This is part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Symposia Series, which is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.
MR. LEWIS: Welcome to this second session of our symposium on religious conflict in Nigeria. This session will address contemporary religious dynamics in Nigeria. Again, I’d like to remind you to turn off all of your cell phones and BlackBerrys -- or Crackberries, as they’re often known -- and any other electronic equipment that you have in your possession. And I'd also like to remind you that this session is on the record. The next session will be off the record, but this session is on the record. Participants around the nation and the world are viewing this on the Web, so be aware of that. It’s being webcast live on cfr.org.
Well, as I say, the subject of this session is contemporary religious dynamics in Nigeria. A premise of this entire symposium is that to understand where Nigeria is headed, we need to understand the religious dynamics in Nigeria. By all accounts, Nigeria is among the most, if not the most religious country in the world. According to polling data from the World Values Survey, the Pew Research Center and other organizations, Nigeria is at the top of the charts in terms of intense religiosity, and I suppose it’s factors like that that led President Obasanjo to observe that God is a Nigerian. (Laughter.) I’m not sure whether that’s in fact true, but it’s interesting that he thought that that’s true and I suspect a lot of Nigerians think that that might be true. And with this intense religiosity, this very dynamic religious economy in Nigeria, rapidly changing religious attitudes, intense forms of religiosity, this is a crucial set of issues to understand in order to understand the future direction of Nigerian society and politics.
And we have with us to help us understand these dynamics extremely outstanding experts on Nigerian religion. We have Father Matthew Kukah, who has been with the Catholic Bishop’s Conference -- in fact, served as the secretary of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference in Nigeria and is now in the office of the Archdiocese of Kaduna of the Catholic Church. And we have Professor John Paden, who teaches now at George Mason University, one of the world’s most outstanding experts on Islam in northern Nigeria and I profited a great deal from the writings of both of these gentlemen, and it’s a great privilege to have them both with us to talk about dynamics and trends in the two dominant religions in Nigeria -- Christianity and Islam. Walter, at the beginning of the symposium, alluded to some of the demographic trends in Nigeria, which are really quite dramatic.
If you look at the 1953 census in Nigeria, not that long ago -- 50 or so years ago -- 33 percent of Nigerians in the 1953 census where neither Christian nor Muslim. Today the percentage of people in Nigeria that are neither Christian nor Muslim is only about one percent. In other words, the whole of Nigeria know is divided between Christians and Muslims. Both Christianity and to a lesser extent Islam has experienced very dramatic growth over the last 50 or so years. They’ve not just experienced quantitative growth, but they experienced very important qualitative changes -- changes in denominational affiliation, changes in theology, changes in attitudes towards one another. And so Professor Paden and Father Kukah will helps understand some of these changes. And the first set of issues I’d like to talk about is just the basic quantitative dynamics that have occurred in Christianity and Islam -- changes in numbers of adherents, changes with growth patterns, changes in denominational affiliation.
And so, Father Kukah, could I ask you first to lay out some of the changes that have occurred in Nigerian Christianity in terms of quantitative dynamics?
FR. KUKAH: Well, thank you very much.
I think that for the -- for about five years -- I spent five years as a consultant at the Council for Interreligious Affairs in Rome, and there way always this question, you know, “Why is it that other Christians and Muslims are living relatively peacefully elsewhere?” But Nigeria is such a peculiar country. And I kept getting told, you know, “Why can’t you guys sort yourselves out?” But I made it very clear that we are -- Nigeria is like no other country in the world. I mean, we are (border ?) on the country. We’re not Indonesia. We’re not Pakistan. We’re not India. It’s the only country in the world where you have at least claims of a 50-50 percentage presence of both Christians and Muslims. That comes with enormous challenges.
And if you look at the patterns of growth, I think what has been very interesting in the growth of Christianity in Nigeria is not just the sheer numbers, but also these numbers have come with the acquisition of setting the rules of professionalism because to the Christian -- at least as many people remember in the ‘50s and the ‘60s, it was also -- to be Christian was also to be educated. And I think that also accounted for the way -- the cynicism with which -- the Islamic North reacted to the coming of the missionaries and to the coming of British colonialism. So, even up until now, you still find in the conversation claims -- I mean, confusion between the word “Christian” and the word “western.”
But clearly, as the numbers of Christians have increased, so has been their articulation and their ability and willingness to contest, you know, for power in a way and manner that may be -- you know, slightly unthinkable a few years ago. And many people trace the rise in the tensions between Christians and Muslims to the (airless ?) of interests. But I think it helps to remember that from January 15, 1966, when the military first intervened, the military didn’t get out of the scene until 1979. And at that point, then -- you know, before the military came, the whole of the north was just one region. By the time the military left, it was 12 states. Now the opening of the political space created new identities, you know. People then no longer continued to see themselves as northerners, but now saw themselves as Christians and there were states that they could (fled ?) to like parts of Adamawa, you know, parts of Bauchi and Niger and -- you know, there’s quite a lot of states in which Christians saw themselves and their numerical strength and their professionalism and their access -- you know, to the bureaucrats and so on and so forth as a condition and a basis for them to become more confident and so on.
And so I make the point that the increase in numbers of Christians in Nigeria has also had to heighten the expectation, but also heighten their participation in the political affairs of Nigeria. And the result then is that if you look back at Nigeria, you’d know that when the British left, they literally handed over Nigeria to -- it was just assumed, you know, the North will be in power and that they will be power for a very, very long time. But as you -- as I said, by the ‘70s and late ‘80s things began to change and I think this is why we -- you know, the tension has persisted over a very long period of time. But I make the point that along with the numbers, there have come an increase in the capacity and competence of Nigerians who have become Christians.
MR. LEWIS: Professor Paden, could you talk about the Muslim side? Some of the quantitative changes in dynamics that have occurred there?
MR. PADEN: Well, first of all, let me say I’m delighted to be here with many old friends. I’m sorry that Ambassador John Campbell can’t be here. He’s obviously busy -- and also Princeton Lyman, former ambassador. But this focus on contemporary obviously has a history, and I think Father Matthew has touched on some of that -- the changes, particular since the First Republic and the break-up of the north and the -- if you like, the competition in the middle belt states -- that area between the north and the south, if you like -- that really opened up, I think, to a lot of particularly first-generation evangelical conversions. The -- at the same time, you did have some of the Dawa -- the movements -- the evangelical movements from the Muslims down in that same area. So that’s, if you like, a battleground zone in terms of conversions.
But the history of the north was, of course, one where the Sokoto caliphate was probably one of the largest political entities in pre-colonial Africa -- sub-Saharan Africa. And then those become the emirates, and that became part of the indirect rule of systems. So that was very much entrenched, and as you got migrations that came up to those northern areas, there were special residential arrangements made for them. So there really wasn’t the conversion going on. The numbers -- I think the Muslim numbers have held relatively firm throughout this period, except there may be something going on in the middle belt. The part that is often overlooked is in the southwest, which by most accounts is about half-Muslim and half-Christian in the Oraba areas, and that goes back to an earlier period as well. We don’t need to get into that right now.
