The Beginning of the Macedonian Initiative (MI).
In May 2000, Nigerian national dailies exploded with news about some trouble in the northern city of Kaduna, and a team of church members was sent to give aid and relief to the fifty families that were reported to be affected. When the team leader, Michael Ali David, arrived in Kaduna, he was dumbfounded by the disparity between the news reports and the reality on ground. What the newspapers had reported as a “religious disturbance” was, in fact, a full-scale war! No less than five or six thousand people died in the course of the clashes between the Islamist extremists and the indigenous people. As we moved in to give relief and aid to the survivors, we could not help but suspect that there was more to the seeming madness than met the eye. After this latest bout of blood-shedding, accompanied by Islamist slogans that rent the air, we decided it was time to make a concerted effort to begin to look beyond the surface and track the elusive equation behind the recurring senseless killings.
The Macedonian Initiative (MI) was launched in Lagos, Nigeria, on the 28th of July, 2000. It was a unique meeting between the Christian leadership of northern and southern Nigeria. The chairman of the occasion, Dr. Sunday Mbang (who was, at that time, both Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria and President of Christian Association of Nigeria) led the team of southern leaders from all denominations to host the northern contingent. The northern team included the first Fulani Bishop in Nigeria, a full representation from Tarraya Masifiaya (Fulani converts), as well as other personalities like Dr Emmanuel Shehu, a Christian descendant of Usman dan Fodio! Many of the leaders commented that they were meeting for the first time.
THE NATIONAL TOURS
For about three years after the MI launching, our teams of trained presenters travelled across the length and breadth of Nigeria holding non-publicized meetings with stakeholders and eminent persons to alert them to what we saw as the inevitable future, if care was not taken. The seminars were held in conference halls, homes and social venues under tight security and no recording devices were allowed.
All in all, only a handful of discerning leaders were in support and tried to encourage the mission. The majority of leaders in both the political and spiritual spheres rebuffed the facts and figures we presented at the seminars. They also rebuffed the warnings we gave with regard to what we saw as the impending dangers ahead for Nigeria.
We warned that Nigeria was dealing with a sublime equation crafted to destroy religious freedoms, democracy and women’s rights. This elusive equation had produced more bloodshed than any other scourge in our history, but it was difficult to detect without insight. The Church, by definition, is its primary enemy, followed closely by the institutions of democracy. Apart from its cloak of invisibility at the early stages, it has the ability to confuse the best of leaders, and its success is based on the use of the instrument of fear on a grand scale. It was our position that Nigeria would not survive if the Church did not unite against the equation.
Eventually, with the help of some Muslim scholars and conflict resolution experts, we were able to capture the elusive equation that was powering the mass slaughter of non-Muslim citizens in northern Nigeria. We concluded that:
- We were encountering what was actually a global challenge with a local face, rather than mere religious conflicts.
- The challenge was neither political nor religious, as many had posited, but a complex hydra, masked in religious garments.
- The cunning, cruel and patient application of the same equation had destroyed many nations in the course of human history.
- Nigeria had been subjected to the equation from colonial days, and the recent upsurge was a result of the mix of a local, ancient strain of extremism with the Osama bin Ladin upgrade.
- The sublime equation had scored great successes in the past to subdue huge territories in Nigeria and had many moles in high places working for its interests.
- The equation was not designed for northern Nigeria alone but for the entire nation, and the continent of Africa as a whole.
- The equation has a pattern that can be traced and predicted.
Convinced of the impending global nature of the expanding threat, we began to seek ways of getting our message out into the international arena. In August 2001, we held our first international seminar in collaboration with the Southern Baptist Leadership Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. Using the templates we had developed, we communicated the real and present danger to the evangelical ministers in attendance. Regrettably, it seemed the Americans thought we were appealing for aid, instead of the synergy we were proposing, but the game changed when the horror of 9/11 erupted a few days after the seminar. Since those early days, MI has developed alliances, in and out of governments, across the western world.
For instance, 11 non-Muslim nurses were sacked in 2002 by the Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Azare, Bauchi State, in northern Nigeria, for non-compliance to Sharia dress codes. MI was able to secure the collaboration of Baroness Caroline Cox, Deputy Speaker, British House of Lords, in the battle for their reinstatement. We sent a team to visit the House of Lords and invited a handful of MPs, led by the Baroness, to Nigeria to meet with the sacked nurses. The relentless efforts sustained by Baroness Cox finally led to the reinstatement of the nurses in 2004.
Due to the oftentimes very sensitive nature of our work, many of our international friends and partners prefer to work quietly behind the scenes.