In a recent interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Mathhew Kukah, a prominent figure in Nigeria’s Christian community, has sought to allay fears and concerns regarding the new government’s agenda.
The bishop expressed optimism about the incoming government leaders, stating that the anxieties expressed by some are unfounded.
Previously, Bishop Kukah had been critical of the country’s leadership, particularly their perceived failure to address the violence perpetrated by Islamic terrorists against Christians. He highlighted that last year saw a staggering number of Christian deaths in Nigeria, surpassing figures from the rest of the world combined, further exacerbating tensions and apprehensions within the Christian community.
However, Bishop Kukah has now welcomed the new government and its leaders, including those he has personally worked with in the past, such as Tinubu and Kashim Shettima. He commended Shettima for his involvement in rebuilding mosques and churches that were destroyed by Boko Haram, demonstrating a commitment to interfaith harmony. In his words, he said: “I happen to have known Tinubu for more than 20 years, and I also happen to know Kashim Shettima. I have worked with him…
“There are certain things that Shettima did while governor that I found unprecedented.
“We went to the opening of the cathedral in Maiduguri, and I was shocked to see five or seven commissioners there who were Christians and members of his cabinet.
“And he was involved in the building and re-building of mosques and churches destroyed by Boko Haram. What else can you ask of somebody?”
Referring to the ongoing violence against Christians, the prelate said: “These killings have been going on for a long time. Buhari’s vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, was a Christian pastor, but what difference did he make? He never visited any place where Christians were being killed.”
Addressing concerns about the ongoing violence against Christians, Bishop Kukah criticized the previous administration, specifically former President Muhammadu Buhari. He accused Buhari’s government of nepotism and failing to effectively address the security challenges in the country, particularly in the northern region where violence and instability have been rampant.
Bishop Kukah clarified that his support for Muslim leaders doesn’t imply a lack of desire for a Christian president. Instead, he emphasized that the focus should be on the leader’s capacity for fairness, integrity, and building a better Nigeria for all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation.
The bishop highlighted previous instances where Muslim leaders had positively impacted Nigeria’s Christian community. He cited two examples – the visits of Pope John Paul II in 1982 and Pope John Paul II in 1998, both made possible through the invitations of Muslim leaders, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and General Sani Abacha, respectively. These cases underscored the potential for cooperation and harmony between religious communities for the betterment of the nation.
Despite expressing optimism about the incoming government, Bishop Kukah acknowledged that challenges persist, particularly regarding the security situation in the northern regions of the country. He called for decisive actions to address kidnappings, killings, and destruction, which have adversely affected both Christian and Muslim communities.