John Hayap is a Baptist Reverend from Kaduna State. A former Special Adviser on Christian and Pilgrimage Matters to Governors Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa and Alhaji Ramallan Yero of Kaduna State, Hayap is currently the Kaduna State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and Vice-Chairman of CAN, Northern Nigeria. In this interview, he spoke on the state of the nation and sundry issues.
What is your assessment of the state of the nation as appears to you?
Nigerians are hungry. And you know a hungry man is an angry man. Many of the things we see and read on the pages of newspapers and possibly watch on television, almost 80 per cent of them are pure propaganda. Our leaders are not in touch with the reality on ground. Our leaders want to compel us to sing their praises even when we are dying. Our leaders want to compel us to say they are angels even when actually they are worse than the devil. Our leaders want to compel us to clap for them even when our hands are actually hurt by the wound they have inflicted on us. I tell you in this country it is only when you are privileged or you have something doing that you can eat three square meals. But the number of people who will come thinking you have everything will be more than you can contend with. We are gradually grooming an army that would consume us tomorrow. I want to appeal to our leaders to fear God and forget the name of their religions. Just fear God and do what is right. The leaders of countries that have progressed do not go to Churches or Mosques, but they are committed, patriotic and do what is right. Our leaders are not doing what is right. Today, in this country people are not safe; people can no longer travel, but you still hear our leaders telling us that all is well, but they can’t ply that road. A leader tells us in the morning that Abuja –Kaduna road is free, but they still go to train station with their family and go to Abuja. If it is safe, let’s go together. If they are willing to go they must have five to six Hilux vehicles with policemen in front and back. Let’s just move together like everybody. Insecurity has degenerated into a terrible situation. In Kaduna today and in many northern states do you know that criminals and kidnappers come to people’s homes, knock on their doors, they open and they take them away. One woman in our village, just few days to Christmas on Abuja –Kaduna road was kidnapped. She is pregnant, her husband and her brother. They killed her husband right in front of her and then kept her brother, then released her to go and look for money. They were asking for how much? N40 million. How does she get N40 million? At the last count, sometimes between July and August, I told Nigerians that the number of Christians that have been kidnapped was about 500. As at the last count we are almost hitting another 600 because between August and today we have almost 60 to 90 Christians that have been kidnapped in many communities in Birnin Gwari. Even a while ago I got a text concerning a Church leader and one of the moderators in Kankumi who is still with kidnappers. At that time I said we have paid N300 million as ransom to kidnappers. It was after that that the Engravers Secondary School girls and two of their teachers and other kidnappings took place. We are now hitting N400 million paid as ransom to kidnappers because I was involved in the negotiation in the case of the kidnap of the Engraver Secondary School girls. We paid N13.6 million. Relations, loved ones and people came to help us. A former governor in Kaduna State also helped. If government starts paying kidnappers will not allow us sleep. And I do not want government to pay because if anybody asks government to pay he is not being fair to government. I will not ask government to pay kidnappers. All we want is for government to secure the place. Like when they kidnapped the Engravers girls, first, they have agreed with us to give them N3.6 million, but the moment our governor said in Abuja that they were negotiating with the kidnappers, they took that to mean that we are collecting money from government to give them. They changed and demanded N10 million for each child. We had to start a fresh negotiation. They collected the N3.6 million and we had to start another negotiation before they now agreed that we add N10 million. We the Church also contributed. But we have resolved that the Church will no longer pay ransom because this is enough. If government will not act decisively to arrest and stop kidnappers and allow them to have a field day, it is shameful. If we talk about economy, people are hungry; they have lost jobs, they are not being paid. The story of payment of salary is only in the newspapers. Ask the workers whether they have been paid. The workers have not been paid, but newspapers say they have been paid. Pensioners have not been paid, but we see in the newspapers they have been paid. In your lack of payment you are struggling to help your brother or relations out of the hands of kidnappers. Every day they say they have blocked excesses and leakages. This is not true.
