Bishop Matthew Kukah

By Sherifat Lawal

That the Christmas message of Most Rev Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto generated a lot of reactions is not unexpected.

However, this particular one not only raised dust in high places, the dust took on legal and treasonous proportions, with accusations and counter-accusations flying.

Now, what did Bishop Kukah say this time?

In the December 25 message, he accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism, institutionalising northern hegemony; highlighted some of the challenges facing the country, saying there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim president did a fraction of what he said Buhari had done.

Today is December 31, 2020, and Kukah’s scathing words are still rankling many across the “geographical expression”. Read the full text HERE.

Reaction

The Presidency wasted no time in calling Bishop Kukah a coup plotter.

The Presidency said it was graceless and impious for any religious leader to use the period of Christmas, which is a season of peace, to stoke the embers of hatred, sectarian strife and national disunity.

Now, the Nigerian in me would scream “For this small matter?” But that was just the tip.

In a statement issued on Saturday in Lagos, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, warned religious leaders that resorting to scorched-earth rhetoric at this time could trigger unintended consequences.

READ ALSO: My only regret as a minister ― Lai Mohammed

According to Lai, “Calling for a violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government, no matter how disguised such a call is, and casting a particular religion as violent is not what any religious leader should engage in, and certainly not in a season of peace.”

Even the inimitable and fearless Bishop was forced to become his own lawyer. On Monday, he said: “It was unfair for anyone to report that I called for a coup.

“The loss of lives in the last 10 years, even before the advent of this administration, calls for concern.

“It is sad that when you drop something in Nigeria, everybody goes back to their enclave and abandons the larger picture. I am someone who never takes offence to what people say about me.”

But he had other supporting counsel, such as the President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Dr Felix Omobude, who called on those attacking Bishop Kukah over his comments to stop and not use him as a sacrificial lamb.

Another was the National Director of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, CSN’s Social Communication, Fr. Mike Umoh.

The catholic cleric said: “As expected, the agents of evil have gathered to attack the person of the Bishop and to discredit the simple obvious truth of the message. This is the stock in trade of evil people.”

He did not tell us the abode of these evil people, though. Leaving our imagination to run wild.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, waded in on the Bishop’s side on Tuesday, and went for the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Did you just say “Before nko”? Issokay. Off the mike.

PDP’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, described Lai Mohammed’s statement as shameful: “Bishop Kukah spoke truth to power as he has been doing for years.

“Every Nigerian knows that President Buhari has been a divisive, partisan leader ever since he became the head of government in 2015.”

Hold that fuse, it is short! Former Aviation Minister and a chieftain of PDP, Femi Fani-Kayode warned those threatening to harm Bishop Kukah to forget the idea.

His words: “Be warned that if Kukah is harmed, injured, maimed or killed Nigeria will not survive the mayhem that will befall her.”

Now, that is a very short fuse. Don’t light it!

Rev. Yunusa Sabo Nmadu Jnr. is the General Secretary of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). He said on Tuesday that there was nothing new about what Bishop Kukah said and warned against any attempt to harm him.

“Enough of this intimidation. This style of governance to silence dissenting voices by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is unacceptable and must be resisted.”

Furthermore, a coalition of Nigerian Muslim professionals commended Kukah for what they described as “his boldness to speak truth to power,” faulting those vilifying him.

The coalition said something military. Military!

“Even during the military era where people dreaded the powers that be at the time, Bishop Kukah, who was then a Catholic priest spoke truth to those at the helm of affairs without fear or favour.

“We stand completely with Bishop Kukah. This government must be fair to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion.”

The Presidency had supporters

Besides the heat from supporters of Oga at the Top, there were some soldiers shouting “Give me now the head of John the Baptizer on a platter!”

The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) said that the latest attempt by Bishop Kukah to destroy the quest for national integration was absurd.

“It testifies to how religious bodies and leaders such as Kukah, in more ways than one, attempt to aid the deterioration of the situation in the country by stimulating a form of Islamophobia on the back of the most gratuitous false story of an Islamisation agenda.”

But the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has a say: “Of grave misgiving is the baseless claim in a statement signed by the President of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola that Bishop Kukah had ‘referred to Islam as a violent religion’ and ‘calls for a coup’.

“That such a statement comes from Professor Akintola is not only laughable, but misleading. Records show MURIC’s leadership is often careless with assertions and many times acting as if it was a political platform instead of a religious one.”

And what did the learned leader of MURIC say: “How did such a belligerent combatant emerge as the secretary of Nigeria’s (Abdul Salaam-led) Peace Committee? What good can come from a man who is filled with hate and bias for a large section of the country?

“He calls for a coup against a democratically elected government. He stigmatized Islam as a violent religion. He derides the North. We demand that Kukah should honourably recuse himself from the Peace Committee.

“Failure to do so will have a devastating effect of discrediting that committee. It will mean that the committee was set up in the first place for a partisan purpose.”

You are asking me “Who or what is MURIC”? Google it!

We don’t know what Bishop Kukah is going to say next. But he appears the lone voice in the wilderness shouting “Wahala dey oooooo!” But there seems to be a pandemic of selective deafness in high places.

If Bishop Kukah is a rare priest, then we would do well to protect him. But he knows. read  his “For the conclusion of the whole matter”:

“The truth is that a lot of us have not seen a priest saying what I am saying. The truth of the matter is we are all in politics. But party politics for me? No.

“I am not a member of any political party and I cannot be. If it comes to voting, I do my right. Whatever I said can please or displease anyone, but that is my opinion and doesn’t stop others from saying their own opinion.

“If you think my motive is wrong, say yours.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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