THE Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah, says he did not endorse the presidential bid of Abubakar Atiku, but had only been instrumental to his reconciliation with his former Principal, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Kukah appeared in a photograph alongside Obasanjo, Atiku, and Abubakar Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric, at the Abeokuta residence of the former President last week. It was at the event that Obasanjo endorsed Atiku for the 2019 presidential election, describing him as Nigeria’s President-to-be.
Also, in one of the pictures taken at the event, was David Oyedepo, a popular pastor and founder of Living Faith Church, also known as Winners Chapel.
In a statement on Monday, Kukah said that he had been working on getting Obasnjo and Atiku to reconcile with each other for years now, but that the way the reconciliation happened was purely coincidental.
“Although trying to reconcile President Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was something I had been working on intermittently in the last few years, nothing could have prepared me for the way things finally shaped up,” Kukah stated.
He went further to narrate how he met Obasanjo at a programme organised by the Four Square Gospel Church and reminded him of the need to reconcile with Atiku, and how Obasanjo had agreed to a meeting to be held on October 21.
However, Kukah said he was pleasantly surprised when Obasanjo called him the evening of that same day to say that he was willing to meet with Atiku the next day at 1 pm, in his house in Abeokuta.
“I arrived Abeokuta about 12.15pm ahead of both President Obasanjo and Alhaji Abubakar and his team. Alhaji Abubakar and his team arrived, and then I saw more and more people coming in. I saw familiar faces of different people who turned out to be the leaders of Afenifere,” Kukah wrote.
“All these years, whenever I brought up this matter of reconciliation, my idea has always been for the three of us to sit down together.
“I was happy that what I wanted to achieve had been achieved, namely, getting these two men to put the past behind them (but) my personal preoccupation was a pastoral one, and not a political one.”
Kukah explained that Atiku and Obasanjo went into a private room to “sort out their issues”, he and Gumi were called into the room, “and both of us spoke briefly on what they had done, encouraging them to ensure that this reconciliation holds… After that, we prayed and then took what has now become the famous photograph behind closed doors.
“At this point, I felt that my spiritual duties had been achieved and I was prepared to maintain my independence. Sheikh Gumi and I shook hands and although I was hungry and the food was being laid out, I skipped lunch. I quietly let myself out by the side door, got into the Four Square Gospel car and we drove off to Lagos.”
Kukah maintained that “I was not in Abeokuta to endorse Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party”.
“I have far too many friends across party lines for me to openly endorse one candidate or party against the other, (but) it will be against the principles of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church which regulates our public life in the political space.”
Kukah said that he will never relent in the very urgent task of making peace and reconciliation across the spectrum of our country.
Obasanjo and Atiku fell part toward the end of their second term in office which ended May 29 2007.