As a member of the body of ecclesiastics in Nigeria and a reverend gentleman, Vice President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Northern State and Abuja Chapter and also Chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of CAN who has worked with two governors as Special Adviser on Christian and Pilgrimage Matters, the statement by the US government through the US Department of State and US Secretary of State, designating Nigeria, “a country of particular concern” with regard to religious freedom and freedom of thought and conscience did not come to you as a surprise. But even though Christians are claiming to be the worse victim, Muslims are also insisting that they have incurred more losses over the years. We’ll want you to reconcile the statement of the US government and that of the JNI by way of rationalization.
Well, if we want to grow above our denials what the US government has said or putting Nigeria on her “Watch List” of nations that have issues of religious persecution or violation of religious rights is absolutely correct. Those who are familiar with happenings in northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large will agree to that, not just now, but that we have had so many issues of religious intolerance where individuals disrespect other individuals because of their religious beliefs or identity. Unfortunately, the state that is supposed to give them equal opportunities and is supposed to protect the rights of others becomes bias. There was a time someone raised a false alarm against a woman in Kano. She was lynched, killed without legal sanction. The man was taken to court. What was the judgement? When a teacher, because of a woman’s examination issue, raised the alarm that she has desecrated the Holy Book or blasphemed the Prophet in Gombe, she suffered the same fate. What did the government do? In this country we have evidences to prove that certain people are not allowed to be in certain offices; not because they are not competent, but their crime simply is their faith. You are first judged by faith, by your name. If you bear any name that sounds English nobody wants to know whether you do not go to Church. You are treated as you don’t belong. I have said this in the gathering of Northern Governors and Senators and I want to repeat it. I reminded them that even contracts in northern Nigeria, Christians who think they are experts when they go to seek for it, how do they end? They will do all the quotations and biddings. Their crime is not because they cannot do it, but their crime is in their name. You know in our state if I dare give any job to a John I will be asked questions. These things are there. In fact, part of the new tactics now is that they will speak kindly and friendly and keep giving you promises that will never be fulfilled. Oh! Wait next quarter. Oh! Let it be next year. You will just be surprised that you have lasted four years receiving the same story. Meanwhile, your proposal is being used. But because we are not used to raising the alarm the truth is that we are far from each other. So, if you have a country where citizens are not given equal rights and facilities what are we saying. Okay, I want to use my state as an example and let them refute this. You collected on behalf of Kaduna State N54 billion. I am just using a figure. And the total amount you invested in a senatorial zone that is Christian dominated is not up to N800 million, then something is wrong. What is the crime of the people? One senatorial zone out of three you have not in your four years invested N800 million, what are you saying? You think everybody is a daft; nobody can see? If they are disputing this let them show us the projects. Out of the many projects that are going on in Kaduna State; please show us where they are and then give us the cost of the roads. They are there in government papers; unless if they read this interview and quickly go and start roads. Look, Christians have come here and challenged us why we are not talking. They say to us they are not building roads in our communities, but are busy building old roads that are still good looking in the northern part. I have always told them just allow them. It is not everything you fight. Let them keep building. If they like let them build to the bedroom of their parents. A day will come when they will not be able to build roads again. And that day they will realize that there are places without roads. On that day the ones they are going to build will become new roads because the ones they have been building and keep building will become old. But this is happening. It is a fact. Go and check the records of projects done by this government in Kaduna State, the total number of roads being built in the three senatorial zones and you will assume that there are no human beings in the southern senatorial zone. The road we are using from Kaduna to Kachia and from Kachia to Kafanchan is as old as how many years. Let them just show me one good road. Check the road from Samaru Kataf to Saminaka. Even check the road from Zangon Kataf to Kagoro you will see nobody cares. All these roads are in the southern senatorial district. Recently, a Senator of the Federal Republic is requesting for the establishment of a Federal Medical Center. Look at it; the Federal University Teaching Hospital which is Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, ABUTH, is in Shika-Zaria, northern senatorial zone of Kaduna State. The Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital which is also a teaching hospital for the university is in the Kaduna metropolis in central senatorial zone. Ordinarily, common sense will tell someone that if we need another Federal Medical Center it should go to the southern senatorial zone so that if we have emergency situation you don’t need to rush to Kaduna. Today, if you are terribly sick or have an accident, once you have gone beyond Crossing, a town in the southern senatorial zone, the shortest point in terms of the hospital they will take the patient to is Jos in Plateau State. Do you know that we don’t even watch the television station of Kaduna