The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on Thursday, welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement in which he said Bishop Matthew Kukah must be allowed to practice his faith and politics.
Reacting to the statement signed by Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, CAN, however, said the Presidency should back its words with actions by ensuring that no harm befell the Catholic Bishop.
Buhari had also said Bishop Kukah greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President, with some even accusing him of voicing anti-Islamic rhetoric, but that the country’s leadership would exercise restraint.
However, the umbrella Christian body noted in a statement by its General Secretary, Barr. Joseph Daramola, that it was not enough for the President to condemn the ultimatum by the Muslim group which called on the Bishop Kukah to tender an unreserved apology to the entire Muslim Ummah or quietly and quickly leave the Sokoto without heightening the security around the Bishop. Against that backdrop, CAN advised President Buhari to go beyond lip service and urge the security agencies to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities and ensure that nothing untoward happened to the Sokoto cleric.
The statement reads partly: “We have been watching the unfolding scenario since Bishop Kukah spoke his mind on the State of the Nation in his Christmas homily and how some groups of people have been threatening him with ﬁre and brimstone while all relevant security agencies are pretending as if nothing unusual is happening.
“We wonder if those threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country.
“Bishop Kukah was posted to serve in Sokoto by the Papacy and threatening him to leave is a global threat to Christianity.
“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.
“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 is not only a constitutional matter but godly.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that no harm befalls the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah.
“As far as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is concerned, what he said in his Christmas Homily was still within the ambience of the law.
“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.”