Following the criticisms trailing the Christmas Message of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Kukah, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in 19 northern states, Rev Joseph Hayab, has called on the Federal Government to contradict the clergy’s message with facts instead of criticising him.
Kukah had in his homily accused President Muhammadu Buhari of turning nepotism into a state policy, saying there could have been a coup if a non-northern Muslim President had done a fraction of what Buhari did.
But in a veil reference to the Bishop, the Federal Government said he was “calling for a violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government.”
The Bishop who doubles as a social critic had long denied the allegation, saying he did not call for a coup in his criticism of Buhari.
Kukah insisted he only spoke the truth on what he called Buhari’s nepotism.
Apart from government, some pressure groups, especially pro-northern bodies, also criticised the Catholic Bishop.
Irked by the relentless attacks on the cleric, Hayab, in an exclusive chat with Sunday Vanguard, said the criticisms were aimed at creating crisis between the North and South.
He added that Kukah would have been accused of speaking for the South if he wasn’t a northerner.
His words: “I don’t want to be seen as if I am repeating his words or what other people have said. I would love this government to come out and tell Nigerians that line A, line B, line C, line D, line E, and line F, of what Kukah said were not true. It is better instead of debating about it. One of the words they are trying to use, in twisting it, they were even trying to set Muslims against Christians. They are also trying to set the South against the North. Thank God, Kukah is a northerner. If Kukah was a southerner they would have said he is doing it for the South. If I cry that our house is burning, what we need to know is why the house is burning. There is a fire incident, probably, whether it is electrical, gas, or whatever, the first thing is to put out the fire. After that, we can look at what led to the fire incident.
“In this situation, Kukah is using his God-given authority, telling the nation that there is danger in our land. In the last three months, hundreds of our children were stolen. In the last three months, some members of our community have been killed.
Those children stolen were not exclusively Christians. Those people who were killed on their farms were not exclusively Christians. Kukah wasn’t even defending a particular faith. He was talking about his fellow citizens who are in pain and he was urging government to tell us what is actually happening. Where do we go? Where did he go wrong? And he was speaking from the position of knowledge. I am over 50. I have stayed around for a long time to have seen what is happening.
“Why was the fight against Boko Haram in Jonathan era so weak? It was because Jonathan was listening to the accusation that he wanted to kill northerners. It happened in this country.
If Jonathan had moved further to kill those Boko Baram members, they would have complained further. The fact is that even the elders of North-East states of Yobe and Borno, came to the Villa to complain that they were killing their brothers. Now, their brothers have become a terror to everybody including them. Now, they are seeing their brothers as enemies.
“If Kukah is telling government that what is happening in our land is too bad, what is government doing? Nigerians are asking questions. Why twisting his story? I am defending him because I have also been part of this system and I understand what is happening in our country and we want the best for Nigeria. If Nigeria goes better, you would be happy. I would be happy.
“When you are defending humanity, you don’t talk about faith. Human beings are members of one family under God. Whether you are a Christian or Muslim, whatever religion you belong to, we are first, members of one human family. I defend human beings. I don’t defend religion, ethnic, or regional interest.”