Share with friends

Bishop Mathew Kukah,  Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, in an interview published by the Vanguard, has exposed salient aspects of the persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria and why he believes a Buhari Presidency is the best opportunity to address the problems. Excerpts below:

I live in Northern Nigeria and I believe that 90 percent of the problems in terms of national integration will be solved by how the north responds to some of these issues.

How do you mean?

I made the point because a lot issues concerning national integration whether it is in the areas of the provisions of the constitution, are not clearly defined. And for me as a Christian I believe that living in Northern Nigeria, I still don’t get the sense that freedom of worship, expression that are   guaranteed in the Constitution are sufficiently protected and taken care of.

But I am very hopeful and I am impressed that President Buhari is the first Nigerian President to show impression that he is prepared to wrestle with that problem. And you don’t find that in his inaugural speech, rather you will find it in the speech he delivered to the Catholic Bishops Conference. He said things that had never been said before. And I hope that he will have the ability and capacity to deal with some of those issues.

The issues demand salient questions. For example, why is it that churches are treated with so much contempt and tolerated like nuisance in Northern Nigeria? Why is it they have become subject of attacks? Why is it that despite the provisions of the constitution, the right of worship is being frustrated in the North? I don’t think that there is a single governor in far Northern Nigeria that can proudly say that he has signed a certificate of occupancy allocating land to Christians to build churches? Most of the lands that Christians have are lands that were given by the colonial administrations. This is totally unacceptable. And Christians have to buy land to build churches.

*Bishop KukahFor example as I am talking to you, I am waiting for a phone call in respect of the land we want to buy at Tsafe for the building of a church because our church was burnt down. This is not the first time, it was burnt down in 2011. We are relocating the church to another site for safety reasons. What I got from government for the burnt church cannot build a church. Right now, if I want to negotiate to buy a land, I cannot wear my suntan (pastoral regalia) because I will be told that I cannot buy the land.   And I cannot live in a country like this. This is totally unacceptable.

We buy land and build a church with little resources, but when a woman has an abortion in that locality, the first thing Muslim youths will do is to go and burn a church even if it is sited five kilometres away from the scene of the abortion.

There is no single governor in northern Nigeria except former Governor Makarfi of Kaduna, who commiserated with Christians when churches were burnt down.

For the first time in the history of our nation, President Buhari in his address to the Catholic bishops said very clearly that religion is not the business of government because most of the mosques in the north are built by government.   I have heard a governor who boasted that his administration built mosques more than any one before him. And the money was meant for the development.

Unless we find a platform of resolving those things, whatever Buhari may have said in his speech will not make sense. I don’t expect him to solve the problems in three or five years but we can at least put machinery in motion with enough honesty and sincerity.

Buhari cannot solve the problems of Nigeria, but he can point at the direction. I commend him and I am hopeful that we can begin to tackle those problems. That is why I said that unless Northern Nigeria sufficiently positions itself, we may not solve some of the problems.

– See more at: