The Presidency has tackled the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, over his statement during a virtual appearance before the United States Congress.
The president, in a harsh statement, described Kukah’s comments as “unfortunate and disappointing”, complaining that Kukah “castigated” Nigeria before the US lawmakers.
The statement was titled, ‘Response by the Presidency to the statement made by Bishop Kukah before the United States Congress’.
In a virtual address before the American lawmakers, Kukah had faulted the President Muhammadu Buhari handling of the security situation in Nigeria.
The cleric also accused Buhari of nepotism in key appointments, saying that his regime favoured Muslims over Christians.
But in a statement by the president’s spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, on Sunday, Kukah was advised to “desist from lying and sowing discord” among Nigerians.
The presidential aide claimed that the opinions expressed by Kukah before the US Congress were personal, and not opinions held by the majority of Nigerians.
According to him, religious leaders who preach respect for the truth have a duty to practice it, and it is a moral and practical responsibility to stand up publicly for the truth.
”There is no place in mainstream civil discourse for those who actively, negatively, and publicly label an individual ethnic group, especially before a foreign audience.
”These are not the views expressed or opinions held by the vast majority of the citizens of Nigeria.
”For all our challenges as a nation, nearly all of us seek to live together in harmony, celebrating differences, and finding a common ground as Nigerians above all.
”But people like Kukah are doing their best to sow discord and strife among Nigerians.
”More than any other set of people, leaders – in politics or religion who preach respect for truth have a duty to practice it. It is a moral and practical responsibility.
”Going by the history of the Church as is well known, it will stand up publicly for the truth.
”It is time others did the same.”
Presidency to Kukah: You embarked on political tour
Shehu described Kukah’s mission address in the US as a familiar ”overseas political tours that opposition politicians take – visiting foreign leaders and legislators in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.”
“So, the argument goes, if they are heard seriously abroad, then Nigerian citizens back home should surely listen to them too.
“But in order to be heard at all, and to maximize media coverage back home for their activities, inevitably these visits involve painting the worst possible picture of our country before their chosen foreign audience.
“Soon enough we inescapably hear an identical list of racist tropes against northerners, how one religion dominates governance above all others, and how the government is doing nothing to address herder-farmer disturbances.
“And how the government spends money on infrastructure to benefit everyone but the group and religion of the speaker.
“Of course, in order not to disappoint their western audience, regardless of fact, the list is always the same-and always slanted for whoever wishes to cross-check,” he said.
Presidency disagrees with Kukah on appointment, abductions
He noted that it was only the Buhari regime that had so far put forward the first and singular plan in nearly a century to address herder-farmer challenges – a fact recognised by international NGOs, including the International Crisis Group.
”To declare to a foreign audience that this government does nothing is an incredible falsehood.
”To suggest that investment in infrastructure between Nigeria and Niger is wasteful and biased – when a similar infrastructure project between Lagos and Benin has revolutionised the two neighbouring economies to the advantage of both our countries – is quite disturbing,” he further maintained.
The presidential spokesman also frowned at Kukah’s attempt to accuse the Buhari regime of promoting ethnic and religious sentiments in the country.
“There is no bias in this government when the president is northern and Muslim, the vice president southern and Christian, and the cabinet equally balanced between the two religions.
“But neither is there anything in our Constitution to state that political posts must be apportioned according to ethnicity or faith.
“It takes a warped frame of mind for a critic to believe ethnicity is of primary importance in public appointments.
“It is yet more troubling to hear a Churchman isolating one group for criticism purely on ethnic lines,” he added.
Shehu also faulted Kukah’s position that only Christian students were largely being targeted or kidnapped by bandits in the Northern part of the country.
He said, “With due respect to the esteemed position he holds, the Bishop’s assertion that only Christian schools are being targeted by bandits or terrorists is not supported by the facts on the ground.
“It is sad to say but also true that victims of crime, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism cut across all strata of the society.
“Sad but true that Kankara students in Katsina State were kidnapped by bandits of the same Islamic faith as those they took away.
“The same may be true of those who are still holding the 134 students of the Islamic School at Tegina in Niger State.
”The nation witnessed the sad incident of the female students abducted by bandits at Jangebe in Zamfara State and the over 100 predominant