The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has cautioned those threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah to stop their unlawful actions and also asks the security agencies to ensure the safety and security of the cleric.
CAN’s position comes as Kukah has declared his readiness to apologise if the Secretary-general of the Jamatu Nasril Islam, Dr. Aliyu, shows him where he insulted Islam in his Christmas Homily.
In a statement, the General Secretary of CAN, Barrister Joseph Bade Daramola, said: “We have been watching the unfolding scenario since Bishop Kukah spoke his mind on the State of the Nation in his Christmas homily and how some groups of people have been threatening him with ﬁre and brimstone while all relevant security agencies are pretending as if nothing unusual is happening. We wonder if those threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country.
“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? When did the lawful fundamental of human rights suspend in the country? When did some sections of the Constitution suspended without the awareness of the public? When did the Police and the Directorate of the State Security Services lose their power to miscreants and lawless people who are making boast of their lawlessness without a challenge? We wonder if those Muslim groups who are threatening to deal with Kukah got equal response from their Christian counterparts, are we not setting up the country on ﬁre?
“Bishop Kukah was posted to serve in Sokoto by the Papacy and threatening him to leave is a global threat to Christianity. 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.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that no harm befall the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah. As far as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is concerned, what he said in his Christmas Homily was still within the ambience 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!”
The Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah said he would readily apologise if his attention was adverted to any specific or particular area of his Christmas sermon where he insulted the Islamic religion as claimed by the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI).
Kukah was reacting to a statement by the Islamic groups JNI, which alleged that he bit the finger that fed him by si doing despite being accepted and tolerated in Sokoto State.
The Bishop asked the Islamic groups to show to him where and how in all his sermons he insulted Islam or Muslims.
In his response to the JNI’s statement, Kukah stated that the JNI Secretary focused more on politics rather than humanity to have accused him of firing an arrow at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria.
According to him: “Dr Aliyu has accused me of being an enemy of his religion, Islam. He accused me of what he calls, ‘firing an arrow at the heart of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria’.”
Kukah said that the statement claimed that he had been accorded respect and accommodated in Sokoto and had turned around to bite the finger that has fed him.
Read him (Kukah) “He (Aliyu) poses a question: How can Muslims continue to be hospitable to one who proves to be an ingrate many times over? How can Muslims be comfortable in associating with a bitterly vindictive person disguised in the garb of a religious cleric?”
Kukah said that his area of research was religion, politics and society, pointing out that he was concerned about how religion could help to form good citizens and also how the state could create an environment that enabled citizens to achieve this.
“In all of my writings over the last forty or more years, I have never written a single paper or article on Islam as a religion. If there is any scholar anywhere who knows, let him or her say so.
“I have written about religion focusing on how both citizens and the state deal with it, with a focus on politicians. My concerns are summarised in what the late Professor Bala Usman loosely referred to as the manipulation of religion. This manipulation is what has turned religion into a weapon of war in Nigeria,” he posited.
Kukah appealed to Dr Aliyu to, as a matter of honour and based on the text of his Christmas sermon, formally identify where in the sermon he attacked Islam or all Muslims in Nigeria.
He assured Aliyu that if he was able to point out any infractions, he (Kukah)would be more than happy and ready to apologise for the offensive part(s) of the sermon.
According to him: “The relevant paragraphs in my sermon focused on the two painful themes of nepotism and the haemorrhaging of lives in our country, a fact that as I said, most religious leaders and statesmen and women have alluded to.
“How a critique of government policies suddenly becomes hater of Islam and the north, beggars belief.”
He called on Aliyu to clarify and validate his accusations against him and advance the reasons why he should incite violence against him.
“I am unaware of anyone in Sokoto who has accused me of any misdemeanour or actions aimed at undermining the state or anyone, no least the faith of Islam,” he said, even as he expressed the belief “that today, nepotism poses a serious threat to our country.”
He added that the issue of insecurity and how the north has become so affected remained a notorious fact, stressing: “My belief was to add my voice to the voices of millions of Nigerians, Muslims, Christians, Traditional rulers, Statesmen and all who have shown genuine concerns.”
He said it would be a great pity and a disservice to their efforts at national cohesion if they resorted to the kind of diversionary threats that Aliyu had embarked on.
He stated: “It only makes the job of insurgents easier if we become enemies to one another”.
▪︎ Additional reports by The Conclave