From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The dust raised by comment of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Matthew Kukah, on the state of the nation is not in a hurry to settle as some cultural, ethnic and religious groups clashed, yesterday.
In a Christmas message titled: ‘A Nation in Search of Vindication’, the bishop had raised the red flag that Nigeria was on the verge of becoming a failed state.
“This government owes the nation an explanation as to where it is headed as we seem to journey into darkness. The spilling of this blood must be related to a more sinister plot that is beyond our comprehension. Are we going to remain hogtied by these evil men or are they gradually becoming part of a larger plot to seal the fate of our country?”
While the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) hailed the bishop, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) and Tiv Youth Council excoriated him.
National Director of CSN’s Social Communication, Fr. Mike Umoh, in a statement in Abuja, maintained that with the prolonged security and economic challenges facing the country, the Catholic Church in Nigeria stood by Kukah’s position on the state of the nation.
“We are quite aware of the 2020 Christmas Message by our revered Bishop Hassan Kukah and the enormous space it has enjoyed on social media and in the public sphere.
“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.
“However, they often succeed when good people Christians, choose to do nothing. We are therefore calling attention to this new development so that we can all rise in unison and stand for truth.
“The situation in Nigeria no longer allows anyone to sit on the fence, indifference is now a greater form of sin. Everyone must choose and stand up for what he/she believes in.
“The truth about our nation is also that there are only two parties now existing: the good and the evil, the oppressed and the oppressor, the suffering people and the benefiting government officers and their families.”
While calling on Nigerians to stand in support of the truth, he cautioned against falling for the antics of those he described as players of the religious and tribal card even at the expense of the general good of the nation.
However, CNG threatened to drag Kukah before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his recent utterances against the government of President Buhari.
CNG’s spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman in a statement flayed Kukah for choosing the revered occasion of the celebration of the birth of Christ to incite hatred against a section of the country.
“We, therefore, give notice to Kukah and his fellow instigators and perpetrators of all hate crimes that the CNG is ready and willing to take matters to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for redress where local remedies could not be provided against their irresponsible actions. Such acts are the prelude to genocide and ethnic cleansing and therefore, are actionable under international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as international criminal law.
“We are also familiar with the provisions of the Rome Statute in this respect as well as the processes and outcomes of the various international tribunals and courts from the Nuremberg Tribunal to the recent tribunals that tried cases related to genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other situations.
“We do not contend their claims of the current administrative lapses nor do we intend to fault the right of people to criticise government’s inadequate, ineffective, exclusive and unfocused policies. The northern Muslims, contrary to the deliberate distortions by the Kukahs, happen to be the major casualty of this administration’s serial mis-governance in terms of security, economy, distribution of key federal appointments and essential goods and services, making it unacceptably irresponsible for Kukah and his ilk to hide behind the guise of criticism of government to attack a whole ethnic or religious group.”
The group reminded the Federal Government of the imperative of checkmating all religious groups and religious teachings that undermine Nigeria’s peace, security, and peaceful coexistence through unguarded utterances and deliberate actions aimed at fomenting unrest and engendering inter-religious and inter-communal conflicts.
“Individuals associated with such groups or actions that incite others to violations must be decisively dealt with. In that regard, we remind government of our earlier advice for the enactment of appropriate laws to deal with all manifestations of hate speech from any quarter.”
In its reaction, AYCF also demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of the clergy for what it described as treasonable felony.
In a statement by its National President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima in Abuja, it faulted Kukah’s use of nepotism as weapon of calumny against government and people of Nigeria
It also called on Federal Government to place the Bishop on special watchlist for this open attempt to “set the South against the North in order to destabilise our country and further complicate matters.”
Shettima took exception to what his group described as “Kukah’s latest role in devil’s advocacy, as the North struggles to restore peace and enduring security in the region and indeed Nigeria.
“Such a reckless statement by Kukah betrays something much more sinister against both the North and the nation as a whole because Nigeria is at a stage that it requires responsible advice for attaining peace and stability, not deliberate attempt to mischievously compound our problems.
“If Kukah wants to play politics, he should not do so in the pulpit and he should keep the Bishop’s office aside and chose any Nigerian political party platform to contest for President in 2023 and stop all the pretences,” the statement said.
The group then reminded the cleric of the rough road walked by democracy heroes to rid the nation of military dictatorship at a time when he was nowhere in sight.
“We will not allow opportunists who didn’t make any contribution to scuttle the democracy achieved through our sweat and toil and the sacrifice of our liberty.”
However, the 19 northern states and Abuja chapter of CAN, warned that twisting Kukah’s message was injurious and would not help in nation building.
It described those castigating the cleric for his homily as sectional zealots who see the trouble in Nigeria from their primordial views saying Kukah only spoke truth to power where others engaged in acts of hypocrisy amid the collapse of security in the country.
CAN said reading through Bishop Kukah’s message, it was unable to find any expression suggesting an affront to Islam or a call for a coup as inputed by the Federal Government and Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).
This was contained in a statement by CAN’s Vice Chairman for northern Nigeria, Rev. Joseph Hayab in Kaduna.
“We read with great shock attempts to further divide the nation by the presidency, the leadership of MURIC,other individuals and groups aimed at twisting the crux of the homily Bishop Kukah gave at Christmas.
“Of grave misgiving is the baseless claim in a statement signed by the President of MURIC, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, that Bishop Kukah had ‘referred to Islam as a violent religion’ and ‘calls for a coup.’ That such a statement comes from Prof. Akintola is not only laughable, but also misleading and tissue of lies. 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.
“To this end, CAN 19 northern states and Abuja, therefore, condemn in its entirety the misleading and inciting statements of MURIC and its likes calling on the international as well as the local community to particularly counsel Akintola of MURIC to learn to walk the path of honour and not be a merchant of crisis.
“Reading through Bishop Kukah’s “A Nation In Search of Vindication” CAN is unable to find any expression suggesting an affront to Islam or a call for a coup. Sadly, MURIC aims to incite citizens against one another along the lines of faith instead of denouncing the insecurity witnessed across the country which is the point Bishop Kukah’s message. From Nigeria’s East, South, West and all over the north, travelling has become a nightmare while hapless people are dragged from their homes for ransom.
“Our memory is fresh with the gruesome killings of 76 farmers in Borno State in early December 2020 whose crime was simply being farmers looking for a source of livelihoods for their families. What was MURIC’s statement at the time of that national tragedy? How about the Kankara boys kidnap and the excruciating pains the kids, their parents and school were thrown in? CAN 19 northern states and Abuja did not read a statement from MURIC and their likes. Now from the blues as Bishop Kukah talked the truth to power, we read unscrupulous statements aimed at painting black a message that was clear and concise alerting the government of its failure on the security of lives and property of Nigerians.
“Given the current happenings in Nigeria, with kidnapping, banditry, horrible atrocities committed against hapless citizens, Nigerians should be united in condemning and finding solutions to the awful condition that we are in as Bishop Kukah has rightly done. For those castigating the cleric, we would call them by name – they are sectional zealots who only see the trouble in Nigeria from their primordial views. It is time for the Presidency, MURIC, and misinformed individuals to eschew their intolerance and admit that Nigeria under Buhari has strayed from the path and vision that the independence of this great country was fought for and won. Let the government do the right thing by creating a sense of inclusion for all sundry, defending the citizens from harm, bringing an end to the growing insecurity in towns, cities, and villages that we could attain greatness together.”
Regardless, Tiv Youth Council urged security agencies to question him over the statement.
Mike Msuaan, president and convener of the group said in a statement in Lagos, expressed reservation over Kukah’s incitement of the south against the north and his open call for insurrection and lawlessness. Such calls are treasonable and must be thoroughly investigated, he said.
“The present administration met a very terrible security situation in the country which included bombing of Churches and Mosques, Schools and other public infrastructure.
“The security has improved to a level that bombings have stopped and the insurgents have been thrashed to cowardly attacks on soft spots.
“We wonder why the Bishop has not found it honourable enough to commend the efforts of the President in the rescue of some of the Chibok girls and all the Kankara boys recently rescued from the hands of the insurgents,” he said.
Msuaan urged security agencies to place kukah under security watch as well as investigate his activities.
He also advised him to desist from playing politics on the pulpit.
“Kukah is working for the interest of enemies of the country and sowing the seeds of division at a time Nigerians across regional, ethnic and religious divides are working and praying for peace to reign in the country,” he said.