Graham Weeks, a Septuagenarian Englishman in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES reveals why his passion is seeing an end to the traumatising insurgency ravaging the North-east. The pharmacist turned activist has continued to push for the return of the abducted Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls in far away Britain. In this interview, he mulls the cause of the insurgency and possible solutions to end the bloodletting.
PREMIUM TIMES: Tell us a bit about yourself
Weeks: I an a 72 years old Englishman from Yorkshire. I graduated from the University of London, School of Pharmacy in 1967. I studied Theology and Missions at All Nations Christian College 1967-69.
In 1970, I came to Vom Christian Hospital in the then Benue-Plateau State to be a pharmacist there. My wife was pregnant with the first of our four children, the eldest three were born at Vom.
In 1971 we studied Hausa in Kano. On my return to the hospital, I was hospital chaplain as well as pharmacist. In 1974-5 we lived in Borno, south of Gwoza where I was principal of the Bible School training local evangelists and supervising Nigerians from the Plateau working as missionaries in Borno, especially in the Gwoza hills where the people had before colonisation, a safe haven from Kanuri jihad.
Then we lived in Plateau at Langang, Daffo and Jos. My main work was translating Christian books into Hausa and training church leaders to use these in Theoliogcal Education by Extension. I travelled all over Plateau State.
By the time we left in 1982, our Church of Christ in Nations had the largest such programme in the world with over 2000 students. I was ordained in this church in 1977. From 1980 I was in charge of the church’s Hausa School teaching the language to expatriates new to the country. I worked with a Hausa colleague who was a convert from Islam.
In all my time in Nigeria it was a country at peace with no threat to personal safety. There was little civil disturbance due to Islam and we were on leave in England during the Maitatsine troubles. Before we left Nigeria in 1982 I was also working with a Yoruba Christian in Kano importing, wholesaling and retailing Christian books.
PREMIUM TIMES: Then after that?
Weeks: Returning to England we lived in London. I returned to my profession of pharmacy and served as an elder of our church, International Presbyterian Church, Ealing. From 1986 I became involved in local politics because the local government was promoting the social acceptability of homosexuality – aka gay rights.
This led to me joining the Conservative Party and IN 1990 -98 I was an elected a councillor of the London Borough of Ealing. This was done as unpaid spare time work. My speciality was social services. After I lost my seat on the council in 1998, I resigned from the Conservative Part as they no longer opposed homosexuality as they had done under Lady Thatcher.
I have preached regularly at the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre for the last eight years, where my ‘captive congregation of detainees’ are mainly African, the majority being from the south of Nigeria. I have retired from community pharmacy for six years. I have been married 49 years and have six grandchildren.
PREMIUM TIMES: How will you assess the insurgency that has ravaged Nigeria in the past few years?
Weeks: Let’s go back a bit. In 1900, the colonisation of Northern Nigeria by the British brought Pax Brittanica. Jihad and slave raiding stopped. The British ruled the north with a handful of expatriate colonial officers by indirect rule through the Emirs.
This consolidated Muslim rule in some areas that were not Muslim like the south of Bauchi State. It enabled the peaceful spread of Islam. Christian missions were prohibited from the North except in areas like the Plateau which had resisted the Fulani jihad.
The south had had Christian missions and education during the 19th century under British rule but the north was left with Islam and resisted Western education even when imposed in small measure by the British.
Rulers did not send their sons to school but the slave sons were sent. This disparity in education and the British favouring southerners in the civil administration of the North was a factor in the situation that led to civil was with Biafra in 1966.
Now let me answer your question. The present insurgency started with Boko Haram in Borno. They appeared to be violent Sallafists determined to be rid of all Western and Christian influence and they do not mind killing Muslims who do not hold to their exclusive interpretation of Islam. Most Nigerians in the North have lived lived together peacefully for over a century.
The rise of post 9/11 Islamism has changed everything. The second wave of insurgency has come from the Fulani. At first this was reported as herdsmen versus farmers. But why? Herdsmen had peacefully migrated for a century and more. Why the violence? In the British Parliament, it was blamed on climate change. Nonsense. It was become apparent that this is a return to the old Fulani jihad.
Islam is a religion of peace. That is a phrase coined by (George) Bush and (Tony) Blair to prevent anti-Muslim civil disturbances in their countries where the Muslim minority is on the whole peaceful. But Islam is at ‘war’ with the non-Islamic world.
That rule can if needed (will) be established by force. That is the explanation for terrorism worldwide and the Fulani jihad resuming in the Middle Belt. Politicians will not call it so for that is said to be inflammatory language. But it is a truth which hurts. Nigeria has to face the consequences.
PREMIUM TIMES: What do you think could have been done differently to curb insurgency and contain the surging humanitarian crisis?
Weeks: Nigeria has always been reluctant to seek outside help. The number one nation in Africa is proud. It does not ask for help when things go wrong. There could have been requests for assistance from other countries, governments and NGOs.
I have no solutions to offer ordinary Nigerians except that they vote for politicians who promise to do something realistic to stop the killings like withdrawing the army from the Middle Belt and replacing with an expanded armed police force under local state control. Also let communities have drones to guard their security and spot infiltrators at night.
I am fearful of more violence next year with the elections coming.
PREMIUM TIMES: Why are you passionate about the plight of the Chibok, Dapchi school girls?
Weeks: I am a Christian. I stand with my Nigerian brothers and sisters persecuted by Islamists. Chibok is like a Christian island in Borno. That is why their girls were taken. One Dapchi girl who will not convert to Islam is the only one still in captivity. Boko Harma wants all traces of Christianity removed. I stand with the suffering Christians.
PREMIUM TIMES: What are some of the measures you have taken to attract global attention to their plight?
Weeks: I am very active in social media and have demonstrated twice outside the Nigerian High Commission in London. I was the only Englishman among Nigerians demonstrating outside your High Commission in London last month, demonstrating with Nigerians about the killings in the Middle Belt. I support Christian groups in UK campaigning on behalf of suffering Christians in Nigeria and worldwide.
PREMIUM TIMES: What other strategies do you think other like minded persons like you can embark on the assist these traumatised girls and their families?
Weeks: Show support for Nigerian Christians and their plight in the media here who report little about Nigeria and are scared to criticise anything to do with Islam. Inform our political leaders here. Pray without ceasing.