A 22-year-old, 200 level student of Home Economics at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, Deborah Samuel, was gruesomely murdered and set ablaze by Muslim extremist students on Thursday, May 12, 2022.
Deborah, who is from Niger State, was accused of blasphemy. The whole problem was triggered by a post on a WhatsApp class group chat platform. According to a course mate of the deceased, Deborah had been asked how she managed to pass her last semester examinations and she innocuously said it was “Jesus o”.
Some of her course mates were not comfortable with her response and asked her to retract it. Some of her friends, who perceived that the matter may escalate more than that, equally asked her to retract it but she remained adamant.
READ ALSO : Sen Dickson Condemns Killing of Deborah Samuel
Her response to the request that she should retract her post, was a voice note where she said the WhatsApp platform was created as a notice board for information about assignments, tests and examinations, and not for these “nonsense religious posts”.
It was this response that sparked the trouble. They were in the class and when her friends sensed danger was in the offing they tried whisking her away to safety. A vehicle was even on standby to ensure her get-away but the assailants overpowered them and seized their victim. They hit her with sticks and stoned her before setting her ablaze. She pleaded for mercy and called for help but help was nowhere close, and her last words before she died were “what do you hope to achieve with this?”
The horrendous killing of Deborah sparked outrage and condemnation from Nigerians. Some notable persons who have condemned the killing of Deborah include President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Senator representing Bayelsa West, Seriake Dickson, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa ‘ad Abubakar and renowned cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi while groups that have condemned the dastardly killing are the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, the Muslim Lawyers Association and the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN).
Surprisingly, while well-meaning Nigerians across religious lines were busy condemning the heinous killing of Deborah, the Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja, Prof Ibrahim Maqari posted a message on Twitter that was most insensitive, to say the least. He tweeted, “It should be known to everyone that we the Muslims have some redlines beyond which MUST NOT (emphasis his) be crossed. The dignity of the Prophet (PBUH) is at the forefront of the redlines. If our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticized for addressing them ourselves”.
Former Vice President and currently a presidential aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, did the right thing by condemning the killing but because of the fear of losing votes he deleted his post on Twitter, as if to say he was recanting what he posted earlier.
His tweet read, “There cannot be a justification for such gruesome murder. Deborah Yakubu was murdered, and all those behind her death must be brought to justice. My condolences to her family and friends”.
His deleting the tweet attracted a flurry of reactions in the comment section, particularly from Muslims from Sokoto State, who threatened that he would not get votes from the north.
A respondent, @Hassan_Shehu wrote “You just lost a million votes in Sokoto” while @its_mustie, who was responding to @Hassan_Shehu, said “I swear to God, mine inclusive. We go wait for am till he come for campaign”. On his part, @UchePOkoye wrote “Northerners promised to punish Atiku with their votes and he pulled the tweet. Interesting” while @Morris_Monye quipped “Atiku was not really sympathetic. Tried to appease the south, saw reaction from the north, deleted. He feels it’s better not to offend the North than offending the South”.
There has been a chain reaction of events since after the horrific killing of Deborah. The Kaduna State Command of the Nigeria Police received a distress call from authorities of the Shehu Shagari College of Education and immediately dispatched men to the scene of the crime where they arrested two suspects while the Sokoto State Government reacted swiftly by ordering the shutting down of the school.
The killing led to violence in Sokoto as persons sympathetic to the cause of the extremist students took to the streets demanding the release of the two suspects arrested. They attacked and vandalized churches and shops. The state government responded by declaring a 24-hour curfew to forestall further violence while the State Security Council banned all religious protests until further notice.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle has requested all church leaders to organise peaceful protests on Sunday, May 22, demanding justice for the slain Deborah.
It is in the midst of all of these that the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN) has come out to say that any politician who does not condemn the extra-judicial killing of Deborah should not expect to get any vote from them during the 2023 general elections.
According to the National President of YOWICAN, Belusochukwu Enwere, “Any politician who failed to mourn with the nation, especially the Christians, in this sorrowful time should forget our votes in 2023. We will mobilise Christian youths across the nooks and crannies of the country to ensure that such persons are stopped because he or she will be a misrepresentation of the nation. Nigeria is a secular state, not a religious nation”.
The crux of the YOWICAN’s position is that any politician aspiring for elective office in 2023, who cannot, irrespective of religious inclination, condemn the gruesome murder of Deborah is not fit to rule because such a person will not be able to take a definitive stand between good and bad. The Christian youths are sounding a message to all political aspirants, loud and clear that they would not waste their votes on moral cowards who cannot condemn what is evil, like the murder of Deborah.
With a population of over 200 million people, Christians account for between 80,000,000 and 85,0000,000 of the Nigerian population. The country has 80,004,084 registered voters with an average voter turnout of 49.78%. By extrapolation, Christian voters may approximate 34 million and with a demography of about 70% youth population, Christian youths in Nigeria may amount to 20 million. When this is extrapolated against the backdrop of 49.78% voter turnout, YOWICAN may be in control of about nine million votes.
For whatever it is worth, nine million votes cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. For the aspirants, the fear of YOWICAN’s threat is the beginning of wisdom. Any aspirant who does not want to take such warnings seriously should ask Atiku Abubakar.