As expected, the Presidency has dismissed the weighty allegations leveled against the President Muhammadu Buhari government by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev Mathew Kukah, as ‘baseless.’
This is also it urged the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese to ‘join politics if he wants to, instead of using his pulpit for constant criticism of government.’
It would be recalled that Rev Kukah in Easter Message to Nigerians, titled; “To Mend a Broken Nation: The Easter Metaphor,” last Sunday, described Nigeria as having turned into ‘a national hospital’ on account of high level insecurity which has either killed, maimed or displaced many citizens with the government seemingly disinterested in addressing the situation, but instead ‘has allowed corruption to thrive and grow.’
Rev. Kukah who continued in his tradition of speaking truth to power, berated the Buhari government said in his message that ‘with everything literally broken down, our country has become one big emergency national hospital with full occupancy.”
“Our individual hearts are broken. Our family dreams are broken. Homes are broken. Churches, Mosques, infrastructure are broken. Our educational system is broken. Our children’s lives and future are broken. Our politics is broken. Our economy is broken. Our energy system is broken. Our security system is broken. Our roads and rails are broken. Only corruption is alive and well,” the cleric said.
However, reacting to the Easter message by the Bishop, the Special adviser to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said the cleric ‘is fond of spreading hate messages.’
“As the nomination congress approaches, rumblings within the party rise to an acrimonious crescendo and the troubleshooting market blossoming in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP, which is in desperate yearning for his tested skills, we are surprised- so too are many others- that the Bishop of Sokoto Province, the Most Rev Mathew Matthew Hassan could still find the time for a lengthy homily on his usual target, Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria.
“For a man who has been spreading hate for decades, nothing new in the homily, except for the fact that while millions of Christians were remembering the Lord’s crucifixion on Friday, His descent on Saturday, His resurrection on Sunday, and subsequent appearance to his disciples, Bishop Matthew Kukah was playing politics.
“From his pulpit he devoted his Easter message not to Christ’s death and rebirth so Man might be saved – but to damning the government in the most un-Christian terms.
“Bishop Kukah neglects the Bible’s teachings in James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
“Easter should be a time for renewal, and for hope. For those in authority – both temporal and spiritual – to come together in word and deed so those who look to them for example can be inspired by their grace,” Garba said.
Shehu further admonished religious leaders to desist from meddling into politics but concentrate on their calling.
“This is not a time for religious leaders to play politics, or politicians to play religion. It is a time, as in Titus 3:9 to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless”.
“Yet Bishop Kukah used his sermon purposefully to make dissensions and quarrels about the law. His accusatory list against the government revealed only his hatred for them.
“Still, when he accused them of division, he gave no examples: merely assertions emanating from his own mouth. His allegation of ethnic and regional divide was innuendo without proof, and he gave none.
“His list of things he claims as broken – from churches to mosques to schools and motorways – belie all those that have been built, and others built anew during this government’s time in office.
“Should he feel compelled for whatever reason to criticize the government for what he views as their mistakes the Bible makes clear how it should be done: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness,” Galatians 6:1-2.
“If Bishops or religious leaders believe they have a willing audience for tales of government error or fragility, they do an injustice to their flock by filling their ears with talk of division and hateful thoughts.
“Nigeria knows too well Bishop Kukah’s views of the government. He has made quite clear how much he dislikes them from the day they were elected.
“Whether expressing his political views is a good use or an abuse of religious office is for others to decide. But the people of Nigeria have spoken – twice: They support this government at the ballot box. They have not been swayed by hateful talk from any bully-pulpit.
“We respectfully ask Bishop Kukah to leave government to the voters and the politicians they elect, while he concentrates on his job, as it is expressed in James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world,” he explained.
Garba concluded that Bishop Kukah should put away his clerical garb, join partisan politics and see how far he can go he said.
Bishop Kukah had earlier told President Buhari that ‘Nigerians can no longer recognise their country which has been battered and buffeted by men and women from the dark womb of time. It is no longer necessary to ask how we got here. The real challenge is how to find the slippery rungs on the ladder of ascent so we can climb out. Yet, we ask, ascend to where?’
He continued: “One would be tempted to ask, what is there to say about our tragic situation today that has not been said? Who is there to speak that has not spoken? Like the friends of Job, we stare at an imponderable tragedy as the nation unravels from all sides.
“The government has slid into hibernation mode. It is hard to know whether the problem is that those in power do not hear, see, feel, know, or just don’t care. Either way, from this crossroad, we must make a choice, to go forward, turn left or right or return home. None of these choices are easy, yet, guided by the light of the risen Christ, we can reclaim our country from its impending slide to anarchy.
“The greatest challenge now is how to begin a process of reconstructing our nation hoping that we can hang on and survive the 2023 elections. The real challenge before us now is to look beyond politics and face the challenge of forming character and faith in our country. Here, leaders of religion, Christianity and Islam, need to truthfully face the role of religion in the survival of our country. The Nigerian Constitution has very clearly delineated the fine boundaries between religion and politics. Yet many politicians continue to behave as if they are presiding over both the political and the spiritual realms in their states rather than governing in a Democracy.
“Religious leaders must face the reality that here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam.
“While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members are becoming atheists but we prefer to pretend that we do not see this. We cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful who are marching away into atheism and secularism. No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts.”