John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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More Nigerian Church Bombings

by John Campbell
September 25, 2012

A woman cries during a mass funeral for the victims of Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic church, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja 01/02/2012. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters).


On Sunday, September 24, immediately after an early mass, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bauchi. Five were reported killed with another forty-six injured.  Doctors warn that many of the wounded are in bad condition, and may die. No part of Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement that targets the Nigerian political economy, has claimed responsibility. It is likely, however, that most Nigerians will impute to it the responsibility. The BBC, among other media, has stated that church bombings have waned while Boko Haram shifted its focus to communications towers. The Nigerian press, on the other hand, has reported attacks nearly every Sunday since at least the beginning of August.

The northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella group that includes almost all of the Christian churches, appears to be working to dampen down Christian revenge against Muslims.  Its spokesmen characterize the bombings as “a test of faith.” One CAN spokesman said, “Christians should look up to God, because vengeance is of God.  We are not comfortable with the killing of Christians, but we leave everything to God.  He has not failed us, and will not fail us.”

According to the Society of African Missions, Catholics in Bauchi number only seventy thousand, or 2 percent of the population. As the cathedral and the seat of the bishop, St. John’s is the most prominent Catholic church in the state and, as such, a target.

Attacks also continue on prominent Muslims associated with the Nigerian government.  Unidentified gunmen last week murdered the former controller general of prisons, Alhaji Ibrahim Jarma.

The Nigerian press is also reporting that the military have deployed one thousand troops to the adjacent state of Yobe in anticipation of increased Boko Harm activities there.  It also reports that the military and police have arrested more than one thousand people, including forty-five civil servants. According to the press, efforts by the civil servants to identify themselves were “brushed aside.”

Christians in Bauchi are weak in numbers and influence.  It is likely that many of them are “settlers” originally from other parts of Nigeria. Unlike the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric against Boko Haram and Muslims by their co-religionists elsewhere, Bauchi’s Christian leaders appear to be doing what they can to avoid escalating a religious dimension to the conflict by rejecting revenge.  On the other hand, the whole sale and apparently indiscriminate arrests by the security forces in Yobe may encourage popular support or, more likely, acquiescence to Boko Haram.


Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Chavuka

    The Christian population of Bauchi state is much more significant than the writer suggests (especially among the indigenous non-Hausa people).

    Secondly, there has been less “fire and brimstone” from the Nigerian Christian community of late – and the Nigerian Christian community must be commended for doing its best to hold Nigeria together.

    I must warn that if these sort of events persist, there will be trouble, lots of trouble – irrespective of what people say.

    Patience has limits, and the patience of Nigerian Christians is being tested.

  • Posted by John Ojeah

    “Catholics in Bauchi number only seventy thousand, or 2 percent of the population”.

    “Christians in Bauchi are weak in numbers and influence”.

    Ambassador, the above are very far from the truth. The truth is that Christians (indigenous Christian Northerners) make up about 35% of Bauchi’s population. and

    Also, you can’t use only the Catholic population as a yardstick for measuring the number of Christians in Nigeria or part of it. You know very well that Nigeria was a British colony and like most British colonies, the Christian population were overwhemingly Protestant. For your information, Catholics are just a little over 20% of Nigeria’s Christian population.

    Even with that, the population is concentrated in the Southeast. The Igbos (in Southeastern region) make up the largest percentage of Catholics (70% of Catholics are concentrated in the Southeast region). This means that Catholics will make a much lesser percentage of the Christian population in Bauchi because of the skewed percentage of 70% Catholics in the SE region.

    Talking about retaliation, I hope it is not something that one is looking up to. I also hope that you are not extrapolating the Civil War here. Note that, most of the Northern fighters were indigenous Northern Christians (at a time when they both Northern Christians and Muslims saw the Igbos as competitors).

  • Posted by John Ojeah

    This is the link I was refering to. Apologies for the error.

  • Posted by John Ojeah

    Ambassador, I think you don’t appreciate the extent of the reach of Christianity in Northern Nigeria. I hope you know that Yakubu Gowon was the son of a Baptist priest in Northern Nigeria (modern day Plateau State). And shortly after his birth his parents went to Zaria for more missionary work.

    My point is that even before 1934 when General Gowon was born, Zaria, as far North as it is, has a Christian community.

  • Posted by Chavuka


    Actually Gowon was the son of an Anglican missionary (but that is a minor point).

    Thanks for the statistics. The problem with being a US Ambassador in Nigeria is that there is a limit to what one can know – imagine being driven around in a black Chevrolet Suburban with scores of security personnel.

    There is a limit to what such a person can know (he will have access to a lot of diplomatic gossip and access to “big men”, but very little meaningful interaction with ordinary Nigerians).

    Thus, facts that are obvious to “ordinary Nigerians” like us, won’t be obvious to him. He will never have the opportunity to live in Gombe or attend church in Bauchi or go to a market in Zaki Biam – he will be presented with second hand information, produced by people who want to manipulate it to their advantage.

    Think about it, what presence does the US government have outside Lagos and Abuja – and even within these two cities, how often do even the most junior embassy staffers leave their comfort zones in Ikoyi?

    The US has no diplomatic representation in Nigeria’s South East, the Niger Delta, the Middle Belt or even the North, so the US is very limited in its understanding of this complex nation.

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