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70th birthday: Atiku, Obi, Tinubu hail Kukah

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THE three leading presidential candidates for the 2023 general elections hailed Bishop Mattew Kukah on Monday for clocking 70 years.

Besides, two of the main candidates, Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP), respectively, attended Kukah’s birthday celebration in Abuja Monday evening.

A fiery government critic and canvasser for good governance, religious tolerance and national cohesion, Kukah is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto State.

He is among the foremost and highly-revered religious leaders in Nigeria.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was the first to salute the septuagenarian.

In a statement he posted on his Facebook page, the former vice president said, “As you clock 70 years today, my brother, friend and compatriot, I join all men and women of goodwill who cherish your unwavering contributions towards Nigeria’s true greatness to pray for God’s unending grace on your life. 

“May He continue to shine his light upon your paths and keep you steady in your service to Him.

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“May all your dreams for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria come to pass in your lifetime and in robust health. And so it shall be.”

The ICIR reports that Atiku has a running battle with some Christian southerners who expect the presidency to return to one of their folks after the eight-year tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim.

Tinubu also wrote an encomium for the cleric on his Facebook Page hours after Atiku did.

He said Nigerians owe the celebrant “more than a huge debt of gratitude”.

According to him, the bishop’s life has been of devotion and duty to God and humanity, adding that his life speaks of humility and compassion.

Tinubu said Kukah’s influence and respect were beyond the Catholic Church and his position as the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. 

“You are a voice of conscience in and for all Nigeria. For over four decades, your homilies as a cleric, as well as your contributions as a public intellectual, have enriched the national discourse and highlighted the role of morality in the public space. 

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“Seminal articles you have authored demonstrate your abiding concern for the poor and vulnerable.

“It is this concern that has led you to take national assignments such as being a member of the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission (Oputa Panel), Chief Mediator, Shell-Ogoni Peace Initiative and currently as the Secretary of National Peace Committee.”

This newspaper reports that Tinubu, a southerner, has faced huge criticisms from Christians after he picked a Muslim like himself from the North as running mate for the 2023 presidential poll.

In a homage to Kukah on his Facebook page, Obi described the bishop as his elder brother who had remained a consistent voice against corruption, oppression, injustice, and evil, which he said pervaded every part of the nation. 

The former Anambra governor said Kukah’s preachings, writings and lifestyle had influenced and pointed many to the right ways of life.

“Yours is a life of service to God and humanity. Your voice of wisdom and courage has been an inspiration and salve to many Nigerians. You speak truth to power! You are a sincere patriot committed to nation-building and a united Nigeria.

“As an apostle of faith and qualitative education, you have continued to invest in education for the good of the people and the development of the nation. 

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“You have in many ways, written your name in the hearts of men, by your evangelisation and lifestyle of charity and humility,” he wrote.

Obi has been seen in some churches with large congregations in recent weeks in an apparent bid to boost his chances in the coming poll.

Atiku and Tinubu also post pictures on social media whenever they visit mosques.

The ICIR reports that as the February 2023 general elections draw near, contenders are romancing churches and mosques, business moguls, political party heavyweights, foremost celebrities and notable leaders of thought to seek endorsement.

Author profile

Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @ mfatunmole@icirnigeria.org.

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