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Christian settlements have scanty polling units in the North — Jacob, Kaduna ex-AG

An international speaker against the persecution of Christians and former Attorney General of Kaduna State, Mr Mark Jacob, speaks with MUDIAGA AFFE on the alleged killing of Christians in the North and the fears associated with the forthcoming elections

You were quoted to have said that churches in the southern part of Nigeria are in their comfort zone. What exactly do you mean by that?

The churches in the South do not have the kind of challenges we are facing in the North. Those in the South are really in their comfort zone. If you go to the North-East, for instance, you will find out that many churches have been deserted. Those who are still worshipping do that under serious fear and they have had to devise a lot of protectionist apparatuses here and there. Generally, in the North, Christianity is practised with a level of caution because of the environment. Boko Haram is there; and several times people have been attacked in their churches. So, these are things that naturally make Christian worship a risky venture in the North, unlike what you have in the South where people are free to go to the church. In those days, we used to have crusades and outreaches. But today, you hardly hear of crusades in the North.

Why are you going round the country drawing the attention of Christian leaders to the killing and persecution of Christians in the North?

We are interested in enlightening our fellow Christians in other parts of the country on the plight of the Christians in the North. We believe that a lot of information has been suppressed or has not been properly shared over the years on the issues affecting the body of Christ in the North.

Are the Christians the only group affected by the security challenges in the North?

Well, concerning the killing of Christians, manipulation and oppression, it is obvious that the Christians have been at the receiving end. The foundation was laid during the colonial era. After the Nigerian independence in 1960, there were a lot of structural imbalances which were institutionalised. For instance, in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we can still see the clear manipulation of the people in terms of lopsidedness in placement. People are considered based on their religious beliefs and where they come from. You can imagine that even the simple issue of constituency delineation is in favour of the Muslims. Voting centres in the Christian dominated settlements in the North are scanty. The Christian communities have very little voting strength; people will have to trek several kilometres before they can cast their votes. This is not the same in other areas occupied mainly by the Muslims in my state, for instance.

The section of Kaduna State, occupied by Christians, have lesser polling units and this has caused a lot of disenfranchisement. Even in government appointments, Christians are few compared to the Muslim appointments. Christians are hardly taken into account in terms of empowerment. These are issues that need to be addressed. That is why in the political arena, we are in support of restructuring.

Can you give an estimate of the number of eligible voters in Christian settlements that might be disenfranchised in the elections?

I cannot give any figure now, but I must state too that in the issue of national population census, the Christian settlements are far away from where the centres are and they are hardly captured. As a result of the situation, the people have apathy towards elections. They prefer going to their farms instead of trekking many kilometres to register as a voter or cast their votes.

Can you name some of the Christian settlements that have limited polling units?

They are so many. If you go to Kaduna metropolis, for instance, places such as the television area, Sabo Tasha and the Kaduna South area, you will find out that they have fewer wards. The imbalance is obvious in the Kaduna South Local Government Area; the wards are concentrated in the Tundu Wada area. It is a big problem for the common man.

What had been the response of the Christian Association of Nigeria to the recurring killing of Christians in the North?

The Christian Association of Nigeria has been good as far as advocating equal rights and the protection of the people are concerned. The church has come under attacks several times, especially in the last two years. CAN has done its best. It does not have enough resources to do what ought to be done such as taking care of Internally Displaced Persons. The church has tried in galvanising assistance because the government has not done much for the IDPs. It is the church, under CAN leadership, that is organising relief materials and other forms of assistance.

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