By Peter Duru
Former Nigerian Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) has expressed fear that the unending killings in parts of the country was taking a religious dimension warning that if the authorities failed to stem the tide the the country could descend into a religious war.
The elder statesman who lamented over the security situation in the country particularly the killing of innocent unarmed villagers by armed herdsmen, which he said had continued unabated said he was disappointed at the manner the security situation in the country was being handled.
He spoke Saturday in Makurdi when he visited Governor Samuel Ortom to commiserate with the government and people of the state over the killings in the state.
Gen. Gowon said “I think security agencies should invite and question the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who had earlier threatened to unleash violence on Benue State.”
The former Head of State who said he was out of the country when two priests and 17 worshipers were killed in a church in the state during a morning mass expressed the condolences of his group, “Nigeria Prays” to the government and people of the state.
He said, “I am sad and worried at the religious dimension the killings is assuming, the authorities should redouble their effort to deal with the security situation because if that is not done, the country could descend into a religious war, with no one coming out victorious.”
The former Head of State who commended Governor Ortom and the Benue State government for courageously handling the issues concerning the killings and devastation of communities in the state stressed that “for us to survive as a nation; we must learn to live together as one regardless of ethnicity or religion.”
Welcoming the elder statesman, Governor Ortom, represented by his deputy, Mr. Benson Abounu thanked him for coming to commiserate with the people and government of the state adding that his voice to the call on the federal government to take decisive actions to end the orgy of violence plaguing the state and the country was commendable.
He said the magnitude and frequency of the killings and devastation of communities in the state had defied every logic with over 185,000 people internally displaced as a result of the crisis and now living in camps, far away from their ancestral lands and their farms.
He explained that though the killings in the state had come down a little due to the change of tactics by the military who upgraded their operation in the state from “exercise cat race” to “operation whirl stroke”, the threat was not yet over as killings were still going on in many places.
He said that the country was at cross roads, with complaints coming from all sections of the nation state. According to him, the present structure of the Nigerian federation was sick and defective.
Governor Ortom said he agreed with the calls for restructuring, explaining that restructuring would eliminate many of the contradictions and imbalances that had limited the capacity of the federating states to flourish and maximize the benefit of their existence.