‘Do not touch my anointed ones and do my Prophet no harm’ –Psalm 105: 15
For many years, the Catholic faithful in Nigeria have a prayer which they recite on daily basis at Mass titled ‘’NIGERIA IN DISTRESS’’. The first stanza of the prayer goes thus ‘’ All powerful and merciful Father, you are the God of justice, love and peace, you rule over all the Nations of the Earth. Power and Might are in your hands and no one can withstand you. We present our country Nigeria before you…” The Catholic Bishops who were inspired to create this prayer as far back as June 27, 1993 may have peeped into the future, given the socio political and economic realities in Nigeria at present. Looking back, the June 12, 1993 annulment saga was barely two weeks old, when the Catholic Bishops introduced this prayer, a time when Nigeria experienced one of its worst situations. A circumstance that is still haunting our political landscape till date. The prayer to a large extent captured the past and present dilemma that the country continues to find itself.
The Christmas homily of Most Rev. (Dr.) Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto known for his courageous outspokenness on the ills of the society is now talk of the town. Those unfortunately that criticized the spiritual leader, especially from the government quarters have forgotten one thing which is that Most Rev. Kukah being an ordained man of God and not a card carrying member of any of the two major political parties owes it as a sacred duty to hold government accountable on the face of social injustice and bad governance which the Christmas message of the reverend gentleman portrayed. The question of inciting the general public against the government is completely unfounded but instead those who are calling for the arrest and intimidation of the Most Rev. Kukah are really the enemies of the state because the endless bloodletting, kidnapping, collapse of the economy and deep division among various ethnic nationalities amid other issues raised in the Christmas message remains topical on everyday issue besetting the country.
Nigeria is a secular state and allows freedom. The country’s constitution protects the right to freedom of expression and provides that any restriction to this right must be justifiable in a democratic society. We view expressly the call for Most. Rev. Dr. Kukah’s arrest by non-Christians simply because of a homily ostensibly targeted to correct the social injustice in the land as baseless and oppressive. It’s on record that prominent and eminent Nigerians prior to the Christmas 2020 message by Most Rev. Dr. Kukah, repeatedly and at various times have expressed disappointment over the conduct of affairs of this present government. Therefore, the Government should be wary of stoking the already fragile polity, but instead should do the honourable thing by addressing those issues that seek to divide the country as raised in the Christmas message. Any attempt to harass or intimidate the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese would amount to daring God who is the owner of the vineyard where Most. Rev. (Dr.). Hassan Mathew Kukah is the labourer.