But let me just stress this 50-50 split. I think it’s important to walk away -- and everyone in the room knows this -- Nigeria with 140-plus million people is by far the largest country in the world that is about half-Christian, half-Muslim. And there are smaller states in West Africa. Ethiopia is sort of in that middle range, but -- you know, we focus on little states -- mini states, if you like, like Lebanon and so forth. But Nigeria is really the test case of whether this clash of civilizations of the Huntington thesis that this is a cleft country, it’s not going to stand or the al Qaeda version of that, which is -- you know, these are going to start working to make sure this doesn’t stand. This is really the test case, and so it’s with that in mind that we look at Muslim-Christian relations clearly to get to the point of -- I think we will -- of what the relations are and how those have changed.
We need to say, well, what’s the benchmark foundation? And there I would just say the Emirate states in the north -- they’re not all house, of course. They’re going from Aloren (sp) in the south to Adamawa in the east. Borno, of course, was never part of that.
So you have the Emirate states as one big block of Muslim experience. You have Borno of the northeast, which is much more, if you like, related to things to the east since it moved west and has never felt itself part of the Sokoto area. You have the middle belt, which is a relatively new area in terms of conversions and much of that -- some of that happened during the first republic. I’ll just mention that during that first republic both the Muslims and the Christians felt this area was fair game. They were the monotheists against the polytheists. Monotheists weren’t supposed to compete with each other, but so-called polytheists were fair game. And certainly, that’s where the international evangelical movement put things into local languages and Bibles and so forth.
And then of course, the fourth major Muslim zone is down in the southeast -- the Yoruba speaking areas. Now, what has happened to that basic -- the other basic element historically was that Islam was spread through the Sufi brotherhoods. Peter, I think, mentioned the catastrophe of the first election in ’64-’65. I’m maybe one of the few people in room here who lived through that election. I was sitting in the back streets of Kano at the time doing my student Harvard dissertation, but living with the Sufi communities and so forth. And it did break the country into a civil war. So I’m keenly aware of what can happen when elections don’t work out.
But the Sufism really was a powerful driving force throughout the ‘50s and the ‘60s and into the ‘70s. And then another trend began to happen as the links were made to Khartoum and to Saudi and so forth to get away from the Sufism and to get back to basics -- the Koran and the Hadith and so forth. And that resulted in the so-called Izala movement, which then contested between -- with the Sufis. The Sufis themselves were divided into two major groups: the Tijanis and the Qadiris. So you had the Sufis now coming together against the Izala.
And then a fourth trend in the north was all of these universities in Kano and Ahmadu Bello and Sokoto, in particular, where law schools began to add Islamic law to the curriculum. It was a specialty that you could do Western law and Islamic law. And out of that came the origins of what happened in the year 2000 -- the Shari’ a movement, which spread from Zamfara, of course, to throughout the 12 northern states -- including Bornu, which by the way, doesn’t have a particular Sufi tradition. So this Shari’a thing just caught everyone eye because you couldn’t be against -- politically you couldn’t be against Shari’a. Some of the politics within the north during the lead up to the election had to do with the fact that Katsina was the second state to set up Shari’a law and --
MR. LEWIS: If they were --
MR. PADEN: Atiku Abubaker didn’t want anyone to forget that because he was contesting within this northern sort of thing. So more recently there was some anti -- some development of anti-establishment. The four groups that I’ve mentioned of the traditional, the Sufis, the Izala and then these universities are very much a part of the establishment in the north. There were some protests against that -- the so-called Shi’a that came up in the ‘90s -- I say so-called and we can talk about that -- using Iran as a model. And Iran was sprinkling some money around and you know, why not?
And then, of course, more recently the so-called Taliban as well that in ’03 had a clash with the police in Yobe and then the question of where are they and are they the same guys who showed up in Kano in April. We can talk more about that. But those are groups that are challenging the northern Muslim establishment, which historically has always tried to incorporate groups, but the so-called Shi’a don’t want to be incorporated and the so-called Taliban have no intention of letting Nigeria as a state continue. And in fact, some of the backlash from this election in the south may very well strengthen the hand of those who are fed up with this experiment in democratic federalism and might want something approaching Islamic polity.
MR. LEWIS: So it sounds like in both Christianity and Islam in Nigeria there’s been increasing, you could say, market competition within each of those religious communities -- greater pluralization, intense competition between competing brands, as it were -- again, to use an economic analogy. What have been some of the most high-growth brands -- again, to kind of continue the economic analogy -- what are the hottest religious brands we should be investing in if we were seeing it in those terms -- in Christianity and Islam?
FR. KUKAH: It depends on what kind of return you want on your investment. (Laughter.)
MR. LEWIS: Yeah, that’s right. (Laughter.)
FR. KUKAH: I think -- I mean, if you take what I call post-CNN Christianity. I mean, after CNN, nothing has been the same in the world.
MR. LEWIS: Post-CNN.
FR. KUKAH: I think that is quite significant, because it has changed and continues to shift the way that the gospel is now being preached -- at least among the Christian community. Pentecostal Christianity that borrows substantially from American Pentecostalism has quite a lot of resonance in Nigeria in the last 10 or 15 years with this focus on speaking in tongues, being born again, miracles and prosperity and so on and so forth. And you know, as anybody slightly familiar with the situation in Latin America would appreciate. It seems to me that post-authoritarian regimes lend themselves to this and have left more or less fertile grounds for these kind of gospels -- largely because a collapsed state produces certain dynamics and people have find all kinds of coping mechanisms.
So on the one hand you have more traditional churches like the Catholic Church, the Anglicans who engage the states in other ways by way of public statements and public condemnations of the state. And the Pentecostal forms of Christianity have simply said, “You know what, you really don’t have to fight against the structures of the state.” And indeed, I think that in many parts of Nigeria in the ‘80s, we borrowed substantiality -- part of the conversation borrowed substantially from liberation theology and so and so forth with emphasis on structures of injustice and the need to dismantle all those structures as basic conditions for creating a just society.
But the Pentecostals came along and simply said, “You know what? You really don’t need to touch the structure. All you need to do is to be linked up to your God,” whose system of transmission -- as you can see through me -- which is the first thing that a Pentecostal pastor tries to do -- you know, to match the kind of brand you’re talking about was he looked marketable, he looked quite -- you know, he had to develop the ability to deliver. So the kind car he drove, the kind of house he lived in was all taken to be approved. You know, if you’re linked up with me, you’re going to become like me, but don’t touch the state. You are the way you are because you've sinned. And if you repent and you become like me, God is going to bless you. So that found resonance. You know, in a country like Nigeria where you have over 20 years of military rule, people didn’t have any other platform for contestation. There was increasing poverty. It’s still persistent. And that brand of religion did manage to answer certain questions.
In an environment in which there’s no health facilities -- and I’m sure as you'll read -- as you know, the president, the president-elect Atiku, who was also contesting for all of them, had to fly to Germany and England, you know, to get themselves treated.
