THE Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has warned those threatening Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, to desist from doing so.
In a statement by Joseph Daramola, CAN general secretary, on Thursday, the Christian group urged President Muhammadu Buhari to protect the clergyman.
Kukah recently came under sharp criticism and threats following his state-of-the-nation Christmas message where he condemned how Buhari was handling the affairs of the country.
He had accused the president of turning nepotism into a state policy, noting that there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim president had done a fraction of what the president was doing.
He had also said that the president was promoting and institutionalising a northern hegemony that had reduced others in public life to second-class status.
The handlers of the president, sympathisers of the Buhari administration, socio-political bodies such as the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) and religious bodies like Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), have all accused Kukah of instigating a forceful change of democratically elected government and hate against Islam.
More recently is the threat issued by Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), a Muslim group based in Sokoto State, giving the bishop an ultimatum to apologise for his message or vacate the state.
Although the presidency has vehemently condemned the group for their threat, it is yet to order the arrest of the groups threatening the clergyman.
To that end, CAN called on Buhari and the nation’s security agencies to protect Kukah from any harm because what he said in his message was still within the ambit of the law.
The Christian umbrella warned that those trying to use Kukah’s words to instigate religious violence in the country should desist from doing so, stating that the country had witnessed enough of bloodshed.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that no harm befalls the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah. As far as CAN is concerned, what he said in his Christmas message was still within the ambience of the law,” part of the statement said.
“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!
“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, killer herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers as if there is 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.”
CAN added, “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 human rights suspended in the country? When were some sections of the Constitution suspended without the awareness of the public?
“When did the police and the Department of State Services lose their power to miscreants and lawless people, who are making a boast of their lawlessness without a challenge? We wonder if those Muslim groups, which are threatening to deal with Kukah, got an equal response from their Christian counterparts, are we not setting 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 are not only a constitutional matter but godly.”
Threat to Kukah, invitation to anarchy – Ortom
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, had described the threat by the Muslim Solidarity Forum as an invitation to anarchy. He added that such anarchy would not do the nation any good.
He called on Nigerians, irrespective of religious and political affiliations, to uphold unity, peace and dialogue as a panacea for the myriad of problems confronting the country.
The governor said he found the forum’s statement as a contradiction of provisions of the Constitution, which accorded Nigerians the right to live freely in any part of the country.
He said the statement of the group directing Bishop Kukah to apologise or leave Sokoto State “is a clear affirmation that Nigeria is being controlled by forces which are bent on setting the country ablaze if their interests are not guaranteed.”
On Monday, the State Security Service (SSS) alerted the public to plans by undesirable elements working with external forces to incite religious violence across Nigeria.
Peter Afunanya, SSS spokesman, who stated this in a statement, had said that Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Rivers, Oyo, Lagos and states in the South-East would be majorly affected by the violence.
“The DSS wishes to alert the public about plans by some elements working with external forces to incite religious violence across the country,” he said.
“Targeted States include Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Rivers, Oyo, Lagos and those in the South East.
“Part of the plans is to cause inter-religious conflicts as well as use their foot soldiers to attack some worship centres, religious leaders, personalities, key and vulnerable points.”
He urged Nigerians to shun divisive tendencies aimed at creating violence, stating that his agency would work with sister institutions to maintain law and order across the country.