LOVING GOD AND NEIGHBOR: PANACEA FOR PEACE AND PROGRESS IN SOUTHERN KADUNA
BEING A HOMILY PREACHED BY FR WILLIAMS ABBA AT THE THANKSGIVING MASS IN HONOUR OF LUKA BINIYAT AT ST THOMAS CATHOLIC CHURCH, ZAMAN DABO, 29/10/2017
It gives me great pleasure to deliver this homily on this auspicious day when we all gather as family and friends to celebrate and rejoice with our father, brother and friend, Luka Biniyat. We all know his story and the travails he went through in the hands of his persecutors, namely, the state government. We give thanks to God the all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent and omniscient God, the one that always has the final say and when he speaks, we must listen. When he acquits, no one can condemn and when he condemns, no one can acquit.
Our Bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Bagobiri desired to be here to preside over this Mass of thanksgiving. He actually approved the date for the thanksgiving and assured Luka that not baring any unforeseen circumstances; he will be available for the thanksgiving. Then, as you will see, an unforeseen circumstance presented itself as he has had to make an emergency trip to Rome. So he has asked me to bring his warm regards and best wishes to our brother, Luka Biniyat, his family and indeed, the entire Tyap land. He is in Rome but this moment, his spirit is with us. Accept my bishop’s good wishes and be assured of his prayers always.
Before I get into the kernel of what has brought us together, permit me to devote the next few minutes to look at the readings of today.
Heaven is within our reach. It is at our doorstep. Only one thing is necessary to be a candidate of heaven; LOVE. Love of God and love of neighbor. Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who is love personified in answer to a question posed to test Him gives us the answer that the love of God and love of neighbor sum up all the commandments of God. The bird has two (2) wings to fly to the heights. The believer is given two wings of love of God and love of neighbor to reach the dwelling place of God.
Our first reading enjoins us to love our neighbor. Neighbor here is used metaphorically to refer to the less privileged members of the human family: The stranger, the oppressed, the orphan, those unjustly incarcerated and languishing in different prison cells across the length and breadth of this country, the poor, the widow etc. The first reading specifically tells us that the Lord will surely hear the cry of these persons if they are not given attention. Recall the teaching about the last judgment in Mathew 25:31-46.
We are going to be judged by what we have done or not done to the stranger, the naked the sick, the imprisoned etc: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did to me” (Mt 25:40). By his incarnation, the Divine word, Jesus Christ identified Himself with all human persons without exception irrespective of creed.
Our second reading gives us the response of the Thessalonian community to this law of law- they “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God and to wait for his Son”
In the Gospel, Jesus laid down the complete definition of religion: (W. Barclay, 324)
1. RELIGION CONSISTS IN LOVING GOD: The verse which Jesus quotes is Deuteronomy 6:5. That verse was part of the Shema, the basic and essential creed of Judaism, the sentence with which every Jewish service still opens, and the first text which every Jewish child commits to memory. It means that to God we must give a total love, a love which dominates our emotions, a love which directs out thoughts, and a love which is the dynamic of our actions. All religion starts with the Lord which is total commitment of life to God.
2. The second commandment which Jesus quotes comes from Leviticus 19:18. Our love for God must issue in love for others. But it is to be noted in which order the commandments come; it is love of God first, and love of others second. It is only when we love God that other people become lovable. The biblical teaching about human beings is not that we are collections of chemical elements, not that we are part of the brute creation, but that men and women are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
It is for that reason that human beings are lovable. The true basis of all democracy is in fact the love of God. Take away the love of God, and we can look at human nature and become angry at those who cannot be taught; we can become pessimistic about those who cannot make progress; we can become callous to those who are cold and calculating in their actions. The love of humanity is firmly grounded in the love of God.
To be truly religious is to love God and to love those whom God made in his own image; and to love God and other people, not with a vague sentimentality, but with that total commitment which issues in devotion to God and practical service of others.
It is in the application of this basic fundamental duty which makes us different from other adherents of other religions that we often fail. We fail individually and collectively.
That is why it is very easy for a brother to plot the downfall of another brother. That is why it is easy for a band of Judases, for love of porridge can betray their countrymen and even plan with the enemy to destroy entire communities. We have stories in the past of our kith and kin collecting sums of money in order to betray their brothers and sisters. These sound like fairy tales. But these are the existential realities we have found ourselves.
The travails of Luka Biniyat and Miscarriage of Justice
Our brother Luka Biniyat was incarcerated and jailed for 96 days. Stringent bail conditions were imposed by the late Justice Bashir Sukola (May he rest in Peace). Every attempt was made to get him out within the shortest time possible. But the powers that be, those who thought they hold the key to life and death, made sure he remained behind bars. Think for a moment. Have you ever thought of the trauma, psychological pain, and mental agony Luka went through? That you are kept behind bars for this length of time for a bail-able offence and subjected to all manners of taunting and mockery by agents of government was enough to make one to contemplate suicide. This is the irony of it. If you, for a moment thought it was really Luka Biniyat Governor Nasir El Rufai set out to persecute, you have missed the mark. Luka symbolized Southern Kaduna and all our struggle for justice and fairness. His reportage of all the senseless killings by the paid Fulani herdsmen was done out of genuine love and patriotism for fatherland. No mischief was intended. And when he eventually got to know that the source of his information was faulty, he immediately contacted his editor and asked for a retraction. But it was published nonetheless which smacks of professionalism and breach of rules of engagement. For those of you who didn’t have the facts and were quick to cast aspersion on our brother, now you know the story. He made frantic efforts to recall the story but because someone somewhere was bent on hanging him, they went ahead to publish the story. I want to believe that we have not heard the last of this case between Luka, Vanguard Newspapers and Governor El Rufai and we will encourage him to approach the court to seek redress.