But in that kind of an environment where health care delivery is not only inconsistent but even where it is available is so capital-intensive, people can respond to a god of miracles, and I'm, you know -- so to that extent Pentecostal Christianity has given Christianity a certain level of visibility but it has come with certain dynamics and also certain, you know, contradictions which is that unlike what you call the traditional church and that had more or less they look like the Sunni version of Islam with their tolerance their accommodative disposition and so on and so forth, and --
MR. LEWIS: Like a Sufi version of Islam?
FR. KUKAH: That's what it is -- Sufi version of Islam. You know, where people tended to be quite tolerant. And when I was secretary-general of the Bishops Conference, one of the very interesting things was whenever I went to the, you know, to the federal government secretariat to talk about missionaries coming into Nigeria, I always had government officials saying to me, "You know what? We have no problem with the Catholic Church. It's this or that crowd that we're having problems with." And it was likely because in places like Kano where like 1992 the Pentecostal Gospels essentially believes that Islam is the dominion of darkness, you know, and that even Anglicans and Catholics -- the traditional, you know, Christians were also areas for evangelization because if you're not born again you really aren't a Christian. And for the first time I think the Muslim community began to experience a kind of quote, unquote, "hostility."
MR. LEWIS: And that was in the early 90s you're --
FR. KUKAH: The early 90s, and I think it's still so often -- (inaudible) -- you know, so this has produced some of these facts, you know, that are responsible for the tension in the relations between Christians and Muslims.
MR. LEWIS: Professor Paden, what about some of the hot Muslim brands?
MR. PADEN: Well, there's nothing like the kind of branding that's going on within the Christian community -- in the Muslim community. These are really two completely different phenomena. I don't think anyone could keep track of the number of inspirational churches, Pentecostal churches, evangelical churches, even mainstream churches, Protestant churches.
MR. LEWIS: Is Islam doing anything to respond to --
MR. PADEN: Well, they're responding to the entire phenomenon, and I think the timing may be the early 90s but I think it goes back to the mid 70s when the first generation of Western missionaries retired, and then you had the first generation of -- particularly in the middle belt. But the -- so the question within the Muslim community is who is a good Muslim, and so there's a tendency to try to want to consolidate rather than to proliferate, although with the translation of the Koran into Halzi (ph) and local languages, everyone could read it and can say, "Oh, that's what it means." And particularly this Izala group, which was back to the Koran sort of thing, said -- began to fracture particularly after the death in 1992 of the founder Abubakar Gumi in Kaduna. So everyone could read and -- so there's no central organization to the Izala.
On the other hand, that tends to be a group which is -- which if anything is the hot item. I mean, that group -- and that has then counterparts in the universities, the ummah movement, the Muslim student society, even though both of those go back to much earlier days. But the kind of competition aspect has, I think, been partly within the -- more within the Muslim community than within the -- than to the Christians, although as I said, the evangelical movements sort of tend to converge in places like Kaduna and Jos and so forth.
The god of miracles is precisely the Sufism message, and I just -- I'm delighted over time to have seen the kind of the writings and the experiences of people who really do believe in miracles and through the intersession of their sheiks and so forth. And so there may be a kind of an underlying sense that we need to pick up that there is something in common between Muslims and Christians, which is an African cultural experience perhaps that maybe in the future gives us signs for hope. But everyone -- apropos of what Father Mathew has said -- everyone in the Muslim community feels they can get along perfectly well with the Catholic Church and with the mainstream Protestants, and to an increasing extent with the evangelicals. But the Pentecostals, the inspirational church, the so-called "health and wealth" churches just leave everyone's jaw dropping because they are coming in to Muslim territory. They are trying to convert, and that's going to be a serious issue partly because apostasy is a capital crime in almost every Muslim legal system. This is a Sunni Maliki legal system that we're talking about here.
MR. LEWIS: According -- just as an aside to surveys that I've been involved in at the Pew Research Center, Pentecostal growth has been considerable in Nigeria, and according to surveys we did at the Pew Research Center something like six out of 10 Protestants -- six out of every 10 Protestants -- more than half is Pentecostal or charismatic, and something like three in 10 Catholics are charismatic. So in other words, Pentecostalism is a phenomenon that's not just outside these churches competing with them, but it's also coming into the churches and to some extent it seems shaping their belief and theology, and also data suggests that there have been some converts -- not many, many but some converts -- from Islam to Pentecostalism. So that suggests, Professor Paden, that perhaps there's been some success in these Pentecostal efforts to proselytize amongst Muslims. These dynamics --
FR. KUKAH: Actually if I may just add -- you know, it's a bit difficult to -- when you begin to interpret the data, what is also interesting is the capacity of Nigerian Christians and I think you can also say the same of Muslims, you know, their ability to shop. I mean, a person might decide to be Catholic and they go for the 6:00 Mass and -- but they also want what you might call a jazzy sermon that stirs them up a little bit. So then they'll finish 6:00 Mass at 7:00 and then just go on to the Pentecostal Church just to hear, quote, unquote "a good sermon."
MR. LEWIS: Uh-huh.
FR. KUKAH: And then -- well, if you ask them what they belong to, they tell you they are Catholic.
MR. LEWIS: You're not giving good sermons in the Catholic Church?
FR. KUKAH: Well, no, I'm just saying that, you know, people have --and somebody might just say, "You know what? I'm desperately in need of a husband. I'm desperately in need of a job." And one of the good things about the Pentecostals is that they usually -- I mean, there was a debate and it's considered heresy for anybody to even suggest that they want to go to confession on the Internet, you know, as Catholics. And I think somebody tried that in Poland and, you know, he was literally -- you know, they ran him out of town. But the Pentecostals are -- (inaudible) -- too, you know. Take a bit of money -- pray for you on your own telephone, pray for you through the radio, pray for you on television, and so on and so forth. So there might be -- and I give you a simple example.
During the elections, I mean, I'd get telephone calls from my friends who are saying, "Father, you know, tomorrow is the election. Let me just take a moment now and pray for my success." Now, maybe being a Catholic you tend to be a bit rational but that's not what the man needs. He just -- if you don't pray for him he's going to call somebody else and desperately requires -- (laughter) -- he requires some assistance to be able to get on. So I make the point that there are different diseases that respond to different cures. And sometimes the Anglicans and the Catholics -- it's like, you know, their god is not more or less considered to be open -- (inaudible) -- as far as the problems of Nigeria are concerned. So there's that damage and then the Pentecostals have introduced, you know, to Christianity and a lot of it is beginning to filter into many Catholic churches and into many Anglican churches, too.
MR. LEWIS: Right. Can you say more about the impact of these changes on attitudes of Christians towards Muslims and Muslims towards Christians?
How has the view of the other -- the religious other -- been evolving? What have been flashpoints over the last couple of decades in the relationship? One of the things I think that it's easy to miss is that there have been tensions -- growing tensions not just since September 11th, for example, not just since the Miss World riots, not just since the Danish cartoons -- but there have been ongoing tensions, and it would be great if each of you could talk about some of the ways in which these relations have evolved and become more tense.