State in southern Kaduna? Even the FM that they put there for us to listen to how many people can hear the station? It will work for two hours and in the next three hours it is not there. So whose news do we hear in the southern senatorial zone? It is Plateau Radio Television, PRTV. So, we can tell you everything that is happening in Plateau State, but we don’t know what is happening in Kaduna State because they want the information we will have to be limited. After a lot of struggles there was an NTA. Go and ask what is happening to that station. When you pick Kaduna State out, go to Christian states in northern Nigeria. Go to the Christian communities in Gombe State; go to other Christian communities in the northern state it is the same story. Don’t even talk about admission. As a Christian you come with your A grades and you want to read Medicine they will say okay go and read History or Geography while those who do not have up to your grade because they belong are being asked to read Aviation Technology. Just ask yourself; is that the way to build a nation? Is this not persecution? I want to say this so that they can refute it. My daughter got a good grade and sought to read Medicine in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria here in Kaduna State; this same ABU that they are arguing and saying it is not true. The day I took her papers to a former Vice-Chancellor and he saw the grades he was surprised. I told him I was not angry they didn’t give her Medicine, but that they did not consider her for another course. Is this not also persecution? That is to tell you that we have become so used to these problems that anything they give us we are willing to take. So, I was ready even if they give her any other course provided she attends a university. In Kano, I have papers and documents to show. When we buy lands in Kano they will sell the lands to us but they will, first of all, say that the rule here is that you don’t buy land without having the endorsement of the District Head or Mai Angwar . They will then write on a piece of paper that this land you are building you must not build a Church or beer parlour. How can you choose to make a Church equal to a beer parlour? Elite are watching and listening to this and no one is saying anything and when we say we are being persecuted someone will say we are crying foul.
But the Nigerian government through Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister says the statement by the US government is incorrect and that Nigerians enjoy unfettered freedom of thoughts, conscience and religion and added that failed politicians and disgruntled elements are the ones behind the statement by the US?
If Lai Mohammed said that I will just want to go like other Nigerians who, sometimes out of sarcasm, will say that his name is Lai and he lied. That is a lie from the pit of hell. But what do you expect him to say. He needs to defend his office and government. We are talking about the reality of what Christians are facing. I have read the defense about admissions recently and I laugh. I said in this 21st Century you are giving this kind of defense and you think nobody can think? When schools are looking for the best students you are giving us flimsy excuses for not admitting good students? Giving us excuses that are not tenable and true because of religious purpose? So, for Lai Mohammed to say that…which one will I even agree because Lai is from Kwara State and he is a northerner; let’s ask Christians and Kwara Christians will tell you worse things than I have just said. He has not finished sorting the problem in his state; let him first go to his state and find out what Christians are going through in his state. I speak as the Vice-Chairman of CAN Northern Nigeria so not just as Kaduna State Chairman of CAN. We have figures. I can send to you details of the crises, the killings and others. We have cried out. I have worked closely with Chairmen of Northern Governors Forum. We have presented our cases in black and white with figures. They will just promise to do something and it ends that day. So if anybody says I should give him details I will not be sure now whether I am not just going to arm the person to go and write his thesis and pass his exam. We have facts and figures. Let’s come to Kaduna State. Is it also a lie that in the whole cabinet of Kaduna State only three of them are Christians? The Governor is Muslim, the deputy governor is Muslim, the SSG is Muslim, the Head of Service is Muslim, the Chief of Staff is Muslim and you tell us you are looking for the best. Is the governor telling us that of all the lots in Kaduna no one is qualified only this group of people? And we know those people very well. How informed and how exposed are they? These people that make up the five people I mentioned who are they? Oh! My goodness. It sounds ridiculous. Is it also a lie and is this not persecution? If I am lying please let’s take a look at it. The justification is that oh! We are looking for the best brains. Oh! My goodness. I can give you 2,000 best brains around. But they are not best brains enough because of their faith. What disqualifies their brain to be best brains is their faith. Where we have 100 opportunities you carry 95 away and just give five to us Christians. Even by ratio of numbers we can have 45. Why giving us five. But you know what they do? They go to the file, check among us those who can easily compromise, those who can easily sell out, those who can easily betray, those who are greedy because when you have a situation where everybody is being punished and they just come and pick only two of you, you feel you are highly favoured. So, you are even willing to kill your mother as long as you will keep that opportunity they have given you. This is the kind of situation they are pushing our people to. But we are happy that there are a lot of us that understand this and we are saying we have hands enough to work and eat. We have brains enough to think and create and work and eat to feed our children. We must not do funny things. But if it is religious persecution we are suffering it; we are hearing it….
