On Sunday, February 10, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nigeria’s national football (soccer) team, the Super Eagles, beat the Burkina Faso Stallions 1-0 to win the prestigious African Cup of Nations title. Back home in Nigeria, the Super Eagles’ victory came just hours after northern Nigeria once again felt the wrath of Islamist terrorists – most likely the group responsible for thousands of deaths, Boko Haram.
On Friday, terrorists killed one male and eight female health workers in two attacks in Kano. BBC News Africa reported that first, polio vaccinators “were shot dead by gunmen who drove up on a motor tricycle.” In a second attack, gunmen shot the polio workers at a clinic at the town’s edge as they were starting work.
The BBC report reveals that “analysts” believe that the killings are the work of Boko Haram. Although the group has not yet claimed credit, it would make sense that the killings were the work of the Islamists whose name translates as “western education is forbidden.” Some Muslim leaders oppose vaccines which they claim cause infertility. Sounds like a good way to cover up their own shortcomings.
On Saturday, the terrorists murdered three North Korean doctors in Potiskum, Yobe State, slitting the throats of two and beheading a third. According to the Associated Press, the bodies were found in the house that they shared with their wives in a quiet neighborhood off the grounds of the hospital. AP reported that when soldiers arrived, they found the doctors’ wives unharmed, but “cowering in a flower bed outside their home.” The doctors were part of a technical exchange program between the two countries and had been living in Yobe since 2005.
For one of the Super Eagle players, who prevailed over the past to become an international soccer star, the weekend’s events may seem a sad reminder that some things never change. Twenty-two year old Victor Moses, voted Best Player in Sunday’s match, is a rising star from the famous Chelsea Football Club in London, but he was born in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria. He and two other Nigerian Chelsea players returned to Africa to play the tournament with the Super Eagles.
Moses had not been back to Nigeria since November 2002, when Islamists protesting the Miss World beauty pageant being held in Nigeria turned Kaduna and other nearby areas to piles of ashes and corpses. After sacking the local offices of This Day, a national Nigerian newspaper whose reporter had dared to say that Mohammed probably would have chosen a wife from the Miss World contestants, the mob had moved on to targeting Christians. According to reports from The Barnabas Fund, the rioters barricaded the streets with burning tires and burned down Christians’ houses, shops, and churches.
Sadly, this not a new situation for northern Nigeria. The region has long been on a path to what one writer calls the Pakistanization/Afghanization of the country. Hundreds were killed in these riots in contrast to the thousands (possibly as many as 5,000) who were killed during a previous series of riots in Kaduna in 2000. But to the victims and the families of the victims of the 2002 riots, there was no noticeable difference. Death is death.
Among those killed were Pastor Austin and Josephine Moses, the soccer star’s parents. Naija Football 247 reported that Moses “had his own church” and was therefore “a target of the Muslim extremists.” The rioters, mostly young men fueled by hate sermons from the local mosques, murdered both the pastor and his wife in their home. Eleven-year-old Victor was out playing football in the streets, unaware of what was going on, when his uncle found him. After hiding the boy with friends for a week, while the city – including Victor’s own house – smoldered around them, his uncle took him to England where he has lived ever since.
Even as a secondary school student recently arrived from Nigeria, Moses was a star footballer. One blogger tells how in a 2005 game with his school, Whitgift, against a school whose players wore red shirts, the local newspaper quipped, “Holy Moses! Wonder Player Parts Red Sea!” The word-play on his Biblical name continues even today. Headlines after Nigeria’s victory read, “Moses leads Nigeria to the Promised Land.”
Moses, who declared, “It has been a long journey [from Nigeria] and I just want to keep strong and work hard for myself, whether it’s football or not football,” is proud of his Nigerian identity. He should also be proud of his ability to rise up from the ashes of Kaduna with the strength and determination that have kept him going in spite of the horrible, wrenching grief of having his parents and his home taken with such violence. His birth country is proud of him, and many find inspiration not only in his successes, but in his willingness to return to Nigeria.
A popular culture website Trendy Africa in a story on the young soccer star exclaimed ironically that Moses has brought joy “to every Nigerian, including those who may have inspired his parent’s death.” Trendy Africa observed that “On Sunday, Moses would stand for the National Anthem and pledge allegiance” but, in a sad commentary on Nigeria, “to a country that couldn’t defend his parents.” And as the ongoing killings by Boko Haram indicate, Nigeria still can’t defend the parents of hundreds of children who have been left as orphans by jihadists.
Moses’ ability to forgive the country in which his parents were killed just for being Christians is commendable. But what is unforgiveable is the U.S. State Department’s refusal to most effectively help stop Boko Haram’s terrorism, by designating them as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Last year, then Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) wrote to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the designation. Meehan’s Subcommittee had just released a bi-partisan report on Boko Haram as “an emerging threat to the U.S. Homeland.” But the State Department response, as delivered by Asst. Sec. of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, was to see the terrorists as victims of poverty and marginalization and to downplay the targeting of Christians.
The threat has only grown as connections have emerged between Boko Haram and other jihadists such as Ansar Dine, al-Shabab, AQIM, and the Janjaweed in Darfur. But some in the media are pushing the State Department’s talking points. Reuters reporter Tim Cocks offered up a cock-and-bull story on February 5. Cocks declared that “Rage over bad governance fuels Nigeria’s Islamists,” in spite of Boko Haram’s own insistence that it will cleanse northern Nigeria of Christians and extend Sharia across the whole country, and that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan must convert to Islam or step down. He says that Boko Haram “pledged to revive the 19th century rule of Islamic scholar Usman Dan Fodio, who led a revolution to overthrow Hausa kings he saw as corrupt and idolatrous,” but does not reveal that the reason Fodio, a bloodthirsty killer, saw them as corrupt and idolatrous was because they were “infidels” – like Christians in Nigeria today.
The General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Musa Asake, has observed that there have been so many bombings and other attacks on churches and individual Christians by Boko Haram that when families go to church, they don’t if they will come back home the same way they went, or even if they will come home at all. In addition to deaths, hundreds of northern Nigerian Christians have been grievously wounded, losing arms and legs in Boko Haram’s suicide bombing attacks, or mentally and emotionally scarred by trauma.
As Nigeria glories in winning the African Cup of Nations and in the particular triumph of one of its young sons, Victor Moses, the grief suffered by Moses, and by countless other sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers of Christians killed by Islamists in northern Nigeria, should not be forgotten. Perhaps President Jonathan will take advantage of the changing of the guard at the State Department to strengthen his own resolve not to allow American political correctness and appeasement politics to influence his response to Boko Haram. The House Committee on Homeland Security and the entire U.S. Congress should renew its calls to the State Department to designate the group as an FTO, and begin in earnest to root out this threat.
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