Ben Agande, Kaduna
The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh has said that the Church of Nigeria was not at war with the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El Rufai nor the government of the state.
Special adviser to governor Nasir El Rufai on Media and Publicity, Muyiwa Adekeye quoted the primate as saying this during a visit to the governor Wednesday.
Adekeye in a statement made available to journalists quoted the Primate as saying that the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion shares in Kaduna state government’s commitment to peace and order.
The Anglican Bishop of Zaria diocese has been engaged in some scathing criticism be of the Kaduna state governor in recent times.
In a post on the Diocese website, the bishop stated that El Rufai will never be president of the country which he claimed the governor was angling to become.
But in the statement issued by El Rufai’s spokesman, he said Archbishop Okoh confirmed that the attention of the Church was “drawn to the unguarded and unacceptable writings of one of our Bishops, the Right Reverend Abiodun Ogunyemi, the Bishop of Zaria Diocese”.
The statement quoted Archbishop Okoh as saying that said that “our brother Bishop Ogunyemi has been cautioned and warned to desist from making utterances and writings that are tantamount to threatening the peace of Kaduna State and the nation at large”.
The primate stated clearly “that the Church of Nigeria is not partisan in the politics of the nation and that the position of Bishop Ogunyemi is not the position of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).”
‘’The Church of Nigeria has sat severally in meetings and extensive discussions with our brother, Bishop Ogunyemi, where he was cautioned and charged to desist from utterances and writings that could lead to misunderstanding between the Church and government, and stir up religious crisis. Your Excellency, we can assure you that he has given an undertaking to be of good behaviour,’’ the statement added.
The statement said that Archbishop Okoh reiterated the belief of the Church of Nigeria in the biblical teaching to “give back to Caesar what is Caeser’s, and to God what is God’s”.
‘’We believe God sets up leaders and that the government of Kaduna State is in existence by the grace of God. The Anglican Church does not engage itself in fighting the government, rather, it seeks fruitful ways of engaging the government for the benefit of the citizens of the land.
The statement said that the primate expressed gratitude that the status of St George’s Cathedral, Zaria has been clarified.
Archbishop Okoh who led a nine-man delegation of the Church of Nigeria, confirmed to the governor that he had earlier mandated Most Reverend Ali Buba Lamido and a team of Bishops to visit El Rufai last November.
He expressed gratitude for the audience Governor El-Rufai granted, Most Reverend Lamido, Archbishop of Kaduna Province when he last visited the governor.
On the Primate’s team were former Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia, who is the Chancellor of the Church of Nigeria, and Bishops from Lokoja, Kubwa, Kaduna and Dutse, and Dr. Abraham Yisa, the Registrar of the Church of Nigeria.
Responding, Governor El-Rufai thanked Primate Okoh and his delegation for the visit, just as he expressed disappointment by the conduct of Bishop Ogunyemi over the issue of St.George’s Cathedral, Sabon Gari, Zaria.
The statement said that El Rufai explained that the decision to preserve the church was made since 2016 for its historical significance.
El Rufai also said that the government is considering gazetting the cathedral as a historical monument, adding that given the sad legacy of religious crisis in the state, the government cannot take lightly anything that threatens the security of the state.