The Presidency has again advised religious leaders and politicians to desist from from using religion for cheap political goals.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, gave the advice in a statement in Abuja late Monday night while reacting to 2022 Easter message by the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Most Rev. Mathew Kukah.
Shehu noted that, from his pulpit, Kukah devoted his Easter message not to Christ’s death and rebirth so Man might be saved – but to damning the government in the most un-Christian terms.
According to him, Kukah neglects the Bible’s teachings in James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless”.
”Easter should be a time for renewal, and for hope. For those in authority – both temporal and spiritual – to come together in word and deed so those who look to them for example can be inspired by their grace,” he said.
Kukah’s Easter message was delivered at a mass service on Sunday, in Sokoto.
In the message, Kukah lamented the increased cases of kidnapping, banditry and other criminality and stressed the need for collective efforts against the menace.
He advised the President to concede that it was within his powers to decide how we are going to end the war that had engulfed and was tearing down our nation.
Shehu, however, said: ”This is not a time for religious leaders to play politics, or politicians to play religion. It is a time, as in Titus 3:9 to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless”.
”Yet Bishop Kukah used his sermon purposefully to make dissensions and quarrels about the law. His accusatory list against the government revealed only his hatred for them.
”Still, when he accused them of division, he gave no examples: merely assertions emanating from his own mouth. His allegation of ethnic and regional divide was innuendo without proof, and he gave none.
”His list of things he claims as broken – from churches to mosques to schools and motorways – belie all those that have been built, and others built anew during this government’s time in office.
”Should he feel compelled for whatever reason to criticize the government for what he views as their mistakes the Bible makes clear how it should be done: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness”, Galatians 6:1-2.
”If Bishops or religious leaders believe they have a willing audience for tales of government error or fragility, they do an injustice to their flock by filling their ears with talk of division and hateful thoughts.
”Nigeria knows too well Bishop Kukah’s views of the government. He has made quite clear how much he dislikes them from the day they were elected.
”Whether expressing his political views is a good use or an abuse of religious office is for others to decide. But the people of Nigeria have spoken – twice: They support this government at the ballot box. They have not been swayed by hateful talk from any bully-pulpit.”
According to the presidential aide, Kukah should concentrate on his spiritual assignments and leave government to the voters and the politicians.
”We respectfully ask Bishop Kukah to leave government to the voters and the politicians they elect, while he concentrates on his job, as it is expressed in James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
”Or else, he should put away his clerical garb, join partisan politics and see how far he can go.”