Today, 5 November 2021, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia will be laid to rest. The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria was a courageous critic and whistleblower about the Nigerian federal government's complicity in Fulani militia attacks on his native Kaduna State. For his outspokenness, he was harassed by Nigerian security forces and forced into hiding. He passed away in late September after a sudden illness.
Although unable to attend Dr. Mailafia's funeral due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in force, Dr. John Eibner, the president of Christian Solidarity International, sent the following letter to Dr. Mailafia's wife, Margaret.
Dear Madam Mailafia, family and friends,
I greatly regret being unable to convey condolences in person and to be physically present as you celebrate the blessed life of Dr. Obadiah Mailafia.
My personal relationship with the distinguished Dr. Mailafia began just one year before his untimely death. He was then under interrogation by state security agents and was receiving anonymous death threats. His offense was not to be found in the statute law of the Nigerian state. It was instead to be found in the unwritten, customary law of autocratic powers and principalities. Dr. Mailafia spoke truth to power with great courage in the Biblical tradition of his namesake Obadiah.
The uncomfortable truth that Dr. Mailafia shared countered a deceptive official narrative. That narrative casts the catastrophic violence that engulfs his native Middle Belt region as the product of local herder-farmer conflicts over grazing rights. Dr. Mailafia dared explain the violence in terms of a genocidal jihad executed by heavily armed militiamen from a herding community acting in connivance with political masters in high places.
Having “rattled the Kingdom of Darkness in Nigeria” - as Dr. Mailafia expressed it - a man of weaker backbone might have immediately fled the country. But he chose to remain in his homeland, even though it meant trading the comforts of privileged Nigerian society for rigors and uncertainties of life underground. I was deeply touched last Christmas Eve when I received a photo of you, Madam Mailafia, and your husband celebrating his birthday with a simple cake and a bottle of wine – both provided by your dear, risk-taking hosts - while sitting in the driveway of a safehouse.
Dr. Mailafia personified the values for which Christian Solidarity International (CSI) stands. They are to be found in I Corinthians 12. There St. Paul portrays the various parts of the Body of Christ responding positively to the sufferings and the joys of the other parts. They are also found in Luke 10 where our Lord tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. May Dr. Mailafia’s life and everlasting spirit encourage us to be faithful to our Lord, standing in Christian solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ and other victims of oppression in both prophetic word and deed.
John Eibner, PhD
Christian Solidarity International
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