FR. KUKAH: I have often said in a rather provocative but very serious manner that to my judgment there's no religious crisis in Nigeria. There is crisis about access to power, who has what, who doesn't have what, and the equitable mechanisms for sharing power, and so on and so forth. And I'll just give you a simple example of my younger sister when the crisis happened in Kaduna in the year 2000, and for me it's a good example. She had a shop, and next -- just across the road, barely five meters, was the home of a Muslim who treated her like his daughter, and she treated him like a father. Now, when the crisis started in 2000 it was that -- I mean, Muslims were out. So the Muslim youth got together rather quickly and they started bombing, breaking windows, and my -- you know, this old man sent his son and he sent his children to my sister's shop and removed all my sister's wares because she worked and lived in the same place, and they moved everything into his house. And of course, some of the Muslim youth knew that that's where she lived because, you know, they knew the environment very well, and they came and they put the place on fire. Meanwhile, this old man got my sister and her daughter to run to the army barracks where everybody else was taking shelter.
That day ended, and 90 percent of the destruction around their area was visited on quote, unquote, "Christians" -- I don't like to use the expression -- but then again the Christian militia now went and armed themselves for a response, and they came and started bombing up everywhere they could find, and they bombed Elijah's house. Now, when they bombed my sister's things and this house. Now, for me is very difficult for, you know, for somebody to say to me, you know, that my sister became a victim of Muslim militants because while the Muslims were bombing her things were secure, but while quote, unquote, "the Christians" began to bomb, her things got bombed. I make the point because even when all these things died down, it is amazing to see the same people you call Christians and Muslims helping one another to rebuild their homes and so on and so forth. So frankly, on a good day I think it's possible to locate the source of this tension to the very many years of sustained military rule where -- which introduced new dynamics in terms of identity formations, and people began to see themselves as Christians and as Muslims and so on --
MR. LEWIS: How did that happen under military rule?
FR. KUKAH: Well, it happened -- for example, from the first -- from the military coup in 1983, December 31st, which brought Buhari to power right through until Babangida left power, all those who ruled Nigeria were incidentally Muslim. And I also say to people, you know, for a young boy in the north who is 20 or who is in his 20s or in his 30s who would never have known of any other person ruling Nigeria who was not a Muslim. And this is why when Obasanjo came -- and we can get back to that point -- but, you know, when Obasanjo comes as president and says, like Jimmy Carter said in the 1970s, "I'm a born again Christian" publicly, Muslims are hearing it for the first time and people get nervous. And Obasanjo goes on television and he's -- here he builds a chapel in the State House -- something that was unprecedented and unthinkable -- and he prays every morning, distributes Bibles, and does all kinds of things, and many of this incites the Muslim population, you know, more or less, they made a lot of people nervous. And I can argue that indeed the decision to -- the response to the Shari'a crisis in 2000 and beyond was largely a reaction to that development.
So I made the point because over time the perception began to emerge that Muslims were a privileged group of people, and in many parts of the Middle Belt, you know, for example where you have substantial Christian population but they're largely minorities in places like Zamfara, in places like Katsina, and places like Kano and so on and so forth, people are still unable to sufficiently deal with the issues of common citizenship. And I think that the inability of Nigeria to have the constitutional basis for governors which is one of the tragedies of military rule because the constitution was always the first casualty of a military intervention.
So with the absence of a constitutional framework for doing business, so to say, it became important that people had to find their own identities and this is why religion became such an important identity, ethnicity became such an important identity. And I think as you can see in Nigeria over the last 80 years, so much has changed, you know, in terms of people have become far more relaxed now and that's part of (flawed ?) elections and so on and so forth, it is interesting that you have people seeing themselves as members of a political party as opposed to Christians and Muslims, and to a great extent the last five years have seen more or less the -- see the, you know, the reduction in the tone of religious discourse in Nigeria.
MR. LEWIS: Uh-huh -- uh-huh.
MR. PADEN: Let me just say I think one of the -- I agree with Father Mathew on the military period. But one of the things is when you take that lid off of control, a lot of things come bubbling up. We all value democracy and democratic federalism and so forth, but this was a period when the rules were lifted, and one of the first things that happened in the north was precisely because they didn't like what was going on during the military rule -- to set up -- go back to something that was familiar in the north, which is Sharia, which had been in place until independence and, in fact, in the civil domain had continued in place, so this simply added the criminal domain for Muslims only. So in a sense it was an attempt for rule of law in the post-military sort of period. But the symbolism of Sharia was so powerful, and I think Father Mathew's account in Kaduna -- we could elaborate that in the year 2000 -- was really telling because it separated the town and it put neighbor against neighbor partly, I think, because the Christians were afraid of what was going to happen. My own interpretation was that the Christian demonstration, which went to the governor's office and begin (sic) putting Pentecostal slogans on his walls and things produced a backlash. However it started doesn't matter. I talked to the governor of Kaduna who suggests that perhaps 3,000 people were killed. That's a very large number, plus the polarization into Kaduna North and Kaduna South. So if you're looking for flashpoints and tipping points that's where things hardened, and the Christian Association of Nigeria went into a sort of what I would call a war mode vis-à-vis the Sharia thing. Subsequently, with the '03 elections -- and we would have to have North/South alliances, interfaith alliances -- the whole Sharia issue normalized off and, in fact, I think it's fair to say was not an issue in '03, and subsequently was not an issue in '04. People now know what the rules of the game --
MR. LEWIS: Right. In '07 -- in '07.
MR. PADEN: -- of the game are. But the tragedies that came in Kaduna also have kind of an echo effect throughout. In '04 you had the Plateau problems where very large numbers of Muslims were killed -- pastoralists versus agriculturalists -- however you want to characterize it. But then you had the echo effect back up in Kano, where groups of youths started marching on Bayero University and were going to kill Christians. This is where I agree with Father Mathew. The story there which never got told was they broke down the walls of the university, and then the Muslim Student Society formed a human chain around their Christian colleagues and said, "This will not stand." So you had the -- in a sense the backlash within the Christian community to the lawlessness and simply the anger that comes when you -- when the bodies started coming back from Plateau to Kano -- well, then everyone I guess riled up.
I think it's really a serious management issue, in conflict management, how you handle that. Within the universities and the secondary schools in the North, most of them -- and in the Southwest, most of them now have what they call peace committees, because these are flashpoints where students can easily -- some little thing can trigger it off and then you -- but if you have faculty and then student groups who are willing to step in quickly to prevent things -- we often see the headlines, we don't see what didn't happen, and I think that kind of example is a good one.
We're -- we're not the edge -- I think you're quite right, I think the powershift simply deflated that issue if there was going to be a Northern president. I won't go into what happens if his health fails -- (laughs) -- at this point. But the sense that we haven't really talked about is those catalog of things that Nigerians have, political mechanisms have put together -- from federal character, to the new capital in Abuja, to, you know, the powershift, right down the list, of all the things precisely to build bridges that are interfaith and interregional in nature. And that, in a sense, is the story -- if Nigeria stays together or muddles through, it's not going to be by accident, it's going to be by design. And that's what we might want to talk a little bit more about.
