Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Akinola's spokesman defends his boss's statement on Northern violence

On February 21, Archbishop Akinola released a statement to the Nigerian people in response to northern Muslim violence against Christians, which said, in part, "may we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation" and that "[Christian Association of Nigeria] may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue."

Talking to the Living Church, Canon AkinTunde Popoola, the Archbishop's spokesperson and communications director, is backpedaling on that highly threatening language:
A spokesman for Archbishop Akinola repudiated suggestions the Archbishop’s earlier call for restraint was a coded message of violence.

"The Church does not believe any true worshipper can go on to kill or maim another human being out of anger. It is a pity" that some in the West "are seeing incitement," Canon AkinTunde Popoola told The Living Church. The charge of inciting religious violence "has not been mentioned in Nigeria," he said.

Church leaders in Nigeria shape public attitudes and debate, Canon Popoola said, asserting that Archbishop Akinola "has to sound tough as it was becoming increasingly difficult to tell the youths to turn the other ear while they see him on TV smiling and talking with the Muslim leadership. The question on the streets was, 'are the Christians been sold out by their leadership'?" [emphasis mine]
First off, I have to agree that I have not seen much in the Nigerian press condemning Akinola's choice of words -- but I have also failed to see much in the press to mention the fact that more Muslims died in the south in response to the deaths of Christians in the north than actually died in the north. Indeed, Akinola's call for two days of national mourning makes no mention of the 80-100 deaths in Onitsha.

Second, is Popoola really suggesting that the language in the statement was just PR intended to harden his image among Christian youths, while at the same time claiming that that same language had nothing to do with the violence?


Daniel said...

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, also maintained in an interview with The Guardian that Akinola’s comment was not meant to incite violence, but rather “he meant to issue a warning which certainly has been taken as a threat, an act of provocation."

The Guardian story can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1735730,00.html and the entire interview can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1735404,00.html .

Dr. Williams did criticize Archbishop Akinola, as well as other African clergy, on several issues but claimed that in the “inciting violence” statement Akinola had just not made himself sufficiently clear.

I like and respect Rowan Williams but I’m not buying it, I think it was a statement calculated to incite violence and yet intentionally vague enough to maintain deniability.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Well, this appeasement, collaboration rubbish is the talking point of the defence, vs AB Duncan's piece the other day.

And what else could they say ;=)

The whole thing stinks - and the defenders know it.