The Catholic Priests under the aegis of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Kaduna State chapter, has condemned what it termed the inflammatory religious comment credited to the immediate past governor of the state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
The Kaduna chapter of the association comprises Kaduna Archdiocese, Kafanchan Diocese, and Zaria Diocese.
The Catholic priests urged President Bola Tinubu and the state governor, Senator Uba Sani, to call the former governor to order or else he would plunge the country into a religious crisis.
According to them, they expected that, by now, the state governor would use his office to correct the fallacies that El-Rufai’s actions and comments have created and propagated in the state in the past eight years.
The clerics stated these in an open letter to the governor, released to journalists in Kaduna on Thursday, titled: ‘On the Public Declaration of Islamic Political Supremacism by Ex-Governor Nasiru El-rufai, Implications on Dialogue and Peace, Call for Your Public Stance.’
The open letter was copied to the Presidency, Aso Rock Villa, and the three Catholic Bishops of Kaduna, Kafanchan, and Zaria; Archbishop Matthew Man’oso Ndagoso, Bishop Julius Yakubu Kundi, and Very Rev. Fr. Michael Kagarko, respectively.
It (the open letter) was jointly signed by the NCDPA chairmen of Kaduna Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Joseph Gandu, Kafanchan Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Douglas Rock, and Zaria Diocese, Very Rev. Fr Samuel Ameh, respectively.
They added that the governor had made his official stance known over El-Rufai’s inciting utterances since he was at the event where the former governor spoke.
In the video that had gone viral on social media, El-Rufai, among other things, while speaking in Hausa a few days before his handing over, said most Christians in Kaduna did not vote for his party (the APC), hence the reason why he orchestrated their exclusion from occupying the Deputy Governor’s office.
He said that the APC can win elections without Christians. And for the same reason, he deliberately excluded them from all the top cadre of the governance of the state, including the governor, deputy governor, secretary to the state government, chief of staff to the governor, and commissioner of finance, amongst others.
However, the open letter partly read, “With consternation and utter disillusionment, we watched the now viral video clip in which the former governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, while addressing a group of Islamic clerics with you sitting by his side, made comments that objectively amount to a divisive, bigoted, hateful and completely unstatesmanlike declaration of Islamic political supremacism in Kaduna State and Nigeria.
“Three chapters of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, domiciled within the boundaries of Kaduna State; having soberly considered the contents and implications of such communication by a former State Governor who is known to be your close ally, we feel compelled to write you, to know where you stand with regards to the commotions Mallam El-Rufai intends to propagate and perpetuate in our state; we congratulate you on your emergence as Governor.
“We wish you well and sincerely pray for you to succeed in accordance with the objectives of government and governance run with good intentions.
“It is, however, necessary to note that the success of a leader does not occur when he does his own will but when he fulfils the desires and yearnings of the people he governs.
“In Kaduna State, the establishment of long-lost peace and harmony amongst the people due to insecurity and injustice, must be paramount. May your success know no bounds, should you mean well, as you strive to uphold the tenets of fairness, justice for the masses, and the fear of God. We write you today because we are responsible stakeholders in the affairs of our beloved state with our own congregations and followers.
“We cannot fold our hands and watch unpatriotic persons, who neither live in the state nor care about it, come and set it ablaze at will. Moreso, we and our congregations have prominently been at the receiving end of the terrors of ineffective governance, especially in the last eight years.
It added, “The ex-governor kept referring to the Christians as “them” and the Muslims as “us,” to emphasise that the Christian does not belong, yet will still contradict himself by saying that his government is fair to all; Mr. Governor, this, to every decerning mind, is not only the evidence of discrimination and the provocation that most Christian communities and individuals have endured in our state, especially during the reign of former Governor Nasiru El-rufai.
“It is also an explanation for the many unjust policies of his administration, the uneven distribution of state resources, the wanton killings and kidnappings that afflicted the Christian dominated areas, and the nonchalance and sometimes scornful response of government to the distress calls of victims. It is important to call your attention to the fact (which we believe you already have details of), that during the pendency of the last administration, our association almost lost count of our members who were steadily being targeted, kidnapped, and killed! In most cases, priests were executed after paying huge sums as ransom.
“This is apart from the several other pastors of other Christian denominations and countless whole Christian communities that are being steadily raided, ransacked, burnt down and their inhabitants either taken for ransom or slaughtered without any of the perpetrators brought to book, nor any support for the survivors from the State Emergency Management Agency, or the National Emergency management Agency, nor from any other government agency.
“The only response that would usually come their way from government has been bizarre and inhumane accusations that they provoked their killers, tagging the atrocities as justified revenge killings, with punitive curfews and proscription of socio-cultural and developmental associations of some socio-cultural communities. We are fully aware that, as guaranteed both by Natural Law and the Nigerian Constitution, Kaduna State and its resources are our common patrimony irrespective of ethnic, cultural, or religious diversity and disparity.
“As such, elements who are notoriously seen to be despotic, divisive, inciting and eminent failures in building peace should be hiding their faces in shame, rather than be publicly seen standing by you and using your religion or party to promote extremist exclusion and anarchy without consequences, because ours’ is certainly not in a lawless society. Mr. Governor, our disappointment and shock did not stem only from the utterances of the former governor, but more from the endorsement he received from the audience, made-up of Muslim clerics who excitedly cheered him on.
“It was more shocking because these are the same clerics with whom we have been in constant dialogue and discussion on how to help entrench harmony, peace and mutual respect for our different faith-persuasions. They are the same clerics we have called friends and partners in inter-religious dialogue, and now they seem to stab their friends in the back;
“Mr. Governor, we do not intend to conclude that you are in agreement with all the content of the former Governor’s utterances, as you have given no explicit reason to suggest so (yet), even though you were present at the occasion! We therefore earnestly expect your direct official reaction to the utterances of your predecessor in office, the former governor.
“This non-negotiable expectation will go a long way to re-affirm the populace that the Constitution is respected by you, and thus bring some measure of the now deeply-battered (if not decimated) calm, quiet and confidence needed. This is the expectation among both Christians and Muslims for assurance that you intend to be a leader for all.”