Paul Orude, Bauchi
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State has called on Nigerians to continue to exhibit values of religious tolerance for peaceful co-existence and unity of the country.
He gave the advice when he attended a mass at Saint John Catholic Church, Bauchi, to mark 25 years priestly silver jubilee of Bishop of Bauchi/Gombe Diocese, Most Reverend Hilary Naman Dachelem
Governor Mohammed, his counterpart, Barrister Simon Lalong, of Plateau State, Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Most Reverend Hassan Kukah, the Emir of Dass Alhaji Bilyaminu Othman, the Director-General of Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Sir Joseph Ari, were among dignitaries who graced the occasion.
Mohammed, who arrived at the church in the company of Lalong, respectfully removed his cap, disclosing that he was happy to be in church to celebrate with Bishop Dachelem.
‘I came here and removed my cap not because I have changed my religion to Christianity. I came here and removed my cap because I respect the morality of the sanctuary and the sanctity of this church, and because we must have religious tolerance,’ he said.
‘I came here as a mark of respect for Bishop Dachelem. When he told me Bishop Kukah was coming, I said I would be his host. I did not say that because he is a politician or a Christian.
‘We must respect ourselves; The Christendom that voted me into power I will say they have done so much to ensure that I am in Government House. I have the responsibility of giving them quality leadership. We are all one”
The Bishop of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Most Reverend Hassan Kukah, described Mohammed’s action as a mark of honour and embodiment of religious tolerance and respect.
Bishop Kukah, who presented a book authored by Bishop Dachelem entitled Youth companion: Some Typologies, said the Bauchi Governor had set a powerful example to Muslims and Christians on peaceful co-existence.
‘These things look very simple. Ours is a world of symbolism and the greatest challenge we face especially in northern Nigeria is the fear that I personally see,’ he said.
‘It is difficult for me to convince my Muslims friends that if you enter a church after you leave the church will still be standing, so what Governor Bala has done today symbolically means a lot to Christians.
‘Wherever the head enters the body enters if you didn’t enter here (church) today your commissioners will not enter and this is where leadership counts. Leaders must be ready to make difficult decisions because if you see the same that your people are seeing then you are not a leader.
Bishop Dachelem, an indigene of Plateau State described Governor Mohammed as peace-loving, saying his relationship with him has been excellent.
‘I thank God that his government is peace-loving, and we are partnering with him in this matter of peace,’ he said
‘The governor has shown that he embraces all religions. This is the most sensitive and volatile areas when it comes to peacebuilding. Even his presence in the church today is a remarkable landmark in the realisation of peace in the state today”
Governor Lalong, who is the Chairman of Northern Governor’s Forum, said he was pleased to hear Governor Mohammed telling his commissioners to remove their caps when they entered the church
‘When I received the invitation and called him, he promised to suspend all his programmes to be in church and as we were entering the church I asked him how is your relationship with Bishop Dachelem, and he told me very fantastic.
‘We pray that God will continue to bless the relationship so that anytime we are invited we will continue to come to Bauchi and we will replicate this gesture in Plateau State,’ Lalong said