong but you want to do it as long as you’ll get what you want. Kaduna State Christians can tell people who care to listen that Kaduna State suffered a lot of issues because of the lack of giving people listening ears. Kaduna State fought for a very long time to correct this and the state got it corrected. The state was beginning to grow out of crisis until we found ourselves in the post-election violence in 2011. If you say Muslim-Christian ticket, has it solve problems? Yes, it has solved problems. After 2002 Miss World beauty pageant, understanding started coming, people began to trust each other and peace returned back to Kaduna State. Senator Ahmed Makarfi that is seen today as the best governor, I remember his first time was hell because there was that suspicion and lack of trust.


But the moment he knew this and started reaching out and giving a segment of Kaduna State a voice and a space, Kaduna State became peaceful. When he was re-elected in 2003, he had peace. The money he was using to restore peace, he started using it to invest in his people. That’s why today, in Kaduna State, he is being called the Prophet for developing rural area communities. He didn’t achieve that in an era of crisis. He achieved all those things when there was sanity and there was peace. When former Vice President Namadi Sambo came to be governor, he built on that. So, Kaduna State began to enjoy that kind of stability for nine good years until 2011 when the post-election violence of President Muhammadu Buhari became an issue. But we were consolidating those nine years of successes of restoring that sanity and peace, and then this government came.


The beginning of this government had a Christian deputy governor but there was already a mindset because it was at the beginning of this government that the governor came out and said Christians are 30% while Muslims are 70% as declared by a man who has no data. It was because of this mindset when he had a Christian deputy governor that he said Christians didn’t vote for him. I had to confront him one-on-one and not on the telephone. I told him, you know you didn’t tell the truth. I gave him facts and figures of the local government elections. He agreed with me and said ‘yes, I got 47.8% of their votes’. That’s a mindset and he actualised the mindset by introducing what we’ve today as the Muslim-Muslim ticket.


My take here is that a wrong decision was made which the Christian communities felt they were not carried along and if there is a superior argument, meet them, explain and convince them of what you think. But when you start justifying it with falsehood and issues that are not honest, then you have shown that in the first place, it was a deliberate and intended action and that is where many Christian leaders were saying if you fly the Muslim-Muslim ticket instead of talking about it, we’ll show them how we’ll reject it come February 25th, 2023.

The Kaduna State APC governorship candidate still maintained El-Rufai’s style of the Muslim-Muslim ticket. What’s your opinion on this?

I earlier told you it was an agenda. They kept it to convince people that it is real. If they want to tell the truth, they know what ensued before they finally settled for the Muslim-Muslim ticket. The problem is that people don’t want to own up to the truth. Whatever maybe the agenda, they know. Kaduna State has suffered in the last four years. Even those that they used the Muslim-Muslim ticket later realised it was just a gimmick. It didn’t pay, we’ll watch and see. Before (Bola) Tinubu announced his running mate, first, it was Kaduna State, and we told them we’re not going to lose sleep. One thing we know is that we’ve other 17 political parties. We’re going to vote for a political party that unites us. Nobody can intimidate us


Threat of kidnappings seems to be a major challenge in Kaduna State this time. What has the church done to intervene in the situation?

Just before you came, the last group I met are also victims of this kind of thing. Every time, we receive complaints from our members. Some relatives have been with the bandits for almost 60 days, some 90 days and there is one that has been there for almost one year. We tried getting back; he is one of the Baptist High School students. When this kidnapping started, as a church, we tried to find out what was going on. We administer questionnaire to our churches to find out if any of their family members has been kidnapped? Is he a church member and how much was paid? Was he released? How much was paid? And we came to realise that as at that time, over 500 people had been kidnapped and over N300m was paid as ransom and we raised the alarm. I remember that the then Commissioner of Police invited me to the police headquarters and I went there with few officers of CAN and he brought virtually all Deputy Commissioners of Police that was in his Command and ACPs in his Command, they were about 12 seated and he was speaking to us arrogantly, trying to intimidate us and after he was done, he didn’t even have the courtesy to asked me to explain and I kept quiet. After he was done, he said I should talk, I responded to him and gave him fact and figures of what we’ve and he became so humble. Thank God for one of his officers who stood up and said, ‘with due respect sir, these people know more about the crime going on in this state than we know ourselves. If we work with them, we’ll get to know more about what’s happening in the state, but if we try to dispute them, they have their facts. That’s were government went wrong.