When you spoke recently you sounded as though religion is being used as a basis for political and economic imbalance. Can we understand you more because the Sultan of Sokoto who is the leader of Muslims in Nigeria also dismissed the report of the US government?
It is unfortunate that our respected Sultan is living in denial about young Christian girls that are being taken away and their faith is changed, their names changed and you go, there is nothing you can do. Those things are evident, We have one million and one evidence to give. The other time we discussed that where did we end? I cited the example of Kaduna. Is the Sultan living outside Nigeria? Is the issue of appointments I have mentioned in Kaduna not true? Look, ABU, Zaria is supposed to be a federal institution, let them tell us how many Christians from North and South of Nigeria they have admitted. Even northern Christians are rarely given admission not to talk of a southern Christian. If the Sultan says this is not true I challenge the ABU, Zaria management to publish the list of those admitted in the 2019/2020 session, the names against the courses they have been admitted, their JAMB scores and WASCE results. Are there no Christians in Sokoto State? Who gives indigenous Christians any appointment? The Sultan says there are “Fulani Christians” as there are “Fulani Muslims.” Where are the “Fulani Christians in the Sokoto State cabinet? The Sultan should tell us since he said there are “Fulani Christians” and “Fulani Muslims.” We want to see a “Fulani Christian” as the SSG of Sokoto State, a “Fulani Christian” as the Chief of Staff of Kano State, a “Fulani Christian” as the deputy governor of Zamfara State. I have indigenous Christians from Katsina, Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa states who are well read. Since the Sultan’s argument is that there are “Fulani Christians” can he just find out from those he is referring to as “Fulani Christians” whether they are given the same rights as others, whether they are given appointments. Even in government, the so-called “Fulani Christian” will not be a permanent secretary. If you become permanent secretary you must have left your state for Abuja. In the states the issue of qualification is secondary as a Christian. Can the Sultan please release the names of the “Fulani Christians” holding positions of permanent secretary and above in Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara and Katsina states? In one of the states in northern Nigeria today, the leader of one of the agencies is a young man who was picked from level 09. They jumped those on levels 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 who have every knowledge and brought him to lead an agency. Is that not even an abuse of procedure? I wish that was done to those in the northern axis of the state you would have had cries everywhere and they would have come to you media men to say injustice is being done and you are keeping quiet. Is there anything more than this? What they did was to direct those on grade levels 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 to the office of the Head of Service to go and wait for posting. What a shame. Is the Sultan aware of this? What sort of persecution can be more than this?
There is a related matter for which I seek your reaction. The Chief Justice of Nigeria spoke the other day about the need to amend the constitution to reflect the concerns of Muslims and the Shari’a law. He believes they have the number to do that and…?
(Cuts in) Let me be honest with you. Why I have refused to be part of that conversation is that the CJN was not there in person. He was represented by someone who, from my findings did not read from a script from the CJN. So, what I have always said is that the CJN must do what is right and come out to tell us his stand on this matter. The reason is that if we don’t give him that benefit of the doubt we will become so prejudicial in our judgment about him. The challenge now is for the CJN to prove to Nigerians that those were not your words. Let’s not continue this new year thinking that you have said what you didn’t say. If we continue like that tomorrow this baby you are about to give birth to will come back and haunt you. Let me, therefore, give the CJN the benefit of the doubt that probably the man he sent to represent him went beyond his brief to say what the CJN did not ask him to say. But let’s look at it from the clear point of view; if the CJN did say what he was quoted to have said then it means he has lost touch of what Nigeria is going through. Today, our major challenge is not about the Shari’a law because some years back the National Assembly promoted a bill that there should be a Canon Law. We Christians because we want togetherness said no. We asked them to focus on what will unite us. So, for the CJN to now come out to promote Shari’a to the extent of creating departments in universities it shows that we are gradually drifting into nepotism in Nigeria. And when you were taking oath Mr Chief Justice of Nigeria did you take oath to defend the constitution of Nigeria or defend a particular religion? So, you need to come out and clear the air so that Nigerians will know whether it was your position or that of the other man. Your silence is only making us to think you truly said so. So, denouncing it or clarifying it will be safer for you than silence. By the way when have we ever done census in Nigeria that you know that there are more Muslims in Nigeria than Christians. I was part of the leadership and part of the last Census Committee. We did everything humanly possible to get religious questions in the census and those things were denied. So, in the next census Christians must come and say we must have religious questions. At least for once, let us know that truly you are in the majority or not. But this one that we have no clear and gazetted data and anybody can say we are in the majority, this must stop. It is this false statistics they used to give that the CJN is building on.
