, 01 January, 2021 / 6:55 PM
A Nigerian Bishop has come to the defense of a brother Bishop whose Christmas Message seems to have triggered mixed reactions, some quarters accusing him of “very serious crimes like treason and incitement for a coup.”
“I stand firmly with Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas message entitled ‘A Nation in Search of Vindication’ in all its elements,” Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo says in a statement shared with ACI Africa and poses, “Where else could I stand, given my conviction that the Bishop of Sokoto wrote it sincerely for the purpose of making Nigeria better.
In his five-page Christmas Message, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah is critical of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government amid multiple cases of insecurity in parts of Africa’s most populous nation characterized by abductions and killings.
Circulated under the title, “A Nation in Search of Vindication,” Bishop Kukah’s nine-point message, which begins with “another Christmas with Dark Clouds of Death” highlights the “endless woes” the people of God in Nigeria have been experiencing over the years.
The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese questions the country’s leadership saying, “This government owes the nation an explanation as to where it is headed as we seem to journey into darkness.”
According to Vanguard, a Nigerian publication, Bishop Kukah’s Christmas Message “raised dust in high places,” with the dust taking “on legal and treasonous proportions, with accusations and counter-accusations flying.”
Nigeria’s Presidency reportedly termed Bishop Kukah as a coup plotter who decided “to use the period of Christmas, which is a season of peace, to stoke the embers of hatred, sectarian strife and national disunity,” Vanguard has reported Thursday, December 31.
The Nigerian publication cites Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as saying, “Calling for a violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government, no matter how disguised such a call is, and casting a particular religion as violent is not what any religious leader should engage in, and certainly not in a season of peace.”
It is against this backdrop that Bishop Badejo writes to concur with Bishop Kukah, urging the setting aside of “personal interests” and instead standing “for the truth.”
Bishop Badejo is concerned that some “commanders-in-mischief” in Nigeria have twisted Bishop Kukah’s Christmas Message “by trying to pin on him very serious crimes like treason and incitement for a coup, in an attempt to ‘call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.’ For such people nothing is too far-fetched to propose in a bid to achieve their purpose.”
“Even the information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has suggested that Kukah’s message was not an appropriate one for Christmas which is considered a season for peace,” Bishop Badejo says in his message shared with ACI Africa on New Year eve and adds in reference to the Minister, “He obviously reads a different Bible and knows a different Jesus from everyone else.”
Bishop Badejo says that he is “convinced that it is really the truth in Bishop Kukah’s message that made his message sting so much for truth is often bitter and painful.
“What has made him a ‘fishbone in the throat’ for government and its agencies is the awareness that he knows what he is talking about, possessing both experiential and intellectual knowledge about Nigeria and its fault lines. Few Nigerians can actually match him in that,” Bishop Badejo says in reference to Bishop Kukah.
In his message titled, “A time to stand for truth,” Bishop Badejo underscores, “The truth is that the nationwide insecurity and our government’s tame reaction to same has become nothing short of a monumental embarrassment.”
“Every day, Nigerians hear and read: ‘President Buhari Mourns, the President mourns, The President Laments, the President decries….one tragedy after another, as if that is all he promised to do at his election. Surely presidents all over are elected for nobler tasks than that.”
“This narrative needs to change and only the force of courage and truth can achieve that. Don’t we all want a President that can do far more for us than simply mourn and denounce the slaughter, kidnap and the destruction of lives and property in the country?” Bishop Badejo says and poses.
For him, “If we only can set aside our personal interests and animosities and stand for the truth, we all shall be beneficiaries of its outcome. We would, by doing so, be saving our own lives. Doing that would be a credible resolution for the new year 2021.”
The Bishop explains, “Ordinary Nigerians know that parts of our country today have become a true killing field. With daily news of the slaughter and massacre of innocent and not-so-innocent people in different corners, few people really feel safe anymore.”
“No less a person than the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar and his Eminence John Cardinal Onayekan, Catholic Archbishop emeritus of Abuja, have loudly expressed this concern and they are not alone among their ilk,” Bishop Badejo further says, adding that members of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have also decried insecurity and killings in the country.
The Bishop advocates for “Talking Straight” saying, “Honest Nigerians also know that the Federal Government especially is not doing half as much as it could to arrest the mayhem. Mired in propaganda, self-deceit, false steps and outright condoning of criminality, many officials and agencies of government have been caught in self-made, trust-deficit traps and are thus often compelled to dine with the devil.”
“When a country descends to such a low, only true and honest diagnosis and action can help. This, I believe is what Bishop Kukah has offered,” Bishop Badejo says.
Bishop Kukah’s “honest diagnosis” triggered controversy, Bishop Badejo says, because of dishonesty among certain quarters in the West African nation for “a considerable number of Nigerians observe and live reality from the prism of self-interest and psycophancy.”
“I opine so because I am yet to see any serious effort at disputing the facts which he outlined in that message about the situation of Northern Nigeria and the country as a whole,” Bishop Badejo says in reference to Bishop Kukah’s claim that President Buhari, a native of Northern Nigeria, seems to have institutionalized nepotism and “northern hegemony.”
“If we accept that truth is its own strongest witness and that facts are sacrosanct then we must simply ask the following,” Bishop Badejo says, posing, “Has President Buhari fulfilled his campaign promises on security or on fairness to all? Has he demonstrated that he is truly for everybody and for nobody? Are government and its agencies trusted by Nigerians to give true information?”
According to Bishop Badejo, “Any honest attempt to answer these and such questions will simply throw up the obvious. It seems that those who attack Bishop Kukah’s views deliberately target the messenger and refuse to address the message.”
“The train already left the station. Along with the effort of the ‘EndSars Protests’ and similar events, this Kukah saga is part of a groundswell movement for authentic change for a better Nigeria,” the Local Ordinary of Oyo Diocese who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) says.
He calls for expressive attitudes saying “many more must speak up to defend the truth in what” Bishop Kukah said.
Bishop Kukah’s “freedom of expression and everyone else’s must be defended as a fundamental right. There is no reason whatsoever, why Bishop Kukah’s message, which in essence, decries the same situation as the Sultan’s should attract allegations of treason or subversion,” Bishop Badejo reiterates.
He explains that Bishop Kukah’s Christmas Message “had no clause in it calling for the head of the President or which set any religion against another. Or since when did challenging a president’s action amount to calling for his removal? His was a sincere outcry made in classy and pungent language which Nigeria needs to hear.”
Bishop Kukah has also received from the office of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) where the Communications Director has termed the Bishop’s Christmas Message “simple obvious truth.”
“As expected, the agents of evil have gathered to attack the person of the Bishop and to discredit the simple obvious truth of the message. This is the stock of trade of evil people,” Vanguard quotes Fr. Mike Umoh as saying.
On his part, the President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Dr. Felix Omobude has called on those criticizing Bishop Kukah over his Christmas Message not to use the 68-year-old Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese as a sacrificial lamb.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa