Governor Chukwuma Soludo (file photo)
By Ugo-Akpe Onwuka
I read with shock and disappointment, a very dangerous article credited to the Governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo.
At the Sixth Synod of Anglican Diocese of Aguata, held at St James’ Church, Nanka, Orumba North Local Government Area on Sunday May 29, 2022, His Excellency, Chukwuma Soludo had said that Igbo native traditionalists were responsible for the terrorism in Anambra State.
I didn’t want to believe the statement to be true until I read from credible news media that the the governor said so.
Your Excellency Sir, please, I would want to advise that you focus on governance and not degenerate into peddling religious sentiments which obviously are ultra vires.
The governor had stated: “It is time for Christians in the state to unite to defend their faith in the face of evil, and quest to intimidate the people back to idolatry.”
It is sad and depressing that His Excellency failed to realize the dangerous potentials of such religiously discriminatory, divisive and misleading information coming from someone of his status and office.
Such unfortunate and unguarded statement credited to the governor is capable of actually plunging the state into hate-attacks by Christians against traditionalists, and such would consume the state.
Your Excellency, it is instructive to point out to you that for the fact that Anambra State is dominated by Christians doesn’t mean others won’t be allowed to practice their faith.
It amounts to a direct breach of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to which you swore to uphold to use such words as “Anambra is a Christian State and will not succumb to idolatry.”
Chapter 4 Section 38. (1) of the Nigerian constitution states that, “every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Therefore, His Excellency, Chukwuma Soludo, must have been carried away in a moment of religious frenzy to make such unconstitutional statements, and would need to quickly reverse himself on this.
It is very highly unacceptable for the governor, who was voted for by Ndị Anambra to turn around and start singling out traditional worshippers and labeling them as idolaters that must be dealt with.
Every well meaning Anambra citizen is very concerned about the current rising spate of violent crimes in the state, and for the governor himself to be the one to skew the ugly situation to religious discrimination against those who practice their faith in the traditional way is very disappointing.
With the statement from the governor to the Christians in Anambra, alleging that the upsurge in terror-related attacks is to intimidate the people back into idolatry, he has inadvertently put traditional worshippers at the risk of sundry attacks by those who might want to take the laws into their hands and mete out what they would consider justice in defense of their faith.
His Excellency Chukwuma Soludo should deal with criminality the right way and not by such loose statements uncharacteristic of someone who is occupying such an exalted office.
It is important to let His Excellency know that it won’t be easy to douse the inferno of a religious crisis when we are still battling with the current raging violence in the state and the South East.
The governor’s statement that “there has been a resurgence of traditionalists in the state recently, with many youths resorting to fetish practices that had long been abandoned by their forefathers” is a direct insult and condemnation of a people’s way of worship and an invidious discriminatory speech that must be retracted to give traditional worshippers a sense of safety in the state.
Governor Soludo is complicating issues with such haughty statements credited to him.
Calling our tradition idolatry is blasphemous and in very bad taste.
This is one of the most impetuous comments I have ever read from a leader in recent times.
One would expect that His Excellency Chukwuma Soludo should be focused on delivering on his electoral promises and how to get a handle on the burgeoning terrorism in Anambra State, rather than playing to the gallery with such divisive and inciting statements.
We shouldn’t be bothered by the religion of those who are behind the mayhem that has engulfed Anambra and Igbo land, as long as they are stopped.
Whether they are Igbo traditional worshippers or Christians, or Muslims, or belong to any other religion, just do your job and bring back the much desired peace in Anambra.
Such statements coming from a Governor underpins the level of religious intolerance exhibited against Igbo traditional worshippers, and the inherent risk they are faced with today.
While Christians are quick to raise alarm over religious extremities by Muslims, it’s very important to note that the Igbo traditional worship system has faced unmitigated terrorism from Christians for a very long time now, without any respite.
Holy places and sacred artifacts had been destroyed by Christians in the name of deliverance in several communities without anyone asking questions.
Arson, stigmatization and all forms of inhuman treatments, both bodily and psychological are visited upon Igbo traditional worshippers and yet, subsequent governments have not deemed it fit to protect the rights of these people who are no less Ndị Anambra than those who are Christians.
It is 77 days since the administration of His Excellency Chukwuma Soludo took over office, and a couple of days to his first 100 days in office.
Ndị Anambra are really hoping for a better governance, and such religious drift that could plunge Anambra into a religious war is very demotivating and very uninspiring.
At a time that Ndị Anambra are expecting to be greeted with commendable strides in the fight against the rising violence, such statements tend to give away the governor as having lost focus and must be called to keep his eyes on the ball.
The Igbo traditional institution is sacred and as such must not be rubbished by the Governor by associating it with terrorism, nor should it be labeled as EVIL by him.
It would be recalled that during the Anambra 2021 Governorship debate held on November 1, 2021 in Awka, His Excellency Chukwuma Soludo stated that “the insecurity in the state is politically motivated.”
He further said, “There are some persons who think that they will gain political advantage by creating a sense of fear and insecurity so that you would have voters’ suppression.”
His Excellency promised that if elected governor, “I would work out some harmonious agreements with the non-state actors as one of the ways of tackling insecurity in the state.”
It would be in the best interest of Ndị Anambra for the Governor to be dilligently focus on returning the state to safety as he promised during the governorship campaign and not to continue along this path of labeling and stigmatizing traditional worshippers in the state.
Now that he has won the election, the Governor should be mindful that security matters should not be used for public relations and must therefore desist from making unmeasured statements.
.Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi) is the chairman of Nze Na Ọzọ Traditional Council, Ogbunike, Oyi Local Government Area, Anambra State.