Matthew Kukah, Catholic bishop of Sokoto diocese, has tackled Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, over the crisis rocking the state.
Speaking at the burial of Joseph Bagobiri, former Catholic bishop of Kafanchan diocese, Kukah accused the governor of betraying ignorance on the causes of the insecurity in the state.
From kidnapping to sectarian crisis, Kaduna has recorded different acts of violence in recent times.
Kukah recalled that he sought the intervention of the National Peace Commission led by Abdusalam Abubakar, former head of state, during which they met with el-Rufai.
“We wanted to hear from the governor… Essentially, the thrust of his comment was the fact that he was determined to end impunity and that for years, people had got away with so much,” he said.
“I was taken aback by his (el-Rufai’s) combative mood and worried if he really and truly understood the issues.
“By his own admission, the governor said a thousand churches had been destroyed in Southern Kaduna and that people had lost their lives. His one grouse was that these leaders were collecting money from good wishers abroad to bury their people.
“This was a clear case of self-indictment by the governor. First, did he expect that the people of Southern Kaduna would wait for him to come and supervise the mass burials of their people after burying the Shiites in mass graves?
By casting aspersion on missionary assistance, the governor betrays a troubling ignorance of the causes of the crises we have faced.”
Kukah said one year after the peace commission submitted its report on the crisis to the state government, they are yet to get any official response.
He said the governor accused religious leaders of promoting “a policy of exclusion” on the issue while speaking on a live TV programme.
“I am not sure which religious leaders he was speaking of, but at least the two most prominent religious leaders in southern Kaduna would be Bishop Bagobiri and the emir of Jema’a,” he said.
“It is interesting that when the interviewer pressed the governor for evidence on the grave and damaging allegations he had made against these leaders, he seemed rattled and simply said the security agencies were gathering the information and that people will soon be prosecuted. Elections are coming and still we have not commenced prosecution.”
The cleric said the people of southern Kaduna have been neglected by the government both at federal and state levels.
“We do not ask for pity or sympathy from anyone. We have come so far, not through the state but in spite of the state in northern Nigeria,” he said.
“That is why, as you leave this stadium (in Kafanchan), whether you are going to Abuja, Jos, or Kaduna, please look left and right and note if you will see one single federal or major state government structure on the high way. All the structures you see as you drive along are the result of the sweat from the brow of our people. The federal and state governments are absent… Bishop Bagobiri was in the middle of all this.
“The work of missionaries may be a problem for them today, but for the people of southern Kaduna the message of Christ is steeped in their blood. Without the missionaries, they would be no better than slaves, mere beasts of burden. Without the missionaries, the history of northern Nigeria would pathetic and the region would still be in the dark ages… there is neither retreat nor surrender because this is the faith of our fathers. It is given us the tools, the courage and the confidence we require to take our rightful place in our society.”
He, however, commended the administrations of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the former governor of Kaduna state, Ahmed Makarfi for developing southern Kaduna and for appointing “qualified” indigenes into positions of authority.
He also accused northern Muslim elite of using religion to hold on to power.
Kukah said the north is still the “poorest part of the country” despite many Nigerian leaders coming from there.
“It is sad that the northern Muslim elite has used religion to hold on to power to the detriment of even their own people and the larger society,” he said.
“For despite holding power for all these years, the north is still the poorest part of the country. Nearly 15 million Muslim children are on the streets with no future in sight.
“We are, as the governor of Borno would say, the poster child of poverty… death, destruction and destitution have become our lot and nowhere is this more expressed than in northern Nigeria. Today, Boko Haram and the herdsmen and farmers clashes are phenomena that are peculiar to the north and Islam… we cannot run away from this.”