MR. LEWIS: Maybe, before we turn to the audience, I'd like to ask about the role of key religious leaders in these dynamic. One, I'd like to ask what role have religious leaders played, frankly, in creating -- helping to create a climate of confrontation? I understand some leading Christian leaders have said things like, you know, "We can't turn any more cheeks, we have no more cheeks to turn," in conflict with Islam. That, you know, "We're going to, essentially, fight back," "We're not going to have a passive attitude," "We'll be militant in response." Whereas there have been other efforts -- the pastor and imam duo have created an interfaith center which has lead to religious stabilization and reconciliation.
And it is remarkable, as we've been hearing the last couple of hours, that even despite a lot of circumstances which might lead one to expect more religious conflict, there perhaps has been not as much as one might expect, as you've been saying. And that leads one to ask, well what have Nigerians done right to prevent religious conflict and violence to break out further than one might have expected? What lessons might Nigeria -- Nigerian religious leaders have for other parts of the world where you have seen great religious conflict?
FR. KUKAH: I think that an international assessment of Nigeria, in almost all departments, have not been pretty fair in terms of contextualizing their assessment. Whatever you may say -- even about the elections, and so on; and we can have a conversation about this, it's not because, it doesn't take anything away from what I've been saying about the elections, but I hold a slightly different view -- and I think context is very important.
And in the case of Nigeria, religion has already been presented as one of the tipping points, and so everyone has -- I mean British colonial (historography ?) continue to talk about the Muslim North and the Christian South. And then it talks about, in Sudan, the predominantly Muslim North and the (Anamist?) South. Now the people -- the matter is that between those extremes there's a lot in between. I think that a proper understanding of the context in which these issues play themselves out in Nigeria is so important. As I was telling you -- I mean, reading Madeleine Albright's book has been for me a source of great fascination.
MR. LEWIS: "The Mighty and The Almighty."
FR. KUKAH: Yes, you know, "The Mighty and The Almighty," which draws substantially from a book that was published, I think, in 1993 about religion as a missing dimension in (statecraft ?) And that -- it seems to me, very clearly, that policy makers are so, so totally ignorant about what is going on -- the conversation, the internal conversations that are going on within Christianity. And people forget that each and every one of us has a multiplicity of identities, religion just happens to be one. You know, I mean, in many parts of Nigeria the ethnic identity is so profound that it determines far more what happens in the lives of people than one religion has, you know, has to offer. And I can say it, largely within the non-Muslim population because -- I mean the Sokoto Caliphate existed from 1840 to 1903 when the British conquered it, and, of course, in many parts of Nigeria Islam predated Christianity by about 700 years -- so you can see that in that constituency, people really don't have any or enough of an identity. And because of the all-consuming nature of an Islamic identity, it doesn't -- it forecloses on that forms of identity, unlike Christianity.
So I make the point because there are a lot of people -- if you go to the Southwest of Nigeria where people, you know, they treat themselves essentially as Yuroba people. The issue of what religion -- the role religion has to play is secondary to what happens to the Yoruba nation, and you can say that about a lot of other ethnic communities in Nigeria. And to the extent that the policymakers in Nigeria still don't -- we don't know how many ethnic groups are in Nigeria, it tells -- that's part of the problem. And a lot of people are also totally ignorant one, of Islam; and two, of the complexity of the Nigerian, you know, mission.
So I make the point because I think I just want to round up by saying -- to go back to what you said about Obasanjo saying "God is in Nigeria, and from statement predicted Obasanjo. But I won't go into that. (Laughter.) But I say also that, you know, there's so much possibility in Nigeria that I always in discussing Nigeria by saying, you know, Nigeria -- the unity of Nigeria is like a Catholic marriage -- it may not be happy but it doesn't break up. (Laughter.)
So I don't -- I think, I believe that there is so much possibility in Nigeria. I got the telephone call just on the eve of the elections, you know, from a senior official who was telling me, he said, you know, people are calling in, they want to find out -- from Togo, Benin, about what will happen when and if these elections fail -- the Nigerians who are going to move. And I remembered this theory was first bandied by an American politician whose name I will not mention, but this doomsday scenario -- that if the elections fail, Nigerians are going to migrate to other West African countries. I said, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about, because even if Nigeria meets a wall, he turns the wall to move, not that he and Nigeria should move. (Laughter.)
I mean they're such a proud people, the idea that a Nigerian will take his bag and going into -- or to Togo or Benin -- that's just totally out of the question. So I think that we need to really understand this complex nature called Nigeria.
And I think that one great thing that democracy offers us is that it just gives us a opportunity. And that's why for me these elections -- flawed as they may be, the greatest lessons we can learn from the elections is that: one, at least the country is still standing -- (inaudible) --; two, that Nigerians went out in such huge numbers and cast their vote is a victory and it is a testimony of how committed Nigerians are to building a democratic society. And finally, I believe that these elections, even if for nothing else, have managed to push the military to the background.
And like I was saying to somebody, one of the things that has not gotten a mention in this conversation is how one of the dreaded people in Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, suddenly threw out these whole elections and suddenly become deaf and dumb -- I mean, it's unbelievable. And I think therefore whatever happens to Yar'Adua -- by the way, I think that if Yar'Adua -- if anything happens to Yar'Adua tomorrow, it will actually not be -- the reaction will not be based on politics, it will just in my judgment be, that the Muslims that I know will simply say that is the will of God and we can't question the will of God. That, more than anything else, will define the way Nigerians will react if anything happens to Yar'Adua.
Even if it is on the 28th of May, the Muslim community that I know in Nigeria, beyond few people on the fringes, will probably just say, that is the will of God. And I -- sorry, I sat on the Truth Commission in Nigeria, Umaru Yar'Adua, General Umaru Yar'Adua -- who is actually Obasanjo's closest friend, and who died in detention -- when his family brought his case to, you know, to our Commission, by the time we took up the case, the family came to us and said, "You know what, we won't question the will of God, so please, we want to withdraw this case." So I just make the point again.
I'll conclude by saying our country has quite a lot of possibilities and I think that the future is very, very bright -- not because we are capable of conducting the freest and the fairest elections, but in spite of our inability to do so.
MR. PADEN: You started out by asking about leadership and leadership within the Muslim community. Let me remind you that the formal head of the Muslims in Nigeria is the Sultan of Sokoto in protocol situations -- head of the 70 million Muslims, which makes it one of the sixth largest Muslim population countries in the world, so this is a very important position. And the new sultan who was installed on March 3rd had actually volunteered to come here next October -- and I hope that can be worked out, to give a presentation to this group. He comes from a military background -- he was not the logical heir, he served three years as defense attache' in Pakistan; served with peacekeeping in Sierra Leone; wrote his dissertation in his so-called graduates training on religious extremism as a national security issue -- I'm trying to get a hold of that dissertation -- (laughing) -- right now. But this is a guy who is a modern man -- he's in his early 50s, he has a wife and three kids -- it's a different kind of leadership role, and will be very intent on working on Muslim-Christian cooperation. And I think that's the story of this -- within the traditional Muslim communities, the Sufi leaders, the multiple Izala leaders, and certainly the leaders in the southwest -- are all very anxious to accommodate Muslim-Christian relations.
