Popular Pentecostal Pastor Paul Adefarasin wades into the herdsmen crisis which triggers deep rooted fears among Nigerian Christians.
Nigeria is divided among many lines- class, tribe, status and religion as well. The Northern part of the country is predominantly Muslim and the Southern part is predominantly Christian. Political and religious events since 1960 have created a deep level of distrust between North and South.
Paul Adefarasin, Head Pastor of House of the Rock seems to have triggered the fears of an Islamic in Nigeria once again. Speaking against the backdrop of the recent herdsmen killings in the middle belt region of the country, he told his congregation about alleged plans to make Nigeria an Islamic nation.
The video (date unknown) sees one of Nigeria's leading Pentecostal pastors rail against the alleged plan to make the country an Islamic republic, a deep-rooted fear of Christians. Not only does his say this but states that the Fulanis have a land grabbing master plan.
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"It is evidently a land grab by the Fulanis. They have been invited from Senegal, from Guinea where they have not been allowed to rule. And now they have been summoned to the country of over 280 ethnic groups, to take over our land and continue the colonization that Usman Dan Fodio began" he says in the clip.
He then goes on to pray against the third Mahdi's (who he doesn't reveal) plan of the Fulani people to colonize Nigeria.
The video has caused a bit of controversy online. Some people believe the sermon fans the flames of ethnic hatred in a volatile country like Nigeria. He has also been called out for alleged hate speech and criminalizing Fulani people.
Paul Adefarasin isn't the only man of God to speak out against Fulani herdsmen. Another prominent Christian leader, David Oyedepo, in 2017 launched a spiritual war on "northern forces", the Islamization of Nigeria agenda and Boko Haram. To many Southerners, all these names belong in the same bag, the axis of the Northern agenda.
Many have pointed out the danger of preaching this type of message on the pulpit. It reinforces the stereotype of the North and Fulani as 'masters' bent on making Nigeria into an Islamic country. This theory has been on for decades but with the recent security issues stemming from the North, Christian leaders have taken it upon themselves to protect their flock and fight against an alleged Jihad. What this has done is trigger those fears yet again.
There are always two sides to a story. While analysts and thinkers are berating him for so-called hate speech, supporters of Paul Adefarasin see no wrong in what he has said. From his perspective, they believe he is speaking up for his flock and speaking against the carnage that little has been done about. They believe he and other men of God are saying the truth on this particular issue and are defending Christians who have lost their lives in this senseless acts of violence.
It is hard to convince a Christian in the Middle Belt who just lost a relative in the Plateau killings that there isn't a sinister agenda somewhere. The frequent attacks and killings have done little to extinguish the myth that there is a plan to get rid of Christians and turn the country into an Islamic republic. The fear grows worse with each attack.
Whether you see it is as hate speech or defending the righteous flock, the middle ground in all of this is that the less than satisfactory governmental response has created the opportunity for right-winged religious fanaticism and conspiracy theories to spring up.
And this does not solely refer to the recent attempts by this administration to deal with the herdsmen crisis. Past administrations have failed to find a lasting solution for religious and ethnic clashes. The violence has allowed wild theories, founded and unfounded to deepen.
What you believe in depends on which side of the divide you are.