By Abiola Olawale
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has come to the defence of Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Mathew Kukah, following the call from the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF), asking him to tender an apology for allegedly attacking Islam in his Christmas message or leave Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate.
CAN General Secretary, Reverend Joseph Daramola said that Kukah has a right to express his opinion, claiming that the MSF call was not necessary.
He said, “Let them go and read his message. What do they want to do to him? Are they going to prosecute him? Are they saying him to court? Why would he apologise? Do they have the monopoly of right? How can they ask a whole consecrated Catholic Bishop for that matter to come apologize for airing his opinion? Why do we have section 4 of the Constitution that provides for freedom of expression? If what he said is against the law, then arrest him. They are asking him to apologise for what? Because they would flog him or what?
Reacting also to the call of MSF, the Chairman of CAN, Kaduna State and the Vice President of CAN, Northern States chapter, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, faulted the quit notice served on Bishop Kukah by the Muslim group.
Hayab said, “We have tolerated them so that we can continue together and build a nation of respect for others’ opinion. We, therefore, see this call for an apology from Bishop Kukah by this group as a show of disrespect and a display of complex attitude to abuse our tolerance spirit and our desire for a peaceful Nigeria. We see this group as agents of blackmail and intimidation who want to infringe on the right and freedom of expression of citizens, which our constitution guarantees.”
The acting Chairman of MSF, Professor Isa Maishanu, had reacted to Kukah’s Christmas message at a press conference held in Sokoto on Tuesday.
The acting Chairman said Kukah’s Christmas message was trying to break the age-long peaceful coexistence between Muslims and the Christians in the state.
Maishanu faulted the part of Kukah’s Christmas message which said “if a fraction of the nepotism committed by Buhari, a Muslim and a Northerner, were committed by any non-northern president, there would have been a coup in the country.”
The statement reads: ” In February 2020, he(Kukah) staged a demonstration in the heart of Sokoto over the killing of a single Christian priest, presumably, by the Boko Haram insurgents, but did not consider hundreds of Muslims, Fulani herders that were mercilessly killed by the Christian militia in Taraba state in 2018. These callous statements are unbecoming of someone who parades himself a secretary to the National Peace Committee ANDREW a member of Nigeria Inter-religious Council. As such, we call on Kukah to immediately stop his malicious vituperation against Islam and Muslims and tender unreserved apology to the Muslim Ummah or else quickly quietly leave the seat of Caliphate, as he is trying to break the age-long peaceful coexistence between the predominantly Muslim population and their Christian guests.”
Maishanu further stated in the statement that, “what did he think would have happened if the peace-loving Muslims of the state of Caliphate had responded to his incessant provocative attacks on them and their religion, like what happened in Kafanchan 1987, Zango kataf 1992, Tafawa Balewa in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2001, Yelwa Shandam 2004, Zonkwa and Jarkasa in 2011?”.
Earlier before MSF called for an apology, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu had attacked Kukah on his Christmas message. Aliyu accused the bishop of allegedly denigrating Islam and Muslims.
While reacting to the JNI statement, Kukah, said he would be more than happy to apologize if the Muslim group could show him where he attacked Islam or Muslims.
Recall that Kukah (born 31 August 1952 in Anchuna, Nigeria) is the current bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. He was appointed to the Diocese on June 10, 2011.