As Nigeria's conflict with terror group Boko Haram looks set to continue throughout 2016, the executive director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans has said that only repentance and the fear of God can win the war.
The Islamic extremists have been attacking government buildings, civilians, Christians and people of all walks of life in various raids, shootings and bombings throughout almost six years of insurgency, where they have killed over 20,000 people.
President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to drive out the militants, even as his previously set deadline for doing so in December passed with the attacks still continuing. The extremists killed close to 100 people over the holiday period in a series of suicide bombings and village raids.
Pastor Ade Oyesile, who previously served as the founding National Financial Secretary of CANAN, before being named as executive director, told The Christian Post in an interview on Friday that at the end of the day, a strong spiritual response is needed to combat such terror.
"Boko Haram, ISIS, Al-Shabab is evil. Until we all stand together to condemn it, it will continue to spread. We Christians can help the government, with our fervent prayers without ceasing," Oyesile said.
"The right strategy to drive this evil people out of Nigeria, God will give to people in government. World leaders may come together and all that, but repentance and fear of God is the sure way forward."
Buhari has received support from U.S. President Barack Obama, with the government donating $11 million in mine-resistant and armour-protected vehicles to Nigeria's army, as The Associated Press reported on Thursday.
"The equipment donation represents part of the continuing U.S. commitment to Nigeria and its neighbours to counter Boko Haram's senseless acts of terror and promote regional security," Temitayo Famutimi of the U.S. Department of State said.
There has been some frustration with Buhari's suggestion in December that his army had "technically won the war" against Boko Haram, however, with members of the #BringBackOurGirls movement planning to march to the State House in Abuja on Jan. 14 to speak with the president.
The movement is compromised of families of the over 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped from the town of Chibok in April 2014, which made international news headlines. The girls, most of them Christians, make up only a small portion of the thousands of women and children Boko Haram has kidnapped over the years, often selling them off as brides.
Premium Times reported that the group has taken issue with Buhari failing to specifically mention the kidnapped girls in his New Year address to the nation.
The group said in a statement that it was "shocked" that Buhari claimed that Boko Haram has been "technically defeated," given that the girls have still not been rescued.
"We are extremely disappointed that seven months after his strong promise at inauguration and six months after his pledge to the parents, Chibok community and our movement that he would rescue the 219 daughters of Nigeria, his statement was lacking in urgency and assurance of strategy for result," the movement declared.
Oyesile told CP, however, that the frustration the movement feels cuts across all of Nigeria, and said that Buhari himself also shares in the disappointment.
"In Africa and Nigeria in particular, we have a communal culture where we are our brother's
keeper. Children are essentially seen as belonging to the community not just to their biological parents," the pastor said.
"The president, if you follow events, has severally expressed his frustration of inability to locate and free those girls, just as the parents and everyone else. A lot of progress has no doubt been made in curtailing Boko Haram, and everyone would be happier when the girls are freed."
At the end of December, CANAN also spoke out on the ongoing corruption crackdown in Nigeria concerning a number of politicians, stating that the scandal is a "tragedy to the nation."
"We are particularly miffed by the heartlessness exhibited by all the accused individuals in the manner they allegedly withdrew and shared millions of dollars while the average Nigerian is wallowing in abject poverty," the association said in a press release, noting that although Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer, as much as 68 percent of its population continues living on less than $1.25 a day.
"Never in the history of the nation have those in government been discovered to have either withdrawn or cornered public funds with such impunity without an iota of empathy for the generality of the people, and disappointingly, even members of the media, the supposed watchdogs, are reported to be actively involved in the loot sharing," the statement continued.
Oyesile argued that greed and failing to trust God are at the heart of such corruption, and said that the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram is not the cause, but only a window of opportunity for the alleged funds misappropriation.
"Some people in leadership positions steal with impunity because their conscience does not prick them, they want to amass all the wealth they can imagine, forgetting that money cannot buy them peace and joy — only the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ can," the pastor said.