The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has cautioned those threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, to stop their “unlawful” actions.
It also asked President Muhammadu Buhari and security agencies to ensure the security of the cleric, who is under attacks from Muslim groups over his Christmas homily in which he accused the president of promoting northern hegemony.
This comes as Kukah said Nigeria has not recovered from wounds of the civil war, 51 years after it ended.
In a statement on Thursday, CAN’s General Secretary, Rev. Joseph Daramola, said it has been watching the ongoing controversy since Kukah spoke on the state of the nation in his Christmas homily and the threats directed at him from some people.
The statement came a day after the presidency cautioned an Islamic group that demanded that Kukah should apologise or quit Sokoto State for allegedly attacking Islam and Muslims, to back off.
The presidency said in a statement by a presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu that it was wrong for the group based in Sokoto, Muslim Solidarity Forum, to ask Kukah to apologise or leave the seat of the Caliphate over the homily, interpreted by some Islamic interests as attacking Islam and Muslims.
Kukah, in the homily, had said that there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim president had done a fraction of what Buhari did.
His homily drew censures from the federal government and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), led by Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, which attacked the bishop for allegedly denigrating Islam and Muslims.
The Muslim Solidarity Forum joined the fray on Tuesday, with a call on Kukah to apologise for his alleged attack on Islam and Muslims or leave the Caliphate.
CAN has, however, accused the security agencies of pretending as if nothing unusual is happening.
It wondered if those threatening the bishop are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country.
It said: “We have studied the whole Christmas message of Dr. Kukah and we are yet to see any incitement against Islam or non- Christians. We see nothing wrong in his message to the nation that has been under the siege of terrorists, herdsmen, killers, bandits and kidnappers as if there was no government in place.
“We see nothing wrong in telling a government whose lopsided appointments are against Christians the whole truth.
“If criticism against a Muslim president today is an incitement to violence against Islam, it then means those who were criticising the duo of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan when they were in power were actually attacking Christianity.
“When has it become an offence to speak the truth to power? When has it become a crime to criticise a government in the country?”
The CAN wondered why security operatives have failed to arrest those threatening to attack the Bishop.
It added: “When did the police and the Directorate of the State Security Services lose their power to miscreants and lawless people who are making boasts of their lawlessness without a challenge? We wonder if those Muslim groups who are threatening to deal with Kukah got an equal response from their Christian counterparts, are we not setting up the country on ﬁre?”
CAN said Kukah was posted to serve in Sokoto by the Papacy and threatening him to leave is a threat to Christianity worldwide.
“In this same country, we have a Catholic priest whose name is synonymous with President Muhammadu Buhari, yet the Catholic Church has not deemed it ﬁt to sanction him because freedom of speech and association is not only a constitutional matter but godly,” CAN said.
The association called on Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that no harm befalls Kukah.
CAN stated that as far as it is concerned, what Kukah said in his Christmas homily is within the purview of the law.
“It is high time those hiding under religious sentiments to promote violence and crises stopped doing so if we want this country to progress. We have had enough of bloodshed in the country and we call on the security agencies to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities. Nothing must happen to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. Enough is enough,” CAN stated.
Meanwhile, Kukah has said Nigeria is yet to recover from the wounds of the civil war, 51 years after it ended.
Speaking at the second edition of the ‘Never Again Conference: 51 years after the Nigerian-Biafran civil war,’ held on zoom, the bishop said the country failed to adopt resolutions meant to heal the wounds of citizens.
The Cable reported that the ‘Never Again Conference’ is the brainchild of Nzuko Umunna, a pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, which organised the first edition in Lagos in 2020.
Kukah said some of those resolutions came from the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, popularly known as Oputa Panel, which was set up by the Obasanjo administration.
He added that while the military laid the foundation for Nigerians to begin a process of rebuilding the nation, “things somehow went wrong” along the line.
“I have met a lot of people who fought the war who are full of regrets. There is a lot of resentment, anxiety and frustration that we have not learnt any lessons.
“Fifty-one years after the war, we are still hearing the kind of agitations that ordinarily, with commitment, dedication, focus and the right leadership, we should have put a lot of the anxieties behind us. Unfortunately, they are still with us,” he said.
The bishop described the Oputa panel, of which he was a member, as “the best school I would ever hope to attend.”
“Oputa panel managed to generate quite a lot of data and information that academicians and policymakers would have used to ensure we erect the signpost saying, ‘Never Again’, because it gave us an opportunity, a mirror to look at ourselves after hearing from all sides but we didn’t have the discipline to follow through.
“We have not been able to forgive ourselves as a people. The wounds of the civil war have not been able to heal. Coups and counter-coups that followed were more or less miniature civil wars by themselves because they threw up the same contradictions, anxieties and feeling of divisiveness across the country,” he added.
In his remarks, Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Prof. Pat Utomi, said the initiative started as an advocacy “in trying to bring a better understanding of the civil war and its aftermath to the Nigerian people.”
According to him, this is being pursued in a way that “it will become a source of energy for bringing a new nation.”
“We know that if people learn enough from errors of yesterday, they can, in fact, make more progress than they are currently making,” he said.