The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah, has been asked to resign from the General Abdul Salaam-led National Peace Committee.
This call was made by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in a statement signed by the director of the organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
Bishop Kukah had in his Christmas message to Nigerians stated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government owed Nigerians an explanation over the killings of innocent people in the country.
Kukah said the spilling of blood across the country must be related to a more sinister plot beyond the people’s comprehension.
Reacting to these statements, MURIC asked the cleric to recuse himself from the Abdul Salaam-led Peace Committee, arguing that Kukah’s pronouncements are inconsistent with the Bishop’s status as the secretary of Nigeria’s Peace Committee.
“How did such a belligerent combatant emerge as the secretary of Nigeria’s Peace Committee? What good can come from a man filled with hate and bias for a large section of the country? He calls for a coup against a democratically elected government. He stigmatized Islam as a violent religion. He derides the North. We demand that Kukah should honourably recuse himself from the Peace Committee.
“Failure to do so will have a devastating effect of discrediting that committee. It will mean that the committee was set up in the first place for a partisan purpose.
“This is because many see Bishop Kukah as the de facto leader of the sommittee. The Peace Committee must clarify some issues surrounding its formation and modus operandi. Whose idea was the whole thing from the beginning? Where is the committee’s secretariat? Is it true that the entire committee was Kukah’s initiative ab initio? Is it also true that its secretariat is headed and managed by the director of the Kukah Center? If that is so, General Abdulsalam must have been persuaded to come on board and serve as the chairman to give legitimacy and credibility to the idea.
“This peace committee has a credibility crisis on its hands unless it can remove Kukah as secretary and as a member if the bishop fails to recuse himself. Nigerian Muslims no longer have any confidence in the Peace Committee. It may as well disband while the members go home to sleep.”
This is the honourable thing for the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese to do given the humongous allegation levelled against him. A national peace committee needs wide acceptance from the general populace to function effectively. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the actual situation on the ground at present.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that the secretary of any organization is its livewire. He keeps their records and writes their reports. A heavily biased man against one faith cannot be trusted to prepare a fair report on interfaith issues. That position is too sensitive to be left in the office of a firebrand missionary known for his emotional outbursts.
“The silence of the Peace Committee since the Kukah controversy began is also disturbing. A peace committee whose secretary comes out with blazing guns firing from all cylinders at a section of the country and calls for a coup while its members keep mute gives cause for concern. It gives the impression that the secretary is holding members of the committee to ransom. He calls the shots. After all, any statement to be issued by the committee, ceteris paribus, is expected to be prepared by the same secretary. Here comes the hard nut.
“Nigerian Muslims have no confidence in the peace committee as long as Kukah remains its secretary and member. He has failed to remain neutral. His bias against Muslims has been openly displayed. Rev. Fr. Kukah should recuse himself; otherwise, the committee has to disband.
“This has become necessary given the jaundiced position taken by the Catholic mission yesterday in an official statement. Nigerian Catholics declared their full backing of the preposterous pronouncements of Bishop Kukah. In that situation, it is no longer acceptable to leave the peace committee’s destiny in the hands of the Catholic Bishop.
“The question must be asked: who is the secretary of the Peace Committee? Kukah or the Catholic Diocese? A situation whereby Kukah issues a highly combustible statement and the Nigerian Catholic Mission backs him calls for caution.
“MURIC suggests an immediate review of the composition and operation of the Peace Committee. The secretariat of the Peace Committee must be moved out of the Kukah Centre. A neutral place must be found. Also, a neutral person who is not head or official of any religious group or a person known for making volatile statements must be made head of its secretariat.
“The Peace Committee may also consider coopting a co-chairman who must be a Christian since the current chairman is a Muslim. This will engender balance.
“We call on the chairman and members of the peace committee to take these suggestions seriously to retain the respect it currently enjoys. A stitch in time saves nine. Immediate consultations and proper advice will save the committee from any embarrassment in future,” MURIC’s statement read in part.
Following some brash reactions to Nigerians’ Christmas message, Bishop Kukah has denied calling for a coup.
He made this known on Monday night during a press conference at St Bakhita Secretariat in Sokoto.
“It is unfair for a journalist or news medium to report that I called for a coup while expressing my personal view about Nigeria,” he said.
“I am pained and very sad that my emergency critics never see that many innocent lives are being lost daily. The loss of lives in the last ten years, even before this administration’s advent, calls for concern.
“The reactions are a reflection of every citizen that make up Nigeria. It is said that when you drop something in Nigeria, everybody goes back to their enclave and abandon the larger picture. I am someone who never takes offence to what people say about me.”
Speaking further, Bishop Kukah said it is only feeble minds that would misconstrue his statements to indicate the intention to go into party politics.
While noting that everyone has the right to hold political views, he said nothing stops him as a priest and conscience of society from speaking truth to power.
“To make it more interesting, a retired General from the North-West who is a Muslim has also released a statement on his handle to say all that I said is true.
“I have no plan and will never play partisan politics for any reason. Those who link me to partisan politics because of my statement are only playing into the gallery,” he added.