From Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rt Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, has said that those who disagreed with his recent comments on President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership have a right to do so, adding that he is indifferent to their reactions.
The Catholic Bishop had in his Christmas message entitled, “A Nation in Search of Vindication“, on Friday criticized President Buhari for, according to the bishop, sacrificing the dreams of those who voted for him for what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalize Northern hegemony, as well as pursuing a self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion.
Rev Kukah’s message has drawn condemnations in some quarters, with various Northern groups disassociating themselves from the Catholic Bishop.
Speaking with reporters in Sokoto on Monday, Rev Kukah dismissed the critics’ disassociation, saying he had never associated with any group or body.
‘Frankly, what I have said may displease or please people but I give them the right. I say something somewhere that says, “Northen group disassociates themselves with Bishop Kukah”. I had no association with anybody. So [their] disassociating themselves from me doesn’t arise,’ Rev Kukah stated.
‘You know, it will be wonderful if people are courageous enough to come out and say, “Bishop Kukah, you are talking nonsense and I do not agree with you.” Or to say, I do not agree with you. You should be free than hiding under a group. Besides that, because you disagree with my view doesn’t reduce the quality of my friendship with you.
‘But, as I said, I really don’t worry myself… because people disagree with me. Look, I have stated my views and I will not deny you the opportunity for you to make your own.
‘So, I really don’t worry if a reverend from a village came out to disassociate himself from me. He should know that I never had an association with him,’ Kukah explained.
He urged those in leadership positions to use his message as a wake-up call and to be ready to absorb criticisms with maturity by looking for ways to ensure good governance.
‘It is a sign of our maturity to be able to hear criticism from people and sit back to think about what they have said. Think about the motive. If you think my motive is otherwise, well, fine.
‘I don’t know how some Nigerians are so narrow-minded. I have listened to some extraordinary gifted young Nigerians making brilliant commentary about English Football clubs but they have never been to England and they may never be there. In fact, a good commentator may not be a good footballer.
‘So, why will people think because Bishop Kukah is speaking, therefore, he is a politician. People who make this argument are totally ignorant of elementary thinking, or probably don’t know the role of a priest in a society. Maybe many Nigerians have not seen a priest saying the things I am saying, which I can understand. That is why my message surprises many Nigerians.
‘The truth of the matter is that we are all in politics but may not be involved in party politics. I am not a member of any political party and I cannot be. But if it comes to voting, I will exercise my right. That doesn’t mean I am tied to a political party,’ he said.
The Bishop reiterated his commitment to a united Nigeria, adding that he holds no grudges with President Buhari. ‘Let me say this clear that I don’t have a problem with President Buhari and I’m sure he knows that he enjoys my respect.
‘I am just unhappy with the way governance is going now and I have made my point clear. I don’t have to like a President and a President doesn’t have to like me. This is our country and it is not a friendship affair.
‘If my late mother or brother happens to become a Local Government Chairman today, it won’t stop me from saying what I think ought to be done rightly. So, it is a pity that we have embraced a culture that likes to say, “may the person on the throne live long”, and if you criticize him that means you don’t like the government,’ the Bishop noted.