We paid over N250m to get the Baptist High School students out. How much did the parents of Green University students pay? Now, with the train issue, the bandits are demanding N100m from an individual. A family that has not seen N1m, you’re asking them of N100m, it means they will take 100 years gathering that money and what property do they have in an insecure place like Kaduna State that they can sell to get N100m?. The most devastating one; you remember one of my priests, the CAN Chairman of Jema’a Local Government Area was kidnapped and killed. As a leader of the church in Kaduna, we have strategised by sensitising our people and communities to how to be watchmen but there is a limit to what we can do. One day, I was in one community, after we finished our lectures and seminars, one of the locals said ‘Pastor, all that you’ve said is true but there is one problem’, I said what? he said ‘when this bandits come, the kind of sophisticated weapons they have, when they start shooting, even if you’re courageous, when you hear the sound of their guns, you’ve to just run away’. But we’ve told our people they must not be afraid to defend themselves, and we’ll continue to defend ourselves until government wakes up from its slumber.

How did the country fall to a level where terrorists and bandits have taken over some of her communities?

Nepotism led us to where we are today and government was not appointing competent people to deal with the issues of Nigeria. Those who were speaking about the ills of the country were tagged enemies of government. They were busy appointing tribal people, religious identity people or their kind of group to champion what was not their own. This led us to where we are as a nation. You have a commander and he doesn’t even know what to command, then you’re in a deep mess. If you have an intelligence gathering unit and they are only gathering what suits their principal, there will be confusion everywhere. So, nepotism led us to where we are. Placing of people in positions where they don’t have idea as their only qualifications is their religion or their tribe. Another issue is that of our refusal to work and address our educational issues. Can you imagine that today in this country, ASUU has been on strike for some months but one person will steal the whole money ASUU is looking for? The money ASUU is asking for is not available but money to steal is available, and the Nigerian court is granting such a person bail. This is horrible.

Do you think the current ugly situation is redeemable or will you say it is finished for Nigeria?

The truth is that there is no problem that’s not redeemable. Since God has given man the capacity, the intellect, he knows how to find solution to human problems and security issues. I’m sure Nigeria’s issues too can be addressed. There are countries in the world that have suffered terrible violence and insecurity but they were able to overcome it. Our challenge in Nigeria is that we never really sat down to do what’s right but only to make noise. Our leaders don’t take some of the resolutions in some of the conferences and use them, so it becomes more of a talk show instead of thinking and coming up with pragmatic ways of finding solutions. There are still larger parts of Nigeria that are not suffering insurgency, but the parts that are suffering, if tackled strategically and looked at holistically, we will be able to come out of it. I see us getting out of it but the first thing we need to do is that we must have the right kind of leadership, attitude and approach.

Why do you think Christian clerics are now kidnappers’ targets?

We will only say what we think, we cannot be completely right or wrong but sincerely speaking, the terrorists, for deliberate reasons, target the church. One, they know the communal relationship that exists in the church. We are more like a family. What happens to one happens to all. So, they believe that if they target our spiritual leaders, we will rally round, look for money and give them. They’re targeting us to get quick money and they’re targeting religious leaders because there is also religious undertone in all those criminalities. I always wonder why the Federal Government has continued to deny that Christians have not been persecuted and that the criminals are not targeting Christians. This is because they have a deliberate principle to impoverish Christians, create fear among Christians and to start making Christians to feel they want to belong and share their identity.

How many Christian clerics have been killed so far in Kaduna?

We have lost almost 10 to 12 clerics in Kaduna State. I can name a Living Faith pastor, two Baptist pastors, the wife of an ECWA Church pastor, in Brinin Gwari, Reverend Father Aketeh in Kudenda, Father Vitus Borogo, Father John Mark of recent, Father John Shekwolo, who they collected money for him to be freed. But for almost two and half years now, he never came back. I need to check my record but I know about 10 to 12 Christian clerics have been killed apart from other Christians. As a result of these killings, many pastors don’t accept calls to go to certain areas. There was one of our pastors living within the outskirts of Kaduna around Abuja-Kaduna highway. They kidnapped him twice and tortured him. They collected everything he had. The day he came back after the second kidnap experience, he parked his things and just left.



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