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EL-RUFAI’S BILL WILL CREATE A BIGGER NUMBER OF PRISONERS IN KADUNA STATE
– Archbishop David Bakare, CAN Chairman, North West Nigeria.
Archbishop David Bakare, the presiding Bishop of Jesus is Life World Outreach Ministries (JAWOM) with its headquarters in Zaria chairman Kaduna State was a former CAN Chairman Kaduna state and the current Chairman for the North West zone of CAN. In this interview, he speaks on the bill and the several implications for Christians and Christianity in Kaduna state. This interview was conducted by Bola Adewara.
As the CAN Chairman for North West Nigeria, what is your reaction to the Bill sent to Kaduna State House of Assembly by the state Governor, Nasiru El Rufai?
We have been able to put out thoughts together and we have been able to look at the bill and found out that it is as dangerous as the Sharia law that caused trouble all over the North. It is capable of causing more harm than the said desire to make things good.
Whatever the government intends to achieve for good cannot be achieved with this bill and its going to create a bigger number of prisoner for Kaduna state than they can accommodate. And I will tell you why.
If you say people should be licensed before they preach, like you say my wife, a preacher should be licensed, we hear that. But what happens when on a programme like Mothers Day when the entire service is run by our women. The preacher of that day may not be licensed preacher. What happened on May 29 when we do Children’s Day service and we have our children to run the service in our presence. Do we license the children too?
In any case, the law of the believer according to Mark 16:16 is Go ye to all nations and make disciples of all men. The interpretation of that Scripture is …everyone who is a believer of Jesus Christi must make disciples of all nation. So every one of us must preach the gospel. The state government must be ready to arrest every Christian who is out to make disciples and should also be ready to license per day the numbers that are being added to the Church. The alternative is that El-Rufai should expand the Ahmadu Bello Stadium so they can have enough space to keep the large number of convicts. This is the crux of the matter.
I will give you another reason why he should be ready to have a bigger prison even bigger than the whole state. If El-Rufai says we can only play videos, CDs only in designated places of worship, the implication is that if a place is not a designated place of worship, you cannot use the CDs, Christian music, etc. Does it means you cant play it in your house, in your car? So the number of offenders would be that large, as many as play Christian music or watch the videos in their houses. Don’t forget also that most of us have television programmes that we watch in our houses. When watching a Christian station and the preacher ask us to pray or sing, you must be ready to take such people to prison.
It is worse that the Law did not tell us where the Christians should be tried or where the Muslim would be tried. It simply gave the jurisdiction to either the Sharia court or the customary court. It did not specifically say where a Christian could be tried. So in a case of vendetta, a Christian could be hounded to a Sharia court and summarily convict him. That bill says they can do summary judgment, summary conviction. That judgment has no appeal. That means I can simply be picked up on the street and be sentenced.
I simply think the law is not well thought out. Whatever good intention he has can never be achieved. It’s simply one of the worst bills to be drafted.
Did the governor invite the religious leaders to a meeting before drafting this bill or sending it to the house?
I am the CAN chairman for the North West zone, I was not consulted. I speak for the entire North West and I speak for myself. But for the state CAN, I don’t know if they were consulted. I was told that they received a copy when the bill went to the house.
I don’t know if you are aware that so many Christians in the South here are worried about the matter to such an extent that a pastor in a video being syndicated about is said to have placed a curse of El-Rufai that if the bill is not withdrawn he would die. How do you react to this?
I can authoritatively tell you that they have seen the video and are worried about it. They had to send messages to the CAN leaders in Kaduna over the issue. The matter bothers every one of us. I have hosted a meeting with over 60 Christian lawyers in Zaria. They were in Zaria for their NEC meeting and I invited them to a meeting and we went over these laws again. The interpretation I gave to you is their views on the matter.
What level of relationship is there between the Christians and the state government? I have spoken with some Christian leaders around the North over this issue and the feeling they have of El-Rufai is that of arrogance and uncompromising character. What is your reading of the governor?
The first understanding we have of him is what we have known him for while in Abuja as the minister of the Federal Capital and so far we have not seen anything different. I think that should be loud enough.
I spoke with a Methodist Church member who told me that the law is not as bad as it is painted because it will control the excesses of so many Pentecostal churches where people come from no where as say they are pastors. The person said the law would even hurt the Muslims more than the Christians. How do you react to this?
There is a lot of ignorance amongst our people, that was why I chose to pick the bill and circulate it nationwide. On the surface, there is the impression that it will hurt the Muslims more than the Christians. The issue is this; the law is created not to hurt anybody because government is set up for the welfare of the citizens. So when you begin to raise a law that hurts the people, it deserves an attention. That obviously could not have been the campaign promise of the administration. They never told us they will hurt us. So why is it being implemented. A law should be something that will help the citizenry better than it was.
Now let me tell you that a section of the Muslims, the Ulaama has taken the government to court. So it’s not a matter of it hurting the Muslims more than the Christians. The Muslims are not comfortable with the law.
I have also found out that the people are reading it from the surface, for example, the bill says you are not allowed to use the loud speaker after a particular time. Some people would say what is wrong with that. The implication there is no more vigil in the night. It means we can’t run services beyond 8pm. For example, I have a congregation of about 4,000 people. If I am running convention that goes beyond 8pm, would anybody hear me anymore? By implication, you are asking me to shut down. It is also asking the Christian to shut down the hour of prayer. When is the Christian asked to pray? Muslims have hours of prayer but we do not. The order for us is to pray without ceasing. So many of our people have not understood that. They have not even looked critically at the issue of not playing CD or any religious material out the place of worship.
What is the body language of the Kaduna state House of Assembly?
Well, the bill has just passed the second reading in the house and the next thing to do is to go to the committee level and then public hearing. But we have been able to get the Christians in the house and the committees on Religious Affairs hold a pre-public hearing. When they heard of the noise against the bill, they invited CAN and other stakeholders to what they call pre-public hearing to really know the issue. It was then we saw that they too do not understand the depth of this bill. At the meeting, we were able to show them the grey areas of the Bill and were prepared to follow what we are doing.
However we Christians don’t have the two third majority. The Christians are short of the two third majority by one. So that is dangerous for us. They understand us and told us to do more work beyond the Christian legislators. We are to do serious lobbying and we are out for it.
What is the body language of the traditional institution in Kaduna state?
Religion is a personal matter. When it comes to religion, what interprets it for the individual is the religion he belongs to. So if you meet a tradition ruler, he will speak from his religion than from the truth of the matter.
But we also have a problem with a clause in the Bill which says .. there shall be a committee of government that will take final decision on who is licensed. It shall comprise of about nine members, two from CAN, two from the Muslims and the remaining five from traditional institutions and security agencies. We cannot interpret what is traditional in this place because this could be traditional rulers or or traditional religion. If it is traditional religion, are they also to be licensed? If they are not to be licensed, why are they part of the regulators of those who would be licensed.