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Kukah’s anti-nepotism sermon divides North

By Seye Olumide (Lagos), Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine, Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna), Abuja
29 December 2020   |   3:06 am
Three days after the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Mathew Kukah, preached a sermon against nepotism to commemorate this year’s Christmas, the North has been divided by the homily

Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Mathew Kukah

Northern Islamic coalition threatens bishop with a lawsuit
• SMBLF hails cleric
• Catholic secretariat declares support for him
• Muric dismisses cleric’s allegation against Buhari as reckless, inflammatory
• Says it’s a call for a coup against President
• Those against Kukah are sectional zealots, northern Christians declare
• ‘Akintola’s attack on bishop laughable, misleading’
• Islamic cleric, Gumi, supports the call for Buhari’s resignation

Three days after the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Mathew Kukah, preached a sermon against nepotism to commemorate this year’s Christmas, the North has been divided by the homily, which also accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of failing to provide security, among other lapses.

Kukah had, in his 2020 Christmas message, titled, ‘A nation in search of vindication’, lamented that nepotism characterise the present administration.

He noted that there could have been a coup or war in the country if a non-northern Muslim President did a fraction of what Buhari did.

The cleric said under Buhari’s government, Nigeria appeared to be heading for darkness, with citizens travelling in a rudderless ship without any destination in sight.

The cleric’s comment has generated sharp reactions, setting northern groups and individuals against one another.

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said the Christmas message by Kukah was a call for a coup and forceful removal of the President from office.

The group’s Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, in a statement on Monday, said the bishop was ululating from the wrong side of the pulpit.

The group described Kukah’s allegation of nepotism as unfounded and baseless, saying an analysis of the distribution of appointments across geopolitical zones showed otherwise.

He described allegations of northern hegemony, caliphate domination, Islamisation, and fulanisation as mere slogans adopted by “political shenanigans, ethnic charlatans and religious demagogues to deceive gullible Nigerians. ”

Kukah’s statement, he alleged, was reckless, inflammatory, and unguarded. “It is the most egregious, luciferous, serpentine, and diabolical statement of the year 2020,” he claimed.

He also accused Kukah of habitually demonising and de-marketing any Muslim President and behaving in a manner inconsistent with his office as the secretary of Nigeria’s Peace Committee.

He added: “Kukah calls for a coup because blackmail is not working with Buhari. But is Kukah aware that it will be a Christian-inspired forceful change of government? What was the result of the first of such in the country? Even Nzeogwu will turn in his grave at the very thought of a church-motivated coup.”

He argued against Kukah’s allegation of nepotism against Buhari by referring to an unnamed “leading online newspaper,” which showed that Buhari’s North West got 37 appointments, North East received 29, North Central secured 21, South West 63, South East 25 while South-South got 24. South West benefited most.

“Is that nepotism? We challenge Kukah and his merchants of falsehood to provide their own data.

“Kukah’s reference to a coup is Satanic innuendo. We are aware civilians have always been involved in coups in the past. Kukah’s interest is therefore not something new.

why is Kukah just inciting it? He should be man enough to spearhead it. Go ahead, Kukah, plan a coup. Who knows? You can be vice president. Dare to struggle. Dare to win.”

BUT leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in 19 northern states and Abuja, yesterday, condemned the Presidency, some religious bodies, and individuals for allegedly twisting the Christmas message of Dr. Kukah and blamed the Federal Government for failing to put an end to security challenges, nepotism, maladministration, and growing poverty.

In a statement issued yesterday by the Vice Chairman of CAN in 19 northern states and Abuja, Rev Joseph Hayab, the association pointed out that “given the current happenings in Nigeria with kidnapping, banditry, horrible atrocities committed against hapless citizens by members of Boko Haram, Nigerians should be united in condemning and finding solutions to the awful condition that we are in as Bishop Kukah has rightly done.

He described those castigating Kukah as “sectional zealots who only see the trouble in Nigeria from primordial views”

Hayab said it was high time the Presidency, MURIC, and misinformed individuals eschewed intolerance and admit that Nigeria under Buhari had strayed from the path and vision that the independence of the country was fought for.

“Let the government do the right thing by creating a sense of inclusion for all and sundry, defending the citizens from harm, bringing an end to growing insecurity in towns, cities, and villages, so that we could attain greatness together,” he said.

He said members of CAN in the north read with great shock alleged attempts to further divide the nation by the Presidency, the leadership of MURIC, and other individuals and groups aimed at twisting the crux of the sermon by Kukah, stressing that “of grave misgiving is the baseless claim in a statement signed by the President of MURIC, Prof Ishaq Akintola, that Bishop Kukah had referred to Islam as a violent religion and calls for a coup.”

He described the statement by Prof. Akintola as not only laughable but misleading and a tissue of lies.

He claimed that records would show that MURIC’s leadership “is often careless with assertions and many times acting as if it was a political platform instead of a religious one.”

The association called on international and local communities to counsel Prof. Akintola of MURIC “to learn to walk the path of honour and not be a merchant of crisis.”

Hayab argued that he had read through Kukah’s message and was unable to find any expression suggesting an affront to Islam or a call for a coup.

He accused MURIC of aiming to incite citizens against one another along the lines of faith instead of denouncing the insecurity witnessed across the country, the point in Bishop Kukah’s message.

He argued that from the east to the south, west, and all over the north, travelling had become a nightmare, with hapless dragged away from their homes for ransom.