I can remember talking to Arif Shakola (sp), the leader of the Muslims in Ibadan, and he pulled out posters of the 24 Christian prophets plus one, Mohammed, and then just showed how close these two religions -- it's the Ahl al-Kitab, the people of the book, kind of approach which the British encouraged and currently now is coming back as the metaphor to accommodate a Muslim-Christian among those communities more establishment as I mentioned that want to.
This is where the context is certainly important. Nigeria has a unique context because of its colonial history. It didn't break up so there's no single pattern to try to characterize Muslim groups or Christian groups. You just have to get down and pay attention to them. The Albright book -- she was the leader of our delegation, by the way, on this recent elections I monitored up in Katsina. And we were looking at polling stations in the emir's palace. There were nine polling stations there, three of which opened. But on the outside was the sign that this emir's palace had been established in 1328 or whatever the figure was. I mean, this goes back a very long ways, and they're perfectly happy to accommodate the Christian side of this. Madeline Albright has a segment in her book on her visit to Kano, and the emir of Kano has been very instrumental along with (Dione of Ife ?) in interfaith dialogue and in conflict resolution. So these traditional rulers so-called -- now call them royal fathers -- whatever their religious affiliation, see it as part of their domain to sort of keep the peace.
The question of the unity of Nigeria has bothered all of us over time. When I wrote an 800-page biography when I was young and foolish of the first and only premier of northern Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello, I dedicated it to the unity of Nigeria, partly because I felt that Nigerians were ignorant of their own history. I had been on many panels where intellectuals from Ibandan or Ife or elsewhere just really want to dismiss these 12 Shari'a states and say let them go their own way. I never hear that in the north. In the north, you always get the sense that Nigeria is a community of destiny. And it's not just the oil. It's the belief that God has ordained at this time communities to live together and to learn from each other. And whatever happens on the next phase of history is something else. But it's not a conflict model, if you like. It's a constitutional cooperation model.
MR. LEWIS: Let's turn it over to you. Please identify yourself, wait for the microphone. Yes, please -- yes.
Q Patricia Carreras (sp), IC & A. I'd like to know do you explain that the Shari'a state seems to be rising? As you said that there was a second state now who adopted the Shari'a. And what could be the consequence of that Shari'a state -- the two of them -- influencing the country?
MR. PADEN: When I said Katsina was the second state to Shari'a, that eventually resulted in 12 states. So we now have 12 of the 36 states, one-third, that have Shari'a in the criminal domain for Muslims only. There's an enormous difference between, I would say, strict constructionists, particularly on the penalty phase, in places like Zamfara state than in places like Kaduna where it's just a very light slap on the wrist, so to speak. All of the states do have laws that were passed through their state assemblies outlawing prostitution and alcohol, although that question of how you handle alcohol varies between places like Kaduna where it tends to be, you know, not looked at very carefully to some states that try to enforce it. But the implications of Shari'a law, as I said, have tended to normalize. I still see it as an attempt to get a legal rule-of-law system that people are familiar with in those areas. But I'm aware, also, of the influence of the global Muslim community on this, and we could talk more about this. With the billions and tens of billions of dollars that have pumped in, particularly windfall, into Nigeria. Every Muslim wants to go to Mecca and Medina, so the pilgrimage is just churning people who have global experiences now, and they come back with different ideas. They're not Wahabis, but they've met people from all over the world. House gathering is a lingua franca now in Mecca and Medina for a West African language.
So the oil boom, which we haven't really talked about here, has fueled an internationalization -- satellite TV, cell phones, the whole thing. You know, it's just a different situation than it used to be. But there may be some quarters where people still fear Shari'a. But the interesting question to me is how each of those 12 states will interpret it, whether they'll use consensus or ishtahad or whether they will go back to the more strict Maliki codes and whether they emphasize the penalty phase, as in Zamfara or in the case of Kano where they're doing the prevention stage. You employ, unemploy for sanitation work. And you try to get the Islamia schools up to speed in terms of Western subjects. And you work with the girls' education. There's a lot that's done that varies from state to state. And I expect the universities out there are doing research on precisely those issues now.
Q Jim Dingman, INN World Report. Can you comment -- you just mentioned the oil boom. I was curious how the transnational oil companies in Nigeria are perceiving this very complicated situation and how they interact with it. And, secondly, if you could perhaps, Father, talk more about the socioeconomic circumstances of Pentecostal conversion. We know how that is historically in other societies. But could you perhaps give more detail on that and how it benefits the (souls ?) in Nigeria?
MR. PADEN: We probably have people in the room here who can speak better on some of the oil company perceptions of Nigeria. But I think the U.S. government and the oil companies are aware that there are two issues that worry them on the worry list, and that is the insurgency in the Delta, which of course would be a primary concern, and then the possibility of religious extremism in the north, which so far has been mediated in various ways within the north but, you know, is always possible. And as you may know, the State Department, in the last couple of weeks, has come out with their terrorist list, and Nigeria is now a terrorist camp. If you read those reports and the accounts of them in Nigeria, you will see that the U.S. -- I don't want to say Department of State, because I think they don't believe this -- but many elements in the government think that the al Qaeda and the Islamic Mahgreb is coming down there. And we, of course, have our pan Sahelian, you know, special ops people in that area. So that's a concern. I've heard -- I've been in conferences where some people think that the Islamic factor is important in the Delta. And I don't see that for a minute. You wouldn't believe some of the nonsense that's going around.
On the other hand, people in the Delta go up to Abuja -- which is a new capital here, you know, since the late '70s, when Don Isom (ph) was our ambassador out there -- say oh, that's where the money has gone. And they see it as a kind of a northern initiative. So there is a kind of a backlash and quite apart from the fact that Al-Hajia Sari (ph) is in jail right now for treason. He's, as far as I can see, the only Ijan Muslim available, and he's not there as Muslim. He's there as, if you like -- Father Matthew knows the Delta thing far better than probably any of us.
But those are two basic issues -- religious extremism and insurgency in the Delta -- that worry everyone and are certainly going to be a top priority for the new administration. That's why Good Luck Jonathan was chosen as vice president, and that's why the power shift in the north now gives you a team of people who know the north, unlike some of their predecessors who, I think, were very ham-handed, if I can use that expression, in terms of how they dealt with extremism in the north.
MR. LEWIS: Father Kukah, on Pentecostalism.
