Catholic Bishop in Nigeria Challenges Governors to Bridge Gaps in State Appointments

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese. Credit: Sokoto Diocese

Governors of various States in Nigeria have a key role to play in creating social cohesion in the country, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has said, underlining the need to ensure that everyone feels represented, especially in state appointments.

Speaking at the National Inter-Religious Conference that was held in Kano State in northern Nigeria, the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese said that a section of Nigerians, especially in the Northern region, feel left out in government appointments and the management of resources.

“Governors should take some courageous steps towards integration… Governors should make certain appointments and create opportunities that point in the direction of genuine integration,” Bishop Kukah said.

“At a time when Christians were denied access to the media here in Kano, things changed when General Abacha appointed a Catholic as Governor. So, my appeal goes beyond Kano to all the Governors,” the Catholic Bishop said at the December 1 event that was organized under the theme, “Harnessing Nigeria’s Religious Diversity for Sustainable Peace and National Development”.

In his speech, Bishop Kukah underscored the need for leaders in Nigeria to properly manage the country’s diversity, especially the different religions, noting that this would ensure that certain groups do not feel left out in the running of the country.


The Catholic Bishop who has been known for good governance advocacy refuted what he referred to as misconceptions that religious and ethnic diversity is the cause of  woes in the West African country. 

He gave examples of the U.S. and the UK that had made radical changes in state appointments, setting a pace for the integration of people of various racial background, and asked State Governors in Nigeria to follow suit.

“When President Bush appointed Colin Powell as Chief of Defense Staff in a racially charged environment like America, he sent out a signal. When his son followed the same line and appointed Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, he was making a point. White racists were unhappy, but these prepared for the coming of President Barack Obama as the first black President,” Bishop Kukah said.

He added, in his address to heads of various States in Nigeria, “Do radical things that comfort the afflicted even if they afflict the comfortable! There will be discomfort but the future will be better.”

“Today, Joe Biden has appointed many Nigerians who were born or grew up in America to key positions and no one has raised a voice against the decision. Though many racists are not happy, the President has demonstrated courage and vision of what kind of society he wants to build,” he said.

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“Today, the UK has a Prime Minister that is the son of immigrants and there are Africans and Nigerians now in Parliament and holding key positions in the UK. We must aspire to these ideals if we are to compete in a global world,” Bishop Kukah said. 

The Catholic Bishop who has shepherded the people of God in Sokoto Diocese since his Episcopal Consecration in September 2011 said he found it regrettable that Nigerians have created bridges between themselves, and speak of themselves as Muslims and Christians, Northerners and Southerners, and not as citizens.  

The trend, the Catholic Church leader who was appointed to the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in January 2021 said, “is very unfortunate because it only feeds into and creates deeper fault lines that separate us.”

He said a study that had been conducted in Kano had brought to the fore perceived grievances and feelings of being outsiders in the Nigerian State by certain groups based on ethnicity or denomination despite being Muslim. 

Such groups included women, the youth, southerners and subgroups that, according to the study, felt that they are treated as outsiders within Islam. 


“How do we close the gap and focus not on our religious faithfulness to God and our common citizenship?” Bishop Kukah posed, and said, “We are living in one country, held together by a constitution which most people are not happy with but it is what we have. Despite its imperfections, our constitution has enough provisions to ensure national cohesion.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Kukah has said that only a just system will save Nigeria, and not a Muslim/Muslim ticket or Christian/Christian ticket in the country’s general elections scheduled to take place on 25 February 2013.

“I call on our politicians to make politics more honorable by treating us all as free citizens in a free country under God,” he said, and added, “The frustrations and anger over a Muslim-Muslim ticket are based on the insecurity and fear that our people feel. Muslims would feel the same if it were a Christian-Christian ticket.”

Overall, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop further said, “only a justice system, visible to all, can save our country. Justice is like rain, even if you are blind, you can feel it. Similarly, we do not need to be Christians or Muslims to feel justice. We want to feel it because we are in our dear country given to us by God.”

This story was first published by ACI Africa on 05 December 2022.

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Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.