Let me at this juncture congratulate another son of Southern Kaduna, Audu Maikori who recently secured judgment in his favor. The court in Abuja has compelled El Rufai and the Police to pay Maikori, the CEO of Chocolate City, 40 Million Naira and another 10 Million Naira as compensation to Audu Maikori for gross abuse of his fundamental human rights and causing him mental distress while he was in custody of policemen who were overzealous in carrying out the orders of Governor El Rufai who was desperate to arrest Maikori. This judgment is symbolic and significant for us, we thank God for his love and mercies upon Audu Maikori and we thank Gloria Ballason and her team for her doggedness. At least the governor has been given a bloody nose. We hear he has instructed his lawyers to appeal the judgment. It’s his fundamental human rights. He may chose to pay these sums and get closure for himself or continue litigation until 2019. So, just as Maikori triumphed over forces darkness, so also our brother Biniyat wil emerge victorious from his traducers and persecutors.
Lest I deviate from the point I am trying to make: those number of weeks and months, Luka spent under such demeaning and excruciating pains, it was the whole of Southern Kaduna that was on trial. In trying to break his will power and resolve, it was Southern Kaduna that was on trial. So Luka endured all the humiliation for all of us who come from this part of the State. But thanks be to God, Luka is here strong and alive. His detractors one by one will face the consequences of their actions. Southern Kaduna is the New Israel. We are unconquerable. We are not timid. We are not cowards. We do not have guns and bombs but we have God. He is our shield and our defender. Play with Southern Kaduna, you are playing with fire. We praise Luka for his principled stand while he was being tried. It was easy for him to give up and simply do the bidding of the powers that be to obtain his freedom to return to the warm embrace of his wife and children. But he chose to remain in prison, to suffer on our behalf. We are not unaware of pressures coming your way from many quarters, asking you to just apologize and get reprieve from the government. You resisted this temptation. You saw through this booby trap and failed to fall in it. You remained dogged and resilient. This Southern Kaduna resilience is what have gathered to celebrate and we remain eternally grateful to you for carrying our crosses and to fight to the end.
We cannot thank the team of lawyers that worked assiduously for Luka and Southern Kaduna. We cannot thank those that worked behind the curtains to ensure that our brother regained his freedom. We cannot thank enough those men and women who constantly prayed for God’s intervention in his case. You can see that God himself has taken over this case and has assumed his rightful duty as the supreme judge. We will all account for our actions and inactions at the end of time.
For our elites and elders in Southern Kaduna I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that Southern Kaduna respects her elders and confers on everyone his or her legitimate place in our hearts. So it is not by coincidence of history that you were born and belong to Southern Kaduna before most of us. This respect is your right and we concede that to you. But Southern Kaduna will no longer tolerate irresponsible leaders who pretend to be with us but stab us behind. Leaders who do not have the interest of the only place we have to call our home. Leaders who are willing to compromise their consciences for a pot of soup. Leaders that are willing to sell or sacrifice the birth right of Southern for their own political ambition and their own private agendas. I call such leaders tuwocrats. We have no problem when you choose to eat your tuwo. But for God’s sakes, this should not be at the expense of Southern Kaduna. We have only one agenda in Southern Kaduna and that is the common good and progress of every Nenzite. Whatever language you speak, whatever faith you profess, whatever political party you belong, we speak only one language: love, peace and progress. Anything that stands against this we uproot in the mighty name of Jesus.
The Place of Mentorship
Someone posted in one of the chat groups I belong “The place of mentorship” and I thought it’s important I reflected this in my sermon.
And he said:
The Yorubas are said to be the most successful in legal practice. They have the highest number of SANs and the best law firms in Nigeria. Why? Mentorship! Afe Babalola alone is said to have mentored at least 17 lawyers to the rank of Senior advocate of Nigeria. They ensured education for their people.
Mentorship is the reason Bola Ahmed Tinubu is celebrated. He has mentored many political sons to greatness. Northern Politicians and businessmen want to corner every juicy appointment for themselves only and they mentor each other in the art of politicking and business.
The Igbos are the most successful in business. Why? Mentorship! The average Igbo business owner is thinking of how he will settle his boy and also make him a millionaire.
What about us in southern Kaduna? What do we have to show for all the blessings that God in his kindness has bestowed upon our land by way of resources both human and material? We have some individuals in Southern Kaduna who can float a University and they will not even feel like they have lost a dime. Think of the many children who would have been educated through this selfless service? But no! They would rather keep their money in the banks or probably build business empires outside of their places of birth. Of course the normal argument is “our people are not responsible”. That may be true. But you know what? You are the reason for our irresponsibility.
A candle looses nothing by lighting another. In fact, a candle overworks itself by not lighting another. Selfishness and petty envy is killing us. God has blessed you to bless others. You have been lifted to lift others. A great man/woman is he/she who has made others great.
We have cash crops here. We farm ginger and they come in trucks and ferry them to Kano, polish this ginger and export. And before you say jack, they have become millionaires overnight. And the real farmers, who toil day and night, receive peanuts for their toil and hard labor. Don’t we have men and women from Southern Kaduna who can come together in partnership and float a ginger processing company? It is a deliberate act by government that the ginger processing factory in Kachia remains moribund so that we will perpetually be economically subservient and dependent. We must break away from this slavish mentality and free ourselves. It took the sacrifice and vision of one man in South Africa to set his people free. Can we not have Mandelas in Southern Kaduna?
The way out/Conclusion
Let us be politically conscious and involved. The days of lethargy are far gone. We are all suffering now because of the lackadaisical attitude of some of us. Prior to the 2015 elections, it was drummed into our ears to vote wisely as the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. We were accosted and called names. In fact some boys in the wake of the 2015 elections came to my house to challenge me and to ask me who gave me the audacity to talk about politics to the people. My humble answer to them was well, “every human being is a political animal (Aristotle). And that the actions or inactions of those we put in public offices invariable affect my own life. And I won’t be immune from it. I reminded them that as a Catholic Priest, I am forbidden from participating in partisan politics. But I have a sacred duty to create awareness to the people placed under my care to sensitize and educate them on matters concerning politics and good governance. They left quietly afterwards. After the elections, I met them and congratulated them and I said I look forward to when you will come for thanksgiving. And they assured me they will come when their government settles down. Till today, I haven’t seen them. Apparently, they are yet to settle down!
Every grown up person of Southern Kaduna extraction must have his or her voters card. If you don’t have a voters card and you refuse to vote, you have automatically become the Judas Iscariot of Southern Kaduna. Whatever it takes to get to the polling unit, you have to do it. Whatever it takes to go and obtain voters card, you have to do it. We have no choice. Being politically involved also means that we are up to speed with events happening around us. The typical Hausa Fulani, even if he has nothing, must have a transistor radio. He listens to BBC Hausa, he keeps himself abreast with events around him and the world. Our people don’t care. We still see politics as a dirty game. If it’s dirty let’s get in and inject some sanity into it. Otherwise we will remain perpetually under the domination of these other people who do not separate politics from religion.
To the young, it is no longer news that Southern Kaduna is the intellectual power house of Kaduna State. We must end our timidity and assume our rightful places in the affairs of the state and nation. With all the number of professors our soil has churned out, the number of technocrats we are blessed with, successful business men and women, my dear brothers and sisters, we have no business being where we are now. We ought to have move farther than this. We cannot continue to play the second fiddle to feudal lords. Do not be intimidated by a certain demented governor who referred to Southern Kaduna as merely constituting only 30%. It is a ploy already to rig us out. We must never succumb to this blackmail and narrative. Those who have boasted about winning elections without votes from Southern Kaduna will have a taste of their pudding in the coming elections and we will see how that pans out. We must become our own masters and chart the course for our development. From what we have seen from the government, both at the national and state level, it will be foolhardy to lay back and expect any meaningful development. Nothing has happened since the death of Yakowa. All we get are lies and empty promises. So 2019 is not too far away. We have been punked by this government. We must be wiser now. We cannot continue to be politically correct. Political correctness is not our exclusive preserve. We have to cast our votes wisely. Once beaten twice shy. We have had our schools closed long enough. We have had our district heads sacked. That’s enough. We have our teachers who are being threatened with sack. That’s enough. We have our traditional leaders insulted and humiliated and even jailed. That’s enough. We have our traditional institution threatened with mergers and renaming to take us back to status quo: the days of oppression and subjugation. That’s enough. If we are not wise now, we are never ever going to be wise again. Vote out any arrogant leader who assumes he is God and plays the ostrich. It was Warren Buffet who once wrote that we should look for three (3) things in a person: intelligence; energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. El Rufai has failed the integrity test. He does not deserve our trust again. The much touted intelligence of his’, lacks wisdom. He has energy but unfortunately, this energy gets to be dissipated negatively.
Vote out selfish representatives who do not have the interest of Southern Kaduna at heart. We must work hard to change the narrative. And no one will do it for us but us.
So propelled by true love of God and neighbor, we can attain our set objectives. Yes we can! So our Bishop asked me to specifically tell every Southern Kaduna man and woman, present here or not (we should take the message to them), that “we must use our votes wisely this time. That those who vote for tyrants are not only victims but accomplices in the evil”.
And I dare add
“the devil came, masquerading with evil intent, and before the onlookers knew what was happening, they became victims of the evil machination of the devil. God forbid that this will be our lot again in 2019 through Christ our Lord. Amen!