FR. KUKAH: Okay, but let me just say one or two things about the oil, because I believe for the last year-and-a-half now they have been working as a provincial facilitator to end the conflict between Shell and the Ogoni people. I think that many see those problems of perception. Even within Nigeria, how Nigerians perceive the problems of the Niger Delta. And I've often said it helps to just realize that we're all human, and we want the same things, except maybe in question of degree. But there's something anecdotal about the vandalization of the pipelines in the Niger Delta. And it was said that, you know, these young people said we're not vandalizing these pipelines. We asked for hospitals, and the government says it's in the pipeline. (Laughter.) We ask for water, and the government says it's in the pipeline. We ask for schools, and the government says it's in the pipeline. And they've been telling us this for (30 ?) years. So we just -- you know, we just want to see why if this thing is in the pipeline -- (laughter) -- because it's taking so long to come to us.
But I think that my little experience with Shell, for example -- and you can say, again, the same about a lot of the oil companies -- that there is a public perception about, you know, about what these oil companies are doing.
And again, some of them are true. Some of them may not be true. But I think there is, to my mind, a very serious image problem.
But I also realize that with Shell, for example, that they're now under Nigerian management. And the more you talk to, again, those who manage the oil business, the more you realize they're just dealing with human beings who just want to do business and so on and so forth. I think that part of the tension -- I mean, the crisis that we have in Nigeria is a crisis that all parties have inherited. The conditions under which oil companies are working in Nigeria, the rules and regulations, British property laws and so on and so forth are so so problematic that they don't have the capacity to deal with the problems of justice, fairness and equity as ordinary people now understand them.
So I think many oil companies are now working around the issues of securing what you might call a social license, which is (a little less liberate ?) in law, because there is no provision for communities to negotiate with the oil companies. And under the military it seemed to work very well. But oil companies are realizing that hostage-taking and so on and so forth is not helping business. And so people are now beginning to say okay, how best can we negotiate. And a lot of people, a lot of oil companies are beginning to put money on the ground and so on. But again, there are problems of corruption. You reproduce the same bureaucracy, and you pump in the money, and you get very few results, because the elite that get to man all these institutions pump them into bottomless pits. And of course, the oil companies kept cover and they're saying that well, you know, we have to do business. We pay our taxes. It's not our business to develop your communities and so on.
Clearly, there is need for much more open dialogue and conversation. The president-elect has said he's prepared to deal with this problem. I hope that is not naive, because it is indeed a very, very complicated problem. But I think indicating his willingness to deal with the problem is perhaps the beginning of a solution.
To come back to the point you made about the Pentecostals. Again, like I said, against the backdrop of a failed state, what a lot of the Pentecostal churches do -- and I can tell you, because I have direct experiences likely, because some of the pastors are themselves my friends. Like I said, as a Catholic priest, I agonize over this whole thing. For example -- I give you a simple example. A man comes to you with, let's say, papers for a contract that he's looking for. And he says Father, please pray for me. And my immediate reaction is, how am I going to pray on these pieces of paper? To say what? So that I will get the contract.
Now, I continue to rationalize. And I said but, you know, are you sure you're really qualified? Those are not the questions the man wants to answer. He carries his papers and goes to a Pentecostal pastor and says Pastor, can you pray over these papers for me? Yes, I'll pray over the paper. And he goes on and on and on. And it helps if you can speak in tongues. Next day -- (laughter) -- the man manages to get a contract. Now, I think that there is that kind of relationship that the Pentecostal churches -- they are far more disposed. They listen to what you might call really genuine African problems that people face. I mean, those of you who are familiar with the story of (Melingo ?). These are some of the problems. You know, (Melingo ?) says look, baptism has not driven the devil away. You know, people are still saying I have 10 people fighting in my head last night, and you tell them they must be crazy, there's nothing of that sort. All they want is somebody to listen to them. And the Pentecostal pastors are, in a very (minimal ?) space, dealing with some of those problems, perhaps not concretely.
Certainly, you have the very basic problems like spinsters and young men looking for wives. I mean, they organized night prayers in which young men and young women sit together. And then they talk. And the truth of the matter is that -- at least in this -- Nigeria is not America. So a gal is 24, 25, 26, 27, the clock is ticking. She desperately needs a husband, and she wants a priest who can say well, you know, this is actually possible. Let's pray together. Many Catholic priests are probably not very well disposed to deal with those problems.
Then we have to deal with the problems of how do I bring 20 young men and 20 young women together and leave them in one room hoping that the holy spirit will direct them to find husband. (Laughter.) Now, these are the very practical issues that these Pentecostal churches are doing very, very effectively. And if you go to an average Pentecostal church, there's hardly and sign of somebody who is not successful. It's almost, I think, they've targeted their audience. On a Sunday morning, for example, the buses are out there and are ready to lift you for nothing. And if you are lucky, you know, a lot of people get into to the buses pretending they are going to the church. They get off the bus and go their way -- (laughter) -- but they've entered bus for nothing.
So you know, these are some of the very practical things that the Pentecostal churches are doing. They are helping their people find jobs. They are helping to secure, you know, appointments for their people. And right now -- I would not be surprised -- including the president-elect Yar'Adua. Best part being a Muslim, they're not going to like a few Pentecostal pastors who are going to be ready to pray for him, you know. And as I said, you know, they have made prayer so so so available. And I think this, again, is part of the attraction and the impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
MR. LEWIS: That's very helpful.
MR. PADEN: The prayers are very much a part of the Sufi tradition as well. I mean, precisely what he's described would happen in the Sufi communities. And of course, the (Aladura ?), the so-called secretist areas in the southwest. (Aladura ?) means the praying people. These are people who incorporate precisely that into so-called mainstream types of formula.
On the marriage issue, I'd describe some of the Pentecostal things as health and wealth. Those are obviously key issues.
But on the wives issue, sometimes people in Kono ask me, “Well, why are people converting to the so-called Shi’ites?” I keep using the “so-called” because they call themselves Eqqan (ph) or “brothers” and I don’t think their theology is Shi’a. I think it’s still Sunni, even though they celebrate Asura and Arega Muharem (ph) and so forth. But one of the things that caught the young men is that this idea of Shi’a -- temporary marriage, and no one could afford a proper marriage during the military period and so these guys could do a sort of quick marriages with no dowries added. It just sort of took off among that young group, not to mention the fact that there was money behind it. The money issue is still very important. Who has the money behind the Pentecostals, who has the money behind the Azallah (ph). The Sufis now have less money because I think the Gulf and the Saudis are bankrolling some of the Azallah (ph) stuff. But that tends not to breed this charismatic prayer thing. That’s more of a back to -- that’s going to be the people in the universities and many of the people who are going to be running the ministries in the future.
MR. LEWIS: Yes, sir?
Q Frank Ferrari (ph). I’m wondering if I could follow up on that, but address the -- to Father Matthew to the traditional Christian communities. And what strikes me is the absence of strong social protest and social content within those communities given the disparity in the country, and I say that because of comparison to South Africa with the contextual theologians and the role of the churches, and the recent article in the New York Times on the role of base communities in Brazil. I’m wondering if you could comment on that.
