The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have thrown their weight behind Bishop Mathew Kukah of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese on his recent statement to the United States Congress about the situation of things in the country.
The bishops described as “patriotic” and “verifiable”, Kukah’s statement to the U.S. lawmakers that President Muhammadu Buhari, in his six years in office, had openly shown preference to people of his religion and failed to address insecurity in the country.
The prelates’ stated this in reaction to the Presidency’s attack on Bishop Kukah over the comments he made during his virtual appearance before the U.S. Congress.
Buhari’s senior media assistant, Garba Shehu, had had in reaction to Kukah’s remarks accused the bishop of doing his best to “sow discord and strife among Nigerians”.
But the Ibadan catholic bishops advised the Buhari-led government to “learn not to see criticism as an attack or a crime.”
Their reaction was contained in a communique they issued after a meeting of bishops from Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti, and Osogbo dioceses.
It partly reads: “Bishop Kukah, in his patriotic and frank presentation, called attention to some verifiable data and statistics about the Nigerian situation on that privileged international platform. He spoke for authentic Christians and Muslims who are under persecution. No doubt, he intended to solicit the support of that forum which many Nigerians believe holds the promise of some assistance and relief from our current national crises.
“The Federal Government however has characteristically gone up in arms against the person of Bishop Kukah and his purpose. It is commonly said that when there is a problem in a democracy, more democracy is needed to solve it. Sadly enough, our current federal government does not seem to subscribe to this.
“For the sake of our democracy, that right, exercised with responsibility, must be protected. We support Bishop Kukah in his effort to unveil the truth about the Nigerian situation in order to ameliorate things. We call on the Nigerian government to learn not to see criticism as an attack or a crime.
“We declare again, as we have done often in the past, that only the truth can set us free.
“The attempt of the Nigerian National Assembly to silence the press and penalise journalists for merely doing their job is to be completely rejected.
“We hold that the freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the constitution and cannot be alienated by any government least of all in a democracy.
“For the sake of our democracy, that right exercised with responsibility, must be protected.”