Emeritus, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said yesterday that nobody can stop the Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, from speaking against bad governance in the country.
The Presidency had described the bashing of President Muhammedu Buhari’s administration by Kukah as ungodly, accusing him of playing partisan politics in his Easter message.
But Onaiyekan, who appeared as a guest on AIT’s breakfast show, Kakaaki, in Abuja, said he believed that genuine religious leaders had a role to play in politics, which included advancing the cause of the masses and speaking truth to power in the name of God. He said: “With all due respect to whoever is speaking for the Presidency, he has a wrong idea of politics. Maybe, for him, politics have been just a game they play in the middle of the night.
“But, if you understand politics as how you organise and mange the community for the common good, we are all supposed to be politicians.
“Does that mean that whenever we (religious leaders) tell the truth and work to make our country better, we should shut up because we are playing politics? No, we refuse. We will continue to talk.
“In the whole project of nation building and good governance, people, have different roles to play. The role of Mr. President is, of course, the most important in terms of organizing everything. “But the role of religious leaders, if you are a genuine one, should be to be able to speak in the name of God. So, let no one stop Kukah and other religious leaders from speaking from their hearts. They cannot force you (the government) anyways.
“Kukah is not preparing a coup against Buhari. He is only concerned about the people he sees every day. Kukah is speaking for so many who do not have a voice.
“What we expected from the Presidency was to hear what Kukah had to say, and take the issues one-by-one; maybe give explanations, if there is a need for such, and hopefully consider considering his message in its future plans.’’
Speaking on the joint-call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, for amnesty to bandits and terrorists, Onaiyekan said the move would amount to a cosmetic solution to the problems of insecurity and breed more criminals in parts of the country.
‘’We should not misread Jesus Christ did in his relationship with sinners, criminals and worthless fellows. It is clear that Jesus condemned sin, even though he loved sinners. “We should be telling bandits and terrorists: ‘Go and sin no more’. We cannot in any way give them the impression that they are doing the right things. “All the question of easy amnesty, under the pretense that they have repented, and spending money on them is sad, especially when we say we have no money to spend on the victims.
“Kids’ glove treatment of criminals boils down to bribing them to keep calm, because the causes of criminality and insecurity will still be there. The more you treat criminals this way; the more others will come out so that they too can come get the same treatment. “There was no condition. There was no request of any condition. We made it clear that unless the injustices are addressed, there is no room for peace. It is only when you address the injustice that you can now sit down for peace,” he said. Onaiyekan also spoke on the pockets of agitation for Nigeria’s breakup, saying they were basically cries of anguish and despair of the masses.