FR. KUKAH: You know, again, this is why Nigeria is Nigeria. It’s not South Africa. There is a saying that is common in Africa -- “You don’t throw stones into the marketplace. It might hit your mother.” (Laughter.) Most -- a good -- you know, it’s very interesting, the instruments of restraint that exist. The idea that, let’s say, you will generate in love support within the Christian community to rise up against these elections, somewhere down the line it may be -- you know, you may just -- it may be the Christian thing to do. But the interesting thing is that you go -- you have this meeting and the next day somebody says to you, “You mean you, a true son of Yuruba descent, are going to go on the street to demonstrate against you own son? Your own uncle? President Obasanjo? It is untractable to Yuruba land that you do this kind of thing.”
And -- or somebody might just say, “Well, you know, let’s mobilize because Yar'Adua is not -- is a Muslim and we need to protest very strongly and vehemently against this election.” And somebody comes to me and says, “You know -- do you know that Cardunasted (ph) used to -- Carsinasted (ph) used to be part of Cardunasted (ph)?” I said, “(inaudible). Should you be participating in this -- to in this effort to bring down a government? You mean you want to ally with southerners to deny the north an opportunity?” And I mean, the conversation don’t get held in such -- I mean, it doesn’t get put in such a blatant manner. But I’m just saying there are -- you know, the ethnic -- the multiethnic considerations of Nigeria and the multiplicity of all our identities with some Africanism for our strength, and I think over and above that is that also the other problem that -- I don’t know how to put it, but I think that Nigeria and (never in ?) Nigeria -- and Nigeria never listened hard enough to generate collective resentment because every government you wish to protest against, if you look on the platform you will find somebody from your town, somebody from your village, somebody from your school that you really ought not to protest against.
Now maybe that answers your question, but I just made the point because from the point of view of theologians -- theologizing -- of course we’ve got all the questions. We’ve got all the answers, let me put it that way. But it just hasn’t always been the case that you could generate enough resentment. I remember when I was secretary general. I made a very radical proposal and the bishops actually accepted it. And it was -- look, it was at the height of (Abaja's ?) regime, and I said, “You know what? Let’s just let all the bishops go to Abujar dressed in their regal attire. Let’s just march right through the streets of Abujar -- the whole 42 bishops of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.” And it sounded quite -- and then the bishops left to eat, and then they woke up in the morning and they began to think about the dynamics. You know, did we lead -- look sufficiently and respectable? By the time one or two people had question marks about it, you know, the whole idea collapsed.
So I -- it’s -- we’re really not like South Africa. But I think it’s also a work in progress because, again, living under the military didn’t really help us. And so with the point that was made about uridashi, we all talked independently and differently but sometimes it hasn’t been possible for us to have a voice that you can say speaks to the entire Christian community in Nigeria. There are voices for that are not radical enough for the Anglican Church. It’d be a (cardinal clergy ?) or the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and so on and so forth. But we really don’t have -- despite the existence of the Christian Association of Nigeria, which is an umbrella organization, it is at its best when there is a problem, but after that everybody goes back to their trenches.
MR. PADEN: Could I just add a quick note --
MR. LEWIS: Yeah, yeah.
MR. PADEN: In terms of why people don’t protest -- this May 1st protest that was supposed to be scheduled recently for labor, but also for the opposition parties and also for civil society groups? The police were extremely well-organized and were told to use maximum force, which was interpreted as “shoot to kill” if they didn’t have permits. And of course, no permits were issued other than for the Nigerian Labor Congress. And I think the feeling was, “Who wants to die for a bunch of lousy politicians?” So it hadn’t generated -- (laughter) -- it hadn’t generated that same momentum. At the same time, both Christian and Muslim leaders, I think, have been outraged by this election. We met with John Onaiyekan -- is he archbishop? -- archbishop from Abuja and Dr. Latis Adegbite (ph), who’s secretary general of the Supreme Islamic Council after the April 14th elections, and I’ve never seen -- I’ve known them for years. I’ve never seen them so angry, but there wasn’t this feeling that they -- and they had been through (Cannes ?) and through the Supreme Council had monitors out there. So they knew exactly what was going on. But they’re not people who are going to urge people to take to the street, particularly with the police all now armed with new AK-47s.
The general tendency in the north by way of protest isn’t to sort of march on the streets, but to flight the (Isrea of Notia), and that’s where people could easily -- I don’t think they’re going to go to -- you know --
MR. LEWIS: No.
MR. PADEN: They could very well. They could very well head off -- they’re not going to go to Chad or Niger, but they could very well head off to other places, and that’s where the international dimension comes back in again and will then eventually feed back into the Nigerians’ Muslim dynamic.
MR. LEWIS: Has the Christian Association of Nigeria made any statement about the elections?
FR. KUKAH: Yes. We’ve made series of statements. But the other very interesting thing that came up during this election, I was very interested right across the board. All the feeling by ordinary Nigerians, and for me it’s very important development that ordinary Nigerians said, “Well, you know what? We object to these elections.” But those who won -- who alleged won the elections or lost the elections, right across I had this conversation among -- you know from far away as Carno (ph), Kartsina, all these -- people said, “We are prepared to go out there to fight, but you and your wives and your children must be the ones in front. The rest of all will follow from behind.” And this for me arose out of a certain feeling of cynicism among ordinary Nigerians that the average elite who have the opportunity, whose children are not living in Nigeria anyway, are asking the rest of us to go out and die on their behalf. And when they are now ready to be sworn in, they will ship their children into Nigeria. And what was also very interesting, coming on the plane. I’m traveling with a lot of politicians -- both those who lost and those who won the elections. And every one is collectively saying, “You know what? This election took so much of me, we now need to go and rest.” (Laughter.)
Now, there is -- they are in London, they are in New York, they are in Washington, they are in Paris, there’s -- if you make a telephone call, now perhaps there are a few people around, but most of the senior party officials are out of the country. So there is a sense in which ordinary Nigerians are beginning to realize that -- you know, we’re not going to go out there and risk our lives while those on whose behalf we are fighting -- and somehow they believe these guys will sort themselves out anyway -- and of course it’s very common thing that happens in Nigerian politicians is I compete against you. We are all the same party, and I lose the nomination. Now we need to talk. (Laughter.) And so what is the conversation? “Well, you want my vote.” “Yes, I want your work because I need it to have do -- done well enough to get off to the semifinals.” So I said, “Okay.” “You ask me, how much did it cost me to fight the elections?” “Well, it cost me $1 million.” “Okay, I’ll give you $500,000 -- no, $600,000 -- no, $700,000.” We agree on something, I go home, I don’t lose anything.
So ordinary Nigerians are aware that these games are going on. And this is way, as I said, ordinary people are beginning to feel, “We’re not going to just take to the streets when we know that somehow, by way of political appointment, enemies of yesterday are going to become very close friends tomorrow.” (Laughter.)
MR. LEWIS: Thank you, Father Kukah. Thank you, Professor Paden.
We -- I know there are more questions, but feel free to address your questions directly to our speakers during the break, which we’ll now have before our next panel. Thank you. (Applause.)
That was excellent. Excellent.
FR. KUKAH: Thank you very much.
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