You seem to believe that equity and justice in power sharing, economic opportunities, the way we regard one another is part of the solution to the problems Nigeria is facing. But many Nigerians are saying the solution resides in the restructuring of the country…
(Cuts in) No, no, no, let me put it this way because you have brought in the issue of restructuring. This is one of the challenges we have with the way we are being led by propaganda and falsehood. We make promises we cannot fulfill. I think one among the many promises is the promise of restructuring. The truth about it is that if we do not restructure Nigeria we would suffer tomorrow because everything everyday keep segmenting us. For once let people go back to where they think belongs to their father and work it out and see because the over centralization of government in Abuja is what is making this country what she is today. We must decentralize Nigeria in such a way that different regions will operate in a way that will benefit them. The configuration of some of these states is faulty. We need to restructure the faulty configuration of senatorial districts, local governments and possibly wards to suit the reality on ground.
Let’s look at 2023 and the northern question. The North through Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, of which you are a member, being a northerner, says it is for a northern candidate…
(Cuts in) Who did they consult and took that decision?
Well I am supposed to hear from you
No, no, no, you are telling me and, of course, I am not denying being from the North because since geographically I belong here…see, North is not a religion. North is a region. So, if you are a Christian or a Muslim and your state of origin falls within that geographical entity you are a northerner. The trouble we have been having and trying to correct is that so many people think North is a religion. They do not understand that North is a region. I am proudly a northerner, a Christian of northern extraction. If I go to Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Borno , Kebbi, Zamfara states, I will speak like a Christian, a northerner. So when you speak for us as North then we ask questions whether it is our North or your North because there is a North, “NORTH” and there is a “NOT.” Now, you say Arewa, of course, the meaning of Arewa is North in Hausa. Is it “Are” or “Wa”? We are talking about Nigerian question and we have not even addressed the problems we are facing in Nigeria as ACF; you have not addressed the problems of insecurity we are facing in northern Nigeria as ACF; you have not addressed the problem of imbalance, injustice that is going on in Nigeria, but every day you want to use our name to talk leadership, leadership, leadership because through that you gain and we continue to suffer. That is why Christians and Muslims who understand this evil, these lies and selfish groups that are using our name must be resisted. I can assure you that it is already in the pipeline because people are beginning to understand and talk. In the past they used to go to the Muslim groups to say Christians hate them. Gradually, they are beginning to realize that we do not hate them; we love them, but we are only fighting for our rights. Now that they have started hitting another Muslim group in the North that’s to tell you that it was simply divide and rule. Gradually, we are beginning to understand them and we are now forming a group of like mind people, people who are subject of persecution and discrimination. One day we will show them it is enough of this nonsense and it is coming. For the ACF to say they are backing a northern candidate and not talking about our peace, health, security, progress, schools, education, not about our industry, nothing, it is time we asked them questions. So, if we die, northern candidate; if we are hungry, northern candidate; if our children are sick, northern candidate. Has a northern candidate helped our children that are sick or stopped our hunger and poverty? Has a northern candidate helped improve our education? In fact, statistics show that lack of literacy and out of school children are from the North. So, is it a northern candidate issue? They have never sat down to holistically look at the things that are troubling us northerners, their own is northern candidate so that when the person become president he would assume that they helped him to become it so that they will continue siphoning and stealing our money.