From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Member of the House of Representatives representing Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency of Kogi State, Tajudeen Yusuf, has dismissed attacks on the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah, in the aftermath of his Christmas homily, as hypocritical.
The lawmaker, in a statement, yesterday, said the barrage of attacks over the message, which touches on prevalent security situation and the state of the nation was a deliberate effort to ignore the message and attack the messenger.
The Catholic Bishop’s homily, which decried the poor state of affairs had not gone down well with the Federal Government and some interest groups.
The cleric had in his Christmas message titled: ‘A Nation in Search of Vindication’ on Friday criticised President Buhari for deliberately sacrificing the dreams of those who voted for him for what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalise northern hegemony as well as pursuing a self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion.
The homily has elicited reactions with various northern groups pillorying him even as he got the backing of the Catholic Church and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) even called for his prosecution over what it described as “treasonable” utterance.
However, the lawmaker said many of those attacking Bishop Kukah have extended family members who were facing the stark realities of current waves of insecurity, unemployment and poverty that is far worse than what obtained six years ago. He recalled that Bishop Kukah’s decision to speak truth to power was applauded during the Goodluck Jonathan era but is now being mischievously misinterpreted as a call for insurrection.
“Bishop Kukah spoke against currently prevalent nepotism as well as the fearsome indicators of a failed state when he raised issues of endless bloodletting, collapsing economy, social anomie, domestic and community violence, kidnappings, armed robberies… Just this Monday, we read news report about four different attacks carried out by bandits in Safana and Sabuwa local government areas of Mr. President’s Katsina State in which a newly-wedded couple and more than eight persons were abducted with several villagers nursing gunshot wounds.”
Yusuf added that those who preferred fawning sycophants to the hard truths from Bishop Kukah were poor students of history, who were indirectly sabotaging President Buhari and Nigeria’s democracy.
Meanwhile, Bishop Kukah, has defended his comment, saying he only expressed his personal view based on evidence and did not call for a coup in his criticisms of President Buhari.
He said those who disagreed with his views on President Buhari’s leadership style have a right to do so, adding that he was not worried by their reactions. Speaking with reporters on Monday night, Kukah said it was unfair for anyone to say he called for a coup.
“The loss of lives in the last ten years, even before the advent of this administration, calls for concern. reactions are a reflection of every citizen that make ups Nigeria. 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.
“What I said was my opinion based on evidence and what has happened in Nigeria, and if you looked into the records, there is evidence that justifies that statement, and if anyone thinks I am wrong, they should come out with a superior position.
“It is unfair for a journalist or news medium to report that I called for a coup while expressing my personal view about Nigeria. To those calling him to drop his priesthood cassock and join the political fray, the outspoken cleric said if he was to join politics, it would have been during the time of late Aminu Kano and not now.”
The priest said he had no plans to indulge in partisan politics.
“I have no plan and will never play partisan politics for any reason. Those who link my message to partisan politics are only playing to the gallery. Take, for instance, brilliant Nigerian youths making comments about Chelsea or Arsenal and have never been to England, does that make them players of such club sides?
“So, why will someone think because Bishop Kukah is speaking, therefore, he is a politician? People who make this argument are totally ignorant of elementary politics and ignorant of the role of a priest in a society. May be 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. Whatever I said can please or displease anyone but that is my own opinion and doesn’t stop others from saying their own opinion. If you think my motive is wrong, say yours.”
He reiterated his commitment to a united Nigeria, adding that he holds no grudges against President Buhari.
“Let me say this clearly, that I don’t have problem with President Buhari and I am 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 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 like to say ‘may the person on the throne live long’ and if you criticised him, that means you don’t like the government.”
He urged those in leadership positions to use his message as a wake-up call and be ready to absorb criticisms with maturity by looking inward in redressing their ways for good governance.