“Our memory is fresh with the gruesome killing of 76 farmers in Borno State in early December 2020, whose crime was simply being farmers striving to eke out a livelihood for their families.

“ How about the Kankara boy’s kidnap and the excruciating pains the kids, their parents, and school were thrown in? CAN 19 northern states and Abuja did not read a statement from MURIC and their likes. Now from the blues as Bishop Kukah talked the truth to power, we read unscrupulous statements aimed at painting black a message that was clear and concise, alerting the government to its failure on the security of lives and property of Nigerians.”

PROMINENT northern Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, also joined the fray, yesterday, declaring he would support any call for the resignation of President Buhari amidst the unending security challenges, lopsidedness in federal appointments, and massive poverty in Nigeria.

He said challenges facing the nation today were caused by lopsidedness in appointments by the Federal Government and the inability to address insecurity.

Gumi, in a face book statement, says: “These ugly incidences were only made possible by the lopsidedness of appointments in these sensitive security positions. North vs South, Muslims vs Christians struggles cannot be addressed by unequal representations of such a big divide in sensitive positions.

“Therefore, today, when Rev. Kukah decries the same lopsidedness that favours Muslims, he is saying what exactly we have decried long ago, and he’s justified to say so.”

He, however, warned against any insinuation of a military takeover of a democratically elected government. He said a call for the resignation of the President would suffice.

“He called on Nigerians to unite and allow the natural forces of democratic power to come to play. Every Nigerian should have equal opportunity to participate in the power struggle, no preference should be given to religious, ethnic, and socio-economic difference, as such practice has been producing leaders of mediocre ability.”

COALITION of Northern Group, (CNG) joined those against Kukah, saying his sermon could incite hatred against Muslims from the northern region.

The group threatened to drag him to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for legal redress.

In a statement by a spokesperson for the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, called on the Federal Government to enact a strong law against hate speech and checkmate religious groups and teachings that undermine peaceful coexistence through unguarded utterances.

The group said it is ironic that a Reverend would incite hatred against a section of the country.

“It testifies to how religious bodies and leaders such as Kukah in more ways than one, attempt to aid the deterioration of the situation in the country by stimulating a form of Islamophobia on the back of the most gratuitous false story of Islamisation agenda.

“It furthers the irresponsible and unacceptable practice of preachers, using the pulpit to promote falsehood and incite followers against certain sections of the society by labelling and earmarking them to be targeted, irrespective of whether they are part of a crime committed or not.”

He said while the coalition would not stop anybody from criticising the administration for its lapses or fault the right of people to speak up against the government’s inadequate, ineffective, exclusive and unfocused policies, it would say that, contrary to “the deliberate distortions by the Kukahs,” the North happened to be the major casualty of this administration’s “serial misgovernance in terms of security, economy, distribution of key federal appointments and essential goods and services, making it unacceptably irresponsible for Kukah and his ilk to hide behind the guise of criticism of the government to attack a whole ethnic or religious group.”

He warned against the vilification of one ethnic and religious group or the other for whatever reason or justification, saying: “Such acts are the prelude to genocide and ethnic cleansing and therefore, are actionable under international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as international criminal law.”

The Federal Government, he added, should be alive to its responsibility of checkmating all religious groups and teachings that undermine Nigeria’s peace, security, and peaceful coexistence through unguarded utterances and deliberate actions aimed at fomenting unrest and engendering inter-religious and inter-communal conflicts.

“Individuals associated with such groups or actions,” he advised, “must be decisively dealt with.”

SOUTHERN Nigeria and Middle Belt Forum (SMBLF) condemned the outbursts of the Presidency and northern groups on Kukah.

In a statement yesterday, spokesmen for the forum, Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South West), Chief Guy Ikoku (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt) said the outspoken cleric, who had been a beacon of truthfulness over the years, remained a foremost defender of the aspirations of millions of Nigerians across ethnic and religious lines, saying, “On this occasion, his comments have been applauded by the majority of Nigerians and we all stand with him.”

The SMBLF statement read: “We want to remind the Federal Government and its attack dogs that in the past, they had equally welcomed the forthright views of this Man of God even when it favoured them. So why attack him now when he cautions them on their divisive policies?

“Today, the country has become terribly divided along different kinds of lines. It is shameful and indefensible that suddenly, the Federal Government is dominated by one small ethnic group and they expect all to keep quiet like slaves. Also, the wind of insecurity is now almost tsunami and even up to Mr. President’s doorstep in Katsina State, when he went home recently on holiday.”

The group urged the Federal Government to retrace unhelpful steps and rekindle oneness in the country and to restructure the country.

ALSO, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), has thrown its weight behind Bishop Kukah.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, the National Director of CSN’s Social Communication, Fr. Mike Umoh, who decried the barrage of attacks on Bishop Kukah, said, “As expected, the agents of evil have gathered to attack the person of the bishop and to discredit the simple obvious truth of the message. This is the stock in trade of evil people. However, they often succeed when good people choose to do nothing”.

Umoh observed that the situation in Nigeria no longer allowed anyone to sit on the fence, indifference is now a greater form of sin.

“The truth about our nation is also that there are only two parties now existing: the good and the evil, the oppressed and the oppressor, the suffering people and the benefiting government officers and their families. Please stop allowing anyone fools you with these cards: religion and tribe.”

The cleric called on Nigerians to stand for the truth.