Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury has today said in relation to Fulani herdsmen violence: “I once again exhort President Muhammadu Buhari and other authorities, civil and religious, national and international, urgently to build a coalition to end this violence immediately.
“In communications earlier this year with the Primate of All Nigeria, His Grace Nicholas Okoh, I offered to contribute towards such effort to the extent such might be useful. I repeat that offer again, knowing, however, that within Nigeria are all the skills needed for resolution of the suffering of the people.”
Welby had tweeted in January following a spate of violence that led to hundreds of deaths in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States:
I’m deeply saddened by the killings and displacements in #Nigeria. President @MBuhari and authorities are exhorted to act now to end this violence and begin mediated dialogue. I mourn with this great country and stand with them in prayer. #PrayForThePeaceOfNigeria
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) January 22, 2018
However, this latest intervention seems to have been prompted by pressure from a letter from the Mutual Union of Tiv in the United Kingdom (MUTUK) written to the Archbishop titled ‘Genocide by the Fulani herders against the minority Tiv in Nigeria’ and signed by its Vice President, Kohol Iornem, asking him to lean on President Buhari to end the killings. The letter stated: “Your Grace, the Nigerian body of our Lord Jesus Christ bears the painful, bleeding wounds of this ongoing and unchecked viciousness.
“We, therefore, turn to our Lord’s Church in the United Kingdom to investigate our claims and, on behalf of the defenceless victims, ask the government of Nigeria to stop the killings and bring justice to bear.”
The Tiv community in the UK had earlier this year organised a protest in London against the killings and submitted a petition to Prime Minister Theresa May.
In another significant intervention on Monday 26 March, Baroness Cox in the House of Lords, of which Welby is also a member, asked the British government: “What is their assessment of recent developments in Nigeria, with particular reference to attacks on civilians by Boko Haram and the Fulani?”
Incidentally, Naijiant.com has on a couple of occasions in June 2016 and August 2017 raised questions about the nature of Welby’s relationship with President Buhari.
The Archbishop is a former oil company exec, who worked in Nigeria in the 1980s when Buhari was a military dictator, and has, by our reckoning, met the president four times in two years. Since Buhari came to power in 2015 thousands of Nigerians, including many of the Anglican faith, have died from herdsmen-related violence and it is concerning that Welby has only found his voice to comment on the matter since January this year.
Welby also seemed keen to meet another ruler of an oil-rich state when Saudi royal Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in the UK earlier this month.
Both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have appalling human rights records, but this has not deterred Welby from hobnobbing with their rulers.
Welby would do well to read the Parable of the Good Samaritan again: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
It should be noted that a priest and a Levite – also a priest, ignored the plight of the victim in this parable. Nigerians have been slaughtered and maimed from Jos to Jalingo and beyond by Fulani herdsmen. While the belated offer to intervene from a man of the cloth of Welby’s standing is welcome, enquiring minds continue to wonder what took him so long.