The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, has said that his meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was to serve as witness to the peaceful reconciliation of a prolonged dispute between the two leaders.
Reacting to concerns by members of the public over his presence at the meeting, Kukah told our correspondent on Monday in Sokoto that his meeting with the two leaders was not for political reasons.
The catholic bishop said that it was strictly to support and witness their reconciliation which he has been trying for some years to achieve.
Kukah said that he had for several years made efforts to reconcile both leaders without success until recently when they both agreed to meet and make peace.
He stressed that he had no idea of the PDP leaders and other people he was going to meet at the residence of the former president until he got there.
He said that on Thursday October 11, they had agreed to meet in former president Obasanjo’s home in Abeokuta along with some religious leaders; Sheikh Ahmed Gumi and Rev David Oyedepo.
Kukah said that on getting to the home of the former president, he saw that more people were invited and the meeting was gradually started to have a political undertone.
He said that to ensure he does not get involved with anything relating to politics, he quickly advised former president Obasanjo to carry out the reconciliation behind closed-doors not in public.
“I proposed to the former president that he should sit down with Alhaji Abubakar behind closed-doors to sort out their issues after which I and Sheikh Gumi will join them as Rev Oyedepo was yet to arrive at the time.
“After their closed-door meeting, I advised that the religious leaders, myself inclusive, join them so we can listen to them, serve as witnesses to the reconciliation, advise them and pray for them.
“Former president Obasanjo agreed to follow my advice and this was how we carried out the reconciliation.
“After the closed door meeting between the two leaders, I and Sheikh Gumi went and sat down with them. My advice to them was that it is imperative for them to maintain the peace.
“I told them that I am a catholic priest and bishop and the Catholic Church preaches against divorce or separation so there should be no room for that again.
“After our discussion which was done behind closed doors we prayed and we took a photograph and I left the home afterwards to attend to other spiritual duties.
“I was earlier offered a sit in their aircraft and although it was the most convenient offer at the time I declined the offer because I saw it as necessary to ensure that I take no favours from any of the two parties.
“I was not in Abeokuta to endorse Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I fully understand the feeling of some persons who believe I travelled with Alhaji Abubakar to witness his endorsement by former president Obasanjo but this was not the case at all.
“I am a strong believer in a peaceful and united Nigeria and these ideals I strive to achieve as a priest. My instincts to always initiate reconciliation and peace were sharpened during my involvement and experience with the Oputa Panel,” he said.
Kukah said that it was imperative for him to react to the event of October 11 not only to allay the concerns of the public who may have seen the event in a different light but to set the records straight.
He said “many minds will remain set on the matter even after I have clarified and explained the actual reason for the meeting and this is to be expected; one cannot please everyone.” NAN