*No harm should befall bishop, CAN warns Muslim group
*Says Islamic forum wants to set country on fire
*Ortom says quit notice recipe for disintegration
Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja & Kajo Martins, Makurdi
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has issued a strong warning to Islamic groups over their threats on Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Kukah, saying that no harm should befall him.
The Christian body also asked the security agencies to ensure the safety of Kukah.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, CAN General Secretary, Barrister Joseph Daramola, said: “We have been watching the unfolding scenario since Bishop Kukah spoke his mind on the State of the Nation in his Christmas homily and how some groups of people have been threatening him with ﬁre and brimstone while all relevant security agencies are pretending as if nothing unusual is happening.
“We wonder if those threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country. We have studied the whole Christmas message of Dr Kukah and we are yet to see any incitement against Islam or non- Christians.
We see nothing wrong in his message to the nation that has been under the siege of terrorists, herdsmen killers, bandits and kidnappers as if there was no government in place.
“We see nothing wrong in telling a government whose lopsided appointments are against Christians the whole truth. If criticism against a Muslim President today, is an incitement to violence against Islam, it then means those who were criticizing the duo of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan when they were in power were actually attacking Christianity.
“When has it become an offence to speak the truth to power? When has it become a crime to criticise a government in the country? When was the lawful fundamental of human rights suspended in the country?
When were some sections of the Constitution suspended without the awareness of the public? When did the Police and the Directorate of the State Security Services lose their power to arrest miscreants and lawless people who are making boast of their lawlessness without a challenge?’’
Daramola said the Islamic forum wants to set the country on fire, stressing that: “We wonder if those Muslim groups who are threatening to deal with Kukah got equal response from their Christian counterparts, are we not setting up the country on ﬁre?
“Bishop Kukah was posted to serve in Sokoto by the Papacy and threatening him to leave is a global threat to Christianity. In this same country, we have a Catholic Priest whose name is synonymous with President Muhammadu Buhari yet the Catholic Church has not deemed it ﬁt to sanction him because Freedom of Speech and Association is not only a constitutional matter but godly.”
CAN called on Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that: “no harm befalls the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese. It reiterated that as far as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was concerned, what he said in his Christmas Homily was still within the ambience of the law.
“It is high time those hiding under religious sentiments to promote violence and crises stopped doing so if we want this country to progress. We have had enough of bloodshed in the country and we call on the security agencies to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities. Nothing must happen to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.”
Also, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has once more called on Nigerians, irrespective of religious and political affiliations to uphold unity, peace and dialogue as panacea for the myriad of problems confronting the country.
The governor’s advice is in reference to the statement credited to a group known as Muslim Solidarity Forum which asked Dr. Kukah to tender an unreserved apology over his Christmas Day message or leave Sokoto State.
The governor finds the statement as a contradiction of provisions of the Constitution which accord Nigerians the right to live freely in any part of the country.
He says the statement of the group directing Bishop Kukah to apologize or leave Sokoto State is a clear affirmation that Nigeria is being controlled by forces which are bent on setting the country ablaze if their interests are not guaranteed.
A statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase quoted the governor as saying that Nigerian Christians and Muslims need to set aside religious and other sentiments and come together in humility to fast and pray for peace and unity of the country, rather than fanning embers of disunity and hatred.
“The Holy Bible admonishes the people to pray for their leaders and stresses that what is happening in the country at the moment is beyond human comprehension and cannot be tackled by President Muhammadu Buhari alone.”
Ortom advised people who love Nigeria to desist from making inflammatory statements capable of heightening tensions and taking the country to the precipice of chaos and disintegration.
“Bishop Kukah is not the first to speak out against impunity, injustice and the collapsing security situation being witnessed in parts of the country. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free as captured in the Bible book of John 8:32”.
The governor, however, commended the presidency for issuing a statement to caution the group and reminding its members of provisions of the Constitution which guarantee the right of Nigerians to reside in any part of the country.
He stated that Bishop Kukah remains a true patriot who speaks to give direction and make recommendations on the way the people should be governed in an equitable and just manner.
In the same vein, a former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode who also issued a strong warning to the Muslim Forum said, any attack on Bishop Kukah would spiral out of control and beyond anyone’s expectation if not properly managed.
Fani-Kayode blasted those fuelling the criticisms against the cleric and asking him to leave Sokoto State, describing them as enemies of Nigeria and undermining the great work done by the Sultan of Sokoto in ensuring harmonious co-existence am long Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
He noted that if the issue is not properly handled, might result in a serious religious crisis which will further stretch the Nigerian government’s capacity to deal with.
“It is most disconcerting when a handful of mischievous, reckless dangerous and hopelessly misguided religious zealots and ethnic bigots that ought to know better issue threats and give quit notices and ultimatums to leading members of the Christian community like Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’,’ he added.