By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government has expressed disavowal to a statement credited to the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, wherein the latter compared the federal government to the Boko Haram insurgent group.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, urged the cleric not to indulge in actions that can divide the country along religious lines.
The minister advised Bishop Kukah to rather use his acclaimed ecclesiastical status to work for religious harmony in Nigeria.
He said Bishop Kukah’s remarks where he accused the federal government of using methods different from the approach of Boko Haram to achieve the same goal of Islamic dominance of Nigeria was not only disingenuous, but a great disservice to the men and women in uniform who are daily battling the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists to keep all Nigerians safe.
”To now attribute the actions of these mad bunch to an orchestrated and systematic plan to elevate one religion over the other or decimate adherents of a particular religion is not only unfortunate but divisive, incendiary and insensitive,” he said.
He reiterated the federal government’s position that the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists do not subscribe to any religion, regardless of their claim to such, insisting that the extremist group are driven by their primitive propensity to kill mindlessly and destroy without restraint, irrespective of their victims’ creed, gender or tribe.
The minister appealed to religious leaders to be more circumspect in their comments, particularly on religious issues given the deeply emotive nature of religion and the tendency for it to be exploited for political gains by naysayers.
Kukah made the statement which incensed government when he was addressing the Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need in the United Kingdom on Tuesday.
In specific reference to the beheading of 10 persons suspected to be Christians by ISWAP members on Christmas Eve, Kukah said government and Boko Haram were similar, saying the difference was that the extremists use bomb to achieve the agenda of Islamic dominance of Nigeria.
“The only difference between the government and Boko Haram is (that) Boko Haram is holding a bomb.
“They are using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam, which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence. With the situation in Nigeria, it is hard to see the moral basis they have to defeat Boko Haram.
“They have created the conditions to make it possible for Boko Haram to behave the way they are behaving,” Kukah said.
The cleric, who lamented that people in government were not integrating Christians, also said that filling of key positions with hardline Muslims, was giving tacit approval to such groups.
“If they have countries where everybody is Muslim in power then you give vent to the idea that Islam should be supreme.”