The presidency has taken umbrage at the claims made by Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah before the United States Congress, saying the respected cleric is sowing seeds of discord and strife among Nigerians.
Bishop Kukah in a virtual interaction recently had appealed to the US Congress, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari had become helpless in tackling Nigeria’s security challenges.
In a statement on Sunday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, the presidency said it was “unfortunate, and disappointing” for Nigerians to see “one of their churchmen castigating their country in front of representatives of a foreign parliament.”
Shehu said it was commonplace for opposition politicians to embark on foreign tours, visiting foreign leaders and legislators, during which they paint the worst possible picture of Nigeria before their chosen foreign audience.
This, he said, Nigerians expect from their “unimaginative opposition,” but that it is troubling when “a so-called man of the Church copies the worst excesses of those seeking personal advancement in public office.”
Contrary to claims by these critics of the administration, Garba Shehu said only the Buhari administration has put forward the first and singular plan in nearly a century to address the herder-farmer challenges.
“To declare to a foreign audience that this government does nothing is an incredible falsehood,” he declared.
The statement reads: “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.
“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.
“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 stolen 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 predominantly Muslim students of the Federal Government Girls College Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State who are currently in captivity- and the nation’s security agencies are hard at work to release them unharmed.
“The attack on Christian students is sad and unacceptable; so also is the abduction of students of other faiths. The claim that only Christian schools are being targeted is totally untrue.”
The presidential spokesman said as a nation and a people, Nigerians must together define evil as evil, and not allow religious differences to divide them.
“No one gains but the evil doers when we divide our ranks according to ethnicity and religion. The bandit, kidnapper and terrorist are the enemies of the people who should be confronted in unison,” he said.
“To be clear, The Bible is definitive on matters of ethnicity and racialism: In Romans 2:9-10, it says: ‘There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good’; and in Galatians 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Whether Christian or Muslim, we stand by these beliefs and are steadfastly committed to them in governance,” he stressed.
He said 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, adding that 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 common ground as Nigerians above all. But people like Kukah are doing their best to sow discord and strife among Nigerians,” he said.
He added: “More than any other set of people, leaders – in politics or religion who preach respect for truth have a duty to practise it. It is a moral and practical responsibility.”