Onyebuchi Ezigbo, ThisDayLive
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has kicked against the call by the Muslim Solidarity Forum on the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, to apologise for his alleged attack on Islam and Muslims or leave the Caliphate.
The forum, which labelled itself as an umbrella body for Islamic organisations, scholars and clerics, yesterday asked Kukah to apologise or leave the state, insisting that his Christmas message was capable of triggering religious violence in the country.
Kukah, in his Christmas homily, had accused President Muhammadu Buhari of promoting northern hegemony.
He had said that there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim president had done a fraction of what Buhari did.
His homily drew censures from the federal government and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), led by Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, which attacked the bishop for allegedly denigrating Islam and Muslims.
However, Kukah, on Monday, rebutted the allegations and accused the JNI Secretary-General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, of inciting violence against him.
He also challenged the JNI to “as a matter of honour” show where he attacked Islam or Muslims in the statement, adding that he is “more than happy to apologise” for such.
But at a press conference yesterday in Sokoto, the Acting Chairman of the forum, Sokoto chapter, Prof. Isa Muhammad Maishanu, said the message of the cleric was a direct attack on Islam.
According to him, this is not the first time Kukah is attacking Islam and Muslims, especially those from the northern part of the country.
He faulted the message of Kukah in which he 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.”
He said the statement was uncharitable and capable of causing violence.
He stated that their intention as a forum is not to hold brief for the president, stressing that their concern is the image and reputation of Muslims, which Kukah allegedly likes to attack.
Maishanu said Kukah has a penchant to speak in parable and innuendo, adding that accusing Muslims of possessing a character of violence is provocative.
He said 90 per cent of victims of killings, especially in the North, are Muslims.
He expressed concern that Kukah, who lives in the heart of Sokoto caliphate, can make such a statement because of his perceived hatred for Islam and Muslims even when he called himself apostle of peace.
According to him, those familiar with Kukah’s antics know that he utilises every opportunity during public lectures, homilies, media interviews to attack Islam and Muslims, especially those of northern extraction.
He noted it is on record that KuKah was in forefront of antagonising Shariah law implementation in some northern states even though it is the constitutional right of Muslims, and not applicable to Christians.
Maishanu accused KuKah of peddling falsehood and propaganda that Christians are denied places of worship and are persecuted in some parts of the North despite the proliferation of churches in Muslim- dominated areas.
“As part of his antics in February 2020, he shamelessly staged a demonstration in the heart of Sokoto over the killing of a single Christian priest in far away Adamawa State, presumably by the Boko Haram insurgency but did not consider hundreds of Muslim Fulani herders that were mercilessly killed by Christian militias in the neighbouring Taraba State,” he added.
He stated that if Muslims in Sokoto responded to Kukah’s alleged incessant provocative attacks on them and their religion, peace could elude the country.
He cited alleged instances in Kafachan, Tafawa Balewa, Plateau and Taraba States where Muslims were attacked whenever there is misunderstanding but yet they restrained themselves from retaliation.
He called on Kukah to apologise to Islam and Muslims for his alleged vituperation against them or leave Sokoto.
“These callous statements are becoming of someone who parades himself a secretary to the National Peace Committee and 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,” he said.
But in a swift response, CAN described the call on Kukah to apologise as unwarranted.
The General Secretary of CAN, Rev. Joseph Daramola, told THISDAY yesterday that what the bishop did was well within his fundamental right of freedom of speech as provided in the country’s constitution.
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 suing 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 apologise 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?”
When THISDAY contacted the spokesman of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Monsignor Enang, for his reaction, he declined comment.
Also the priest in charge of Communications at Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Fr. Christopher Omotosho, said the church would not want to take issue with the group.